The 5 highest-grossing Russian World War II movies

Sergey Mokritsky/KinoDelo, 2015
How did Lyudmila Pavlyuchenko become the most successful female sniper in history? How did Soviet women pilots fight against Luftwaffe aces? How did one Soviet commander save 200 Jews from death? Watch these movies and find out!

1. ‘T-34’ (2018)

Gross: $25 million

The Third Reich, 1944. The German command decides to train its tankers using captured Soviet military equipment. Soviet POWs are given a T-34-85 tank and sent to a training ground, where they will serve as targets. Except that the Soviet tankers are not ready to resign themselves to such a fate and decide to escape...

Actor Alexander Petrov recalled his preparation for the main role of Lieutenant Nikolai Ivushkin as follows: "Before the start of filming ‘T-34’, I rented a room for a few weeks, such a small room - and pasted it completely with photos of wartime, with those who fought, who were in captivity, under occupation. And, so, every day, I went there, turned off the phone and spent several hours there, reading, thinking, looking at those faces, those eyes. To rebuild myself in a similar way."   

The spectacular military blockbuster ‘T-34’ is packed with CGI and, in some parts, resembles the famous ‘World of Tanks’ game. However, many people did not like it for its perceived “cartoonishness”. Thus, critic Maxim Sukhaguzov at ‘Afisha Daily’ noted that the movie depicts the war "like a thrilling ‘Fast and Furious’ on tanks in IMAX for school-age children". 

2. ‘Stalingrad’ (2013)

Worldwide gross: $18 million

Stalingrad, 1942. A group of five Soviet soldiers takes refuge in one of the houses of the destroyed city. A young girl named Katya, who has been left an orphan, is also hiding there. The soldiers take her under their guardianship, gradually becoming more and more sympathetic to her.

‘Stalingrad’ was the first Russian movie to be shot in IMAX 3D format. It was nominated for an Oscar in the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category, but didn’t make the short list.

Interestingly, some of the crew already had experience shooting in films about the famous battle. Director Fyodor Bondarchuk and actor Andrei Smolyakov both played in the Soviet large-scale epic ‘Stalingrad’ (1989). In turn, actor Thomas Kretschmann played in the 1993 German movie of the same title.

3. ‘The Righteous’ (2023)

Worldwide gross: $7 million

Occupied Byelorussia, 1942. Two hundred and seventy Jews, who have miraculously escaped from the ghetto, arrive at the location of one of the partisan units. Since the partisans have no way of supporting them, political officer Nikolai Kiselev receives an order to lead them behind the front line.

The movie is based on a true story. For more than a month, Kiselev and seven partisans led the exhausted people through endless forests, periodically stumbling upon German ambushes. Of the 278 men, only 218 made it.

In 2005, the ‘Yad Vashem’ Israeli National Memorial of Shoah (Holocaust) and Heroism awarded Kiselev the title of ‘Righteous Among the Nations of the World’. Descendants of the people he saved annually gather in Tel Aviv to honor his memory.

4. ‘Air’ (2023)

Worldwide gross: $5.5 million

Leningrad Region, 1942. Young, inexperienced female pilots join one of the fighter regiments covering the besieged Leningrad. They will have to endure a deadly battle with the formidable Luftwaffe aces.

For the filming of the movie, Yak-52 trainer aircraft were used, which were then “turned” into Soviet fighter planes with the help of computer graphics. As director Alexei German Jr. noted, they tried to achieve maximum realism: to repeat the trajectory and physics of movement, wing wiggles, skids of the hull, etc.

"For us, it was important not only to create a deep, emotional and interesting movie, but also to convey as much as possible the feeling of documentary of the events taking place on the screen, the feelings of pilots in the cockpits of airplanes, airfield life and sincerity of feelings," the director said.    

5. ‘Battle for Sevastopol’ (2015)

Worldwide gross: $4.7 million

This movie was based on the biography of the most successful female sniper in history - Lyudmila Pavlichenko. On her account, she destroyed 309 enemy soldiers and officers.

Actress Julia Peresild successfully auditioned for the lead role, hiding from the director that she was seven months pregnant. At the same time, her physical shape turned out to be even better than that of the other candidates. Filming began shortly after the actress left the maternity hospital.

‘Battle for Sevastopol’ became one of the last joint Russian-Ukrainian film projects. The movie, called ‘Indestructible’ in Ukraine, was a success in both countries. 

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