Watch list: World War II told through five British period dramas

It is no secret that World War II always remains a popular era for British period dramas.

Here, our guest writer Elizabeth Niedbala has drawn up a list of British period drama productions to watch in chronological order, each focusing on a different facet of the war.


The King’s Speech (1939)

While the film begins prior to World War II, the climax occurs during King George VI’s speech to the United Kingdom on September 3, 1939.

This was the day war was declared on Germany. The king reminded his people that, “For the second time in the lives of most of us, we are at war,” acknowledging the fact that The War to End All Wars had failed to do so.

The King’s Speech is available on DVD on Amazon.


Dunkirk (1940)

Christopher Nolan dramatizes one of Britain’s greatest defeats using multiple, overlapping storylines.

He grasps the desperation of the event while also focusing on what sacrifices soldiers and civilians made. Bonus points for Best Use of a Churchill Speech.

Dunkirk is available on DVD on Amazon.


The Imitation Game (1939-1945)

Focusing on the covert code-breaking operation at Bletchley Park, The Imitation Game covers the whole of the war.

While the movie concentrates on the early years and the efforts made to crack the Enigma code, the operation continued for the rest of the war.

The Imitation Game is available on DVD on Amazon.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (1946)

Set after World War II, The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society shows the effects of Nazi occupations and how the British tried to rebuild.

It also touches on American optimism in the face of British wariness and rebellion in the form of illicit clubs and forbidden romance.


The Crown: ‘Vergangenheit’ (post-war)

World War II changed, well, the world, and the repercussions echo through the decades.

This episode from the second season of Netflix’s The Crown is set in 1954; far enough to gain some perspective, but the memories were still fresh.

However, when it is revealed that Edward and Wallis were Nazi sympathizers, Queen Elizabeth has to make the decision of how to treat them. As it did then, the war continues to haunt us to this day.

The Crown is available on DVD on Amazon.