The Best World War II Film Is Leaving Streaming

Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk is leaving HBO Max on November 11.

By Britta DeVore | Published

World War II buffs are going to want to rush to HBO Max before November 11 to catch the critically acclaimed Christopher Nolan helmed feature, Dunkirk, before it takes its final bow from the platform. Paving the way for the specific filming of other battle-heavy films including Netflix’s recently-released All Quiet on the Western Front, the film drew fans in with its up-close-and-personal war scenes and incredible performances from its all-star cast. The film would also be the first feature to launch Harry Styles out of the world of a pop star and into the makings of a movie star, opening up an entirely new set of possibilities for the burgeoning actor. 

As for the film itself, Dunkirk centered around the titular evacuation during WWII that saw over 338,000 Allied troops saved from the beaches and harbor in the northern French town of Dunkirk between late May and early June 1940. Following six bloody and brutal weeks of the “Battle of France,” Belgian, British, and French soldiers found themselves trapped and surrounded by German troops with no way out. The feature followed the experiences of several different military personnel from land, air, and sea as they attempted to fight their way out against all odds. 

Dunkirk featured a wide array of talents with performances from actors including the aforementioned Harry Styles, Fionn Whitehead (Black Mirror: Bandersnatch), Tom Glynn-Carney (House of the Dragon), Jack Lowden (War & Peace), Aneurin Barnard (Hunky Dory), James D’Arcy (Broadchurch), Barry Keoghan (The Killing of a Sacred Deer), Kenneth Branagh (Death on the Nile), Cillian Murphy (Peaky Blinders), Mark Rylance (The Outfit), and Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises). Directed by Christopher Nolan, the feature also boasted an incredible score from the critically acclaimed and celebrated Hans Zimmer. An absolute hit, the feature would go on to nab eight nominations at the 90th Academy Awards and take home three, for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Film Editing. 

tom hardy christopher nolan dunkirk
Tom Hardy in Dunkirk

Released to theaters during the summer of 2017, Dunkirk raked in a global total of $525 million at the box office up against its budget of $100-150 million. Smashing ticket sales of previous WWII films like Saving Private Ryan, which brought in $482 million at the worldwide box office, Dunkirk remains the highest grossing WWII feature of all time. Relying heavily on its special effects, the film was successful in transporting audiences from their theater seats to the chaotic and terrifying action unfolding around its characters. 

Along with focusing on members of the armed forces, Dunkirk also sheds light on the incredible story of civilians living in Britain who opted to sail their own personal watercrafts directly into the battle in hopes of helping the trapped servicemen. In the film, Mark Rylance plays Mr. Dawson, who sets out with his son, Peter Dawson (Tom Glynn-Carney) on one such quest. In history, the citizens sailed from the seaside town of Ramsgate, England with a fleet of 850 that came to be known as the Little Ships of Dunkirk. 

The feature did much for its lesser known actors, launching many film careers for its younger stars and cementing the talents of those such as Barry Keoghan, who had a double breakout that year with Dunkirk and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. For Harry Styles, it would put the actor on the map and lead him to take on roles in features including Marvel’s Eternals and the recently released Don’t Worry Darling and My Policeman. Drawing crowds in, the film used the talents of well-known and celebrated actors including Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, and Cillian Murphy, each of whom had already made major names for themselves in the industry. 

Considered to be one of Christopher Nolan’s best pieces of film, it’s no surprise as to why Dunkirk has gone on to inspire a new group of filmmakers when it comes to how war movies are shot. Although it focuses on the first World War, the recently released Edward Berger helmed All Quiet on the Western Front relies heavily on its up close shots, revealing the true horrors of war, just as Nolan did with Dunkirk. As for Nolan, he’s gearing up to release his next film, Oppenheimer, which will tell another story surrounding WWII, that of the creation of the first atomic bomb, formed under the guise of the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer lands in theaters on July 21, 2023 and sees Nolan team up once again with Murphy, who will play the titular physicist.