Following the death of Josef Stalin in 1953 the Soviet Union had a bit of a defrost -- not by any means a melt -- but a bit of a thaw. Within that relaxation came a number of films about World War II, many of which made it into the Criterion Collection for good reason.
The first on our docket is Mikhail Kalatozov's The Cranes are Flying. Released in 1957, the film takes a critical look at the psychological toll of World War II. Well, at least a lot more critical than anything I can think of released west of the Iron Curtain. It won the Palme d'Or in 1958, the only Soviet film to win the award, thanks in no small part to the brilliant cinematography of Sergey Urusevsky. So amazing.