Hollywood movies might not be the best way to get the most accurate information, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a slightly fictionalized account of historical events – as long as you can recognize the inaccuracies as they come. On the subject of Pearl Harbor, there are dozens of movies you can sit down and watch, but not all of them are worth the time and effort they may take to get through.
The following are movies revolving around the Pearl Harbor attack that you may want to add to your collection. They prove to both be entertaining entrees in cinema while still showing much-deserved respect to the men and women affected by the surprise Japanese raid.
Tora! Tora! Tora!
Named after the Japanese cry that was radioed back to the Japanese aircraft carriers when Pearl Harbor came into view, Tora was an acronym for totsugeki raigeki, or lightning attack, which was used to signify that the fighters had achieved complete surprise. Tora! Tora! Tora! aimed to put the events of Pearl Harbor front and center, looking beyond the attack and instead pinpoints the mistakes that the United States made that led to the possibility of a surprise attack.
Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, and Burt Lancaster head this Oscar-winning depiction of life on a Hawaiian Army base. The film steers away from glorifying the attack and rather focuses on the lives that were interrupted and how life at the base was prior to the surprise attack. From Here to Eternity humanizes the soldiers who were involved in Pearl Harbor, something that many Pearl Harbor movies fail to do as the big payoff is always the attack. With eight Academy Awards, it appears people aren’t only interested in destruction and mayhem.
I Bombed Pearl Harbor
The name of this 1960 Japanese film was Hawaii-Midway Battle of the Sea and Sky: Storm in the Pacific Ocean, but upon its release in the American market, it was stamped with a much catchier title. Unsurprisingly, the film tackles the events of Pearl Harbor and World War II from the viewpoint of a Japanese aviator. Not the most uplifting tale, I Bombed Pearl Harbor depicts the aviator’s joy over the victory at Pearl Harbor and the sudden turnaround after the Japanese defeat at the Battle of Midway.
This 1943 film won the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject, but it’s far from a true-to-life documentary. Though effective in retelling the events of Pearl Harbor, December 7th includes dramatizations of the attack and scenes written specifically for the film. Director John Ford was so effective in recounting the events of the attack that much of the film was confused for actual footage. The original cut was much longer but the movie lost about an hour of footage when the War Department determined it exposed the military’s lack of preparedness.