60 Best Movies to Watch In Russian (Page 3)

Staff & contributors

Find the best Russian-language movies to watch. These movies in Russian are: highly-rated by critics, highly-rated by viewers, and handpicked by our staff.

Featuring real, in-the-moment footage of operations to rescue young queer individuals from the continuing anti-gay purges in the Chechen Republic, Welcome to Chechnya makes for a demanding but essential call to action. There's a genuine sense of fear that pervades the documentary, not just for those being rescued after being forcibly outed, beaten, and trapped by the people around them, but for the filmmakers themselves, whose operations are built on meager resources and desperate, spur-of-the-moment decisions. It's a remarkably courageous film—one that also presents new ways of keeping sensitive subjects safe through the thoughtful use of deepfake technology, keeping their identities hidden while allowing them to freely express themselves.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Ramzan Kadyrov, Vladimir Putin, Zelim Bakaev

Director: David France

When Russian director Vitaly Mansky is commissioned by the North Korean government to make a documentary about an average Pyongyang child, he follows their every guideline. Except the end result, Under The Sun, is the complete opposite of what they had intended. For example starting every take earlier than they thought, he makes the documentary about the watchdogs around the child and other mechanisms of propaganda. He uses quiet storytelling to expose how brainwashing in a fascist regime takes place, and how the people caught in it function. May just be the smartest, most important film you can watch on North Korea.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Hye-Yong, Kim Jong-un, Lee Zin-Mi, Oh-Gyong, Yu-Yong

Director: Vitaliy Manskiy, Vitaly Mansky

Rating: Not Rated

After Loving Vincent, DK and Hugh Welchman’s iconic oil paint animation initially seems like old hat, but this time the style is actually more fitting for their second feature. As an adaptation of the iconic Polish novel, The Peasants had to live up to the book’s reputation as the Nobel-winning depiction of the Polish countryside, one of the first to take an intimate look into the lives of the commonfolk, their customs, beliefs, and traditions. The Welchmans’ naturalist, impressionist art style lines up with the way the original Chłopi was inspired by these movements, as does L.U.C’s selection of mesmerizing, haunting Polish folk songs. While the plot is a tad cliché, it only does so in the way folklore tends to weave the same threads. It just so happens that the threads in The Peasants lead to violent ends.

Genre: Animation, Drama, History

Actor: Andrzej Konopka, Andrzej Mastalerz, Anna Grzeszczak, Cezary Łukaszewicz, Cyprian Grabowski, Dorota Stalińska, Ewa Kasprzyk, Jadwiga Wianecka, Jarosław Gruda, Julia Wieniawa, Kamila Urzędowska, Klara Bielawka, Lech Dyblik, Maciej Musiał, Małgorzata Kożuchowska, Małgorzata Maślanka, Marek Pyś, Mariusz Kiljan, Mariusz Urbaniec, Mateusz Rusin, Matt Malecki, Mirosław Baka, Piotr Srebrowski, Robert Gulaczyk, Sonia Bohosiewicz, Sonia Mietielica, Szymon Kukla, Tomasz Więcek

Director: DK Welchman, Hugh Welchman

Rating: R

The shiver-inducing talents of Stephen King, David Cronenberg, and Christopher Walken meld to produce this supremely chilly supernatural thriller adaptation. Schoolteacher Johnny’s (Walken) perfect life is overturned when a horrific car accident puts him in a coma that robs him of five years of his life — and with them, his job and girlfriend Sarah (Brooke Adams), who moves on with someone else.

For anyone familiar with Cronenberg’s films, the director’s involvement might lead you to expect results from this premise as idiosyncratic as Crash or Videodrome’s, but The Dead Zone takes a decidedly more mainstream path than those works. In the place of graphic body horror is more palatable — but no less affecting — emotional bleakness, as Johnny contends with losing Sarah and a reality-warping new ability: he now has the power to see into the future of anyone he touches. While being forewarned about house fires and nuclear war might be a blessing for those whose lives he saves, Johnny struggles with the emotional burden of being responsible for preventing these future tragedies. More than any of the chilling setpieces — a frantic hunt for a serial killer, the attempted assassination of a demagogue — it’s Johnny’s grappling with this gift-slash-curse that gives The Dead Zone its fierce intensity.

