20 Essential Films For An Introduction To Soviet Cinema

14. The Diamond Arm (Leonid Gaidai, 1969)

The Diamond Arm

A Russian cult film and one of the most successful and influential Soviet comedies of all time, The Diamond Arm is about Russian smuggles who want to transport a batch of jewelery from Turkey to Soviet Union by putting it into the courier’s orthopedic cast.

Like so many Soviet comedies, it involves a huge mix-up followed by unfortunate attempts to get things back in order. Full of witty catch-phrases used even to this time, and comical adventures, the film delivers us an amazing experience.


13. The Twelve Chairs (Leonid Gaidai, 1970)

12 stulyev

This film serves as an adaptation of the classic novel. Unlike so many films listed, it didn’t have a revolutionary effect in the film industry, nor did it criticize the Soviet Union. It has no special effect or imagery, but it is one of those films we love so much. The reason why this adaptation is so peculiar and differs from others is the main actor – Archil Gomiashvili, the man with amazing charisma and sense of humor.

One can even say that Gomiashvili wasn’t even acting as Ostap Bender, he was Ostap Bender. When we say Ostap Bender in post-soviet countries, the face of Gomiashvili istantly pops up. If you want to see a funny comedy which will leave you smiling even two hours after watching the film, then Twelve Chairs is the one.


12. Come and See (Elem Klimov, 1985)

come and see child

Another epic Soviet film, filled with intense images of violence, mass murder, robust imagery, Nazi barbarism, epic music, vomit, flies, sound of dogs, rifles and blood gushing from the guts.

A film that can be easily compared to Apocalypse Now, not because it drains you, but because it perfectly manages to represent the art of war and murder, the chaos of violence and noise and everything surrounding it. The film is dramatic and psychological. Both of the characters are played by Olga Mironova, and the films tell us the violence-charged tale of the World War II.


11. The Cranes Are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957)

The Cranes Are Flying

The only Soviet film that won the Palme d’Or. The film is very emotional and the acting is amazing, the themes and the plot are very touching. But the most amazing thing about the Cranes is Tatyana Samojlova – who plays Veronika. Veronika is Boris’ girlfriend, but when Boris leaves to fight the WWII, Veronika is left alone, without parents, and starts living with Boris’ family.

There, she is pursued by Mark, Boris’ cousin. Mark rapes Veronika and marries her in the end. The family shames her for betraying Boris, having no idea that Boris is actually dead. Telling the rest of the story will be a spoiler. Veronika is a very strong female character and she’s very humane, unlike many other female characters of that time. Fyodor, Boris’ father, is another perk of the film. The man is everything a man should be, but most of all, he is true to justice.


10. The Color of Pomegranates (Sergei Parajanov, 1968)


The film that USSR refused to release outside the Union, and let it circulate inside for only 2 months. The visual of the film was inspired by the ancient Armenian illuminated miniatures, charged with intense scenes and beautiful images, talking about which will only ruin the amazing experience that awaits you.

The film is a about a poet, Shayat-Nova and many other characters, six of them (including the poet, both male and female), are played by the Georgian actress, Sofiko Chiaureli. The poet’s story is told through his own poems, we see him falling in love, discovering his own self, going to the monastery. What’s so amazing about Pomegranates is its amazing Armenian imagery and atmosphere, which never fails to deliver everything that Armenia was at that time.


9. Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966)

Andrei Rublev

You cannot talk about Soviet films without mentioning Tarkovsky at least a hundred times. Andrei Rublev is an epic film, but also extremely hard to watch. It leaves you drained and exhausted. It’s set in the 15th century Russia and delivers a spectacular and realistic portrait of medieval Russia.

Rublev was a 15th century icon painter and the film shows us his struggles with the medieval times, his own artistic nature, and other people’s views on faith and art, sinners and saints, Russian royalties. The film involves some very intense scenes and themes, including faith and people’s struggles with those around them – this is Tarkovsky’s favorite subject. It will tire you, it will kill you, but the three and a half hours of Andrei Rublev are definitely worth your time.


8. The Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1975)

The Mirror

Yet another masterpiece by Tarkovsky, and his most personal film. It had a limited release, but this film still had a huge influence on other filmmakers. Tarkovsky had a hard time filming and distributing this one. While writing the script for The Mirror, Tarkvosky also worked on his films Solaris and Andrei Rublev, so it was hard for him to get things straight.

The film is presented in a non-chronological order, and it combines different scenes with dialogues and childhood memories of a man called Alexei. Alexei is presented in three different time frames: pre-war, war, and post-war. We see different scenes of his childhood, his parents, we hear him reading poems and tales about life.

Filming The Mirror was a very intense experience for the director, since it’s mostly autobiographical and tell the non-chronological life of Andrei Tarkovsky. The editing reminds us of Stalker, as the colors switch from colorful to black-and-white, depending on the mood of Alexei and the his memories.