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Steven Spielberg & Tom Hanks war movies & shows: How & where to watch Saving Private Ryan, Masters of Air, and more (and how it all fits together)

These historical dramas are pretty accurate, down to the dates and times of major events in World War 2

Saving Private Ryan
Image credit: Paramount Pictures

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Steven Speilberg and Tom Hanks are Hollywood powerhouses in their own rights, but they're uniquely prolific together as producers for WW2-based movies and TV. Since 1998, the duo has been working together both in front of and behind the camera to bring us some of the most impactful and true-to-life depictions of actual military life in the '40s, using primary sources as their guides. For this reason, the Speilberg-Hanks (Hanksberg, if you will) WW2 pantheon is in a pretty unique position for anyone who might want to watch these shows and movies in chronological order.

Most of the time, when we do these, we're forced to make some pretty sweeping assumptions about dates and times in the far flung future, juggle alternate universes and fold in extraneous canons. This time, we have a literal historical record to follow, and we're able to line up events year by year -- sometimes down to the day -- to create a very real timeline of events. A timeline that will grow even more thorough upon the release of Masters of Air, the third WW2 miniseries produced by the pair, set to release on Apple TV at the end of the month.

Spielberg/Hanks World War 2 Movies & TV Shows in Release Order

Spielberg/Hanks World War 2 Movies & TV Shows in Chronological Order

With the exception of a small handful of flashbacks, every WW2 show and movie Hanks and Spielberg have produced unfold in exact, chronological order, marked down to the date in a lot of cases. We can line up the events of the show with the historical record, which makes this list pretty specific. We've laid out the episodes (and movie) with their corresponding events here.

  • 1942-1943: Band of Brothers episode 1 - Basic training
  • 1942-1943: The Pacific episodes 1 & 2 - Assorted flashbacks to training and civilian life
  • February 1942: The Pacific episode 1, 2, & 3 (Henderson Field, Guadalcanal)
  • December 1943: The Pacific episode 4 (Cape Gloucester and Pavuvu)
  • June 6, 1944 (D-Day): The beginning of Saving Private Ryan
  • June 6, 1944 (D-Day): Band of Brothers Episode 1 & 2
  • June 10-14, 1944: Carentan
  • June 10-14, 1944: Band of Brothers Episode 3
  • September 17-27, 1944: Band of Brothers episode 4 (Market Garden)
  • September-November 1944: The Pacific episodes 4, 5, & 6 (Peleliu)
  • December 1944 - January 1945: Band of Brothers episodes 5, 6, and 7 (Battle of the Bulge)
  • February 1945: The Pacific episode 8 (Iwo Jima)
  • Early Spring, 1945: Band of Brothers (Entering Germany)
  • April 1945: Band of Brothers episode 9 & 10 - Capturing the Eagle's Nest
  • April 1945: The Pacific episode 9 - Okinawa
  • September 1945: The Pacific episode 10 (Japanese surrender)
  • 1998: Saving Private Ryan ending scenes

Where will Masters of Air fit in?

Masters of Air is set to follow the 100th Bomb Group, AKA The Bloody Hundredth, a unit of the Third Air Force. We can't know just yet which events the show will follow episode-by-episode, but we do know that they became active in 1942 and continued missions in the European theater through 1945. They participated in D-Day and The Battle of the Bulge, which means we have a chance to see events covered from the ground in Band of Brothers from a new perspective.

Is Saving Private Ryan a true story?

Sort of! Saving Private Ryan is the most fictionalized of all the Speilberg/Hanks war dramas, but it still finds some ground to stand on in terms of historical accuracy. Speilberg based the plot of the movie off the true account of the Niland brothers, four men from New York who gained some notoriety for the sheer tragedy of their family story. It was briefly assumed that only one of the four brothers -- Frederick "Fritz" Niland -- had survived. In truth, his brother Edward was captured by the Japanese and recovered after a year of being presumed dead. Both Fritz and Edward returned home safely after the war.

Who is in Masters of Air?

The show was created by John Shiban (The X-Files, Ozark) and John Orloff, who previously worked as a writer on two episodes of Band of Brothers. It's set to star Austin Butler, Barry Keoghan, Callum Turner, Anthony Boyle, and Stephen Campbell Moore, as well as Sawyer Spielberg. Notably on the directorial team we have Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective), Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Captain Marvel), and Dee Rees (Electric Dreams).

Where can you watch Masters of Air?

Unlike both Band of Brothers and The Pacific, which originally premiered on HBO, Masters of Air is on on Apple TV+.


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Band of Brothers

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Masters of the Air

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Saving Private Ryan

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The Pacific

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About the Author

Mason Downey

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