Despite the epic scale and storytelling, there are shows like Band of Brothers that manage to touch on the qualities that made it so great. HBO’s Emmy-winning miniseries Band of Brothers is an expansive and enthralling World War II drama that documents the efforts of an American regiment (nicknamed ‘Easy Company’) and their experiences at war. Just like how the show’s producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ cinematic collaboration, Saving Private Ryan, revolutionized the genre of war drama, Band of Brothers set a high benchmark for similar dramas on TV.
Band of Brothers changed television with the way that it showcased movie-sized production values with sweeping locations and intense battle sequences, bringing the budget and scope of a WW2 movie such as Saving Private Ryanto the small screen. Boasting of a vast ensemble cast and some of the best filmmaking on television at the time, the ten-episode series was followed by many similar miniseries and dramas. As such there are now multiple shows like Band of Brothers that both explore war with a budget usually reserved for feature films, but also match Band of Brothers’ analysis of morality in wartime and the trauma that follows.
10 The Liberator (2020)
The Liberator explored a familiar Second World War setting but in the rotoscope animation format. It highlights the valiant efforts of the 157th Infantry Regiment. Legend has it that the infantry commander Felix Sparks (the so-called ‘liberator’) and the Regiment fought for five hundred days in liberating Italy from the fascist Axis powers. Like Band of Brothers liberating a concentration camp in one memorable episode, this Regiment liberated the prisoners in the Dachau camp. Though it is an ensemble piece about the unity of this group of soldiers, is leader is given the central role just as Captain Winters in Band of Brothers. With its introspective themes and cel-based animation, this action series makes for a quick watch, with just 4 episodes.
9 Generation Kill (2008)
One of HBO’s most acclaimed miniseries, Generation Kill delves into the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It was not just from the perspective of the American military personnel but also from journalist Evan Wright (Lee Tergesen), who accompanies a particular Marine Corps battalion. The show attempts to touch upon the personal motivations of the characters for joining the war as well the post 9/11 anxieties encompassed in America. It also explores the soldiers’ mentality in-depth too, making Generation Kill comparable to films like Jarhead and The Hurt Locker. Similarly to Band of Brothers, HBO’s Generation Kill showed the heroism that was possible in war but also showed the traumatic effects it had on characters, such as Buck Compton.
8 World War II In Colour (2009)
Band of Brothers was hailed as a detailed and realistic journey through the European campaign of World War II, and only a documentary like World War II in Colour could surpass its authentic feel. It relies on original archival footage, most of which was colorized and remastered, to cover significant events from the War, including the Pacific War, North African Campaign, and so on. The 13 episodes span across personal musings of the participants, as well as the political and diplomatic dynamics from each of the major players, who had a stake in the conflict. Ultimately, the War’s history is shown as a moral reminder for humanity to not repeat its mistakes from the past.
7 Catch-22 (2019)
Of course, reading Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is an enriching experience on its own, considering it’s a classic satire. The Hulu miniseries is a tribute to the novel’s dark comedy, which subverts many formulaic war drama tropes. The armed soldiers in this case aren’t portrayed as perpetually fearless warriors but actual humans. The protagonist, John Yossarian (Christopher Abbott), and his fellow airmen try their best to escape the violence and destruction of the Second World War as they realize this war isn’t theirs. Band of Brothers is certainly different in tone, but the feeling of easy comradery among the soldiers and the assertion that they are not superheroes, but regular people, is shared in both projects.
6 M*A*S*H (1972-1982)
When it comes to war satire, M*A*S*H retains its iconic status over the years. The medical drama is set in the midst of the Korean War. The staff of an American Army hospital is seen to resort to bleak humor to shift their mind away from the conflict. Like Catch-22, there are distinct differences in tone as any moments of levity in Band of Brothers are outweighed by the intensity of the carnage. Yet the show maintains the humanity of its characters in Easy Company by showing that they can joke around even with their lives on the line.
5 Five Came Back (2017)
John Ford, Frank Capra, John Huston, George Stevens, William Wyler are all renowned filmmakers that served in the Second World War in different capacities. During the peak of the War, these directors helmed the creation of several propaganda films that are now preserved in archives. Narrated by Meryl Streep, Five Came Back finds contemporary directors, like Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro, to analyze these yesteryear war films from a filmmaking lens as well as a socio-political perspective. Just as Spielberg and the team behind Band of Brothers seek to show the truth of the soldiers that fought, it’s fascinating to see these directors mix their filmmaking talents and their depiction of the war in such a powerful way.
4 The Pacific (2010)
Treated as a companion piece to Band of Brothers, The Pacific is yet another Second World War-themed miniseries, produced and distributed by HBO. As is evident from the title, the setting is changed from D-Day landings to the Pacific War, or more specifically, what is known as the Asia-Pacific theater operations. The narratives of three Marines, each from different regiments, are relied upon to show the horrors and intensity of the War. Visually stunning like Band of Brothers, The Pacific doesn’t hold back in terms of its realistic violence and gore. Hence, viewers who can’t stomach much graphic content can still take their time in viewing this modern classic.
3 The Vietnam War (2017)
The director duo Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have overseen several acclaimed documentary series covering American history, but the 10-part The Vietnam War might just be their magnum opus. Clocking at over 16 hours, the series analyzes the multiple aspects of the polarizing war. While there are numerous films that critique the Vietnam War, Burns and Novick’s documentary offers historical overview from all perspectives. In that way, it is fascinating to see how its depiction of the war compares to Band of Brothers. While dealing with different wars, with very different legacies, there is a notion of the similarities shared by those who fought.
2 Chernobyl (2019)
Regarded as one of the best miniseries of all time by many fans and critics, Chernobyl is an ambitious retelling of the titular nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union and how scientists, civilians, and politicians react to save the situation. With a general atmosphere of grimness, the series captures chaos in a real-time situation with all concerned parties racing against time to mitigate the impact of an explosion at a nuclear power plant. Like Band of Brothers, Chernobyl takes a well-known historical event and creates a brilliant human drama that doesn’t shy away from the brutality of the reality.
1 World On Fire (2019-)
Stream on PBS Masterpiece
While the focus of Band of Brothers is always on the soldiers, it does something few war stories do and examines the citizens living through their countries being invaded on both sides of the conflict, The British series World On Fire shifts the focus of World War II, from soldiers to ordinary civilians. In World On Fire, the narrative covers Germany, Britain, Poland, France, and Britain as people from all walks of life attempt to survive in the midst of constant destruction. Even though it might not be the most historically accurate show for its period, it still pulls off a decent job in honoring the unsung heroes of the era — definitely one among shows like Band of Brothers that can’t be missed.