33 Best Movies to Watch From Poland (Page 2)

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Inspired by the Spiniak case, Blanquita reimagines the infamous scandal through mirrored interrogations and disorienting viewpoints. Blanquita rewrites the original witness, whose fictional variant, in turn, rewrites the abuse faced by victims as her own. She is transformed from a clueless liar, into someone still a liar, but one that did so when every other possible witness has been discarded for being unreliable, for being too traumatized to go through the judicial process unflinchingly. The film takes on a provocative subject matter, at a time when real life sexual abuse allegations are treated with the same scrutiny Blanca faces. However, Blanquita does so in a way that gives its complexities the weight it deserves. It’s a fascinating thriller, a quandary that tests the idea of ends justifying the means… But it’s one that’s disturbing, given the consequences to each crime.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alejandro Goic, Amparo Noguera, Claudio Troncoso, Daniela Ramírez, Hernán Lacalle, Jaime Vadell, Karen Bejarano, Laura López Campbell, Marcelo Alonso, Nelson Polanco, Nicolás Durán, Roberto Farías

Director: Fernando Guzzoni

, 2022

It’s a bold move, centering a drama around a creature as docile as a donkey, but EO pulls it off without ever leaning on the crutch of CGI. Instead, the film makes ingenious use of a hundred-year-old film technique: the Kuleshov effect. By splicing the image of the titular donkey’s placid, expressionless face against visual stimulus, the illusion of a genuine reaction is produced.

But don’t be mistaken: this is no twee Disney-esque tale of anthropomorphism. Inspired by the classic Au Hasard Balthasar, EO tracks the haphazard journey of a former circus donkey across Europe — one that is often depicted in surreal psychedelic reds instead of idyllic picture-book tones, and punctured by more horrors than joys (though we do, thankfully, get to see him munch away on some well-deserved carrot treats). EO’s docility frames him as a kind of holy innocent, making the cruelty meted out to him feel all the more like a grave violation of something sacrosanct. Seeing the world through his oft-neglected perspective also makes this a movie about humans by proxy — a fresh, empathetic approach that, even in its obvious dramatic liberties, makes us meditate on both the depth of experience that may be unfolding in our animal neighbors and our role in shaping it.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Isabelle Huppert, Lolita Chammah, Lorenzo Zurzolo, Mateusz Kościukiewicz, Sandra Drzymalska, Tomasz Organek

Director: Jerzy Skolimowski

Rating: NR

Set between the years 1977 and 2005, this Polish drama goes through various stages in the life of the controversial surrealist-expressionist painter Zdzisław Beksiński. The extensive video archive left behind by the artist was used to craft an intimate portrait of three interdependent people: Beksiński himself, his suicidal and neurotic son, and his wife.

Beksiński is superbly played by veteran actor Andrzej Seweryn, known for his appearance in numerous Andrzej Wajda films. Even though the film focuses less on Zdzisław's painting career and more on his relationship with his family, it will definitely inspire you to dig deeper into both his tragic life and impressively dark body of work. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Agnieszka Michalska, Aleksandra Konieczna, Alicja Karluk, Andrzej Chyra, Andrzej Seweryn, Danuta Nagorna, Dawid Ogrodnik, Magdalena Boczarska, Zofia Perczynska

Director: Jan P. Matuszynski

Rating: N/A

, 2014

I always seek out Icelandic films; something about the quality of light and quirky sensibility that appeal to me. Having developed a fondness for sheep on a recent Welsh trek, "Rams" had a double attraction. A tale of brothers divided by life but ultimately united in and by their deep, tender, inspiring love of their rams. Close to perfection. Sigurdur Sigurdurjonsson is luminous in the lead role.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Þorleifur Einarsson, Charlotte Bøving, Charlotte Bøving, Gunnar Jonsson, Ingrid Jonsdottir, Jon Benonysson, Jorundur Ragnarsson, Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson, Theodór Júlíusson, Thorleifur Einarsson, Þorsteinn Gunnar Bjarnason

Director: Grímur Hákonarson

Rating: R

, 2023

War makes animals of men, and Filip is no exception. The film portrays a lone Jewish survivor who walks the streets of Frankfurt as if he doesn’t have anything to lose. He’s able to get away with it, with his work at a luxury hotel, but he’s unable to escape his trauma. He relieves this through trysts with the local women, treating them cruelly, the same way they would treat his people. It’s a uniquely stunning take on the ugly side of war, with its country club glamor and Filip’s lust for life. But it’s also a grim character study of an unlikeable, yet understandable protagonist, whose moral ambiguity comes purely from his own survival.

Genre: Drama, History, War

Actor: Caroline Hartig, Eryk Kulm, Gabriel Raab, Julian Świeżewski, Jürg Plüss, Karol Biskup, Kinga Jasik, Mateusz Rzeźniczak, Nicolas Przygoda, Nicolo Pasetti, Robert Więckiewicz, Sandra Drzymalska, Victor Meutelet, Zoë Straub

Director: Michał Kwieciński

Rating: R

Leave it to a master filmmaker like Krzysztof Kieślowski—known for the Three Colours Trilogy, The Double Life of Veronique, and the miniseries Dekalog (whose sixth episode was expanded into this film)—to take a premise as banal as that of a peeping tom and to turn it into something mysterious and poignant. There are definitely still parts to this story that may not hold up to scrutiny, like its belief in a romantic/spiritual connection that rewards the immature man for barging into a woman's life. In different hands, this subject matter would just be creepy. In Kieślowski's, the loneliness of these characters takes full shape.

