Mandatory Movie Battles: Sam Mendes’s ‘1917’ vs. Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’

Sam Mendes’ war epic, 1917, about two Allied soldiers who must deliver a message across enemy lines to avert a disaster, is officially the Academy Awards’ Best Picture front-runner. The last time a war movie received a handful of Oscar nominations (including Best Picture) was Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk in 2017. While the two movies may take place decades apart (WWI and WWII), audiences have wasted no time drawing stylistic comparisons between the two. Whether this is because of the films’ similar tones, technological ambition, or the fact that Nolan and Mendes are respectful rivals (both wanted to direct a Bond film; when Mendes got the gig, he accredited The Dark Knight as the inspiration for much of what he did with Skyfall) is irrelevant. Dunkirk did not win Best Picture at the Oscars but 1917 could; this begs the question: which movie is better? In this edition of Mandatory Movie Battles, we pit 1917 against Dunkirk to find out which is the best film. Warning: major spoilers for both 1917 and Dunkirk ahead!

Cover Photo: Entertainment One and Warner Bros. 

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Dunkirk is a smart, technically impressive war epic that tells an important story. It is a better war film than most but 1917 is a fresh, intimate, goosebump-inducing thrill ride where the peaks are just as rewarding as the valleys. Dunkirk didn’t win Best Picture or Best Director in 2018. 1917 will win Best Director and has a good chance of winning Best Picture. Much like how Ernest Hemingway redefined literature with his unadorned writing style in WWI novels like A Farewell to Arms, Mendes’ WWI story shows us combat through a keyhole, opening the door at all the right times.

Overall Winner: 1917

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