Top 10 Movies about the Balkans



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Top 10 Movies about the Balkans

Take a trip to the Balkans through the movies. The focus of many of the films from the former Yugoslavian countries are about the Balkan wars that broke-up the region. The events & subsequent effects of Balkan wars offer many perspectives and stories of what was occurring in Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, & Kosovo.

The Balkans Film History

The Balkans, specifically Serbia, have a history in film-making. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, Yugoslavia was second only to Britain in the number of foreign-shot Hollywood productions.  With the Balkan wars that tore apart these nations in the 1990’s, the film industry was also destroyed as a generation was isolated and focused on survival. 

Bosnian war movies make up a majority of the list as they share the events and stories of the people over the last 30 years in the events that dominated and shaped their lives.  As the region has gained stability, the film industry is making a comeback, so look to see more movies from this region.


No Man’s Land, is about two soldiers, a Bosnian and a Serb, stranded in No Man’s Land — a trench between enemy lines during the Bosnian war. They have no one to trust, no way to escape without getting shot, and a fellow soldier is lying on the trench floor with a spring-loaded bomb set to explode beneath him if he moves. The absurdity of their situation would be comical if it didn’t have such dire consequences.

No Man’s Land won Best Foreign Film at the 2001 Oscars.


Welcome to Sarajevo, based on a true story, is about an offbeat band of TV journalists reporting from the devastated war-torn Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

When one UK reporter covers a story about a dilapidated orphanage, he becomes affected by the plight of its occupants. With the help of an American aid worker, he tries to find a way to smuggle the children out of the country.


The Whistleblower, is based on a true story of Kathryn Bolkovac, a police officer from Nebraska who accepts an offer to work with the United Nations International Police in post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina under a government contracted private security UK company.

Kathryn uncovers a large-scale sexual slavery ring utilized by international personnel (including Americans).  When she brings the scandal to the attention of the UN, Kathryn discovers that it has been covered up to protect lucrative defense and security contracts.

The movies scenes are graffic and heart-breaking, but according to those who lived it, they are reflective of the truth of what was occurring in Bosnia. I am personally a fan of Rachel Weisz as she takes on complex issues with a lot of integrity and this one was a must see to understand the horrors of this war.


In the Land of Blood and Honey is Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut about the war in Bosnia in the 1990s and was filmed partly in Bosnia.

In the wreckage of Sarajevo during the wrath of the Bosnian War, Danijel is a soldier fighting for the Bosnian Serbs. In a prisoner camp led by his strict father, the ruthless Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) general Nebojša, he finds Ajla, his former love, who is a Bosniak and therefore a prisoner. The Bosnian Serb policy against Bosniaks, and the secrecy of their relationship before the war, may endanger the lives of the former lovers


Tito and Me is the last feature film made in the former Yugoslavia before war decimated the country. Filming began just two days into the war. Despite the bombing, director Goran Marcovic continued filming.

The movie is set in Socialist ruled Yugoslavia during the 1950s. Zoran is a slightly overweight 10-year-old living in an overcrowded home that his parents share with his grandmother, and aunt and uncle. In the communist era of Yugoslavia, many homes were taken away from their owners in the Land Reform programs. Zoran’s family is opposed to Tito’s rule, while little Zoran sees Tito as his personal hero after learning in school that Tito is greatest man ever.


Venuto al Mondo, starring Penelope Cruz, is another movie reflecting on the complications of the Bosnian War.  Gemma returns to Sarajevo with her only child Pietro sixteen years after escaping the city at the beginning of the Bosnian War.  Pietro’s father, Diego, had remained behind and died in the war.

As they travel with her wartime friend Gojco, Gemma tries to repair her relationship with Pietro as she struggles as to whether to tell Pietro that she did not give birth to him. Gemma is later stunned by the revelation that Pietro’s real mother, Aska, is still alive and married to Gojco. Aska reveals that, contrary to Gemma’s long held belief, Diego was not Pietro’s father, as she had been a sex slave to a garrison of the Serb Volunteer Guard.

Gemma must face loss, the cost of war and the redemptive power of love reflecting the movies title “Twice Born”


Underground reflects the history of Yugoslavia since the beginning of WWII to the last horrible events in Balkans countries in the 1990’s.

This film is both a comedy and a gritty & truthful representation of the hardships of this generation that suffered in WWII, the Cold War, the war in Yugoslavia, communism, and the treachery of their own leadership. The film shows us the reality, as seen by those who feel unlimited love for their country and culture.

The movie won the Palme d’or at Cannes in 1995.


A Wonderful Night in Split is a drama filmed in black & white about the last few hours before a New Year’s Eve in Split.

The movie follows three stories through the dark and deserted streets of coastal town of Split, separated from the wild New Year’s Eve parties.  This is an art movie with beautiful, aesthetic camera shots.


Grbavica, a neighborhood in Sarajevo, is the setting for Jasmila Zbanic’s debut movie focusing on the Balkan War’s painful aftermath on a Bosnian woman and her daughter.

Esma is living with her 12-year-old daughter Sara in Grbavica, a quarter of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo. When Sara wants to participate in a school trip, Esma tries to find a way to pay the full price, although a certificate proving Sara’s father is a war hero would allow her a discount.


The Battle of Neretva is a movie based on true events of World War II.

In January 1943, the German army afraid of Allied invasion of the Balkans, launched the “fourth offensive” against Yugoslav Partisans in Western Bosnia. Out gunned and outnumbered the partisans must not only take care of themselves but try to protect thousands of refugees too.

In the movie, Yul Brynner stars as a guerilla leader whose mission in life is to eradicate all Nazis from his homeland. Battle of Neretva is the most expensive motion picture made in the SFR Yugoslavia.  It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. One of the original posters for the English version of the movie was made by Pablo Picasso, which, according to Bulajić, the famous painter agreed to do without payment, only requesting a case of the best Yugoslav wines.

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