The Great War in Modern Film

Interesting article using Wonder Woman as the point of departure for an examination of why so few American films are set during the Great War:

And yet, Wonder Woman is something of an anomaly at the box office: Hollywood rarely supplies Great War stories. Of the top 25 highest-grossing films from 2011 to 2016, just 14 percent were set during a clearly defined historical period, according to data from the Motion Pictures Association of America. Of those, two (The King’s Speech and Captain America: The First Avenger) were set during WWII; none were set during WWI.

Period war films remain prestige projects in Hollywood, and they still see fairly regular releases. But so far in the 2010s, several WWII-set films including Hacksaw Ridge (2016), The Imitation Game (2014), and The Book Thief (2013) have been nominated for Academy Awards, while Stephen Spielberg’s War Horse (2011) was the only nominee to take place during the Great War. WWI’s share of acclaimed films most often come from outside the U.S.—think of Australia’s Gallipoli (1981), the United Kingdom’s Regeneration (1997), or the 2016 French-German release Frantz. Iconic American contributions to the genre, such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962) or All Quiet on the Western Front (1930, 1979), tend to be older.

So why is the Great War missing from the American movie theaters? The void stems in part from how the U.S. preserved the war in contemporaneous media. But a greater part, perhaps, has to do with how the conflict reflects on the U.S. as a nation….

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