From Lancaster to Affleck: Pearl Harbor at the Movies

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Today marks 70 years since Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. With each passing year, more survivors of that awful day seven decades ago die and the world loses a piece of living history. Most of the men who were on those ships in the harbor that Sunday morning -- just miles from the sandy beaches and warm waters full of vacationing families in Honolulu -- are in their '80s and '90s now.

Hollywood began taking on the attacks on celluloid within months after the Pearl Harbor bombing in a series of films made in conjunction with the military. As the years went by and more World War II vets became a part of the film industry, more films were being green-lit about the war, of varying quality and factual accuracy.

Quite honestly, you can watch days and days of Pearl Harbor attack footage, fictional and nonfictional, and none of it will compare to actually visiting the harbor yourself, taking that slow boat to the monument over the USS Arizona's final resting place and seeing the tombs of thousands of men just a few feet underwater. Oil is still seen bubbling from the wreckage, all these decades later.

Most of the men who survived have their ashes buried at sea in the harbor to be among their brothers in arms.

The thing is, as the years have gone by, the movies have begun to suck more and more and the details of the day's events get muddled with love stories, star wattage and special effects. It was the flicks that came out early on that have the most impact, since plenty of the men behind the pictures either fought in the war or had friends and family fighting. There was a righteous anger that they were entitled to and it came out on screen.

Pearl Harbor, 2001

Released just months before 9/11, this Ben Affleck-starring popcorn movie tried to turn Pearl Harbor into a sort of Titanic-size tearjerker. The scenes involving the attacks, though, were thrilling enough, owing to director Michael Bay's blood lust.

Tora Tora Tora, 1970

Almost 30 years after Pearl Harbor, American audiences were ready to see the other side of the action, with dramatizations of the Japanese military build-up.

From Here to Eternity, 1953

The sweet make-out scene on the beach evoked memories of the relationships and loves that were torn apart by war. Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, good. Affleck and Beckinsale, bad.

In Harm's Way, 1965

John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Burgess Meredith, Slim Pickens and Carroll O'Connor round out the all-star cast of In Harm's Way, directed by Otto Preminger. Check out his sweet voice-over in the trailer. He can make anything sound cuddly.

John Ford's "December 7th: The Pearl Harbor Story"

Commander John Ford made this while he was in the Navy fighting the good fight before becoming a big-time Hollywood director.

Winds of War, 1983

Swoony miniseries.

Pearl, 1978

Hazily shot, kissy miniseries.

The Final Countdown, 1980

Time-traveling aircraft carrier goes back in time to Pearl Harbor hours before the Japanese attacks, with Martin Sheen and an older Kirk Douglas, looking way past military retirement.

Blood on the Sun, 1945

James Cagney, see, is a journalist in Japan before the war, see, who stumbles upon the Tanaka Memorial relating to Japan's plans for "world domination." See.

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