Enemy at the Gates Movie Poster Image

Enemy at the Gates



Tense and violent WWII movie.
  • Review Date: May 20, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2001
  • Running Time: 131 minutes

What parents need to know


Very violent battle scenes, extremely tense, many deaths, characters in peril.


Brief but fairly graphic sexual situation, brief nudity.


Some strong language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A lot of smoking, some drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a very tense and violent movie, with graphic battle scenes and piles of dead bodies. Characters are in constant peril and many are killed, including a child. There is a brief but fairly explicit sexual encounter with brief nudity. The characters use strong language, drink, and smoke.

What's the story?

It is 1942, the Germans are invading Stalingrad, and the Russians are overmatched. A tough new commanding officer, Nikita Krushchev (Bob Hoskins) asks for suggestions on how to build the morale of his soldiers. Young political officer Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) makes a suggestion -- "give them heroes." He's seen a soldier kill five Germans, each with a single shot. The soldier is Vassily Zaitsev (Jude Law), a poor, uneducated boy, but a sharpshooter. Danilov's propaganda makes Zaitsev a legend. The Germans send their own legendary sniper, Koenig (Ed Harris), to kill him. Danilov sees Koenig's arrival as a chance for bigger and better propaganda. Koenig is a nobleman, adding a class war to the story. But everything Danilov does to make Zaitsev a hero and an asset to the Soviets makes him more vulnerable to discovery and attack by the Germans. Things get even more complicated when Danilov and Zaitsev fall for the same girl, a tough soldier named Tania (Rachel Weisz).

Is it any good?


This is a thinking person's historical epic, so impressively ambitious in taking on issues and ideas that you have to cut it some slack when it doesn’t manage them all as skillfully as it hopes to. The story of the German siege of Leningrad is worth a movie in itself. The cat and mouse game between Koenig and Zaitsev is like something out of a classic western, more much about strategy, courage, ingenuity, and patience as about sharpshooting. The issue of using one individual's story to manipulate the masses plays out fascinatingly throughout the movie. It is reminiscent of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence's famous line, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." If the love triangle is the weakest part of the movie, that is only because the rest of it is so strong.

All four stars are excellent, especially Law's guileless integrity and Harris' variation -- a sort of guile-full integrity. When the two men face off against each other, it's clear that they understand each other in a way that no one else ever can.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the effect that fame has on people. At first, Zaitsev innocently enjoys the attention, though he never lets it go to his head. Later he says, "I can't carry that weight any more. I want to fight as a regular soldier." Was what Danilov did necessary? Was it fair to Zaitsev? Did it do what it was intended to? How was that similar to what the Germans did to Koenig? (Think about the scene where he turns in his dogtags)? Why did Tania chose the one she loves? Think about what it says about the real Zaitsev at the end of the movie -- does the movie do to the real Zaitsev what Danilov did to the fictional one?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 16, 2001
DVD release date:August 14, 2001
Cast:Ed Harris, Joseph Fiennes, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz
Director:Jean-Jacques Annaud
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:131 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong graphic war violence and some sexuality

This review of Enemy at the Gates was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 17 years old Written byBestPicture1996 July 28, 2013

Very violent, somber war drama

The opening was shockingly violent, but then, so is war if you think about it. We're thrown into this horrific slaughtering of Russian soldiers by the Nazis. When Jude Law takes down these Nazis, he's made a hero, and of course, they have to send someone over to kill him. The tension is great in this drama, and it reveals that no one, no one is left unhurt in wartime.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Adult Written byruskin bruce November 17, 2010
good but the sex scene is unnecessary to be that lengthy
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Kid, 12 years old August 12, 2010


This movie wasnt as good as i expected it to be. There were a few too disturbing images and an unecessary sex scene. The romantic sub plot between Vasilli and Tanya is syrupy and mushy. These things drag the film down from what could have been a great movie. Suggested MPAA rating: R for strong graphic war violence, a scene of sexuality, some language and some disturbing images.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Family Media Agreement