Winner of the 2016 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film
"Son of Saul" is the umpteenth film about The Holocaust/WWII. Nonetheless first time Hungarian filmmaker László Nemes gives us a harrowing new perspective on it. Set in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, it follows Saul, who is part of the Sonderkommando charged with doing the physical labor involved with The Final Solution. Saul finds a dead boy inside a gas chamber & decides to find a rabbi to give him a proper burial instead of having the child put in the ovens. His new found sisyphean task helps him shield out the infernal horrors happening around him. It's in this way that Nemes gives us a new intimate perspective on the Holocaust by seeing it through first hand experience of one of its victims. Literally. The entire film is shot in close up, following him around the camp & focuses on no one else. The concept of hell has never been portrayed so vividly on film before as it is in "SON OF SAUL". We already knew that the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp was hell on earth, but here its brought to its nightmarish reality. In one take we see Jews arrive in cattle cars & are then led inside gas chambers. Without breaking, we then hear the blood curdling death screams of the victims inside as the life in them fades away. A very effective & chilling use of sound design by the filmmakers. Even though the film portrays most of the horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau out of focus & away from the center line of sight, its the noises & sounds you hear that cause you to cover your mouth in shock. The piercing cries of women, the screams of the fearful, the sound of gunfire, & the emasculating sound of Nazi soldiers bellowing orders in harsh tones. Unlike Schindler's List, this movie has no heros, has no hope, and offers no salvation. If you want to know what a living nightmare is, this movie will show you.
Yes, that is Melisandre
Before Carice Van Houten became "The Red Woman", she was a Jew escaping from the Nazi's in the Netherlands. In the movie she is literally willing to do ANYTHING to stay alive and this is a thrilling film because of that premise. Eventually this leads her to pretend to fall in love with a Nazi officer so she can escape death but is secretly planning to kill him as she works for the Dutch resistance. This movie is quite suspenseful and unusually erotic for a WW2 thriller. Highly recommended.
The True Story of the Man who helped Win D-Day
This is a British movie about one of the most elaborate and successful schemes that helped turn the tide of WW2 for the Allies. In order for the D-Day landings to be successful, The Allies needed to convince the Nazi's that they were going to invade Southern Europe instead of Normandy, but how to plant false military intelligence in a way that the Nazi's would find credible enough to believe? The Nazi's were very powerful and the Alllies simply couldn't invade Normandy on D-Day without creating a diversion first. This is the story of how the diversion was created. I won't spoil how they pulled it off so you can watch the movie but this really happened and thanks to the ingenuity of the British their scheme helped secure a major victory in the war. This is necessary viewing.
Released in 1990
WW2 is filled with true crazy stories after crazy true stories and this is one of them. Like the many films on this list it's about a Jew who in order to survive the Holocaust is willing to do anything to stay alive. This leads the main character through a whirlwind of incredible experiences. His adventures take him all over Europe as he tries to avoid detection. In one of his attempts, he ends up joining Hitler Youth as the ultimate "Act like you belong con job" since he assumes the Nazis would never suspect a Jew as being part of them. This true story is one of those times when the phrase "truth is stranger than fiction" applies. This is an excellent film. Grade "A"
The Battle of Stalingrad was one of the most infamous battles in WW2 because of the heavy casualties and losses suffered by the German army during their failed invasion of Russia. Hitler unleashed the largest invasion in human history named "Operation Barbarossa" to conquer Russia but it failed miserably as the cold winter set in. The Nazi's were able to conquer the city of Stalingrad but it was all for naught as the weather turned against them and the Russians surrounded their to take it back. Cut off from the rest of the world and isolated, the German army faced extreme cold and hunger and the vast majority of them died. This is the story of a few soldiers who tried to make it out alive while the Red Army killed them off one by one. It's a great action drama of one of the most important battles of the War. Very entertaining. It may seem like an odd thing to say but it may make you feel just a little bit sorry for the Nazi's stuck in that god awful mess.
One of the funniest movies you've never seen.
This movie is the story of a poor man in Eastern Europe who strives to be rich and ends up working as a butler for a Nazi Breeding center. It's very very funny. Can't say much else without spoiling it but TRUST ME, you absolutely need to see this one. It may seem like an obscure foreign film with an odd premise but if you want to laugh, this will deliver on that again and again. Grade "A"
Winner of the 2007 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film
This is a different kind of Holocaust movie because of its premise. You may not be aware of it, but during WW2 the Nazi's were more than clever in finding original ways to destroy their enemies. During the Holocaust they rounded up highly skilled Jewish prisoners in concentration camps to use them for the purpose of counterfeiting British Pounds so they could artificially inflate British currency with fake notes and destroy their economy from within. This is the story of those countifeiters who the Nazi's used for their scheme. A limited number of Jews were able to survive only because they had the skills that the Nazi's valued highly, so as long as they could remain useful, they could stay alive...It's a riveting drama
Winner of the 2015 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film
This movie is one of the decade's Top 10 films. What an incredible experience it was watching "IDA". This is a story about a young Polish girl who as a baby was given away by her parents to a Catholic convent so she could survive being captured by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Years later, all grown up, she leaves the convent for the first time since she was brought there in search of her parents remains. This movie left me completely speechless by its haunting beauty. The movie is visually astounding because it was literally shot as if it was straight out of the early 1960's. This is one of the best movies I have ever seen. If you want to see what a masterpiece looks like, this is it. Easily the highest recommended film on this list. Grade of A+
If you only see 2 movies out of this list, make the 1st one "IDA" but make the second one "Nowhere in Africa"
A family of Jewish refugees escape Germany for Kenya. At first, naturally, they are alienated and confused in their new home because it's so different, but soon realize that they grow to love it more than where they came from. This movie will steal your heart. It has one of those really rare romances in it that comes across as earned and sincere rather than the cliched hollywood tropes we see all the time. The couple has the most adorable little girl who grows up amongst the indigenous population and begins to feel a strong sense of belonging with her Kenyan neighbors. This is easily one of the top foreign language films I've ever seen, WW2 related or otherwise. If you don't think non hollywood studios can WOW you with their cinematic prowess and beautiful storytelling watch "Nowhere in Africa" and be amazed at how tender your heart will feel by its end. This movie gets an A+
Easily one of the best Foreign War movies ever made.
People often forget that World War literally means WORLD WAR. Many different nations participated in it, and among them were 233,000 soldiers from Africa who were called upon to help liberate Europe. They are the unsung heroes of WW2. This movie focuses on a company of Algerian GI's who start by battling Nazis in the North African Sahara and follows them through the snow covered forests of Europe and French villages where brutal urban warfare against the Germans was waged. The battle scenes in this movie are as good as the ones you saw at the end of Saving Private Ryan. Very excellent camera and stuntwork capture really tense and exciting battle sequences. It's a moving and powerful picture because despite putting their lives on the line & desperately needed, they often never gave them the respect they deserved because they were Africans. But this movie goes to show that they were as strong and as fierce and as brave as any of the fighters from the Caucasian Allied nations. It's both a very good war movie with lots of action and also solid social commentary.