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10 Extraordinary Movies Set In Moscow That Will Inspire You To Visit!

10 Extraordinary Movies Set In Moscow That Will Inspire You To Visit!

Moscow has a lot to offer for both national and international filmmakers. The city is known for its architectural treasures, and for being a capital of art. It is also well known for its historical heritage and vibrant urban society. So it will come as no surprise that there are so many wonderful movies set in Moscow.

Moscow is one of the top destinations for people who are in love with history and the culture of the past. One of the oldest cities in Russia, Moscow was founded during medieval times in 1147. During this last millennium, the city has seen some of the biggest events in world history take place within its buildings and upon its streets. And little particles of each of those events are still held there: it’s a place that radiates with the energy of the past. 

10 Extraordinary Movies Set In Moscow That Will Inspire You To Visit!

Anyone interested in the history of the world should visit Moscow. And if history is not your thing, the city features many other things that will interest you. Take a peek through these films and see what part of Moscow you like the most.

These films set in Moscow have narratives that rely on their settings as much as their main protagonists, and as a result, spectators get a glimpse of this iconic country through the director’s eyes. To honor the concept of cinematic travel, we have also assembled lists of our favorite films shot in some of our all-time favorite travel destinations: Vancouver, Madrid, Dubai, Florence or Budapest.

Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, or elsewhere.

You can get one month free of Amazon Prime (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.

Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best. 

While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.

10 Extraordinary Movies Set In Moscow That Will Inspire You To Visit!
10 Extraordinary Movies Set In Moscow That Will Inspire You To Visit!
10 Extraordinary Movies Set In Moscow That Will Inspire You To Visit!

Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears [Moskva slezam ne verit] (1980)

What better way to start this list of the best movies set in Moscow than with one of the best films taking place there? Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears is a melodrama, as the title clearly anticipates. Yet it’s also one of those films that anyone should watch during their lifetime, whether they like dramas or not.

The film was directed by Vladimir Menshov, a prolific filmmaker and actor who rose to prominence after the success of the film in question: the film was thoroughly praised, both in Russia and in the rest of the world. It went on to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

The film is set in the eponymous city in 1958, but around the middle, it leaps forward toward 1978. Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears follows three female friends who meet in the city after leaving their respective countryside towns away. Each of them has an objective in the city, something they want to do or someone they want to see, but they’ll find that Moscow doesn’t care for the wants of young people.

The main attraction of Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears is these three women and their distinct personalities. Lyudmila (Irina Muravyova) spends most of her time flirting with wealthy men in the hopes of finding a husband. Katerina (Vera Alentova) just wants to work and study, with her only dream being to get her chemistry degree. And then there’s Antonina (Raisa Ryazanova), who is dating a shy but kind young man who also comes from the countryside.

The movie will see the three go through some tough choices that will haunt them even twenty years later.

The Russia House (1990)

This classic spy film stars Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer, one as a British man and one as a Soviet woman, as star-crossed lovers who want to be together despite the political turmoil between their two countries. The film has a special place in the history of the world, for it was the first American movie to ever be shot on location on Russian soil.

Based on a 1989 novel by John le Carré, the film adaptation was written by Tom Stoppard, a legendary screenwriter from Britain who penned some of the best scripts of the eighties—he was responsible for films like Brazil and Empire of the Sun

The Russian House follows Bartholomew Scott-Blair (played by Connery), a British man who works for a publishing firm, as he travels to Moscow on business. There he partakes in a writer’s retreat, where he is approached by a mysterious man known only as “Dante”.

The movie cuts to a couple of months later and picks up with Katya, a young Soviet woman (played by Pfeiffer), who is trying to send a message to Barney. Disguised as a book, she sends him a thorough report on the Soviet Union’s nuclear armament. 

The film will see Barney and Katya meeting after the two of them are questioned by the police. The two of them will become closer and closer, eventually falling in love. But they are both involved in an operation where the MI6 and the CIA put their forces together.

Turns out, that “Dante” was an important Soviet physicist who had control over the nuclear bombs. As tensions rise, their role in this conflict will become much more complex.

Rocky IV (1985)

If, by this point in time, you haven’t watched the films in the Rocky franchise, you should do yourself a favor and check them out. Especially the first film, Rocky, and the last one, Rocky Balboa. People usually have an erroneous idea of what these movies were, what they stood for, and what they meant for so many people

In fact, people get their worst ideas about Rocky from watching Rocky IV. Ask any fan of the franchise, and they’re bound to tell you that this movie, and the fifth one, were the ones where things went off the rails.

The movie follows Rocky Balboa (played by Sylvester Stallone, who also wrote and directed most of the films in the franchise, including this one) as he helps his friend Apollo Creed to train for his fight against the Soviet boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren).

But as the match goes on, it becomes obvious that Apollo can’t beat Drago. Rocky decides not to throw in the towel, just as he had promised his friend. As a result, Apollo ends up dying from the beating. Furious and searching for revenge, Rocky challenges Ivan to a fight in Moscow.

