10 BEST modern Russian movies about World War II

Andrei Shalopa, Kim Druzhinin/Panfilov's 28 Men Studio; Gaijin Entertainment Studio, 2016
Historians and viewers love them for their authenticity, adequate depiction of the events of those terrible times, as well as the absence of boring cliches about evil commissars and ruthless detachments with machine guns.

1. ‘The General’ (1992)

The movie tells about the difficult fate of Soviet general Alexander Gorbatov. He went from a GULAG prisoner to a prominent military leader of the Red Army.

Gorbatov was released from the camp shortly before Germany attacked the Soviet Union. During the war, he received the gratitude of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief Joseph Stalin 16 times, became a ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’ and was awarded many orders and medals. He completed his combat career as commander of the 3rd Army in the Magdeburg area.  

2. ‘I, a Russian soldier’ (1995)

June 21, 1941. A young lieutenant named Nikolai Pluzhnikov arrives in the border town of Brest. There are only hours left until the invasion of the German army…

The movie is based on the novel ‘He Was Not on the List’ by Boris Vasilyev. The prototypes of the main characters were real participants of the defense of the Brest Fortress - they resisted the enemy even when the front line had moved hundreds of kilometers to the east and there was nowhere to wait for help. 

3. ‘In August of 1944’ (2001)

German agents are operating behind Soviet lines in liberated Byelorussia. Their activities directly harm the preparations for a large-scale Soviet offensive in the Baltics. Captain Pavel Alekhin and his group of SMERSH counterintelligence officers are ordered to eliminate this threat as soon as possible.

The Russian-Belarusian production based on the novel ‘The Moment of Truth’ by Vladimir Bogomolov received good reviews from both critics and regular viewers. Most valuable was the praise from the FSB, which recognized it as the most authentic adaptation of the activities of a Russian (Soviet) counterintelligence officer.

4. ‘Cuckoo’ (2002)  

Finland, Fall of 1944. Finnish sniper Veikko and Soviet captain Kartuzov find themselves in the Sami dwelling an ethnic woman named Anni. There, the enemies will have to forget about their war for a while and learn to communicate and understand each other.

The title of the movie has a double meaning. Soviet soldiers called Finnish snipers ‘cookoos’, as they believed their favorite firing spot was from the trees. The name of the main female character also translates as ‘cuckoo’ in Sami.

5. ‘The Star’ (2002)

On the eve of a large-scale Soviet offensive, Lieutenant Travkin's reconnaissance group goes behind enemy lines. The young commander has no idea that in addition to the command, his return is eagerly awaited by a girl-radio operator named Katya, with whom he barely exchanged a few words with.

The movie won many film festivals awards in the United States, France and North Korea. "I believe that this picture is real cinema," said Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoy in 2002, "a remarkably human movie about war.”  

6. ‘Fortress of War’ (2010)

On June 22, 1941, German troops invaded the territory of the Soviet Union. The first to fall under the enemy's attack was the border fortress of Brest, which very quickly found itself cut off from the main forces. Nevertheless, trapped, scattered groups of Soviet soldiers and border guards do not even think about surrender…

The joint Russian-Belarusian movie was filmed on the territory of the Brest Fortress itself. In the process of filming, unexploded shells from the war were found there and, according to some reports, even the remains of Soviet soldiers, who were reburied in the local memorial cemetery.

7. ‘Panfilov's 28 Men’ (2016) 

November 1941. The Germans are rushing to Moscow, which after the catastrophe of the Red Army near Vyazma remained virtually unprotected. The 316th Rifle Division of Major-General Ivan Panfilov stands in the way of the enemy.

Filming of the movie about the feat of the defenders of the capital began thanks to the donations of thousands of ordinary people, as well as the help of museums that donated costumes and props. Later, the developers of the video game ‘War Thunder’ and the Ministries of Culture of Russia and Kazakhstan also joined the financing – many Kazakhs had served in the division.

8. ‘Anna's War’ (2018)

Anna, a six-year-old Jewish girl, is at one point left all alone. Her family was shot by the Nazis and only by a miracle did she manage to escape. The child hides in a non-working fireplace of a German commandant's office, climbing out of it only at night.

The movie is based on the real story of 12-year-old Ada from a small town in the Poltava region, who actually hid in the fireplace from the Nazis for two years. She only revealed herself to people in 1943, when she heard Russian speech in the German commandant's office.   

9. ‘Convoy 48. The war train’ (2019)

Early 1943. Soviet troops have broken through the German blockade of Leningrad. In the narrow corridor, which again connected the city with the "mainland", construction of the railroad began immediately. Trains with food for the exhausted Leningrad inhabitants are planned to go this way.

The railway to Leningrad was built in just 17 days and was called the ‘Road of Victory’. However, due to the fact that this important logistical route was in full view of the enemy and was subjected to constant attacks by German artillery and aviation, many people used another, more ominous name for it – ‘Corridor of Death’.  

10. ‘The Last Frontier’ (2020)

October of 1941. The Wehrmacht is steadily advancing towards Moscow. Three and a half thousand cadets of the Podolsk infantry and artillery schools are trying to hold back the enemy until reserves arrive in the capital. These valuable personnel were supposed to become officers, but, in these critical conditions, they have to fight like ordinary soldiers.

Filming took place at the battle site in Kaluga Region. With special care, the river, bridge, houses, fortified areas, soldiers’ uniforms and weapons were recreated here based on surviving documents.

Military historians gave “The Last Frontier” high praise. "What’s shown is shown at a good level,” said Alexei Isaev. “As a whole, the movie turned out well… Modern Russian cinema has taken a big step forward!”

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