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WWI movies made during (or shortly after) WWI

For more than 100 years, the big screen has told stories from The Great War. But the movies made during — or shortly after — World War I offer a unique perspective. 

World War I spanned 1914-1918 (with the United States entering in 1917). This coincides with the rise of movies' ascendence as a medium as well as movies' place in Americans' everyday lives. The movies brought the war to the home front like no other time in history. 

Several movies made while the war was still being fought features footage of actual battlefields and trenches in active war zones. And in many cases, people who fought and served were behind the camera or starring in the movie. 

"The Lost Battalion," for example, was made in 1919 and is based on the true story of a group of soldiers isolated during an attack in the Argonne. The leader Major Charles W. Whittlesey and several actual soldiers from the 77th Division played themselves in the movie. 

"J'Accuse," directed by Abel Gance, is a WWI epic French silent movie that includes a famous climactic "return of the dead" scene that is haunting to watch even today. The scene was shot while the war was still going on, and Gance used 2,000 soldiers who were on leave in France. 

"These men had come straight from the Front – from Verdun – and they were due back eight days later. They played the dead knowing that in all probability they'd be dead themselves before long," Gance told Kevin Brownlow for the 1968 book "The Parade's Gone By." 

Watch the scene here

Some intertitles in "J'Accuse" used quotes from actual letters from soldier friends of Gance, many of whom died in the war. 

"The Big Parade" (1925) starring John Gilbert was a huge box office and critical hit in the 1920s and influenced most war movies that followed for generations. The story of three men from different walks of life who fight together was written by World War I veteran Laurence Stallings. Stallings was also behind the Broadway play "What Price Glory" (1926) was based on. 

Watch these silent classic WWI movies in full (free) below or on Youtube

'The Big Parade' (1925)

Starring John Gilbert and Renée Adorée, directed by King Vidor

'J'Accuse' (1919)

Directed by Abel Gance

'What Price Glory' (1926)

Starring Victor McLaglen and Delores del Rio, directed by Raoul Walsh

'The Lost Battalion' (1919)

Directed by Burton L. King

'Hearts of the World' (1918)

Starring Lillian Gish, Dorothy Gish and Robert Harron, directed by D.W. Griffith

'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' (1921)

Starring Rudolph Valentino, Wallace Beery and Alice Terry, directed by Rex Ingram

'The Little American' (1917)

Starring Mary Pickford, directed by Cecil B. DeMille

Watch even more full movies at YouTube

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