Children in War Movies: A List

In this post I would like to focus on war  movies in which children have leading roles and are not just supporting actors like in The Hurt Locker to name but one example.

There are many movies whose sole focus are children. They come from different countries, show different conflicts and times but they have one thing in common: they are all good, very good or outstanding. This is quite remarkable. It is as if those film directors who aim for entertainment only would shy away from showing children in war movies. All the movies listed below are very different in tone. Some are light and almost playful, like Hope and Glory, some are depressing and raw like Come and See, others have the quality of a fairytale like Pan´s Labyrinth.

I am sure my list is not exhaustive. If you know of any others, let me know. I will try and review most of them in later posts,  like I already did with Hope and Glory (see post), Welcome to Sarajevo (link to post), The Children of Huang Shi (see post) and Savior (see post). I am stating the name and the year and country in brackets. The conflict and where the war takes place follow behind. I did include a few movies with teenagers in it like The Bridge or Napola, but most of the others focus on much smaller children. I did also  include Savior as the newborn is central to the story.

I am sure you will discover many you did not know yet as I did.

The Drum (GB, 1938): India

Mrs Miniver (US 1942): WWII, British Homefront

Since You Went Away (US, 1944): WWII, American Homefront (here is my review)

Roma, Città Aperta aka Rome, Open City (Italy, 1945): WWII, Italy

Kim (US, 1950): India

Forbidden Games aka Jeux interdits (1952, France): WWII, France

The Bridge aka Die Brücke (1959, Germany): WWII, Germany

Two Women aka La ciociara (1960, Italy/France): WWII, Italy

Ivan’s Childhood aka Ivanovo detstvo (1962, Soviet Union): WWII, Russia

Hornet´s Nest (1970, USA): WWII, Italy

Lacombe Lucien (1974, France): WWII, France

The Tin Drum aka Die Blechtrommel (Germany, 1979): WWII, Germany

Hope and Glory (1987, UK): WWII, Blitz  (Here is my review)

Empire of the Sun (1987, USA) : Chinese-Japanese War WWII

Au-revoir les enfants aka Goodbye, Children (1987, France/Germany): WWII, Holocaust,France

Grave of the Fireflies aka Hotaru no haka (1988, Japan): WWII, Japan. Anime. (See my post)

Europa, Europa aka Hitlerjunge Salomon (1990 Germany/France/Poland): WWII, Germany (See my review)

Come and See aka Idi i smotri(1985, Soviet Union): WWII, Byelorussia

The Ogre aka Der Unhold (1996, France/Germany/UK): WWII, Nazi Germany

Welcome to Sarajevo (1997, USA) : Bosnia

Life is beautiful aka La vita è bella (1997, Italy): WWII, Holocaust (see post on La vita è bella)

Savior (1998, USA ): Bosnia

Silent Night (2002, USA): WWII, Germany (see my post on Silent Night)

Innocent Voices aka Voces inocentes (2004, Mexico/USA/Puerto Rico): El Salvador (see my post on Innocent Voices)

Turtles can fly aka Lakposhtha parvaz mikonand (2004, Iran/France/Iraq): Iraq

Before the Fall aka Napola (2004, Germany): WWII, Germany (see my review of NaPola)

Pan´s Labyrinth aka El laberinto del fauno (2006, Spain): WWII Franco´s Spain

Under the Bombs aka Sous les Bombes (2007, France/Lebanon): 2006, Lebanon (see my review of Under the Bombs)

Miracle at St. Anna (2008, US): WWII, Italy (here is my review)

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008, UK/USA): WWII, Holocaust (see my review)

Escape from Huang Shi aka The Children of Huang Shi (2008, Australia, China, Germany, USA): Japanese occupation of China

Winter in Wartime aka Oorlogswinter (2008, Netherlans, Belgium): WWII, occupied Hollad in Winter, 1945 (here is the link to my post)

The Fortress of War aka Brestskaya krepost (2010, Russia): WWII, Russia 1941. Germans attack the Brest Fortress (here is the link to my post).

