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Damian Lewis as Dick Winters, who would lead Easy Company from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. He’s shown here about to pull the trigger on an adolescent German infantryman. Image: Warner Bros. Entertainment via YouTube

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Band of Brothers remains a tremendous entry point into WWII history

Now that the celebrated HBO miniseries is on Netflix, here are some books, movies, and a podcast you won’t want to miss

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Band of Brothers, the Emmy-winning miniseries created by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, turns 22 this year. For the first time ever, the historical drama — which stars Damian Lewis (Homeland), Ron Livingston (Office Space), and a litany of other recognizable faces on the brink of stardom, from Tom Hardy to James McAvoy — will be available on a subscription streaming service other than HBO’s Max. It arrives on Netflix starting Sept. 15, and if you’ve never seen the seminal program, there’s no better time than now.

Longtime fans also have reason to be excited, as the 10-episode series rewards repeated viewing, especially in the fancy 4K format it’s expected to be shown in. But your experience will be greatly improved with a deeper dive into the history that surrounds the program itself. Here are a few items to consider alongside the highly anticipated re-release, including recommendations for what to watch right after.

Read the books

The cover of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose, with a new forward by Tom Hanks. Image: Simon & Schuster

Band of Brothers is a dramatization based on the true story of the men of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Regiment, part of the United States’ famed 101st Airborne Division. The script is inspired by the incredible firsthand accounts gathered by historian Stephen E. Ambrose, collected in his bestselling book, Band of Brothers: From Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. However, unlike many historical texts based on WWII, Ambrose’s work is eminently readable and includes all of the background information needed to contextualize Easy Company’s mission for a modern audience — plus anecdotes and vignettes that just didn’t make the cut in the final edit.

Inside its pages, Ambrose ably communicates not only what was at stake on both the domestic and the international stages as the U.S. entered WWII, but also the very specific battlefield conditions that led to the creation of this premiere airborne assault force in the first place. It doesn’t read like doctrine. Instead, it’s a lovingly crafted story with technical clarity, a sense of dramatic tension, and fulfilling character arcs. Most importantly, its opening chapters drive home the point that these men were all volunteers — some of which literally had no idea what they were getting into.

If you finish it, feel free to follow up with Ambrose’s D-Day June 6, 1944 : The Climactic Battle of World War II, which uses similar narrative hooks to tell the story of the wider invasion of Normandy. Then, cap it off with The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany. That will help set the stage for Hanks and Spielberg’s upcoming Masters of the Air, which will tell the story of the B-17 bomber crews who were also fighting over Europe at the same time. That series is based on a different book entirely, this one written by Donald L. Miller.

Listen to the podcast

In 2021, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, HBO commissioned a 10-part podcast retrospective to celebrate Band of Brothers’ 20th anniversary, titled Band of Brothers Podcast. While it’s hosted by Roger Bennett, whose overly energetic style of delivery might not be to everyone’s taste, the guest list is absolutely stacked. The series includes hourlong interviews with Hanks, Livingston, and Lewis as well as with Donnie Wahlberg and Frank John Hughes — the pair who played fan favorites Carwood Lipton and Bill Guarnere, respectively.

Don’t miss episode 3, however, which includes a long chat with Band of Brothers’ legendary military advisor, Capt. Dale Dye, as well as Matthew Settle, who played the enigmatic and controversial Capt. Ronald Speirs.

More great WWII shows and movies streaming now

Band of Brothers is such a remarkable series in part because of its specificity. It focuses on a singular unit, with just a handful of soldiers. But that laser-like focus blocks out other aspects of the second World War. Check out these other streaming films and series for insights into its other fronts.

The Dawns Here Are Quiet (2015)

Set in the spring of 1942, this four-episode miniseries tells the unlikely story of an all-female Soviet anti-aircraft unit stationed near the Baltic Sea. Based on the eponymous novella and currently streaming on Prime Video, it’s a well-executed if pulpy drama about an overlooked cohort — the more than 800,000 Russian women fighting on the front lines of WWII. An earlier adaptation, from 1972, is also available. Directed by Stanislav Rostotskiy, it was nominated for an Academy Award and is also streaming on Prime.

Warsaw 44 (2014)

This drama chronicles the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, a valiant attempt to hold the Polish capital in the face of ardent German resistance, Western oversight, and Soviet treachery. Its attention to historical detail is sometimes outdone by its stylistic flair — specifically its climactic raid that feels like something out of a Baz Luhrmann film. Nevertheless, it’s a historically accurate and unflinching portrayal of a key turning point in the war.

The Wind Rises (2013)

Following on the heels of Band of Brothers, Hanks and Spielberg’s The Pacific fell a bit flat. Many cited its meandering focus, which wavered from the United States, around the world to Australia, and then back to the leapfrog campaign through the Pacific islands. And while Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima and 2016’s Hacksaw Ridge take the prize for action-packed drama, Studio Ghibli’s The Wind Rises comes at the conflict from a completely different perspective. The animated feature focuses on the civilian experience in Japan during the Great Depression to tell the story of Jiro Horikoshi, inventor of the feared Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the agile carrier-based fighter plane that carried the will of Imperial Japan to mainland China, Pearl Harbor, and beyond. It is streaming on Max.

Generation War (2013)

Finally, there is the grim and powerful Generation War, widely regarded as Germany’s own take on Band of Brothers. Currently available to stream only in the original German with English subtitles, it features incredible writing and some stellar action sequences. It is no less captivating than HBO’s prestige miniseries, while at the same time appearing far more unsettling just a decade after it was made — especially when viewed from the perspective of our modern-day political discourse.