2014 marks the 100th anniversary of World War One in Europe. Hailed the ‘war to end all wars,’ it nevertheless became the catalyst for the Second World War. For many, WWI remains the ‘Great War.’ Ironically, it’s one of the least-explored confrontations in American history. The United States didn’t enter till 1917. To understand WWII, however, we must know WWI. Here are literature-based movies to help.
All Quiet on the Western Front
(Erich Maria Remarque) This must-read book, must-see film is narrated by a young German WWI soldier. Hearing the older generation praise the honor of war, the boy find experience much different. This book/movie explores loyalty, bravery, sacrifice and unlikely friendship. Written from ‘the enemy’s’ perspective brings home the universality of life themes. (1930 and 1979 versions).
Johnny Got His Gun
(Dalton Trumbo) This book should be required reading in high school. It’s an inside out look at heroism, disability, arrested youth and the futility of war. A young soldier steps on a land mine on the last day of WWI. He loses arms, legs, eyes, ears and face. It’s neither romantic nor patriotic, but a pile-driver confrontation with war reality. It’s so intense that Trumbo was blacklisted in Hollywod in the 1940s’ Red Scare. (1974 and 2008 versions)
Students might compare/contrast books or movies and discuss differences and similarities on both side of the barbed wire. For free printable WWI lesson plans, visit my blog at Free Printable Lesson Plans.