10 Best World War II Documentaries


  • Five Came Back analyzes directors who enlisted in WWII to film the event, providing unique insight.
  • Soviet Storm offers a Russian perspective on WWII, covering key moments from the Eastern front.
  • The Last Days focuses on the Holocaust, offering an intimate look at the bravery and struggles of five Hungarian Jews.



While there are plenty of World War II movies that offer dramatic and moving depictions of the event, there are also great documentaries that go beyond the screen with real facts, footage, and stories audiences may have never heard otherwise. Among the best documentaries right now are stories connected to World War II, from depictions of certain battles to stories about individuals whose lives were massively affected by the conflict. Although there is a variety of titles to pick from, some stand out in terms of storytelling and level of research.

For any documentary to make a name for itself, it must succeed in a few key areas. First and foremost, it must obviously be historically accurate. Audiences turn to documentaries for facts, and therefore, the best World War II epics are truthful and informational. This ranking also takes into consideration when a documentary tells a true story that is surprising or has rarely been heard before. If the project sheds light on a specific aspect of the war that is rarely covered, that is also important. Finally, the quality of the storytelling can push a documentary over the edge.

Non-English World War 2 movie collage of images from The 12th Man, Shoah, and Children of Hiroshima
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10 Five Came Back (2017)

1 Season, 3 Episodes


Some of the best World War II documentaries focus on a specific, lesser-known topic. Perhaps the best example of this is Five Came Back. The 2017 documentary follows five prolific directors- Paul Greengrass, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, and Lawrence Kasdan- as they examine the work of five movie directors who enlisted in World War II to document the event.

What makes Five Came Back a strong contender among World War II documentaries is its laser focus. Although WWII is the background, this series analyzes the more particular experience of making a war film during the war itself. Five Came Back is also critically acclaimed, with a 98% Rotten Tomatoes score and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Narrator, Meryl Streep. Ultimately, Five Came Back is a thorough exploration of a small yet interesting part of World War II.

Five Came Back is available to stream on Netflix.

9 Soviet Storm: World War II In The East (2010)

2 Seasons, 17 Episodes


An important factor when it comes to any great documentary series is perspective. When it comes to Soviet Storm: World War II in the East, the viewpoint is everything. The Russian docuseries is an expansive exploration of World War II’s most significant moments and characters from the perspective of the Eastern front.

While most Americans are familiar with the Western version of World War II, Soviet Storm takes a different position,focusing on the issues that affected Russia and Eastern Europe the most. Episodes include “Operation Barbarossa,” “The Battle of Moscow,” and “The Siege of Leningrad.” What Soviet Storm does best is it covers a vast amount of history from a specific angle, but rarely comes across as biased or inaccurate. It is a deep dive into World War II through Russia’s eyes, which makes it unique and worth a watch.

Soviet Storm: World War II in the East is available to stream on Tubi and Amazon Prime Video.

8 The Last Days (1998)

1 Hour 27 minutes


Although a major aspect of World War II was the fighting that took place over six years, another particularly important subject is the Holocaust. The Last Days tackles this event with grace and truth. Released in 1998, the documentary tells the story of five Hungarian Jews in the final year of World War II, as the Nazis occupied Hungary and began sending Jewish people to concentration camps, including Auschwitz.

The Last Days won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1998.

This project not only delves into the history and reality of the Holocaust but also highlights the bravery and perseverance shown by the documentary’s subjects. Ultimately, this is what makes The Last Days so notable. Where other documentaries may offer a more distanced view of the Holocaust, The Last Days is incredibly intimate. Audiences follow along closely on the five characters’ journeys and see an unfiltered view of the highs and lows of their lives.

The Last Days is available to stream on Netflix.

7 Battlefield (1994)

6 Seasons, 30 episodes

Battlefield Documentary Covers

For those who want a deep dive into World War II’s most notable battles, Battlefield is the ideal documentary. From 1994 to 2002, Battlefield explored the most minute details of various World War II conflicts. The series focuses on big, famous fights, such as D-Day (often depicted in movies), Pearl Harbor, and The Battle of Midway, but also includes lesser-known encounters such as The Battle for Crimea, Operation Market Garden, and El Alamein.

The best thing audiences will get from Battlefield is details. Unlike other World War II documentaries, this series does not try to cover every aspect of the conflict. Instead, it leans into the mechanics of specific battles to give audiences the most in-depth lesson possible. While Battlefield will not teach viewers everything they need to know about World War II, it succeeds in its chosen niche.

Battlefield is available to stream on PLEX.

6 Auschwitz: The Nazis And The Final Solution (2005)

1 Season, 6 Episodes


Another notable documentary about the Holocaust is 2005’s Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution. Throughout six episodes, the documentary explains the history of the Auschwitz concentration camp from its conception in 1940 to the aftermath of its discovery post-war. With rarely-seen footage of the camp and survivor interviews, this documentary offers an unflinching look at one of WWII’s most haunting places.

