Last week we brought you the 40 Recommended WWII Films in English as picked by the authors of the Facebook Second World War Club. This week, as promised, we’re sharing with you our picks for non-English WWII films. (I really don’t want to call these “foreign films” because I have no idea who is reading this blog post, as far as the readers go, these movies might not be foreign at all.
By the way, I can’t believe I forgot to mention Band of Brothers last week. Granted, Band of Brothers is not a movie but a TV series. But it is hands-down the best TV series I’ve ever watched. If you’re are WWII history buff, you really should not miss it. Go ahead and and rent it or buy it now. You won’t regret it.
Anyway, here goes with our list of non-English WWII films. As last week, the films are listed in reverse chronological order and are recommendations by authors of our Club. The commentary, however, are purely my opinions.
- Past Life (2016 Israeli)
We’re recommending this film because it is in theater now. It’s not epic in scale like Dunkirk, but it might interest you if you wish to see something more intimate. Synopsis: Two sisters, the daughters of Holocaust survivors, investigate the mystery of their difficult father’s experiences in Poland during World War II.
- Land of Mine (2015 Danish)
- Battle for Sevastopol (2015 Russian)
While American Sniper Chris Kyle got the full-on Hollywood treatment (and it was a great film), the movie about Russian heroine sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko was the one that stayed with me long after I walked out of the theater. WWII movie about a woman in arms is rare, and this might be one of the few you’ll ever see. Gender regardless, this movie spares audience no mercy in depicting all the grits and hardness of what it takes to survive on the battlefield.
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44491013
- 1944 (2015 Estonian)
- Suite Francaise (2014 British)
I’m a sucker for love stories that transcends heaven and earth. Offer me a wartime romance, and I’m done for. This is one that I can watch over and over again.
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44034961
- The Eternal Zero (2013 Japanese)
Based on a novel of the same name by Naoki Hyakuta, this is a story about two young Japanese searching to find out more about their grandfather who had been a Japanese kamikaze fighter pilot during WWII. Unlike the Germans, it is so difficult when it comes to the Japanese and WWII films. There is still unresolved tensions as to the role of Japan during the war, and this movie has been criticized for romanticizing the Japanese military pilots. Rather than giving you our opinion, we thought we’d bring this movie your attention, and let you decide for yourself.
By http://news.usni.org/2014/04/14/japanese-eyes-world-war-ii-japanese-cinema, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42950581
- Stalingrad (2013 Russian)
- In Darkness (2011 Polish)
- My Way (2011 Korean)
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33418292
- Sarah’s Key (2010 French)
- A Jewish Girl in Shanghai (2010 Chinese)
I discovered this animated film when I visited the Shanghai Jewish Museum last year. Very few people know that Jewish refugees fled from Germany to Shanghai during WWII. This is a beautiful film about the Chinese and Jewish children who grew up together in Shanghai during this period. The film was nominated for the Jewish Experience Award at the Jerusalem Film Festival. I have the DVD!! Maybe I’ll be able to find a way to share this movie with everyone somehow. An online group viewing maybe? Meanwhile, you can purchase the English version of the book here in Amazon.
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30009364
- City of Life and Death (2009 Chinese)
- Winter in Wartime (2008 Dutch)
- A Woman in Berlin (2008 German)
- Ip Man (2008 Chinese)
- Anonyma (2008 German)
- Lust, Caution (2007 Chinese)
An erotic espionage thriller film directed by Ang Lee, based on the novella of the same name by Chinese author Eileen Chang who is renown for her stories during the pre-war and WWII period. With China under the Communists rule, there are very few Chinese fiction work about WWII due to government censorship and control of creative arts and writing. Eileen Chang is one of the few writers who had been able to produce work about the WWII era. I’ve read a lot of her work and her stories are top notch. This movie is a good introduction to another dimension of WWII fiction.
- Black Book (2006 Dutch)
Another movie where a heroine takes center stage. This story, based on true events and characters, is about a young Jewish woman in the Netherlands who becomes a spy for the resistance during World War II.
- Cefalonia (2005 Italian)
- Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (2005 German)
- Downfall (2004 German)
- Napola aka Before the Fall (2004 German)
- Before the Fall (2004 German)
- The Pianist (2002 French)
- Life is Beautiful (1997 Italian)
I still remember Stephen Spielberg walking out of the Academy Awards because of this film. Why? I’d never know. Maybe he didn’t like that it had some comedic elements. But Roberto Benigni bagged himself an accolade of awards with this one, including Academy Awards Best Foreign Film and Best Actor. Critical acclaims aside, this was a heart wrenching, great movie.
- Europa Europa (1990 German)
Based on the 1989 autobiography of Solomon Perel, this is a story about a German Jewish boy who escaped the Holocaust by masquerading not just as a non-Jew, but as an elite “Nazi” German. Haunting and heartbreaking.
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47019380
- Grave of Fireflies (1988 Japanese)
- Red Sorghum (1988 Chinese)
- Au Revoir, les Enfants (1987 French)
- Come and See (1985 Russian)
- Das Boot (1981 German)
A fictional story of the U-96 and its crew, this movie is known as one of the greatest German films of all times. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, and praised for the director’s meticulous attention to historical accuracy.
Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8204904
- Army of Shadows (1969 French)
- Closely Observed Trains (1966 Czechoslovak)
- The Shop on the High Street (1965 Czechoslovak)
- The Cranes Are Flying (1960 Russian)
- Ashes and Diamonds (1958 Polish)
- Ice Cold in Alex (1958 British)
- The Bridge (1958 German)
- Rome Open City (1945 Italian)
- The Bicycle Theives (1948 Italian)
We hope you enjoy our recommended films. But don’t forget, there are always WWII novels. Be sure to join us for the Dunkirk Week Epic WWII Book Sale on 7/21-27, when more than 50 WWII fiction authors from the Facebook Second World War Group will offer their books for sale for a special discounted price of 99c, plus prizes and giveaways. Visit www.alexakang.com/dunkirk-book-sale/ to find out more.