As young postal clerk Tomek (Olaf Lubaszenko) quickly admits his spying to the older and more jaded Magda (Grażyna Szapołowska), the two are drawn to each other with a combination of fear, pity, and lust. And what Kieślowski does—with the help of cinematographer Witold Adamek's stunning, intimate frames; and his cast's subdued sorrow—is move the film away from concerns about consent and control, and to tell a story about what it means to truly be seen and acknowledged by another person. In an existence made up of meaningless routine and temporary relationships, seeing someone else at their most vulnerable feels like lightning.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Artur Barciś, Grażyna Szapołowska, Olaf Lubaszenko, Piotr Machalica, Stanisław Gawlik, Stefania Iwińska

Director: Krzysztof Kieślowski

Being made for free, fanfiction is free to play with controversial, less print-friendly concepts like gender-bending your favorite character. This freedom might go into strange territory, but most often than not, writers use fanfiction for escapism or for catharsis of their day-to-day lives. While the film doesn’t delve into fanfiction’s creative process, Polish drama Fanfic does recognize how the genre’s experimentation allows its writers to safely and freely explore different styles of expression, the same way teenage years hopefully do for its viewers. And as Tosiek goes through the trappings of coming-of-age self-discovery, it’s lovely and comforting and cathartic like the stories he writes.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alin Szewczyk, Dobromir Dymecki, Helena Sujecka, Ignacy Liss, Jan Cięciara, Maja Szopa, Stanisław Cywka, Wiktoria Kruszczyńska

Director: Marta Karwowska

Rating: NC-17

, 2013

Ida, the 2015 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, is a stark black & white drama set in the early 60’s about a young Polish nun-to-be and her bawdy Aunt Wanda searching for the truth behind her family’s demise at the hands of the Nazis. What initially comes off as a painfully slow sleep-inducer pretty quickly evolves into a touching and lively contrast between the two lead characters; one virtuous and pure, the other boorish and hedonistic. Their journey is equal parts amusing, insightful and heartbreaking, with Ida’s personal exploration of self playing out as a remarkably humanistic affair. The cinematography by Lukasz Za and Ryszard Lenczewski is particularly striking, each shot a work of art in it’s own right. Logging in at just 82 minutes, the entire story whizzes by in a flash. The kind of film that will stay with you long after you’ve watched it.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adam Szyszkowski, Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, Artur Janusiak, Dawid Ogrodnik, Dorota Kuduk, Halina Skoczynska, Izabela Dąbrowska, Jerzy Trela, Joanna Kulig, Marek Kasprzyk, Mariusz Jakus, Paweł Burczyk

Director: Paweł Pawlikowski

Rating: PG-13

Johnny is a story you’ve heard of a thousand times, but what makes it particularly endearing is that it’s all true and based on the real-life Father Jan Kaczkowski, a priest who went out of his way to help others. Kaczkowski led an extraordinary life, and the film honors that not by putting him on a pedestal but by emphasizing his humanness and humanity. As the misunderstood thief who befriends Kaczkowski, Piotr Trojan turns in a believable and realized performance, solidifying the film's credibility. 

Johnyy's premise is far from novel, but it is an effectively heartwarming film about forgiveness and second chances.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Anna Biernacik, Anna Dymna, Dawid Ogrodnik, Joachim Lamża, Magdalena Czerwińska, Maria Pakulnis, Piotr Trojan

Director: Daniel Jaroszek

Robert Duvall...Bill Murray...need I say more? This popped up in my Netflix feed as a suggestion. Almost skipped over it, but my husband and I were up late and took a chance. WHOA! The acting is superb and what we thought would be a movie about revenge is unexpectedly about redemption. Robert Duvall is a hermit, looking forward to death. Bill Murray is a funeral home director looking for someone to bury. It's subtle, very subtle, comical and heartbreaking. Y'all will love it.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Andrea Powell, Andy Stahl, Arin Logan, Bill Cobbs, Bill Murray, Blerim Destani, Chandler Riggs, Danny Vinson, Gerald McRaney, Linds Edwards, Lori Beth Sikes, Lucas Black, Marc Gowan, Robert Duvall, Scott Cooper, Sissy Spacek, Tomasz Karolak

Director: Aaron Schneider

Rating: PG-13

Operating in a similar style and speed as the Safdie Brothers’ Good Time and Uncut Gems, Freestyle gives us a peek into the seedy underbelly of Poland through the eyes of Diego, a smalltime muscian who slides back into his drug dealing ways when he finds himself short on money. On the sensory front, Freestyle is a thrilling experience. Diego charges the film with palpable anxiety, Kraków’s underground community lights it up in dizzying neon, and the local hip-hop scene backs it with exciting new sounds. It’s a technical feat, but stripped of these elements, Freestyle is nothing more than a predictable crime thriller populated with predictable characters, many of whom, by the way, are thrown in at random points in the movie so that it often gets confusing and infuriating to watch. Despite potentially having something to say about the apathy of youth or the glaring discrepancy between social classes, Freestyle seems solely interested in being a slick crime thriller that has its characters run around in circles to save themselves. It looks good and sounds even better, but without anything substantial holding it up, Freestyle fails to relay an authentic sense of relevance and urgency. 

Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Artur Krajewski, Filip Lipiecki, Juliusz Chrząstowski, Krzysztof Zarzecki, Maciej Musiałowski, Michał Balicki, Michał Sikorski, Nel Kaczmarek, Olek Krupa, Patrik Vrbovský, Roman Gancarczyk

Director: Maciej Bochniak