5 Holocaust Movies to Watch on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

"Never forget" isn't just about remembering. It's about taking action to prevent it from happening again.

Universal Pictures

January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day to commemorate and reflect upon the horrors of the Holocaust.

The phrase "Never forget" is oft repeated in reference to the Holocaust, but sometimes its real meaning seems lost. As fascist sentiments bubble beneath America's surface and our president and Republican party continue to dismantle the fabric of democracy, it's important to understand that "Never forget" isn't just about remembering. It's about taking action to prevent that thing from happening again. Of course, watching a movie about the Holocaust isn't exactly taking action, but sometimes great cinema can provide a lens into what we have at stake.

Schindler's List

Schindler's list Universal Pictures

Undoubtedly the single most well-known Holocaust film of all time, Schindler's List remains relevant for good reason. The movie recounts the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist and member of the Nazi party who took it upon himself to save over 1000 Polish Jews by employing them in his factories. Primarily shot in black and white, Schindler's List presents an unrelenting view of the Nazi party's brutality, using jarring visuals (like the girl in the red dress) to evoke emotion and convey how obvious the horrors were to high-level officials. But at its core, the beauty of Schindler's List is the message of hope, the notion that the actions of good people can prevail even in the face of unspeakable evil.

The Pianist

the Pianist Focus Features

Based on Władysław Szpilman's autobiography of the same name, The Pianist portrays the unlikely friendship between Szpilman, a Polish-Jewish pianist and composer, and Wehrmacht officer Wilm Hosenfeld, a Nazi disillusioned with his party's ideologies. Hosenfeld, captivated by Szpilman's piano expertise, makes it his mission to hide Szpilman and provide him with food and supplies. Much like Schindler's List, The Pianist is a harrowing portrayal of the Holocaust with a glimmer of hope and humanity amidst the darkness.

Life Is Beautiful

life is beautiful Miramax Films

Infusing a Holocaust drama with comedic elements might sound like a recipe for disaster, but Life Is Beautiful proves that in the right hands, comedy can be just as effective at evoking an emotional response as tragedy. Inspired by Holocaust survivor Rubino Romeo Salmonì's book, In the End, I Beat Hitler, the movie revolves around the relationship between Guido Orefice, an Italian-Jewish bookshop owner, and his young son, Giosué. In order to shield Giosué from the harsh realities of living in a Nazi concentration camp, Guido turns survival into an imaginative game. Therein, tragedy and humor go hand-in-hand, ultimately conveying the resolve and selflessness of a parent's love.

Sophie's Choice

Sophie's choice Universal Pictures

Often considered one of Meryl Streep's crowning performances, Sophie's Choice tells the story of Sophie Zawistowski, a Polish-Jewish immigrant living in Brooklyn after escaping Auschwitz. Throughout the course of the story, it is revealed that Sophie was forced to choose between the lives of her two children at Auschwitz. While the movie doesn't actually take place in the internment camp, Sophie's Choice attempts to portray the lasting emotional damage that survivors carry with them throughout their lives, along with the sad reality that survival after trauma can sometimes be a death sentence all the same.

Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds The Weinstein Company

Dwelling on the Holocaust can be a painful endeavor, especially for those whose family histories are forever tied to Nazi atrocities. While remembering and mourning is important, celebrating the defeat of Nazis can be incredibly cathartic, too. That's where Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds comes in. Sure, it's not historically accurate, but any movie about a team of badass Jewish soldiers killing Nazis is well worth watching. Remember, there's a reason that even today, nobody bats an eye when self-proclaimed Nazis get punched in the face.