Russia is rich in both history and culture. You might be planning a trip there, or maybe you are just interested to learn something about the Russian culture or want to look at some beautiful Russian landscapes. With this list of ten movies set and filmed in the home of Vodka, we got you covered.
Russia has a strong film industry. From mainstream blockbusters and art house films to independent documentaries and contemporary masterpieces, all these movies provide some insight into the condition of the Russian state and the essence of Russian culture. And you might be surprised to find out some of Hollywood’s biggest movies were also filmed there, some of which you might even have totally forgotten about.
This intense cinematic history along with its thinkers, artists, landscapes, and the world-defining events that occurred here offers the crucial elements that continue to compel storytellers and filmmakers to immortalize this diverse country in countless films. The resulting gift is a wonderfully intricate and excellent array of movies set in Russia from which to recommend the ‘best’ from.
This is what motivated us to visit Maine, Ireland, and Austria – among many other places. Then there are those luxurious moments you can step out in a real-world location and feel spontaneously expatriated back inside an iconic movie frame (thus explaining the abiding popularity of visiting Middle Earth / New Zealand or James Bond’s Skyfall).
When it comes to Russia, these films will have you counting the days until you can wander the ghostly Central Air Force Museum in Monino, venture to Bolgar (the Russias Golden Horde UNESCO Site) or explore the numerous other iconic landmarks of Russia for yourself.
In the following paragraphs, we dive into some of Russia’s best cinematic pieces and why they deserve to be watched, as well as some of the locations featured and the reasons to visit them. All these movies are set in Russia, and many are also Russian films to get a taste of that quintessentially Russian atmosphere (that you then may be able to sample for yourself on your next trip!)
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, Apply TV+, or elsewhere.
You can get one month free of Amazon Pride (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.
Cast Away is an American survival film directed and produced by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, and Nick Searcy. The movie tells the story of Chuck Noland, a high-ranking official at FedEx who puts his work ahead of his personal life.
While flying with a cargo plane he gets caught in a storm. When part of the payload explodes, the plane crashes into the Pacific Ocean. Chuck manages to escape from the plane as it sinks and washes up on an island. While his loved ones continue their lives under the assumption that he died in the accident, he devises ways to survive and escape the island.
Yes, we hear you thinking “Didn’t Cast Away take place on an island?” Indeed it does (the island is in the Yasawa’s in Fiji), however, what some viewers might have forgotten is that this movie actually starts in Moscow, the capital and largest city of Russia.
In the openings scenes of the movie, we see demanding systems engineer Chuck giving the local Russian staff a hard time. These scenes really were filmed in Moscow, just off the famous Red Square, one of the oldest and largest squares in Moscow.
Sputnik is a Russian science-fiction horror film directed by Egor Abramenko in his feature directorial debut. The movie stars Pyotr Fyodorov, Fedor Bondarchuk, and Oksana Akinshina. The film takes place in the Soviet Union in the year 1983.
Astronaut Konstantin is the sole survivor of a space mission. He returns to Earth, and in doing so brings with him an alien that has lodged itself in his body. During the night the alien leaves his body to feed on helpless victims. Konstantin ends up in a secret laboratory where neurophysiologist Tatyana starts studying Konstantin and the alien.
Filming on Sputnik took place in and around Moscow, and most scenes were filmed at the Shemyakin and Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, the main center of physical-chemical biology and biotechnology in the Russian Federation. It is a subordinate organization of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation.
The movie was not that well received by Russian film critics but did much better internationally. So much so that an American remake was announced in March of 2021.
The movie was directed by Paul Greengrass and stars Matt Damon, Joan Allen, and Brian Cox. The story is about a CIA operation getting disrupted by a Russian rival and killing two people in the process, of which Jason Bourne gets accused. Bourne is living in a remote village under another name with Marie during all of this. But these recent developments force him to resume his life as a silent killer.
The Bourne Supremacy was filmed in The United States, India, Germany, and Russia, which we will be focusing on for the sake of this article. It is a wild and suspenseful car chase that takes us through the streets of Moscow. One of the streets that this chase takes place on is Komsomolsky Prospekt.
We also get to see Rozhdestvensky Boulevard, a major boulevard located in the Meshchansky District of Moscow. The chase also takes the viewer to Trubnaya Square and finally to the Krylatskoye District, a territorial division located in Western Administrative Okrug.
Burnt By The Sun is a Russian / French drama film by director and screenwriter Nikita Mikhalkov and starring Oleg Menshikov, Nikita Mikhalkov and Ingeborga Dapkūnaitė. The film received an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1994.
The story takes place in Russia in the year 1936, where Hero of the Russian revolution Colonel Kotov spends an idyllic summer at his vacation home with his young wife, his 6-year-old daughter Nadya, and other relatives and friends. The calm summer changes dramatically with the unannounced visit of cousin Mitya from Moscow, a real charmer who impresses the women. He also takes over little Nadya with his games and piano playing. But Kotov is not that easily fooled and knows something is up.
Burnt by the Sun was filmed in various locations in the Moscow Province, as well as in the capital Moscow itself. The village that was used is Nikolina Gora, which is located in Moscow Oblast, a federal subject of Russia. The vacation home is located in Nizhny Novgorod, which is the administrative center of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast and the Volga Federal District. Additional scenes were also filmed in the Mosfilm fllm studio located in Moscow.
The Russia House is an American spy film directed by Fred Schepisi and starring Sean Connery, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Roy Scheider. The movie is about three notebooks that are believed to contain Russian military secrets. These notebooks come in the possession of a British reporter during a Russian book conference. The British secret service then start to wonder whether the information contained in the notebooks is actually reliable. They call in reporter Barley Blair, who has a lot of experience with Russians and the Russian language.
