12 Russian War Movies You Must See

Russia is another of those countries whose film production rarely disappoints. I haven’t seen all of the below mentioned movies yet but have read a lot about them and have seen parts of them. There are most certainly more but these seem to be the most important ones. They are quite different. Some, like 9th Company, are pure, gritty  infantry combat, others like Come and See are more experimental. Mongol and Admiral are quite beautiful. What they all have in common is a feel of authenticity, and a way of showing how atrocious war is that is very unique and emotional. If you haven’t seen any Russian war movies so far, I would suggest you change that as soon as possible.

The Fortress of War aka Brestskaya krepost (2010) Dramatic infantry combat. The Germans attack the Brest Fortress from all sides. Soldiers and civilians fight for their life. (See my review)

Admiral (2008) The true story of Admiral Kolchak. WWI and Russian Revolution. War Movie and Love Story. (Here is my review)

Mongol (2007) The story of the rise of Genghis Khan. (Here is my review)

9th Company aka 9 Rota (2005) Gritty infantry combat in Afghanistan. It has similarities with Platoon but the characters are very different, very emotional. (See my review)

The Thief aka Vor (1997) Childhood drama that starts during WWII.

Come and See aka Idi i Smotri (1985) A young boy gets caught up in the atrocities of WWII.

The Dawns here are Quiet aka A zori zdes tikhie (1972) The story of a group of female soldiers during WWII.

Ivan’s childhood aka Ivanovo detstvo (1962) A young boy works as a spy at the eastern front. Three Soviet officers try to take care of this boy-child.

Ballad of a Soldier aka Ballada o Soldate (1959) A 19-year-old soldier gets a medal for bravery. On his leave he meets a girl on the train and falls in love with her. (Here’s my review)

The Story of a Man aka Sudba cheloveka (1959) The story of a man whose life is destroyed by WWII. When his village is bombed his wife and children are killed.

The Cranes are Flying aka Letyat zhuravli  (1957) A young woman waits for the love of her life to return from the war. The movie shows the battlefield and the home front. (See my review)

Battleship Potemkin aka Bronenosets Potyomkin (1925) A silent movie classic. One of the first war movies ever with a lot of famous scenes. Very expressive.

It is also worth mentioning other movies by Sergei Bondarchuk like War and Peace or Waterloo. They are all excellent but mostly co-productions with international stars that’s why I didn’t include them but chose The Story of a Man instead.

Do you have any favourite Russian war movies and/or recommendations?

9th Company aka 9 Rota (2005) or “No one has ever managed to conquer Afghanistan”

Many have called 9th Company a Russian Platoon. I think it would be more accurate to call it a mix of Full Metal Jacket and Hamburger Hill. I compare it with Full Metal Jacket because of the first part, that is taking place in the boot camp, and with Hamburger Hill because the second part is also based on a true infantry combat story that consisted of the holding of a hill. But be it as it may, it is easily understood what it means  that this movie deserves to be named among the very best of its kind: It is extremely good. And in some respects (e.g. character development, emotions) it is even better than the aforementioned.

We watch the 9th Company from their early days in boot camp in Uzbekistan until they are finally flown to Afghanistan. The boot camp part is one of the best I have ever seen. And its end, the night before they depart to Afghanistan, is unique. This scene shows the whole difference between this Russian movie and any American infantry combat movie I have ever seen. The soldiers show emotions, even those of fear and sadness and speak about them openly. They also talk about why they volunteered to go to Afghanistan and one of them, a painter says: “War is only life and death, nothing unneccessary”, meaning he thinks it is utterly beautiful. Of course he is immediately contradicted by others.

The long boot camp sequence and the following early days in Afghanistan are heavy and foreboding. It is a slow and effective build-up until the final intense combat part.

The 9th company was among the last to leave Afghanistan. Their last mission was to hold Hill 3234. A group of only 36 soldiers fought against the superior number of 400 Afghan rebels. We see many of those that we got to know and like during the movie get killed. There is a moment when those who survived go completely mental so that in the end they are victorious however highly decimated. But this battle is historical for other reasons as well. It was the last battle in the last war the crumbling Soviet union was ever to fight.

The key message is delivered early on, when the recruits learn about the culture and the land they are going to invade. The instructor who teaches them says literallay : “In all of history, no one has ever managed to conquer Afghanistan. No one. Ever”

The movie is gripping from beginning to end. And the characters are remarkably interesting. Even the instructor at the boot camp, an apparently mean and sadistic brute, is shown in all his complexity and we understand him in the end. What I liked best is the inside look at the Afghan terrain. I had a feeling to understand why nobody except those who lived there for centuries was ever capable of mastering this terrain. Those mountains with their tunnel systems are not unlike the Vietnamese  jungle. An abundance of hiding places; the enemy could be anywhere at any time.

This movie gets 5/5 stars. Watch it!