13 Holocaust Movies You Should See

I recently saw a list on which there were 100 Holocaust movies you need to watch. The number seemed slightly excessive. Maybe they counted each and every WWII movie in which there were Jewish people. No idea. I wouldn’t call a movie a Holocaust movie unless it focusses on Jewish life during WWII, either in ghettos, concentration camps or, like in Defiance as a Resistance group or on the run. Everything else is just a WWII movie.  I just watched Jakob the Liar which I will review soon and that gave me the idea to make a list of the 13 Holocaust movies I consider to be the best. My favourite of the movies below is The Round Up – La Rafle. If you think I missed one that is extremely good and should be added, let me know.

Holocaust (1978, TV mini-series US) The story of a Jewish family and their struggle to survive in Nazi Germany.

Sophie’s Choice (1982, UK/US) The horrible story of a Polish mother who has to make a terrible choice that will scar her for life.

Triumph of the Spirit (1989, US) The true story of box champion Salamo Arouch who survives Auschwitz. See my review

Schindler’s List (1993, US) The true story of the courageous man Schindler who saved a great number of Jews.

La vita è bella – Life is Beautiful (1997, Italy) An family of Italian Jews is deported to a concentration camp where the father pretends it’s all a game. See my review

Jakob the Liar (1999, US) Jakob Heym pretends to have a radio in the ghetto and makes up stories about the war going to end very soon. See my review

Anne Frank – The Whole Story (2001, TV mini-series US/ Czech Republic) The whole story of Anne Frank including her stay at the concentration camp.

The Grey Zone (2001, US) Story of Jews who work in the crematoria of Auschwitz.

The Pianist (2002, FR/PL/GE/UK) The true story of a Polish pianist who hid in the Warsaw ghetto.  See my review

Ghetto (2006, Germany/Lithuania) A sadistic Nazi commander rules over a ghetto in Lithuania.

Die Fälscher – The Counterfeiters (2007, AU/GE) True story of a famous Jewish counterfeiter who gets caught by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp where he should help forge foreign currency. See my review

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008, UK/US) Uncanny story of a boy who befriends a Jewish boy in a concentration camp not knowing that his father is in charge of that camp or what the camp is. See my review

The Round Up – La Rafle (2010, FR/GE/HU) In the night of July 16 1942, 13000 Parisian Jewsare arrested and confined in the Vel d’Hiv before being sent to Drancy and later exterminated in Auschwitz. True story. See my review

Have you seen them? Did you like them?


19 thoughts on “13 Holocaust Movies You Should See

  1. columbo1es says:

    I have seen all the movies you list. I think you should rent The Counterfeiters. and let me know what you think of that one.

  2. jeffro517 says:

    I did a review of Schindler’s List recently. It’s a subject that takes real guts to make a film with.


  3. Novroz says:

    Great list Caroline…I havent seen all but I really really like life is beautiful, it is both sad and beautiful. The father is an amazing character

  4. […] The only thing I didn’t like so much was the end. It should have been different but I cannot tell you why or I would spoil 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 example. Other Holocaust movies can be found here: 13 Holocaust Movies You Should See. […]

  5. nem baj says:

    The Grey Zone is really good. It’s an eloquent yet respectful reply to the tenants of the unrepresentability of the death camps.

    A few early attempts…

    Kapo (1960) by Gillo Pontecorvo
    The first ‘western’ (as opposed to ‘eastern’) film to dramatize life in a concentration camp. It has been heavily criticized by the new-wave critics, for some reason in my opinion – hence I’d suggest to watch it and then read Jacques Rivette’s original piece, and Serge Daney’s last short essay.

    The Passenger (1963) by Andrzej Munk
    An iconic movie up to the eighties, partly in opposition to the former, partly because in Europe (East and West) the younger generation was suspicious of its parents, and partly… because this is a great, albeit unachieved, work of cinema. On its subject, it didn’t age that well, but its artistic qualities remain, as well as the state of mind of an era.

    The Shop on Main Street (1965) by Elmar Klos & Ján Kadár
    A tragicomedy about the ‘aryanization’ and deportation process in a small village of Slovakia. The approach is grass-roots, the humor is pitch black, the tone is both tender and cruel… A little gem, and in my view a moving tribute to the Central European spirit that was annihilated in those years.

    • Yes, I thought so as well but I need to re-watch and then review you it.
      The Shop on Main Street sounds very good. I think I’d like to watch that and will see if I can find it.
      The others sound interesting too. It seesm the 60s was a particularly great decade for Czech and Slovakian or Czechoslovakian movies or am I mistaken?

      • nem baj says:

        Indeed. Alas it ended with the tanks of the Warsaw Pact invading Prague. I think there’s a French DVD of The Shop now.

        I second the idea that The Grey Zone deserves your review, but of course it’s such a tough one it may take some time before you want to watch it again. However, it addresses a number of issues not only relevant to filming the camps, but possibly to filming war. It’s a precious movie in these times of ‘war porn’…

      • I will look for that DVD.
        I’m not in the mood to watch Grey Zone right now but in a couple of weeks maybe, when I’ve finished to watch the German movies I still intend to watch.

  6. nem baj says:

    Eventually I watched Sorstalanság (Fateless, 2005). Imre Kertész was involved in the adaptation of his own book, and Lajos Koltai (István Szabó’s favourite photographer) directed the movie.

    The acting is impressive, the photography superb, the adaptation faithful, the score (Morricone) excellent, it’s never melodramatic, anachronistic nor manipulative… Yet, I can’t help thinking it retains only a fraction of the power of this masterpiece of a book. Koltai obviously means well, however in this film he’s too much a photographer… and not a director enough.

    There’s a lack of intent in the framing, in the cuts, in the camera movements – all things that could have helped to convey, by cinematographical means, the essential despair at the heart of Kertész’s words. This is why, I suppose, some of the critics found the film “too pretty”, and its final moments – which are so provocative in the book – somehow a fly in the ointment.

    Moreover, one mustn’t expect Fateless to be historically didactic, because of the many ellipsis in the narration. Hence probably its ‘positioning’ problem: audiences who have read a lot about the Shoah are likely to have read Kertész’s book, and those who haven’t read a lot might be disappointed.

    Still, it’s a good movie overall – I won’t name the more famous films it easily outranks in my opinion.

    • I didn’t realize at first that this was based on the book that I have in its German translation “Roman eines Schicksallosen”.
      I wanted to include this in my readalong but didn’t do it that’s why I haven’t read it yet. After reading your comment I’m very interested in the movie. Holocaust movies are often manipulative and sentimental. If they managed to avoid that then it’s no small thing. I still think I should read the book before watching the movie.

      • nem baj says:

        I’m looking forward to read what you think of it.

        Incidentally, this film contains a good illustration a contrario of what struck me as anachronisms in the French movie The Round Up, regarding the social interactions (between children and adults, also between adults of different statuses).

      • It will be interesting to see what you mean, yes. But It may take some time if I want to read the book first.

  7. nem baj says:

    Guy Savage mentioned it earlier in another thread… Agnieszka Holland’s In Darkness is very good, terrifying also. Devoid of the feelgood pathos of Schindler’s List, also exempt from the ‘heritage tourist trap’ so common in historical movies (which I find heroic considering the beauty of the old Lviv) it is a remarkable attempt at telling an incredible story – in at least five languages.

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