The Round-Up – La Rafle (2010, FR/GE/HU): WWII, Paris, the round-up of 13000 Jews in the Vel d’Hiv (here is my review)

This list is being updated regularly.


74 thoughts on “Children in War Movies: A List

  1. […] Winter in Wartime is a Dutch-Belgian co-production filmed in three languages, German, Dutch and English. The same producers who did the outstanding movie Zwart Boek aka Black Book did also this one. There are some resemblances picture wise but apart from that the two movies are very different. Winter in Wartime is to be classified among the long list of Children in War Movies (please see my post Children in War Movies). […]

  2. warmoviebuff says:

    Love the topic. Don’t recognize many of the movies, however. I was looking through my list of the Top 100 and amazingly could not think of any that have important child characters.

    • I think the list is heavy on US productions. Empire of the Sun could be on it, no? However it is not unanimously considered to be good I have even read reviews that call it bad. I have to rewatch that one.

  3. warmoviebuff says:

    Not only is “Empire” not on the list, but even “Hope and Glory” did not make it. Hope is a much better movie and the best kid war movie I have seen.

  4. […] Other war movies with children as main characters can be found on my list  Children in War Movies. […]

  5. […] Further war movies with children or young people can be found on my list Children in War Movies. […]

  6. […] La vita è bella is a very unusual movie that you will hardly ever forget should you watch it. It is touching, at times funny, tragic and sentimental. It shows one man’s attempt to protect his child from the horrors of the concentration camp and how he fails in the end. It is one of the movies on my Children in War Movies List. […]

  7. […] Die Brücke aka The Bridge (1959): WWII, Germany. One of the best anti-war films ever. Shows how senseless some orders are. Young people fight for a bridge although the war can´t be won anymore. It is one of the movies on my list Children in War Movies. […]

  8. Jon says:

    Ivan’s Childhood?

  9. […] Die10 Vietnam War Movies You Must See Before You DieMongol: The Rise to Power of Genghis Khan (2007) Children in War Movies: A ListBravo Two Zero (1999) British SAS Patrol Behind Enemy LinesThe Way To the Stars aka Johnny in the […]

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  11. Ciekawa Strona WWW says:

    I’m very happy. I really love your website. Keep up the good work!!!

  12. historia gospodarcza ściągi says:

    What a fantasting post! Greetings for you.

  13. Jordan says:

    I’ve been looking for this movie featuring a boy in WWII. All I remember is this:

    the young boy, armed with a whip, helps and young man against german soldiers. At the end of the movie they escape on a motorcycle, but the boy gets shot while driving away.

    Do you know what movie im talking about? Thanks!

  14. […] awesome and as good as Army of Crime about which I raved last year. It is one of the movies on my Children in War Movies List and a s such worth watching in any […]

  15. […] the most important movies of European film making. Furthermore it’s another one on my list Children in War Movies as children play an important […]

  16. […] at St. Anna is also part of the Children in War Movies List and African-American Soldiers in war […]

  17. […] Europa, Europa is part of the Children in War Movies List […]

  18. Crooked Mick says:

    Other possibilities depending upon your criteria …

    “The Drum”
    “The TIn Drum”
    “A Generation” (teenagers rather than children)
    “Two Women”
    “Lacombe Lucien” (teenager rather than a chid)

    Home Front
    “Since You Went Away”
    “Mrs Miniver”

    • Thanks a lot, they will be included, I need some time though, probably on the weekend.
      I wasn’t too sure about including teenagers but ended up doing it. I guess, why not. Give or take a few years doesn’t matter. they were still young and unexperienced.

  19. Upeksha says:


    My favarite movie is “The Boy In The Striped Pajamas 2008” Just see how it is

  20. […] included the movie on my Children in War Movies List after Crooked Mick pointed out that it belonged […]

  21. tanka says:

    Great list. Can anybody identify a close to post WW2 Russian (I think) movie about an orphanage and some German youth soldiers living in the forest close by? Two Russian soldiers show up to assess what goes on, and they try to bring the kids (werewolves?) in to the orphanage. It’s a great movie and it was on youtube, but it’s gone and I can’t find it! Help please!