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Anthony Zerbe, Barry Flatman, Brooke Adams, Chapelle Jaffe, Christopher Walken, Cindy Hinds, Claude Rae, Colleen Dewhurst, David Rigby, Géza Kovács, Hardee T. Lineham, Helene Udy, Herbert Lom, Jackie Burroughs, James Bearden, John Koensgen, Ken Pogue, Leslie Carlson, Martin Sheen, Nicholas Campbell, Peter Dvorsky, Ramon Estevez, Roberta Weiss, Roger Dunn, Sean Sullivan, Tom Skerritt, William B. Davis

Director: David Cronenberg

Rating: R

Who knew that behind the puzzle Tetris lies a political thriller of a backstory that is just as fun and challenging as the game itself? Tetris, the film, is a playful telling of the game behind the game, a surprising account of the otherwise unbelievable events that had to happen in making Tetris available to the masses. 

Between the 8-bit editing, the immensely likable lead, and the cat-and-mouse chase between heroes and villains, there is much to like about the movie. You put it on out of curiosity (how the hell does a brick game have this much back story?) but you stay for the intrigue, the playfulness, and the irresistible urge to see who wins the race.

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Aaron Vodovoz, Anna Lavrentyeva, Anthony Boyle, Ayane Nagabuchi, Ayano Yamamoto, Ben Miles, Bhav Joshi, Christine Koudreiko, Dmitriy Sharakois, Greg Kolpakchi, Ieva Andrejevaitė, Igor Grabuzov, Irina Kara, Jenni Keenan-Green, Kanon Narumi, Karin Nurumi, Katarzyna Sanak, Ken Yamamura, Len Blavatnik, Mara Huf, Mark Khismatullin, Matthew Marsh, Miles Barrow, Moyo Akandé, Natalia Gonchar, Niino Furuhata, Nikita Efremov, Nino Furuhata, Oleg Shtefanko, Peter Burlakov, Rick Yune, Rob Locke, Roger Allam, Sergii Levchenko, Sofia Lebedeva, Taron Egerton, Timur Kassimikulov, Toby Jones, Togo Igawa, Zane Mihailova

Director: Jon S. Baird

In Rounders, Matt Damon plays a law student and reformed poker player who is forced back into the game in order to help his newly-paroled best friend (Edward Norton) pay off overwhelming gambling debts. It’s an enjoyable insider’s look into the world of high stakes gambling and of Poker specifically, giving the viewer compelling insights into Poker in terms of strategy as well as human psychology. Damon and Norton are well-cast in their roles — Norton particularly great as the sleazy and manipulative “Worm”. Not-overly-surprising in its storytelling, yet highly enjoyable from beginning to end, this one will appeal to fans of gambling and sports films, as well as those who enjoy modern film noir and pseudo-noir films with a nice dramatic edge.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Adam LeFevre, Alan Davidson, Allan Havey, Beeson Carroll, Bill Camp, Brian Anthony Wilson, Charlie Matthes, Chris Messina, David Zayas, Dominic Marcus, Edward Norton, Erik LaRay Harvey, Famke Janssen, Goran Visnjic, Gretchen Mol, Jay Boryea, Joe Zaloom, Joey Vega, John Di Benedetto, John Gallagher Jr., John Malkovich, John Turturro, Johnny Chan, Josh Mostel, Josh Pais, Kerry O'Malley, Kohl Sudduth, Lenny Clarke, Lenny Venito, Lisa Gorlitsky, Mario Mendoza, Martin Landau, Matt Damon, Melina Kanakaredes, Merwin Goldsmith, Michael Arkin, Michael Lombardi, Michael Rispoli, Michael Ryan Segal, Murphy Guyer, Neal Hemphill, Nicole Brier, P.J. Brown, Paul Cicero, Peter Yoshida, Ray Iannicelli, Richard Mawe, Sal Richards, Slava Schoot, Sonny Zito, Tom Aldredge, Tony Hoty

Director: John Dahl

Rating: R

Six years after blowing box-office records out of the water with Titanic, director James Cameron once again plunged into the deep for Ghosts of the Abyss. This documentary charts several 12500-foot-deep trips that Cameron, actor Bill Paxton (who played a treasure-hunter in the 1997 movie), and others took in submersibles down to the ship’s wreckage on the pitch-black bed of the Atlantic. The images they captured there are eerie and awe-inspiring: the camera floats through the skeleton of the once-grand ship, now colonised by sea life but still bearing haunting reminders of the people who perished with it. Digital superimpositions of the original layout help to bring the rusted interiors back to life, while ghostly, translucent images of actors are overlaid to recreate the panic and tragedy of the Titanic’s last night.

