The Best War Films You’ve Never Seen
May 21st, 2022
5 minute read
One of the notable aspects of modern war films is that the level of accuracy in firearms has reached new levels. No longer is “good enough” suitable as the audience today simply expects more. Instead of seeing waves of American G.I.s all armed with Tommy guns and every German soldier with an MP40, we’re now seeing more realistic depictions of what were the full range of standard firearms.
While it is great to see the M1 Garand, Kar-98K and other well-known firearms on the big screen, to truly get to see the lesser-known firearms of World War II, you may need to check out some foreign films. If Hollywood has upped the game — and in recent years they have, notably by including an actual Tiger tank in the film Fury — it is the foreign-made films you probably have not seen that are truly impressive.
Here is a round-up of four non-Hollywood World War II films that any military firearm enthusiast must check out.
April 9th (2015)
Only a handful of films have depicted the German “Blitzkrieg” that quickly overran much of Western Europe in the spring of 1940, but this Danish-made film chronicles the opening stages of the war when a small Danish military bicycle unit was sent to the border to stop the German invasion. The movie successfully highlights the futile defense, but ends so abruptly — much like the actual defensive efforts — that it feels like it tells only part of the story. Yet, the truth is that nothing happened. Denmark was occupied until the German surrender five years later.
In terms of equipment, this film is fantastic — apart from the anachronistic inclusion of a German MG42 machine gun. This is about the only film that features lesser-known rifles such as the Krag-Jørgensen Model 1889/24 Artillery Carbine, Krag-Jørgensen Model 1889/24 Infantry Carbine and notably the Madsen M24 light machine deployed on a tripod. Captured Madsens were used in significant numbers by second-line German forces throughout the rest of the war.
Where to Watch: April 9th is available for free viewing (with commercials) via IMBD.com and TubiTV.com. It is also available on Amazon Video (subscription required). Currently, it is only available on region 2 DVD.
My Way (2011)
This 2011 South Korean film doesn’t actually include a lot of firearms not seen in other films, but it is notable instead for the vast variety of firearms seen. Rarely does a World War II movie include German, Japanese, Soviet and American firearms but consider this an “all-star cast of small arms.”
My Way tells a highly fictionalized account of a pair of soldiers who served in the Imperial Japanese Army, the Soviet Red Army and the German Wehrmacht during the war! It is one of the few films to depict the largely forgotten Battles of Khalkim Gol, which were fought between the Soviet Union and Japan in 1939 — which were kept hidden from the Japanese public and which convinced the Japanese military to turn its attention to taking on the United States instead.
Along the way the viewer is treated to seeing Arisaka Type 38, Mosin Nagant M91/30, German Kar-98K and even American M1 Garand rifles. There are PPSh-41s and Thompsons submachine guns, Browning Automatic Rifles, and Degtyaryov DP-28 machine guns.
Where to See: My Way is available on the Amazon Video add-on service Hi-Yah (subscriptions required), and is available for rent/purchase from Amazon Video. It is also available on DVD and Blu-ray.
The Unknown Soldier (2017)
There have been a couple films made about the 1939-40 Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland including the 1989 film The Winter War. While that one is worth a view it pales in comparison to the 2017 The Unknown Soldier (Finnish title: Tuntematon sotilas), which is based on the 1954 bestselling Finnish novel of the same name about the Continuation War between Finland the Soviets. It is the most expensive Finnish motion picture to date and was the most successful film of the year it was released in the Finnish cinema.
In terms of unusual and lesser-seen small arms, it doesn’t get much better than this one. Included are such notable Finnish weapons as the Lahti L-39 anti-tank rifle, the Suomi KP/-31 submachine gun, the Lahti-Saloranta LS/26 light machine gun and Maxim M/09-21 machine gun; while an assortment of Soviet weapons from the usual PPSh-41 and Mosin Nagents are seen as well as Degtyaryov DT, DP-28 and DS-39 machine guns and PPD-40s. Viewable as a grandiloquent film to honor its heroes as well as an anti-war film, Unknown Soldier is as gritty yet entertaining as any American war movie.
Where to Watch: Unknown Soldier is available for rent via Amazon, and is available on DVD and Blu-ray. However, this is the third film version of the film made to date and while the previous two are good, it is the 2017 version that is the must-see for military gun aficionados.
The Eight Hundred
This could be the truly next big movie to see. The Eight Hundred chronicles the intense fighting between the Nationalist Chinese forces and Japanese Imperial Army during a 1937 event called the “Defense of Sihang Warehouse,” which was one part of the Battle of Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
The film is controversial, however, in that Chinese censors held up its release — as it depicted the Nationalist forces, who were defeated in the Chinese Civil War and fled to Taiwan, which is still considered a breakaway province today. However, when it was finally released in China, it actually outperformed the Disney’s live-action film Mulan.
This film certainly raised the bar in terms of equipment, featuring both rarely seen Japanese small arms but also the weapons employed the Chinese Nationalist Army during the fighting. Seen in the film are such weapons as the Czech ZB vz. 26 and Japanese Type 96 light machine guns but even a few Type 24 Maxim guns for good measure.
Where to Watch: The Eight Hundred is now available for rent or purchase on Amazon Video, and is available on Blu-ray.
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