It's 1942 and the German and Russian armies are embroiled in one of the most momentous battles of WW2, the Battle of Stalingrad. Defeat at Stalingrad could hand Germany victory in Europe and Stalin has sent Kruschev to personally oversee the city's defence.
In another corner of the city Danilov, a political officer, encounters Vassili Zaitsev, a simple soldier from the Urals who possesses an extraordinary skill, he is a first-class shot with and iorn will. Danilov realises that Zaitsev could be moulded into exactly what Kruschev needs in order to boost troop morale.
Zaitsev join a sniper unit and his dangerous missions are chronicled and embellished upon by Danilov and before long a hero is born. But while Zaitsev's glory rejuvenates others, Danilov becomes jealous of the man he created when they both fall in love with Tania, a courageous comrade fighting in the ranks along side them.
Eager to break the Russians' new found resistance the Germans draft in Major Konig, their own celebrated sniper. As the battle wages on, these two lethal sharpshooters engage in their own personal deadly duel, stalking each other amongst the rubble of the symbolic city of Stalingrad.