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The World War II movies and series of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks

Everything you need to watch (or rewatch) ahead of Masters of the Air.

The Pacific (HBO)
Image credit: HBO

Ahead of Apple's Masters of the Air dropping later this month, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks' past WW2-themed collaborations are well worth revisiting. The renowned filmmaker and iconic actor kickstarted their explorations of World War II with the 1998 masterpiece Saving Private Ryan. Shortly afterwards, they looked into expanding into the realm of prestige TV with multiple series at HBO.

Spielberg also directed Empire of the Sun and Schindler's List as WW2-centric projects, but they're not directly related to his output with Hanks.

Before we give you all the must-have details, here's the quick list of Spielberg and Hanks' past World War II projects:

  • Saving Private Ryan (movie, 1998)
  • Band of Brothers (HBO miniseries, 2001)
  • The Pacific (HBO miniseries, 2010)

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Saving Private Ryan
Image credit: Paramount Pictures

The Tom Hanks-led movie that started the duo's collaboration on World War II epics was set in 1944 in France. It follows a group of soldiers led by Captain John Miller (Hanks) on their mission to locate Private James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon) and bring him home after his three brothers are killed in action. The movie was inspired by the books of Stephen E. Ambrose as well as accounts of casualties among members of a single family during WW2.

As heart-wrenching and brutal as it is, Saving Private Ryan remains a sprawling war drama you should watch at least once. The filming techniques used by Spielberg would later influence many other war epics (as well as video games) that dared to recount the Normandy invasion.

Where to watch: Buy and rent via Amazon. Stream via Paramount+.

Band of Brothers (2001)

Band of Brothers
Image credit: HBO

The critically acclaimed HBO miniseries dramatizes the history of "Easy" Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. While the story starts during Easy Company's paratrooper training, it gradually follows the soldiers' participation in the Western Front of World War II until the war with Germany ends.

On top of the 'collective voice' that is given to the narration and switching points of view, another touch that made Band of Brothers special was that each episode begins with excerpts from interviews with some of the survivors. As the series reaches its conclusion, they are identified by name.

Where to watch: Buy via Amazon. Stream via Max.

The Pacific (2010)

The Pacific
Image credit: HBO

The second in the 'trilogy' of World War II miniseries from Spielberg and Hanks as executive producers, The Pacific explores the United States Marine Corps' many actions in the Pacific Theater of Operations within the wider Pacific War, which was especially bloody.

As a companion piece to Band of Brothers, The Pacific often feels like a more scattered narration, but it remains one of the finest HBO shows of all time. The production value was really high, and the entire thing was exquisitely crafted. More importantly, the surprisingly intimate human drama still hit as hard as the shocking violence on display.

Where to watch: Buy via Amazon. Stream via Max.

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