15 of the Best Holocaust Movies That Are Haunting and Moving

The Holocaust, also called the Shoah, represents the genocide of some six million European Jews. My mother and uncle were the only survivors of their vast family.

Since World War II, many excellent films have depicted horrific tragedies, with some of the best directors shining a light on the strength of the human spirit and courageous heroes against the face of hate and intolerance. Today reminds us we still need to conquer hate of every kind. Here are 15 top Holocaust movies that are emotionally moving and remain relevant.

1. Schindler’s List (1993)

Schindlers List 1
Image Credit: Universal Pictures

This iconic historical drama, directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, follows Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved more than a thousand Polish-Jewish refugees by working for him in his factories. Spielberg blended the horror of the Holocaust with emotional humanity to create a powerful masterpiece. Spielberg amplified the horror captured in black and white.

2. Woman in Gold (2015)

Woman In Gold 2015 The Weinstein Company

Image Credit: The Weinstein Company

This biographical drama film is based on the true story of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), an elderly Jewish refugee living in Los Angeles, who, with her lawyer, Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), fought the government of Austria for nearly ten to reclaim an iconic Gustave Kimt’s painting of her aunt her family-owned. The Nazis stole the painting in Vienna.  Simon Curtis, who directed the film, used flashbacks that reflect the persecution and looting of Jewish families by the Nazis when they arrived at the start of the war. Although Maria and some family members fled the country, her parents were left behind.

3. The Pianist (2003)

The Pianist Focus Features
Image Credit: Focus Features

Produced and directed by Roman Polanski, this war drama is based on the autobiography of the Polish Jewish pianist and composer Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody), a Holocaust provider. The movie traces Szpilman’s horrific journey to the Warsaw ghetto with his family, who are taken to the Treblinka extermination. He manages to escape and become involved in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which ultimately fails through death and destruction. Szpilman survives by tenacity, luck, and kindness of a few non-Jews.

4. Defiance (2008)

Defiant 2008 Paramount Pictures
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

Directed by Edward Zwick is based on Nechama Tec’s 1993 book Defiance: The Bielski Partisans, an account of the resistance group led by Polish Jewish brothers who saved and recruited Jews in Belarus, occupied by the Nazis. Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber star as the Bielski brothers flee to the forest with their other brothers after Nazis kill their parents, joined by other Jewish escapees. They fought with Germans and collaborators, growing their group significantly, living in the forest for over two years, and building a hospital and school.

5. Conspiracy (2001)

Conspiracy HBO Films
Image Credit: HBO Films

This made-for-television film dramatizes the 1942 Wannssee Conference outside Berlin and dives into the psychology of Nazi officials who were involved in the Final Solution during World War II. The film uses the actual transcript that discusses the final solution to freeing Germany’s territory expanded throughout Europe of Jews. It is chilling to watch and hear the officers, led by Kenneth Branagh’s character, Reinhard Heydrich, discuss sterilization and genocide of the Jews.

6. Europa Europa (1990)

Europa Europa 1990 Orion Pictures
Image Credit: Orion Pictures

This internationally-made war drama film is based on the 1989 autobiography of Solomon (Solek) Perel, a German-Jewish boy after his bar mitzvah who evades the Holocaust by joining the Hitler Youth as a Nazi. Solek and his brother flee to Eastern Europe, ending up in an orphanage, where he is schooled in Russian. The German soldiers captured Solek, used him for translation, and sent him to the front with the Hitler Youth. He lost his parents and emigrated to Israel.

7. Life is Beautiful (1997)

Life is Beautiful 1997 Miramax
Image Credit: Miramax

This powerful Italian comedy-drama film is a masterpiece due to the strength of Roberto Benigni, who directed and starred as Guido Orefice, an Italian-Jewish waiter.  Set in Fascist Italy in 1939, Guido falls in love with a Gentile girl, Dora, who is engaged to someone else. Guido and Dora married and have a son, Giosue. In 1944, Guido, his son, and his uncle are forced on a train heading to a concentration camp, and Dora comes to be with her family, but separated. Guido uses games and humor to let his wife and son know he’s ok and remains so until the end when darkness sets in (avoiding a spoiler).

8. Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Sophies Choice 1982 Universal Pictures
Image Credit: Universal Pictures

This psychological drama film is based on William Styron’s book of the same name and written and directed by Alan J. Pakula. Set in 1947, a young writer, Stingo (Peter MacNicol), moves to Brooklyn and becomes friends with neighbors Sophie Zawistowska (Meryl Streep), a Polish immigrant, and her emotional lover, Nathan Landau (Kevin Kline). Sophie hides her background from Stingo, who learns her father was a Nazi sympathizer, and Sophie experiences guilt. As Sophie gets closer to Stingo, Nathan goes into a violent rage. The film is less about the Holocaust and more about the madness of the living.

