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?

The Admiral aka Admiral (2008): Not a Russian Master & Commander but Anna Karenina meets the Russian Revolution

I am not sure how many people outside of Russia know Admiral Kolchak. I’m afraid not a great many. At least I did not know him. But not knowing this historical figure  may  lead to an odd situation. Either people  watch this movie for the wrong reasons and will be disappointed or they might not watch it at all. This would actually be a pity since The Admiral is a very sumptuous movie. Beautifully filmed and very gripping.

As stated in the title The Admiral is not a Russian Master & Commander. After the initial ten minutes of naval battle scenes there is no more fighting on ships. These initial ten minutes however are very gruesome and intense. After this sequence the movie starts to resemble Anna Karenina for many reasons. It is a beautiful tale of tragic adulterous love and full of portents, like the breaking glass at the ball in the beginning which reminded me of the accident scene in Anna Karenina. (By pure chance I have just very recently watched Anna Karenina,  that is why I realised how very similar they are with regards to the love story apart from the fact that this is a true story.)

The love story between Kolchak and Anna, who are both married when they meet,  is only one part of the movie. It  is interwoven with the part  that follows Admiral Kolchak.  1917 after he has  successfully fought the Germans at sea, the Russian Revolution strikes and changes everything for the aristocracy. Kolchak flees to Japan and returns after a few months to head the anti-Bolshevik white troops that were to fight the Red troops. This is the beginning of the Russian Civil War that we see in all its ugliness. If Kolchak had been succesful there would maybe never have been a Soviet Union. Well, he was not successful. In the end he is taken prisoner and sentenced. Anna, the woman he loves, follows him even though they would have let her go. Quite a sacrifice.

It is quite a fascinating story and I have a feeling I am not doing it justice here. If you are interested in history, and especially Russian history, you should watch it. If you like tragic love stories then you should watch it as well.

My only reservations regard the flow. There a quite a few breaks in the movie, it seems a bit disrupted at times.

Do not watch the trailer as it is highly misleading and gives the impression of a pure naval combat movie.