However, it’s still a good movie to go back to as a piece of cultural history. After years of the Cold War being fought in all possible ways that didn’t entail real-life war, it came the time when movies became a fighting ground too.

Films had always been ideological —one only has to see to Leni Riefenstahl’s work, but now two representatives of the world’s most powerful military and economic world powers would go at it in the ring.

Collector [Kollektor] (2016)

Collector, by Alexey Krasovsky, was an unexpected hit that popped up in 2016. It’s a captivating film that mixes equal parts thriller and drama while adding a little bit of adventure. It tells the story of a debt collector who becomes ostracized by Muscovite society once of video of him doing horrible acts (the contents of the video are never disclosed) becomes viral on the Internet.

The video is fake, meaning that someone did this to him. And he will find them. It’s a chilling mystery that is both psychological and very much physical at the same time.

The best part of Collector is the character of Arthur, the arrogant, sadistic, and malicious debt collector that is the film’s protagonist. He isn’t the kind of collector to harm debtors, but he does stalk them and hounds them during the whole day until he manages to make them pay.

It’s an incredibly horrible character that was perfectly played by Konstantin Khabensky, who won several awards for Best Actor, both at the Kinotavr Film Festival and at the Prague Independent Film Festival.

The movie itself also won many awards in these and more festivals. Some critics have said something very interesting about the film: that even upon release, it seems like a genre-making cult classic film that people will talk about again and again.

After his life seems to be ruined by the fake video that’s spreading online like a virus, Arthur receives a call from a woman who tells him that this is her doing. She also says that she’s doing this because Arthur was harassing her husband in order to collect a debt, which made him commit suicide.

Guardians [Zaschitniki] (2017)

Fans of superhero movies owe it to themselves to watch the fantastic interpretation of the genre that is Guardians, by Sarik Andreasyan. Don’t take this comment as an endorsement of the film. Guardians is widely considered to be a bad film, with some even saying that it’s one of the worst films ever made.

While that probably isn’t true, it’s hard to compare the film to any other superhero movie made anywhere in the world. However, that’s where the best part about the film comes in.

Guardians is a thorough look at an attempt to capture Russian society in superhero form. It wasn’t a good attempt, but it does offer us, viewers, the chance to see what these writers thought would make the Russian people feel represented and inspired.

Once you hear about the superheroes in this film, you’ll learn why it’s so funny. In essence, you can either watch the film in hopes of laughing at it or in hopes of analyzing its portrayal of Russian culture. Either way will be a fun time.

The film follows the creation of the Guardians, a group of Soviet superheroes created during World War II. There are four members of the team. Arsus, the man that can become a bear. Khan is a super-fast ninja who wields two swords. Ler, is an earth-bender who can move rocks with his mind. And lastly, Xenia, whose power allows her to become invisible under the water.

When an experiment goes wrong, the Guardians are betrayed by the government and go into hiding, only to resurface several years later, when a new threat to the city of Moscow appears.

The Death of Stalin (2017)

The Death of Stalin is not a documentary, but rather a political satire and black comedy that wasn’t made with Russia’s permission or approval. It parodies the instability and treacherous fights that sparked in the Soviet Council of Ministers when Stalin died. Surprisingly enough, it isn’t based on a book.

The film was originally a French comic book that told the story of Stalin’s last days on Earth, as well as the power struggle between Lavrentiy Beria and Nikita Khrushchev that took place after he passed away.

The film was made by Armando Iannucci, a Scottish of Italian descent who has had a long career writing, producing, and directing TV shows and films that smartly poke fun at politics—most notably, in his shows The Thick of It and Veep.

So, it’s no surprise that a film like this managed to be such a loved piece of satire, at least outside of Russia: it was banned there for making fun of one of the country’s most important rulers. The film earned Iannucci two BAFTAS, as well as other awards and nominations.

The Death of Stalin begins with an innocuous event that kicks off a series of happenings that end up with Stalin dead. When he dies, his guards are the first to notice, for they hear him fall to the floor. But they are scared of going into his room. So, it isn’t until morning that someone finds the body. And it’s the housekeeper.

The whole Central Committee that was attached to the president reunites to try to decide what to do; all the while, they secretly plan to get rid of each other.

Mermaid [Rusalka] (2007)

As you may have noticed, this list doesn’t feature many female directors. And that is because the Russian film industry isn’t as egalitarian as one would like. However, a few women are working in Russian cinema today who have fresh and unique things to say.

Chief among them is Anna Melikian, a Russian filmmaker who was born in Azerbaijan and is of Armenian descent. She worked for a long-time during the 90s doing TV commercials and projects. While she did two films in the early 00s, it wouldn’t be until the release of Mermaid that she’d enjoy international recognition.

