Hollywood Goes to War

Netflix‘s documentary series examining World War II’s impact on five famous Hollywood directors will premiere March 31.

Narrated by Meryl Streep, directed by Laurent Bouzereau and adapted by Mark Harris from his book, Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War is a three-part docuseries focusing on five legendary filmmakers: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra and George Stevens. The series discusses how each sought to “bring the truth (of war) to the American people.”

To put the war’s impact on Hollywood – and vice versa – into perspective, Five Came Back turns to five “cinematic masters” of today: Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo Del Toro, Paul Greengrass and Lawrence Kasdan.

‘Five Came Back’ trailer:

To illustrate “the ways patriotism and industry existed side by side,” Five Came Back draws on more than 100 hours of archival and newsreel footage, as well as numerous documentaries, training films and studio movies Ford, Wyler, Huston, Capra and Stevens made during the war.

“Film was an intoxicant from the early days of the silent movies,” says Spielberg in Five Came Back. “And early on, Hollywood realized that it had a tremendous tool or weapon for change, through cinema.”

“These filmmakers, at that time, had a responsibility in that what they were putting into the world would be taken as truth,” said Bouzereau. “You can see a lot of echoes in what is happening today.”

“It’s the hardest thing to convey to young, contemporary audiences – even if you understand it intellectually, you don’t understand viscerally that you had to wait a really, really long time for news,” said Harris. “(Y)ou’re truly in another universe when you’re talking about the 1940s. There were newspapers and radio, but visually, the movies were the only way people could see the war.”

Netflix subscribers can add Five Came Back to their watch list now.

Netflix will also present 13 documentaries discussed in the series, including Ford’s The Battle of Midway, Wyler’s The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, Huston’s Report from the Aleutians, Capra’s The Battle of Russia, Stevens’ Nazi Concentration Camps, and Stuart Heisler’s The Negro Soldier.

But you can watch all six of these historic films, right here on The Savvy Screener:

John Ford’s ‘The Battle of Midway’:

William Wyler’s ‘The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress’:


John Huston’s ‘Report from the Aleutians’:


Frank Capra’s ‘The Battle of Russia’:

George Stevens’ ‘Nazi Concentration Camps’ (this features disturbing, graphic content):

Stuart Heisler’s ‘ Negro Soldier’:


About Larry Greenberg

A former local beat reporter and film critic, co-founder Lawrence Greenberg has more than 25 years’ experience as a writer and public relations executive.

View All Articles

Leave a Comment