The Best and Worst War Movies About Pacific Theater in World War II

When thinking of World War II, most immediately imagine Europe. The Pacific Ocean theater of World War II was when the Army divisions and the Marines fought against the Japanese. This major theatre of the war began on March 30, 1942. The Japanese also fought against The United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and other Allied nations. In many ways, it can be considered more violent and intense than anything the Nazis provided in Europe.

War film has surrounded its genre around warfare such as naval, air, and land battles. War movies typically include combat scenes and stories of survival and escape. The following war movies focus on the Pacific Theater in World War II, for better or worse.

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Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)


Sands of Iwo Jima is one of John Wayne's best performances as a Marine destined for the Pacific theatre.

The film follows Wayne from training to eventual deployment, with a final battle on the sands of Iwo Jima. This film is often grouped together with other John Wayne propaganda films, simply because of John Wayne's inclusion, however, this film is fairly nuanced.

While the film is dated by today's standards, due to the level of combat on-screen ageing the experience, it remains a decent film.

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The Thin Red Line (1998)

The Thin Red Line.

An all-star cast can't save the pretentious philosophical mess in The Thin Red Line. Terrence Malick is the director of this self-indulgent movie on a grand scale.

The action scenes in the movie are good but follow with a full two hours of soldiers staring at waves and contemplating the nature of life. Because the film looks artistic, it seemed to fool a lot of critics into confusing this as being the same as quality. Thus, it may be considered one of the most overrated war movies of all time.

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Windtalkers (2002)


John Woo's fictional Windtalkers makes the list for one of the most historically inaccurate war movies. Windtalkers is about a Navajo code talker and the Marine assigned to protect him (or kill him if he's about to fall into enemy hands). 

The movie tries to turn the Pacific theater into a silly action movie, which many fans take issue with. Fans of war movies have a certain level of blood lust and appreciate watching battles, even though in real life, these experiences were and would be quite horrific.

This film seems to play the action without any serious appreciation for the sacrifice that occurred. There is the suggestion of serious consideration for the real-life lives lost, but it's an entirely commercial and vacant gesture.

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The Pacific (2010)

The Pacific.

The HBO miniseries The Pacific, while not quite as good as Band of Brothers, is the quintessential cinematic experience for interpreting the Pacific conflict.

Essentially, each hour-long episode is devoted to every important battle of the Pacific: Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Peleliu. The carnage is difficult to watch and the production values are superb. While watching, movie goers will feel that it is sobering to realize that these Pacific islands were so bombarded by war, that plant life had all but ceased to exist.

This mini-series is 10 hours of Marines pounding blackened charcoaled mortar-blasted rocks, fighting, and dying for every inch. As a viewing experience, it is not always easy to watch, but it is worthwhile. Most importantly, it's an experience owed to the men who died there.

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Flags of Our Fathers (2006)

Flags of our Fathers.

While this film certainly means well, it still makes the list for one of the worst movies regarding the Pacific Theater.

Flags of Our Fathers has strong production values and a good heart. However, the film unnecessarily switches back and forth in time, so much so as to give the viewer whiplash. The film also tries to be too many things at once. For example, the film tries to be a story of combat, a story about the power of propaganda, and a story of PTSD.

At the film's end, viewers still don't know a single thing about any of the lead characters, other than that one is an opportunist, one is stoic, and the one who is most empathetic becomes an alcoholic.

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Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)

Letters from Iwo Jima.

Letters From Iwo Jima is one is one of the rare films shown from the perspective of the enemy, in this case the Japanese. It's also a companion piece to Flags of our Fathers.

Unfortunately, the film is hampered by a small budget, reducing what was an army of Japanese to 20 extras huddled in sets of fake rock, doubling for an underground bunker, and looking as if they were borrowed from a bad Star Trek episode.