Hello folks! I thought it would be fitting to kick off my return to blogging with some recommendations! Once again, the season is changing & (in most places), things are getting cooler. This means that instead of braving the elements, some of us (like me) will be getting cozy on the couch after hours & turning on the television.
These days, I find myself searching pretty extensively for ww2-related media I’ve not seen. I have also noticed that when I am looking for the “Best WW2 films of all time,” the same selection pops up. Usually, we get slammed with the classics, which everyone has come to know & love. Because of this, there is not a lot of exposure for other works & thus, I have broken my film choices down into different genres. The collection I’ve put together includes foreign, classic & documentaries films.
Personally, I’ve always preferred foreign films to domestic ones (with a few exceptions). Foreign films seemingly glorify war way less & focus more on telling us about real stories & real people. The films I’ve chosen to list do not pull any punches when it comes to depicting the harsh reality of warfare. & this is why they’ve made the cut.
Top 15 Foreign Flicks
1. Der Untergang (Downfall): Depicts the final 10 days of Hitler’s reign over Nazi Germany, straight from the Führerbunker during the Battle of Berlin, 1945. It is based upon the books Inside Hitler’s Bunker, by historian Joachim Fest, Until The Final Hour, memoirs of Traudl Junge, Albert Speer’s memoirs, Inside The Third Reich; Hitler’s Last Days: An Eye-Witness Account, by Gehardt Boldt & Siegfried Knappe’s memoirs. [View Trailer]
2. Sophie Scholl: Die Letzten Tage (The Final Days): About 21 year-old Sophia Magdalena Scholl, a German revolutionary, student, & an active member in the non-violent resistance group The White Rose. She was arrested by the Gestapo & convicted for treason in the People’s Court by the notorious Nazi lawyer & judge Roland Freisler after being caught distributing anti-war leaflets at Munich University. [View Trailer]
3. Katyń: Based on the book Post Mortem: The Story of Katyń, by Andrzej Mularczyk, this film tells the story of the Katyń Forest Massacre, a mass execution & liquidation of approximately 22,000 members of the Polish Officer Corps committed Soviet authorities in 1940. The events leading up to the massacre are revealed through the eyes of the mothers, wives, woman, daughters & victims executed & widowed by the NKVD. [View Trailer]
4. Eichmann: A biographic film based on the actual transcripts of Adolf Eichmann’s interrogation by Israeli police captain Avner W. Less. The film alternates between three distinct storylines: the interviews, a series of flashbacks exposing Eichmann’s culpability as a key strategist & enabler of “The Final Solution” & the public outrage that ensued over Eichmann being given the chance to defend the accusations against him. [View Trailer]
5. Napola: Elite Für Den Führer (Before The Fall): A compelling script about two young graduates of the Hitler Youth who form an unsuspecting bond while attending one of the Reich‘s National-Political institutions at the height of World War II. As Napola’s military training intensifies, Albrecht rebels & Friedrich must choose between his best friends moral imperative & his sworn allegiance to Hitler. [View Trailer]
6. The Pianist: Based on the real-life memoir of Wladyslaw Szpilman, who was playing Chopin on a Warsaw radio station when the first German bombs fell, The Pianist tells the story of a classical Jewish musician who escaped deportation & survived the Holocaust. Forced to reside in the heart of the Warsaw ghetto, Polish pianist Szpilman shared in the suffering, humiliation & struggle of his fellow Jews. [View Trailer]
7. Max Manus, Man of War: A Norwegian biographical film based on the real events of the life of resistance fighter Max Manus, a ruthless anti-Nazi & Second World War Hero who, after escaping from the Germans, is sent back into Norwary to carry out sabotage missions against the occupying forces. Man of War draws from Manus’ own publications Det Vil Helst Ga Godt & Det Blir Alvor as well as other accounts & historical documentation. [View Trailer]
