I thought The Reader was pretty good, and Kate Winslet was certainly terrific in it, but a best picture nominee??? I could think of at least ten movies from last year that are more deserving (see any listed here). Alas, the fact that it is at least partially about the Holocaust lends The Reader the sort of gravitas that Academy voters love. But there are much better Holocaust-themed films out there than The Reader, and just in case you hadn’t seen any of them, here are five of the best:
Schindler’s List: The granddaddy of all Holocaust films. Steven Spielberg’s passionate, timeless epic is not easy to watch, but it is a master class of classic narrative filmmaking.
The Pianist: Adrien Brody’s performance as pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman won him the Academy Award, and rightfully so. It’s a phenomenal performance, and a stunning film. The music scenes—especially near the end—are exactly what catharsis should be in cinema.
Life is Beautiful: This film’s mix of joy, tragedy, laughter, and tears—featuring perhaps cinema’s only madcap comedic performance in a Holocaust film—makes for a truly compelling viewing experience.
The Counterfeiters: If you haven’t seen this 2007 film yet, rent it! The true story of a band of Jewish counterfeiters who stayed alive by lending their services to the Nazis (which, ironically, kept them operational and able to kill more Jews) is way more provocative than The Reader could ever try to be.
Night and Fog: This 1955 French documentary from director Alain Resnais (before he became a leader of the French New Wave) is supremely evocative and features some of the most devastating early documentary footage (e.g. bulldozed piles of bodies) of the horrors of the concentration camps.