Mermaid took both Russia and the world by storm: people and critics were rushing to the cinema to experience this picturesque film that was filled with charm and quirkiness. The film tells the story of a girl called Alisa (Mariya Shalayeva) who can fulfill her own wishes.

While at school, she uses her powers for menial things. But when she wishes to move out of her house by the seaside, a hurricane comes and leaves her, her mother, and her grandmother, homeless. They have no choice but to say goodbye to the sea and go off to Moscow.

While living in Moscow, Alisa continues exploring her powers: when she doesn’t qualify for her desired university, she wishes that she would have, causing the student that was just above her to die. As you may imagine, these things are treated with the care they deserve.

The things that Alisa has done deeply disturb her. That’s until her 18th birthday when she’s about to jump off a bridge but sees a man doing it first. She saves this man with her powers and falls in love with him.

Burnt by the Sun [Utomlyonnye solntsem] (1994)

Burnt by the Sun tells a heart-wrenching chapter of Russia’s history. While Stalin has been mentioned before in jest when talking about The Death of Stalin, he’s actually a very complex historical figure.

For one, he was the leader of the Soviet Union for decades, meaning that many people who lived and were taught what to think under that regime are very partial to his memory. But he was also a mass murderer who went after the members of his own party again and again.

In the bloodiest episode in Russia’s story, Stalin ordered a Great Purge: those who fought for the revolution with him were now considered his enemies, and, one by one, they were assassinated.

Both political leaders and members of the army were killed between 1936 and 1938. Civilians weren’t safe either; many massacres took place in the name of ridding the Communist Party of disloyal members. The people who died in this time still have living relatives to this day, so you may imagine why Stalin is such a controversial figure in Russia.

Burnt by the Sun, by Nikita Mikhalkov, is a great film to see how this happened. The film follows Sergei Petrovich Kotov (played by Mikhalkov himself), a commanding officer of the army who is on vacation with his family in the Russian countryside when the purge begins. One fateful day, they receive a visit from Dimitri Arsentyev (Oleg Menshikov), an old friend of the family.

But this isn’t any visit: Sergei begins suspecting that Dimitri is there with an ulterior motive he can’t quite decipher. When his old friend reveals that he’s with the Stalinist police now, Sergei puts two and two together and becomes aware of the danger he and his family are in.

Andrei Rublev [Andrey Rublyóv] (1966)

A list of films in Russia, whether they are set in Moscow or the countryside, can’t be complete without the inclusion of Andrei Tarkovsky. Considered by many to be the best director to ever live, Tarkovsky imbued each of his films with so much meaning that even the most distracted of watches will be worthwhile.

Yes, all his films are worth your time. If you aren’t familiar with his work, Andrei Rublev is a great place to start: out of all his films, it features a more or less linear story with a very prominent main character who you’ll surely fall in love with.

The film tells the story of the titular Andrei Rublev, a Russian painter from the Middle Ages who used to live in Moscow. His work consisted of many Christian icons and murals. If you ever visit Moscow, you shouldn’t miss the chance to see some of Rublev’s work, for it’s quite moving even to this day. The film follows the life of this figure as he goes about in an incredibly realistic depiction of medieval Russia.

Andrei Rublev, like many of Tarkovsky’s films, is considered to be one of the best of all time. Even upon its release, people were already praising it for representing such a unique approach to making cinema: it won the FIPRESCI prize at Cannes, although the version shown there is not the one you can see today.

As a result of the Soviet Union’s censorship laws, Tarkovsky had to make several cuts of the film until in 1971, five years after it was finished, it got an official release in the country. Still, people appreciated such a gem of filmmaking, even if it came late.

Anna Karenina (2012)

What better way to end this list than with a film that shows Moscow in its time of most opulence and lavishness? Anna Karenina was directed by Joe Wright, who brought his frequent collaborator, Keira Knightley, to play the titular character.

Wright already had quite some experience adapting period books, as shown by his films Pride & Prejudice and Atonement. However, in order to capture Tolstoy’s epic story, he needed to recruit the help of Tom Stoppard, whose work precedes him (and who was mentioned when talking about The Russian House.

But it seems like their work didn’t pay off as well as they had hoped: Anna Karenina received many nominations, even Academy Awards, but won very few prizes. What’s worse, not many people went to see it even though it’s a retelling of one of the best pieces of literature ever made.

However one looks at it, it’s disappointing that this great film wasn’t received as well as it could have been.

Anna Karenina is set in 1874, during the time of the Russian Empire. Something terrible happens in the court: the princess, Darya (Matthew Macfadyen), banishes her charming yet unfaithful husband, Stephan (Kelly Macdonald). To set things right, his sister, Anna, goes to Moscow with the hopes of being able to persuade the princess to forgive her brother.

After some talking, she managed to convince her to take him back. But she doesn’t go right away to Saint Peterburg: Anna stays in the court, where many romances are beginning to form. Among her suitors will be Karenin (Jude Law), her husband, and Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), her lover.