The reason why Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution is worth watching is because it includes a variety of sources and visuals. When it comes to interviews, thedocumentarians speak to both Jewish concentration camp survivors and German Nazi officers. Along with facts and reconstructions, the series also includes historically accurate dramatizations and modern footage. Overall, this amalgamation of forms helps make Auschwitz more informative, more interesting, and more accurate.

Auschwitz: The Nazis And The Final Solution is available to stream on Roku and Amazon Prime Video.

5 World War II In Color (2009)

1 Season, 13 Episodes


Though World War II in Color doesn’t have a specific angle or story to tell, its specialty is still notable. The 2009 docuseries showcases the basic elements of World War II from the Western Front to the Pacific War, with the help of colorized footage. As the title suggests, World War II in Color’s visuals stand out among the typical black and white WWII documentaries.

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Overall, World War II in Color is a solid watch for those seeking a general knowledge of the conflict and unique visuals. Where other documentaries may be bogged down by their never-changing black-and-white footage, this docuseries remains vivid through a detailed, complex process of image treatment. Furthermore, the colorization ofWorld War II footage may also change the audience’s perspective. By seeing the war in color, the conflict may feel more real than it would have in monochrome.

World War II In Color is available to stream on Sling, Roku, and Amazon Prime Video.

4 WWII In HD (2009)

1 Season, 10 Episodes


Similar to World War II in Color, WWII in HD brings footage of the Second World War onto an entirely new level via color and quality. The 2009 docuseries, released by the History Channel, tells the story of World War II through the accounts of various men and women who experienced it firsthand. The series is voiced by Gary Sinise.

The documentary’s title insinuates that the visuals are this series’ best point, however, this isn’t exactly true. WWII in HD is good because it pairs amazing footage with real, in-depth stories. The documentary explores many different parts of World War II just via the personal experiences of real people. Nowadays, there are fewer and fewer people alive who have first-hand accounts of World War II, therefore WWII in HD is a project that must continue to be honored.

WWII In HD is available to stream on the History Channel, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

3 Apocalypse: The Second World War (2005)

1 Season, 6 Episodes


One particularly popular World War II documentary is Apocalypse: The Second World War. This French docuseries includes six parts whichcover World War II from the beginnings of Nazism in 1933 to the war’s final moments in 1945. All the footage included in Apocalypse: The Second World War is primary source material that came straight from war correspondents, soldiers, and citizens. Most of it is colorized.

The French title of Apocalypse: The Second World War is Apocalypse, la 2e Guerre mondiale.

What originally put Apocalypse: The Second World War ahead of other World War II documentaries was its colorized footage. Released four years ahead of World War II in Color, this docuseries brought the conflict to life in a way that had rarely been done before. Nowadays though, Apocalypse is a significant watch because of its accuracy and detail. The series portrays multiple aspects of World War II from beginning to end in just six striking episodes.

Apocalypse: The Second World War is available to rent on YouTube, Roku, and Amazon Prime Video.

2 The War (2007)

1 Season, 7 Episodes


As one of the most notable documentarians of American history, it’s no surprise that Ken Burns is at the top of this list. Narrated by Keith David, The War navigates World War II through the experiences of American individuals. Their stories start in their small hometowns but quickly move into the European and Pacific Theaters of World War II. The series runs for 14 hours and has seven parts.

The War is unique because it doesn’t attempt to cover every small detail. Instead, it has a firmly American and human focus. The series starts in Luverne, Mobile, Sacramento, and Waterbury because it’s concerned with the effects the war had on American families and communities. Ultimately, the execution of this concept works incredibly well. The War includes key figures from World War II, along with celebrities like Tom Hanks performing dramatized readings that are gripping and entertaining. Because of this, The War is an intriguing and enjoyable watch.

The War is available to rent on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video.

1 The World At War (1973)

1 Season, 16 Episodes


Finally, the most popular and lauded World War II documentary is 1973’s The World at War. This 26-part epic may be on the older side, but it remains one of the most respected World War II documentaries of all time. In particular, The World at War looks at how such a large conflict affects the individuals involved. The series delves into the lives of military, civilians, concentration camp survivors, and other victims of the war.

Of all the World War II documentaries on this list, The World at War likely has the most interviews with key players from World War II, and that is what makes it so significant. Where other documentaries must tell the story of World War II via documents and second-hand accounts, The World at War had real people at its fingertips. Plus, the narration by Laurence Olivier is captivating and iconic. Therefore, The World at War is the best World War II documentary to date.

The World at War is available to stream on Apple TV.

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