8. Flammen Og Citronen (Flame & Citron): The movie title refers to central characters, code-named Flame & Citron, two fearless resistance fighters who calmly assassinated collaborators working with the Nazis after the 1942 invasion of Denmark. As a pair, Flame & Citron were best friends & colleagues fiercely committed to eradicating all traitors. Even as they continued to carry out these strict assignments, they suddenly discover that things are not as clear-cut as they would like to believe. [View Trailer]
9. Aimée & Jaguar: During the darkest days of the war, while the Allies bomb Berlin & the Gestapo purge the capital of Jews, a dangerous love affair blossoms between two women. For Lilly (Aimée ), a married woman, mother of four sons & an exemplar of Nazi motherhood, this affair will become the decisive experience of her life. For Felice (Jaguar), Jewish & a member of the underground, their love fuels her hope for survival. Based upon Erica Fisher’s book, Aimée & Jaguar. [View Trailer]
10. L’Armee Du Crime (Army of Crime): A French war drama that deals with the events of the Affliche Rogue (Red Poster) Affair, a famous propaganda poster distributed by the Vichy Government & German authorities to discredit 23 French resistance fighters. The story is told in flashback form from the opening moments, shot inside a prison bus in which the 23 FTP-MOI partisans, rounded up for execution, are shown peering glumly through barred windows as a roll call of their names is intoned. [View Trailer]
11. Zwartboek (The Black Book): In the German-occupied Netherlands during World War II, Jewish singer Rachel Stein infiltrates the regional Gestapo headquarters for the Dutch resistance after tragedy befalls her in an encounter with the Nazis. With 15 nominations & 3 Golden Calves, The Black Book received the most awards at the Netherlands Film Festival in 2006. [View Trailer]
12. Die Fälscher (The Counterfeiters): The Counterfeiters tells the true story of Salomon Sorowitsch, a swindler who made a name for himself as Berlin’s “King of the Counterfeiters.” However, his life of women & easy money is cut short when he is arrested by the Nazis & placed in a concentration camp. With the German army on the verge of bankruptcy, Sorowitsch makes a sobering deal with his captors: in exchange for a comfortable bed, fair treatment & good food, Sorowitsch, along with the other hand-picked specialists, must counterfeit bank notes to fund the Nazi war effort. [View Trailer]
13. Anonyma: Eine Frau In Berlin (A Woman In Berlin): In the final weeks of World War II, the conquering Soviet Army occupied a Berlin in ruins & did what occupying armies often do, raped & pillaged. There was nothing to stop them, least of all their officers, who knew that after years of relentless battle it was useless to try to enforce discipline, even had they wanted to. A Woman In Berlin is a diary written at that time & published some 15 years later. Its author, who identifies herself as a journalist, was anonymous. The book’s publication in 1959 inspired outrage in Germany, where the idea of German women cooperating somewhat with the Soviets was unthinkable, & in Russia, where it soiled the honor of the Red Army. [View Trailer]
14. Europa, Europa: Based on the 1989 autobiography of Solomon Perel, a German-Jewish boy who evaded the Holocaust by masquerading as an elite “Aryan” German. Separated from his family & on the run from the Nazis, Solly, through a chain of remarkable happenstance, becomes first a model Soviet student in an orphanage devoted to Stalinist indoctrination & then a model Hitler Youth. [View Trailer]
15. Stalingrad: Only the second German movie to portray Battle of Stalingrad. It is against this horrific backdrop that we follow a squad of Wehrmacht soldiers who have been transferred to the Russian front. It is a powerful anti-war film, driving home the horrors of war from a viewpoint we have rarely seen. From a historical standpoint, Stalingrad paints one of the most accurate portraits of the Second World War to date. Stalingrad definitely succeeds at being a film that is taut, riveting & memorable. [View Trailer]
Honorable mentions: Les Femmes De L’Ombre (Female Agents), La Rafle (The Round Up), Tmavomodrý Svet (Dark Blue World), Oorlogswinter (Winter In Wartime), & The Reader.
Check back for Part II of my Best WW2 Films & Documentaries of all time for the classics!