9. Diary of Anne Frank (1959)

Diary of Anne Frank 1959 20th Century Fox
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

The Diary of Anne Frank is a classic biographical drama film based on the posthumously published diary of German-born Anne-Frank, who lived in hiding in Amsterdam with her family during World War II. Her father, Otto Frank, survived the war those lost his family. He found her diary writings beginning in July 1942. Anne Frank chronicles the restrictions placed on Jews, and despite conditions worsening, she remains positive. In one of her last entries, reflecting upon her optimism, she says, “In spite of everything, I still believe are really good at heart.”

10. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Waltz Inglourious Basterds The Weinstein Company
Image Credit: The Weinstein Company

Quentin Tarantino gave us a gem with his masterful storytelling in this alternate-history war film, where the Nazis get a beating. He combines revenge, tension, and dark humor. Set during World War II, Inglourious Basterds follows a group of Jewish-American soldiers led by Lieutenant Aldo Raine. Tasked with spreading fear among the Nazis, they embark on a mission to assassinate high-ranking German officials.

11. Denial (2016)

Denial 2016 Bleecker Street
Image Credit: Bleecker Street

This biographical film is based on Deborah Lipstadt’s 2005 book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier. Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) is an American professor of Holocaust studies whose speaking engagement is interrupted by British author David Irving, who specializes in Nazi Germany. She has accused him of being a Holocaust denier, and He sues her and her publisher for libel in the United Kingdom for Lipstadt’s accusation of Irving as a Holocaust denier. The Holocaust is essentially put on trial, as the defense team, led by Lipstadt, shows proof of the gas chambers, death camps, and Irving’s records.

12. Son of Saul (2015)

Son of Saul 2015 Mozinet
Image Credit: Mozinet

Son of Saul is a Hungarian film that premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix and went on to win the Oscar Award for Best Foreign Language Film. This film reflects the horror of the inhumanity of the Holocaust against the courageous protagonist, Saul, who risks his life to bury a Jewish boy properly.

13. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

Judgment at Nuremberg 1961 United Artists
Image Credit: United Artists

This classic film depicts the trials of Nazi leaders that took place post-World War II, directed and produced by Stanley Kramer.  The film deals with questions regarding individual and collective responsibility for the Holocaust and centers on a military tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany. Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy) leads the tribunal as the Chief Trial Judge against defendants accused of crimes against humanity due to senior roles of the Nazi German government. Tracy is supported by the best of Hollywood of that era.

14. The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)

The Zookeepers Wife 2017 Focus Features
Image Credit: Focus Features

This war drama tells the true story of how Jan (Johan Heldenbergh) and Antonina Maria Żabińska (Jessica Chastain) rescued hundreds of Polish Jews from the Germans by hiding them in their zoo during World War II. Yad Vashem recognized the couple for their rescue efforts.

The Boy in Striped Pajamas (2008)

Boy In The Striped Pajamas Miramax
Image Credit: Miramax

Based on the novel of the same name by John Boyne, this historical drama is set in Nazi-occupied Poland. The haunting but touching film follows eight-year-old Bruno, the son of an SS officer who befriends Schmuel, a Holocaust prisoner of his age. As his father educates him about Nazi propaganda and antisemitism, neither Bruno nor Shmuel comprehends the nature of the camp and barbed wire. Some critics found the film trivializing some facts and thought it was a fairy tale, though others point out that if it was watered, some young kids could learn from it.


10 Hilarious Lightweight Comedies About Rich People

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Get ready to dive into a world of luxury, laughter, and extravagant antics. We’re taking you on a whirlwind tour of ten sidesplitting lightweight comedies that revolve around the lives of the exceptionally wealthy. Having a lot of money can lead to plenty of absurd situations, and where there’s absurdity, there’s hilarity. From Crazy Rich Asians to Ruthless People, these ten films about rich people are perfect for a hilarious light viewing that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

10 Popular Movies With Perfect Endings Ruined by Lame Sequels

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When a movie becomes fans’ favorite, it’s not unusual to see filmmakers wanting to further explore its captivating storylines through sequels that may sometimes be below par. Lackluster follow-ups have been the death of perfect cinematic delivery in recent times, and a group of cineasts considers these popular movies ruined by successors that should never have been produced.

10 TV Shows People Wish They Could Watch for the First Time Again

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It feels like the first time. It feels like the very first time (I watched The Sopranos). As you endlessly scroll through the streaming verse of mediocre shows you know will leave you disappointed, why not fantasize about those shows that made you feel things you didn’t see a TV show could make you feel?

10 Actors and Actresses People Watch No Matter What They Star In

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Great actors progress through stages. Early in their careers, fans catch a glimpse of the talent and, each time they see the actor in a new role, realize that the talent is no fluke. Once the actor has built a long enough resume, the great ones enter must-see-at-all-costs territory. These actors and actresses have achieved near cult-leader status, and boy, have they earned it.

10 Movies Everyone Should See at Least Once in Their Lifetime

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If you haven’t seen these movies, what are you waiting for? You won’t find any hidden gems on this list; you may have already seen most of them. If there are any on this list that you still need to see, bump them up your watchlist. These are bucket-list movies you can’t possibly justify leaving unwatched.

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