The First World War and Popular Cinema

A scene from "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930)

A scene from “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930)

World War I coincided with a young, rapidly developing film industry, and as belligerent governments aggressively utilized film to rally their public to the war effort, the foundation was set for the robust development of world film during the interwar period. As the publisher of The First World War and Popular Cinema: 1914 to the Present noted, “The Great War played an instrumental role in the development of cinema, so necessary was it to the mobilization efforts of the combatant nations. In turn, after the war, as memory began to fade, cinema continued to shape the war’s legacy and eventually to determine the ways in which all warfare is imagined.”

Classic films like All Quiet on the Western Front, Hell’s Angels, Grand Illusion, and Paths of Glory transport today’s audiences back to the bloody world of trench warfare and aerial dogfights, both of which characterize how we remember the war today. World War I is considerably underrepresented in the war film genre in terms of both feature films and documentaries. This is particularly true in comparison to the war it set the stage for, World War II. However, the USMA Library has a number of titles relating to the war that broke out 100 years ago that did so much to shape our modern world. Take a look at the films in this guide for some of the best in the genre.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Mike Arden, Audiovisual Librarian