This is a collection of 8 of the best films for learning the Russian language. Each of these movies is very famous and interesting, and they have great soundtracks. These actors are legends of the Russian / Soviet film industry, and their pronunciation of Russian words will not make you confused about what they are talking about.
If your level of Russian is not high yet, read the detailed descriptions below in order to understand what these films are about. I don’t recommend using English subtitles, because if you do – you will read them and ignore Russian speech.
1. Операция “Ы” и другие приключения Шурика (The operation “Ы” and other adventures of Shurik), 1965, Leonid Gaidai
This is the most famous Soviet/Russian movie, 99% of people in Russia and former Soviet republics have watched it more than one time. This is a cult movie with simple language and an interesting and funny plot. Some phrases from this movie became idioms, and the actor Alexander Demyanenko in the role of Shurik became the most famous actor.
This movie consists of 3 not long films about Shurik and his adventures:
The first film is about a bully who arranged a fight on the bus and was punished with 15 days of forced work in construction. There he meets Shurik and has to work with him. Then the comedy begins…
The phrase “Надо, Федя, надо!” which means something like “you don’t want, but you must” became an idiom in the Russian language.
The second film is a funny story about nerd students. Shurik is preparing for an exam and reads a textbook, then he follows a beautiful nerd girl with a conspectus of lectures on autopilot, while they both are studying so hard that don’t even see each other… Then after the exam, he dates this girl, and they don’t even know that they were both learning the conspectus by rote at her home…
The third film is actually called Operation “Ы”. The chief of the warehouse hires three rogues to stage a fake robbery of the warehouse in order to help him avoid revision. They call this operation “Ы”. But instead of the old babushka – the security guard asked Shurik to replace her that night… In this film, apart from Shurik, there are 3 other most famous Russian actors – Yury Nikulin, Georgy Vitsin, and Evgeny Morgunov in the roles of the rogues.
2. Кавказская пленница или новые приключения Шурика (Caucasian prisoner or new adventures of Shurik), 1965, Leonid Gaidai
Another story about Shurik, and another of the most famous Russian/Soviet movie. In this full-length film, Shurik travels to the Caucasus as a folklorist to learn about local traditions and customs. He meets the girl Nina who came there for vacation with her uncle.
The man with the last name Saachov wants to marry Nina and reach an agreement with her uncle to buy Nina 20 sheep and some other stuff. While Shurik is looking for local traditions, Saachov and Nina’s uncle conspire to show him the performance of the old local custom “Bride kidnapping”, however, it was not a performance but a real bride kidnapping. They hire three rogues in the roles of Yury Nikulin, Georgy Vitsin, and Evgeny Morgunov (same as in operation “Ы”) to complete this task.
The phrase “(Нина) просила, чтобы это сделали именно вы” – “(Nina) asked, that it must be done precisely by you” (change Nina to any other name or a pronoun) became an idiom in the Russian language.
3. Иван Васильевич меняет профессию (Ivan Vasilievich changes the profession), 1973, Leonid Gaidai
One more comedy story about Shurik. The film begins in black and white. Shurik is an inventor who tries to invent the time machine. He turns it on, it explodes, electricity breaks and Shurik falls, hits his head, and loses his mind. And the colorful vision begins…
The Shurik’s wife comes to his flat and says that leaves him. Then the thief George Miloslavskiy penetrates Shurik’s neighbor’s flat and robs it. And Shurik shows the time machine to the house manager Ivan Vasilievich, twin of the tzar Ivan the Terrible. He turns on the machine and the wall between his and neighbor’s flat disappears they see thief Miloslavsky, and he comes to Shurik’s flat getting interested in the device. Then Shurik increases the power and then through the wall the Tzar’s palace of the 16th century opens, and they see the tzar Ivan the Terrible. Suddenly one warrior-security throws a speak to the time machine, it gets broken, and Miloslavsky with Ivan Vasilievich leave in the 16th century and Shurik with the Tzar in the current time…
4. Бриллиантовая рука (The Diamond hand), 1968, Leonid Gaidai
Also one of the most famous Soviet/Russian films ever. In the main roles of Yury Nikulin and Andrei Mironov.
Contrabandists traffic illegal diamonds from abroad. The member of the gang of contrabandists Gennady/Gesha(actor – Andrei Mironov) goes on a cruise to Istanbul to get a party of valuable diamonds and meets the tourist Semyon (actor – Yury Nikulin) who was in the same cabin. Gesha had to go to a place, stage a scene of fake falling on watermelon crust and traumatizing his arm and say the password «черт побери! (dammit!)» next to the pharmacy where he had to get a party of contraband diamonds and carry them inside gypsum bandage. He walks with Semyon and then leaves him and runs to that street. And Semyon ran to look for him, but suddenly came to that street, fell on watermelon crusts, broke his arm, and said the same password. And he got diamonds under bondage instead of Gesha…
5. Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром (The irony of fate, or Enjoy your bath!), 1976, Eldar Ryazanov
This film is always shown on 31st December on Russian television. In many families, it is a tradition to watch this old movie on New Year’s eve.
My friend Angelos even created a Russian Language course based on this film.
Evgeny(Zhenya) is going to propose marriage to Galya, and celebrate the New Year with her in a new flat. And on New Year’s eve, he goes to banya with his friends according to their old tradition. Then they get drunk and go to see off their friend Pavlik at the airport, however, drunk friends by mistake put sleepy Zhenya on the airplane instead of Pavlik (at that time there was not such strict security at the airport, so it was possible) and he flies to Leningrad (Saint-Petersburg now). When he wakes up at Leningrad’s airport, he orders a taxi and requests a ride to his address. He comes to the address with the same street name as in Moscow and opens the flat with the key from his flat in Moscow. Being still with a hangover, Zhenya feels asleep there, and soon the beautiful woman Nadezhda comes home, she was going to spend the New Year with her fiancé…
6. Приключения Шерлока Холмса и доктора Ватсона (The adventures of Sherlok Holmes and Doctor Watson), tv-serie, 1979-1986, Igor Maslennikov
There are many screen versions of this popular book. However, pay special attention to this one. This is a Soviet/Russian screen version of the story about Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson with Russian actors. In fact, one of the best screen versions. It contains 11 very interesting series. The series is followed by a great soundtrack.
The phrase “Элементарно, Ватсон!” – “Elementary, Watson!” became an idiom in the Russian language.
7. Старик Хоттабыч (Old man Khottabych), 1956, Gennady Kazansky
Old Soviet/Russian fantasy movie.
Kids are swimming in the Moskva river, and suddenly 12 years old Volka Kastylkov finds a closed bulb with a gene in the river. Gene’s name is Gassan Abdurahmad Ibn Khottab, or just Khottabych, and he is trying to serve the child due to his gratitude for finding him.
8. Невероятные приключения итальянцев в России (Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia), 1974, Eldar Ryazanov, Franco Prosperi
An elderly Russian woman in an Italian hospital tells with her last breath tells to her granddaughter that she belongs to a rich aristocratic bloodline and when she fled Russia (i.e. after the revolution), she left a very big treasure, a total of 9 billion Italian lire in Leningrad (now Petersburg), “underneath the lion”, but didn’t mention under which one. Apart from the granddaughter, it was heard by the doctor, two male nurses a mafioso, and a patient with an injured leg. And then they all travel to Petersburg to find this treasury. And they are also joined by a Russian tour guide Andrey…