Granted, it isn’t the romantic epic the 1997 movie was, but Ghosts of the Abyss is an absorbing opportunity for Titanic fans to geek out and a window into the plucky logistics of these undersea trips (which have themselves become an object of great interest, given more recent, ill-fated journeys). Stripping back the Hollywood glamor and diving more deeply into the tragic reality of the Titanic, this is a companion piece that works just as compellingly on its own.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Bill Paxton, Charles Pellegrino, Don Lynch, Federico Zambrano, James Cameron, John Broadwater, Ken Marschall, Lewis Abernathy, Lori Johnston, Mike Cameron, Tava Smiley

Director: James Cameron

Rating: G, PG

, 2011

Realistic, intimate, and compelling, Elena is a movie that makes you think a lot after you finish watching it. It is an inherently Russian movie, however there is something about how the story is told that makes it a universal family drama. A woman from a modest background to which she still has a lot of attachement is married to an old wealthy business man. Upon learning that the man might write her off his will, she feels pushed to get her hands dirty to honor her responsibilities towards her original family. The question of right and wrong when faced with extreme situations is at the heart of this aesthetically slow-burning family drama.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Aleksandr Kazakov, Aleksandr Slastin, Aleksey Maslodudov, Aleksey Rozin, Anastasiya Sapozhnikova, Andrey Smirnov, Anna Gulyarenko, Dmitry Pavlenko, Ekaterina Tarkovskaya, Elena Lyadova, Igor Ogurtsov, Ivan Dobronravov, Ivan Mulin, Larisa Khalafova, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Nadezhda Markina, Oksana Semenova, Olga Lapshina, Vasily Michkov, Vasily Zotov, Yana Lvova, Yaroslav Zhalnin, Yuriy Borisov

Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev

Rating: Not Rated

In Compartment Number 6, two different people strike an unlikely friendship during a train ride from Moscow to Murmansk. One is Laura, a Finnish student looking to observe ancient rock carvings at their destination, and the other is Ljoha, a gruff miner who hopes to secure a job once there. While the pair are initially unable to get on the same page, their friction eventually lends way to curiosity and empathy, especially as they learn more about each other and life itself.

It’s a great film to put on if you’re a fan of smart but subdued movies like the Before trilogy and Lost in Translation, and there is a lot to mine beyond their already-rich conversations, especially in terms of class and romance. It’s little wonder then that this delightful two-hander shares the 2021 Grand Prix award with another brilliant piece of art, Asghar Farhadi's A Hero.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Denis Pyanov, Dinara Drukarova, Galina Petrova, Konstantin Murzenko, Natalia Drozd, Polina Aug, Seidi Haarla, Sergey Agafonov, Tomi Alatalo, Valeriy Nikolaev, Yuliya Aug, Yuriy Borisov

Director: Juho Kuosmanen

Rating: R

In the words of the journalist Christo Grozev, Alexei Navalny isn’t just a politician; he’s also an internet personality, reporter, investigator, lawyer, and opposition leader who’s up against one of the biggest regimes in the world. He’s a dangerous man, a top Kremlin target, and the documentary gives us incredible access into the ins and outs of his daily operations. 

It’s always astonishing to see a hero humanized, especially since the documentary makes sure to balance newsworthy events with quiet moments of rest and reflection. But more than just a profile, Navalny is a valiant work of investigative journalism, as well as a timely reminder of the importance of activism. It's relevant, revelatory, and rousing; a must-watch in our ever-heating political climate. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alexei Navalny, Alexey Navalny, Angela Merkel, Christo Grozev, Dasha Navalnaya, Georgy Alburov, Kira Yarmysh, Leonid Volkov, Maria Pevchikh, Vladimir Putin, Yulia Navalnaya, Zakhar Navalny

Director: Daniel Roher

Rating: R

Making a good erotic thriller out on Wall Street is no easy feat, but Fair Play has just the right ratio of wit, sex, and sleaze to spice up a Friday night viewing. There's also undeniable pleasure in watching a fairytale love story corrode, especially under the influence of money and power—here's one for the romantic capitalists! And even if the script feels a bit uneven and Emily's character a bit too silent until the film's third act, it's a heightened yet realistic depiction of exactly how solidified heteronormative standards still are: in bed, at home, at the workplace. Who would have guessed that's where the true horror lies? 

Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Alden Ehrenreich, Brandon Bassir, Buck Braithwaite, Eddie Marsan, Filip Todorovic, Geraldine Somerville, Greg De Cuir, Ivona Kustudić, Jamie Wilkes, Jelena Stupljanin, Jim Sturgeon, Katarina Gojković, Laurel Lefkow, Leopold Hughes, Linda Ljoka, Patrick Fischler, Phoebe Dynevor, Rich Sommer, Sebastian de Souza, Sia Alipour, Yacine Ramoul

Director: Chloe Domont

This heartbreaking Russian drama takes place in Leningrad six months after the end of the war. A boy is asked to do an impression of an animal, any animal, but the boy stands still. "Just do a dog then", one person says, to which another remarks "he's never seen one, they've all been eaten."

In this bleak context, two friends meet again and try to restart their lives. Masha is a soldier who has just come back from the war in Berlin, and Iya, a tall woman nicknamed "Beanpole", is a nurse who suffers from PTSD episodes that freeze her body. Both characters, so brilliantly acted, personify the thin line between desperation and hopefulness in this difficult but incredibly well-made drama.

Genre: Drama, War

Actor: Alyona Kuchkova, Andrey Bykov, Galina Mochalova, Igor Shirokov, Konstantin Balakirev, Kseniya Kutepova, Olga Dragunova, Timofey Glazkov, Vasilisa Perelygina, Veniamin Kac, Viktoria Miroshnichenko, Viktoriya Miroshnichenko

Director: Kantemir Balagov

Rating: Not Rated, Unrated

When German forces occupy Paris in 1942, a close-knit Jewish family tearfully sends their two youngest sons, Jo and Maurice, to escape the city on foot, with promises that they will all eventually be reunited in the Free Zone in the South. Told from the perspective of Jo – and based on the 1973 memoir of Joseph Joffo – what follows is a story of adventure, discovery, loss, love and the resilience of family bonds. A tapestry of cherished memories woven together with traumatic ones, the tone shifts again and again as Jo and his brother reach the bright shores of Nice––before they are driven to hiding again. Above all else, this is a story about the power of a family’s love, and of children who rise against the odds by their own courage and tenacity.

Genre: Drama, War

Actor: Émile Berling, Batyste Fleuria, Batyste Fleurial, Bernard Campan, César Domboy, Candide Sanchez, César Domboy, Christian Clavier, Coline Leclère, Dorian Le Clech, Elsa Zylberstein, Émile Berling, Eric Bougnon, Etienne Chicot, Fred Epaud, Frédéric Epaud, Holger Daemgen, Ilian Bergala, Jocelyne Desverchère, Joël Dupuch, Kev Adams, Luc Palun, Lucas Prisor, Patrick Bruel, Pierre Kiwitt, Vincent Nemeth

Director: Christian Duguay

Rating: Not Rated

Formally speaking, 20 Days in Mariupol is little more than a compilation of footage bravely collected by Mstyslav Chernov in Ukraine, excerpts of which may seem familiar from when they were broadcast by major news stations. Unsure of whether or not Chernov would survive long enough to pass on his footage, he shot as much as he could day-in and day-out, resulting in this numbing, relentless compilation of anguish and death. As a documentary, there isn't exactly a unifying idea to 20 Days in Mariupol, with Chernov's narration only meant to provide necessary context and a foreboding score that probably didn't have to impose itself as much as it does.

And yet it's hard to deny the importance of the very existence of this footage, especially in a time when genocide is occurring elsewhere in the world with far fewer cameras on the ground to counter the denialist propaganda of those in power. Chernov's decision to let the images speak for themselves, without feeling the need to dissect every major moment for political analysis, isn't reductive; it's a statement that nothing can rationalize the indiscriminate killing of civilians and children. That the footage becomes overwhelming and hard to watch isn't a reason for us to look away.

Genre: Documentary, War

Actor: Liudmyla Amelkina, Mstyslav Chernov, Vladimir Putin, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Zhanna Homa

Director: Mstyslav Chernov

Rating: NR

This new Russian thriller show has an immaculate production value that can rival the biggest Hollywood shows.

It’s about a deadlier flu pandemic than the one we’re living through; one that kills anyone who becomes infected. It strikes Moscow first, quickly throwing the city into chaos as criminal gangs take over.

The show follows two families who live in a wealthy Moscow suburb as they try to reach a safe haven. Based on the famous book by Yana Vagner.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Aleksandr Robak, Aleksandr Yatsenko, Anton Krasovskiy, Kirill Käro, Mariya Petrova, Maryana Spivak, Natalya Zemtsova, Viktoriya Isakova, Vladimir Ageyev, Yuriy Kuznetsov

Director: Pavel Kostomarov

Rating: TV-MA