Two More Movies to Make You Think in 2018


How much of your recreation time is devoted to watching movies? For many people, watching films at the theater and viewing movies at home are staples of their pastime enjoyment. As a philosopher, one of the things I most enjoy in life is learning something significant about truth and reality. Therefore, I like watching films that are true stories or based on true events, and especially ones that make me think about the deep questions of life.

This year, I want to recommend two more films (see my previous recommendations for 2018 here), both released some years ago, for people like me who want to think about the deeper issues of life and history. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BC) said that human beings were made to reflect on life and that the pursuit of reflection is part of finding a fulfillment and satisfaction that is unique to humans.

Since I am a passionate student of history, the films listed here are based on true stories or inspired by true events and center on the Holocaust that transpired during the Second World War, which I view as one of the most important events in humankind’s history. I was saddened but not surprised to read of a recent study that 22% of US millennials did not think they had even heard of the Holocaust.So as an educator, I again want to especially recommend these movies to those of the millennial age group.

Both of these films contain language and violence that some may find objectionable. So, for the most part, these are films for adult viewers. Please use your own discretion in selecting which thought-provoking movies you view.

1. The Pianist (2002, rated R)

This movie is an adaptation of the autobiography of influential Polish-Jewish pianist and classical composer Władysław Szpilman (1911–2000). The early part of the film depicts Szpilman (played by Adrien Brody) playing on live radio when the station is bombed as World War II begins with Germany invading Poland in September 1939. As Jews, Szpilman and his family are subsequently forced into the Warsaw Ghetto, where they are deprived of most of their possessions and witness firsthand the unbridled brutality of the German SS troops.

Szpilman’s family is then sent to the Treblinka death camp, but he is able to avoid deportation and remains as a slave laborer in the ghetto. He witnesses the famous Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (1943) where the Jewish resistance used smuggled weapons to fight against the Nazis. The Jewish revolt was heroic but ultimately unsuccessful against the fortified German forces.

Szpilman finally escapes Nazi capture with the help of Jewish and non-Jewish contacts and friends. He amazingly survives the war, in part with the help of a German officer who appreciates his piano playing.

The movie is filmed in Poland and is co-produced and directed by Roman Polanski. The gripping film, which shows the horrors of the Holocaust, received multiple Academy Award nominations and awards.

2. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008, rated PG-13)

This film is an adaptation of a John Boyne’s novel about a secret and forbidden friendship between two eight-year-old boys—one German and one Jewish—in World War II-era Germany. The German boy, Bruno (played by Asa Butterfield), is the son of a high-ranking commandant of a Nazi concentration camp. The Jewish boy, Shmuel (played by Jack Scanlon), is an inmate of the camp.

Bruno is unaware of what his father does as a German officer and initially doesn’t know about the adjoining camp that is near his home. But Bruno accidentally encounters Shmuel who, like all camp prisoners, is dressed in pajamalike clothing. The boys develop a bond of friendship, even though they are separated by a fence. This relationship ultimately results in a shocking and ironic event that causes Bruno’s mother and father to seriously question their commitment to Nazi ideology.

Mark Herman, the film’s director, and Vera Farmiga, who plays Bruno’s mother, both won British Independent Film Awards in 2008.

Neither of these movies is easy to watch. Both are shocking. Yet both of these Holocaust-oriented films will provoke you to reflect deeply on the greatest crime committed in human history. Humankind cannot afford to forget the Holocaust, nor can we allow our young people to have no knowledge of it.

Reflections: Your Turn

How did you first learn of the Holocaust? Do you appreciate movies that make you think about historical events? Why or why not?


  1. JTA, “Twenty-Two Percent of U.S. Millennials Are Not Sure if They Have Heard of the Holocaust, Study Finds,” Jewish World (blog), Haaretz, April 15, 2018,


  One thought on “Two More Movies to Make You Think in 2018

  1. July 17, 2018 at 5:38 am

    I saw “Boy in Striped Pajamas” when it wasn’t the theater a few years ago. I learned a lot about how propaganda was used to set people against the Jews during that time period. What if all the time and effort texpended toward a campaign of hate and destruction had been used to achieve a positive goal instead? It also showed how, in the end, all peoples are so alike in both their humanity and mortality—despite all protestations to the contrary..

    • July 17, 2018 at 2:24 pm

      Thanks, TLL.

      Propaganda can be very dangerous. It is so important to differentiate education from indoctrination.

      Ken Samples

  2. July 17, 2018 at 10:59 pm

    ‘R’ rated movies shouldn’t be recommended. The net viewing result is negative.

    • July 18, 2018 at 12:44 pm


      Thanks for expressing your opinion. But the movies I recommended on the Holocaust are profoundly insightful and in my view worth viewing even if some of the content is objectionable. In the case of the movies I recommend I think it is a matter of Christian conscience (Rom. 14). And in my recommendation I always encourage people to follow their thoughtful and biblically informed judgment.

      By the way, you might appreciate my book Christian Endgame: Careful Thinking about the End Times.

      Ken Samples

    • David
      July 20, 2018 at 10:41 pm

      I disagree and frankly hope you reconsider this view, which is too narrow. It is all about context and intent. Honestly, your view taken literally would mean one could not read the Bible. If books had a rating, parts of the Bible would certainly be rated “R”. Human life in a fallen world is messy and often unpleasant. Sin is a sad reality with which we must do battle. To hide from this is to avert one’s eyes from a large part of the human experience which is unhelpful. That would make us worse as witnesses and as far as being able to reach out to those we are to try and help.

      I would wholeheartedly agree with you, however, on films that are rated “R” due to reasons of titillation or base intentions. But surely this does not apply to a brutal but honorable and honest film like Schindler’s List. Or Kurosawa’s Ran (the best film ever made). As Tolkien said, “in sorrow we must go, but not in despair.”

  3. July 23, 2018 at 7:49 am

    Reblogged this on Beyond the Fog and commented:
    I have seen both of the films mentioned, and as the author says, they are sometimes unpleasant to watch, but both are excellent films, well worth your time.

    • July 23, 2018 at 8:09 am

      Thanks for the reblog.

      Ken Samples

  4. July 23, 2018 at 7:51 am

    I have seen both of these films, and believe both are excellent, though not always pleasant to watch.

  5. Rick Nelson
    August 13, 2018 at 9:11 am

    I first learned about the Holocaust in third grade. Three of us out of 20 students were taken from the classroom to view the films that the military had taken immediately following the discovery of the death camps. Some footage was confiscated from the Germans overseeing the operation of the Camps. We were only 8 years old when the three of us saw this. (1966) I have no idea what the Minnesota school system was doing showing that to 3rd graders at the time. To this day I will never forget those films. I recently saw those films again on television and the narrator said these have never been seen before. I’m not a conspiracy theorist but I’m sure the school system had something going on with that event we experienced.
    I’m also in agreement with you Kenneth in your assessment of “R” rated movies. The life we have here is a fallen one and we can’t let “ratings” keep our heads in the sand to what this life brings. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free”. Let us be fully aware of our world and the part we have in walking in Gods path He has made for us.

    • August 13, 2018 at 9:52 am

      Thanks for sharing your experience and comments, Rick.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

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