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Military Movies and Shows on Netflix: April 2017

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Netflix produces its most ambitious military documentary to date with “Five Came Back,” a three-part history of WWII military service by Hollywood directors and how the films they made influenced the war effort. They’re also streaming several of the actual WWII documentaries mentioned in the series.

1. Five Came Back

This three-part documentary details the World War II service of five legendary Hollywood directors (Frank Capra, John Ford, George Stevens, William Wyler and John Huston) and the films they made in support of the war effort. Based on an excellent book by Mark Harris, the three-hour documentary shows highlights from the films as it talks about the role movies played in the war effort.Netflix has also added eleven of the WWII films to the service, so you can explore more after you watch the documentary. Capra directed “Know Your Enemy - Japan, “Prelude to War” and “Why We Fight: The Battle of Russia.” Wyler directed “Thunderbolt” and “The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress.” Huston directed “San Pietro,” “Let There Be Light” and “WWII: Report from the Aleutians.” Ford directed “Undercover: How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines.” The selection also includes “Tunisian Victory” and “The Negro Soldier.” (2017)

2. USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage

The atomic bombs that the United States used to end World War II had to get close enough to Japan for a plane to deliver them to their targets and the USS Indianapolis was the ship tasked with the secret mission. After they delivered the payload, the crew had to travel to its next assignment without an escort and the Japanese navy sunk the ship. Nicholas Cage plays Captain Charles McVay, who was unfairly court-martialed for failure to take “proper evasive action.” He was eventually cleared of all charges after his death and this movie aims to convince audiences that McVay and his crew are true heroes of the war. (2016)

3. The Night Shift

NBC’s summer series follows a San Antonio hospital trauma unit staffed by doctors who learned their trade as military doctors and medics in Afghanistan. It’s found a loyal following for its treatment of veterans issues and Season Four premieres this summer. Season One and Season Two are now available to stream, so you can (mostly) catch up before new episodes air. (2014-2015)

4. Spies of Warsaw

This British miniseries is based on a novel by the popular espionage novelist Allan Furst. David Tennant (a former Doctor Who) stars as Colonel Jean-François Mercier, one of the key players in the intrigue and espionage between the major powers as they try to control the fate of Poland in the run up to World War II. (2014)

5. The Civil War

Ken Burns’ 10-hour epic changed the way people thought about both documentaries and television viewing habits. In fact, you might even say that Burns was the guy who made people realize that viewers like to binge-watch for hours at a time. It’s the standard for every historical documentary made in the last quarter-century and always worth watching again. (1990)

6. The War

Ken Burns' 14-hour documentary was originally shown on PBS and it's very much like "The Civil War," only there was a wealth of actual film footage for him to use. There's not much of that "slow panning shot over a pile of photos" effect here and quite a few living witnesses to the events are interviewed on camera. Burns' great insight for this movie was to focus on the experiences of four American towns (Luverne, MN; Mobile, AL; Sacramento, CA and Waterbury, CT) and how the war affected each through the stories of the men and women who served around the world during the era. It's a great piece of history and a far better use of your time than spending a weekend re-watching a season of "The Walking Dead." (2007)

7. The Finest Hours

Chris Pine and Casey Affleck star in Disney’s action movie about the Coast Guard’s legendary 1952 rescue of the SS Pendleton off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Pine is Bernie Webber, the young petty officer who led what everyone believed was a suicide mission. Affleck is Ray Sybert, the Pendleton senior officer who tries to keep the crew focused in the face of almost certain doom. “The Finest Hours” wasn’t a box office hit, but it’s most definitely worth watching. (2016)

8. The Way Back

This movie is “based on the true story” of a Polish WWII POW who led an escape from a Siberian prison camp and led a small group to freedom by walking 4,000 miles across Siberia, Mongolia and the Gobi Desert to India. Jim Sturgess plays the Polish POW and he’s supported by strong performances from Ed Harris, Colin Farrell and Satires Ronan in director Peter Weir’s (“Dead Poets Society,” “The Truman Show”) film. The memoir that inspired the movie was an international bestseller in 1956 but the story behind the movie has been challenged in the last few years. It’s an inspiring story. It may or may not be true.(2010)

9. Foyle’s War

All episodes of this World War II detective drama are now available. DCS Christopher Foyle investigates crime during wartime and every mystery has some connection to the war effort. Bad guys include both Nazis and Americans. The later series cover Foyle’s career in intelligence during the Cold War. (2002-2015)

10. Last Days in Vietnam

This PBS documentary details the American withdrawal from Saigon in April 1975. As the North Vietnamese army closed in, the U.S. military had to evacuate 5,000 Americans and made efforts to rescue a large number of Vietnamese who had supported the U.S. during the war. (2014)

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