Today marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when the allied forces launched their invasion on the European mainland, which would prove to be a huge push toward toppling Hitler’s Germany and ending World War II.
The event is objectively one of the greatest events in human history. The sheer manpower, coordination, timing, planning and patience it took to pull the invasion off is mind-boggling and awesome in the most literal sense of the word.
Taking years to plan, the invasion saw the combined forces of 156,115 American, British and Canadian troops in nearly 7,000 ships and landing vessels and about 2,400 aircraft and nearly 1,000 gliders delivering airborne troops onto the beach.
Less than a year later, Germany signed an unconditional surrender.
Since that surrender, Nazis have become villains that we can topple again and again in fiction. They're now a go-to bad guy that we can all enjoy the smashing of. True schadenfreude. Nazis will always be bad. There will never be hindsight where anyone is sympathetic to the Third Reich, so it will always inherently be fun to watch them get defeated in movies and on TV. It will always be fun to humiliate Nazis.
Here’s a list of my favorite movies where the Nazis get what’s coming to them.
A quick disclaimer – there aren’t many classic war movies on this list for two reasons. First, a lot of them are based on true stories and history books (especially Studs Terkel’s “The Good War”) have told those stories better than movies can (usually) and secondly, I haven’t seen many classic war movies. I like weird movies.
Oh, also, spoiler alert.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011): Based on the comic book character that first appeared in comic book propaganda in 1941 (he punches Hitler on his very first cover), this movie helped kicked off the multi-billion dollar Marvel cinematic universe. It also features Chris Evans as a scrawny man enhanced by a super soldier serum after admitting to a WWII recruiter that “I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t like bullies. I don’t care where they’re from.” Becoming Captain America, the Star-Spangled Avenger, Brooklyn’s Steve Rogers eventually helps win the war against the Nazis by punching each and every one of them.
“Green Room” (2015): OK, technically, this movie is about neo-Nazis, but neo-Nazis are still Nazis. After a show in a rural part of the Pacific Northwest, punk rock band The Ain’t Rights have a deadly run-in with a group of neo-Nazis. Perfectly cast (the film stars Patrick Stewart and Anton Yelchin), and brilliantly directed, this is an edge-of-your-seat thriller so tense you’ll believe you’re in the green room with the band.
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981): Deserves inclusion on this list for the sheer number of Nazis punched throughout its runtime, but the beauty of this Steven Spielberg classic is that, even if Indiana Jones wasn’t in the movie at all, the Nazis looking for the Ark of the Covenant would have gotten what was coming to them anyway. The object of their desire, the Ark, is ultimately their undoing. The message, loud and clear, being the Nazis’ failure was inevitable.
“Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge” (1991): In this movie, a puppeteer uses a serum given to him by an Egyptian God to bring puppets to life. After being censored by the Third Reich, the puppets get revenge by going on a Nazi killing spree. It’s a very weird movie, but it shows that even puppets would have joined the Allied Forces.
“Saving Private Ryan” (1998): This is one of the best movies ever made, so I have to include it.
“Inglourious Basterds” (2009): In Quentin Tarantino’s revisionist take on World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers and one really ticked-off French theater owner get revenge on Hitler and the Nazis by locking them in a theater and burning it down. Brilliant performances and one of the best first scenes in cinema history make this a modern classic.