  22. Mpumelelo says:

    cant find the best movie yet, and its called the honestnes. A goog world war movie with kids that are running, and takking care of themself. I hope someone has it, and I would love to c it one more time.

    • I’m not sure at all. Do you remember anything more? Was it an American movie, WWII? Old, new? Maybe someone knows it.

    • paul watkin says:

      Hello. I’ve been searching for a couple of years, on and off, for a film which maybe the one you describe. I was only 4 years old, and where I was living, the old lady had the only television in the village. She used to let the children of the village watch her television. The film I remember was about a group of children who lived in a war-damaged house – the strange this was, that the house had at least one wall missing! I don’t remember the film’s name – and I’m wondering if, at that young age, I managed to read the subtitles! A very striking film , and something I never forgot, very ‘haunting’ .. . I’ve looked for ‘The Honestness’, but cannot find this on the internet – is this actually the film’s name? Thanks

  23. […] the movie. Considering how excellent the rest is, this is a minor fault. I added The Round-Up to my Children in War Movies List. It’s an excellent […]

  24. trollru says:

    Hi there:Iam looking for the title of a shortmovie. A boy is whatcing thrue a fence, a german soldier throving gascylinders into the gaschambers. The soldier watch the boy every day and he ends up killing him,but the day after a new boy is watching. Do anybody know. pleace mail.

  25. Barbara ONeil says:

    Just watched Winter in Wartime. Incredible film. Recently I watched a foreign language WW2 film on netflix, takes place on an island, there’s an orphanage, soldiers are Russian… young boy conflicted about who to protect….can’t remember the name of it….anyone

    • There are a few great movies on tha list. I have a feeling you’re not the first one to look for that movie. I don’t know it but I plan on doing a postin which I’m askng people to help. I’öö post your question too.

  26. Trollru says:

    Hi again.iI just find out the title of the shortmovie. i asked about. The title is The Witnes and it is from 1993. The boy is played by Elijah Wood.

  27. pritish says:

    hi i am looking for a movie in which a family is caught up in some sort of war and finally they tried to escape through a snow mountain but their youngest child didnt survive the stress. the story was in this line. i dont remember the name of this movie though. saw it when i was very small.

  28. Lyly says:

    Thanks for such a list!
    I am still looking for a film, it’s during WW2, a boy who gets beaten by his mum is then sent to the countryside to live with an old man, a grumpy man but he finally gets attached to the boy…any idea?

  29. mike says:

    I remember seeing a war movie as a kid but all I can recall is that the child it was about was really good at drawing and things didn’t end well for him. Do you have any idea what this movie is?

  30. Rob says:

    You might want to check some of the films out there on the subject of child soldiers:

    Ezra (2007) – Sierra Leonean civil war
    Johnny Mad Dog (2008) – Second Liberian civil war
    Heart of Fire (2008) – Second Eritrean civil war
    War Witch (2012) – Second Congo war

    I’ve seen Johnny Mad Dog and Heart of Fire; both were very good. Johnny Mad Dog was a particularly tough film to watch.

  31. Gloria says:

    I’m vaguely remembering a movie I saw as a child and I totally can’t remember what movie it was. I would love to watch it again, but it wasn’t in this list. The movie is a about this kid (boy or girl) and he goes to this farm and there is a wall and when he/she goes through it he lands in a war. I can’t remember more about this movie and that’s why I want to watch it. Someone who knows which movie this is?

  32. Stefania says:

    OK guys so I have a question
    About 2years ago I saw a movie that involved four kids, two brothers and two sisters who got lost from each other during the war and the action is about them looking for each other. It’s an English film and I can’t find it anymore
    Any suggestions?

  33. Bruno says:

    Hi, theres years im looking for this movie that i saw when i was kid and i cant find out at all, so please help me! is a black and write movie of a boy trying to survive from the nazis while he is waiting for his father that was captured and sent to work in a camp! so all long the movie is an adventure of the lil boy living among debris, and at the and of the movie his father got back. please any suggestion?

  34. bruno says:

    yeaaayy thats it!!! thank you thank you soo much!!

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