Gallipoli and All Quiet on the Western Front are among the best World War I films

Mel Gibson, left and Mark Lee in Gallipoli, Picture: Supplied Directed by Peter Weir.
Mel Gibson, left and Mark Lee in Gallipoli, Picture: Supplied Directed by Peter Weir.

Gallipoli(1981) is not just an excellent Australian film, or even an excellent Australian war film, but an excellent film, full stop, full of strong characters, a good story and a devastating conclusion. It was written by playwright David Williamson and directed by Peter Weir. Much of it was filmed in South Australia with some location shooting in Egypt.

Although Mel Gibson became the international star, Mark Lee is every bit as good and Bill Kerr and Bill Hunter are their customarily excellent selves.

The film does traduce the British rather ba (they suffered far more casualites in real life than the Anzacs). It makes good use of very different kinds of music including Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygene and Albinoni's Adagio

All Quiet on the Western Front(1930): While this early talkie (also released as in a silent version, with intertitles) might seem a little creaky nowaday, it still retains a lot of anti-war power with its battle scenes (one startling moment has a soldier blown up with only his hands left, hanging from a wire fence) and its poignant ending of a hand reaching out for a butterfly, seeking beauty in an ugly world. This won Oscars for best picture and director (Lewis Milestone).

1917 (2019): The major technical aspect - invisible editing to give the illusion (mostly) of one long take is both impressive and a little distracting (it's hard not to look for where the joins might be).

But the simple story - of two British soldiers tasked with the dangerous mission of taking a vital message to their comrades - is quite involving, even if it is a little reminiscent of the ending of Gallipoli.

Journey's End (2017): It's not hard to see why this is the fifth screen adaptation of R.C. Sherriff's 1928 play. The playwright's own wartime experiences no doubt helped give it a feeling of authenticity, added to the filmmakers' own research and interviews with veterans of more recent wars.

The class aspects might seem dated but the depiction of shellshock as well as the fear, humour, humanity and courage people have in a perilous situation are vivid and the cast is excellent, though some might find the casting of stars such as Benedict Cumberbatch in small roles a bit distracting.

This story Top picks for films about WWI first appeared on The Canberra Times.