Two nineties films that are well-known for showing powerful depictions of the horrors perpetrated against the Jews in the Holocaust are Life is Beautiful and Schindler’s List. The two films take different approaches. Life is Beautiful focuses on the experience of a Jewish man who protects his son in a concentration camp, while Schindler’s List follows the work of a German businessman who, although insulated from the horrors of the holocaust by his membership in the Nazi party, risks himself to save the lives of many Jews. There are many important factors in deciding if one film is superior to another film or which one should be shown to students, the first of which is the content of the films.

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Life is Beautiful provides an intimate and up-close experience of what the concentration camps were like. In Life is Beautiful, Guido Orefice is a Jewish man who is sent to the concentration camps with his son, Joshua. He attempts to protect his son by telling Joshua that the concentration camp is a big game, with rules like “no crying or saying you’re hungry” and “no asking for mommy” – rules that he believes will keep his son safe if he follows them. Later in the film, Guido manages to hide and protect his son until the camp is Life is Beautifulerated by the Americans, though only at the loss of his own life. Schindler’s List, by contrast, does not focus on the concentration camps. Instead, Schindler’s List focuses on the Jewish ghettos and on the work of German businessman Oskar Schindler, who saves the lives of more than 1,100 Jews through bribery and cleverness.

Schindler begins the movie as a businessman who enjoys the benefits of using Jewish Schindler’s Listave laborers in his factory instead of hiring Polish workers. This changes when he witnesses the massacre of the ghetto where his workers lived, after which he begins working to save the Jews that he can. When his workers and their families are to be shipped off to a death camp, Schindler uses bribes to convince the Nazi party to allow him to keep his “essential” workers. When their families are accidentally sent to Auschwitz, Schindler goes in person to the death camp to save them. He takes the women and children to the factory, far away from the concentration camps, where he risks his status as a German businessman and spends all his money to protect the Jewish workers.

The two movies have very different effects when being watched. Life is Beautiful is a movie that (for the first half, which is not about the Holocaust) encourages the audience to laugh, and then (in the scenes in the concentration camp) creates a sort of bittersweet smile. The father’s efforts to save his son are heartwarming, sincere, and irrepressibly humorous. Schindler’s List is not that sort of movie. It shows the Holocaust without humor. The grim mood of the film does not let up, but it is sometimes softened by an awareness of the great good that Schindler accomplished, and the great cost to himself in doing so.

Of the two films, Schindler’s List is clearly more accurate. Life is Beautiful does not recount the tale of a real person or real actions during the Holocaust. Jewish people undoubtedly went to great lengths to protect their families in the concentration camps, but Guido is not based on a real person. Life is Beautiful also frequently softens the true horror of the camps to make room for the comedy that gives it its emotional impact. Schindler’s List, on the other hand, is about a real person, Oskar Schindler, who really did save the lives of almost 1,200 Jews. Schindler’s List shows the horrors of the ghettos and the camps unflinchingly, and does not truly deviate from the actual events.

It seems to many people that Schindler’s List is a better film to show to students because its content shows more of the true events of the Holocaust. However, Life is Beautiful is better for students, if only one movie can be shown, for several reasons. Although the content focuses on a fictional character instead of a historical one, this actually allows Guido and his family to represent every family threatened by the Holocaust, whereas Oskar Schindler can represent only Oskar Schindler. The effect of Life is Beautiful is also better for making students really appreciate the evil of the Holocaust. Although Schindler’s List does depict true events from the Holocaust, it focuses on a businessman who is saving people rather than on a family that is being torn apart. The humor of Life is Beautiful also helps make the audience really care about the success or failure of Guido, and the bittersweet ending drives home the point that the Holocaust did not have a happy ending. Finally, although Life is Beautiful was Schindler’s Listightly less historically accurate than Schindler’s List, this difference is outweighed by how well Life is Beautiful makes its audience feel personally invested in the lives of those affected by the Holocaust.