The Russia House was filmed in Portugal, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Russia, where the majority of filming took place. Most of the shooting was done in the cities Moscow and Leningrad. Some well-known Russian landmarks can be seen in the film. For instance the Exhibition of Achievements of National, a general-purpose trade show and amusement park, and the I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University, both of which are located in Moscow.
Kolomenskoye Park can also be seen in the movie, which today is an open-air museum and park with a set of highly prized buildings, most outstanding among them being the Church of the Ascension (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the Wooden Palace of Czar Alexei Mikhailovich.
War And Peace is a Russian romantic drama film starring Lyudmila Saveleva, Vyacheslav Tikhonov, and Sergey Bondarchuk, who was also the director. The film is a retelling of Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and it is widely considered as being one of the most expensive and longest films of all time and having some of the most elaborate battle scenes ever filmed.
The film is broken into four parts telling two intertwining stories, that of the war itself and that of the romance of Russian aristocrats Count Pierre Bezukhov (Bondarchuk) and Countess Natasha Rostova (Saveleva).
War and Peace was filmed in various locations throughout Russia, too many to list them all, so we will mention only a few key Russian landmarks that can be seen in the movie. Like the Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed, more commonly known as Saint Basil’s Cathedral. It is an Orthodox church located on the Red Square of Moscow and is considered to be one of the most popular cultural symbols of Russia. The Ivan the Great Bell Tower can also be clearly seen in the movie. It is a church tower inside the Moscow Kremlin complex with a height of 81 meters, the tallest tower, and structure of the Kremlin.
Some scenes were filmed at the Joseph Volokolamsk Monastery, a monastery for men, located about 17 kilometers northeast of Volokolamsk, in the Moscow Oblast. The execution of the prisoner’s scenes was filmed at the Novodevichy Convent, also known as Bogoroditse-Smolensky Monastery, one of the more well-known cloisters of Moscow.
The Loves Of Liszt is a Hungarian / Russian musical drama film produced and directed by Márton Keleti, based on the biography of the Hungarian composer and pianist Franz Liszt. The movie stars Imre Sinkovits, Ariadna Shengelaia and Sándor Pécsi.
The film tells the story of Franz Liszt, who defeats renowned pianist Thalberg at a piano competition in a distinguished saloon of Paris. Through his playing, he wins the favors and later the hand of the countess D’Agoult. A daughter named Cosima is born in their marriage. Liszt gets more well-known, and Marie decides to introduce him to the circle of artists.
The Loves of Liszt was filmed in Hungary, Ukraine, Italy, Germany, and Russia, which we will be focusing on for the sake of this article. The famous Nevsky Prospect street can be seen in the movie. It is the main street in the federal city of St. Petersburg and takes its name from the Alexander Nevsky Lavra, the monastery which stands at the eastern end of the street.
Many scenes were filmed at the Bolshoi Theatre, a historic theatre located in Moscow which holds ballet and opera performances. The theatre was designed by architect Joseph Bové. Various other scenes were filmed in and around the city of St. Petersburg.
In The Forests Of Siberia is a French survival film directed by Safy Nebbou and starring Raphaël Personnaz and Evgeniy Sidikhin. The movie is an adaptation of Sylvain Tesson’s book The Consolations of the Forest, published in 2011.
The film tells the story of Teddy, who decides to move away from the noise of the world and settle in a cabin on the frozen shores of Lake Baikal to satisfy his need for freedom. One evening, when he loses his way in a snowstorm, he is rescued by Aleksei, a Russian on the run, who has been living hidden for years in the Siberian forests. A close friendship quickly develops between these two men with their great contrasts.
In the Forests of Siberia was filmed on the desolate parts of Lake Baikal, a rift lake located in southern Siberia between the federal subjects of Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and Buryatia to the southeast. Lake Baikal is the world’s largest freshwater lake by volume, containing 23% of the world’s fresh surface water. One of the places where scenes were filmed is called The Shore of the Brown Bears, an area which is uninhabited.
There are no roads, no villages, and there is no phone service. The Shore of the Brown Bears is located north of Maloe More. Another location where cameras rolled is Idiba Hollow. It’s located on Olkhon Island, near the Khuzhir Village. This area is less wild, and sometimes gets visited by tourists. Just as the title of the movie suggests, the French and Russian production crews had to survive the forests to bring this movie to the silver screen.
Devil’s Pass is a Russian / Finnish found footage horror film directed by Renny Harlin and starring Holly Goss, Matt Stokoe, and Luke Albright. The movie is based upon the Dyatlov Pass Incident, a real-life event in which nine Russian hikers died in the northern Ural Mountains between the first and second of February 1959, under mysterious circumstances.
In the film all nine bodies are found dead, half-naked, and hundreds of yards from their camp. The bodies contain high levels of radiation and they have serious internal injuries, including broken ribs and skulls. Yet they have no discernible external injuries. Five American students hope to solve this riddle by reconstructing the ill-fated expedition and recording their findings on film.
Filming on Devil’s Pass did not take place in the Urals where the actual event happened, but in the Khibiny Mountains, one of the two main mountain ranges of the Kola Peninsula, within the Arctic Circle, located between Imandra and Umbozero lakes. Director Harlin choose this location because he needed a snowy environment in not-too-harsh weather conditions to film in.
The settlements of Ivdel and Vizhay in Sverdlovsk Region as seen in the film are actually the polar town of Kirovsk, located in the Murmansk Region.
The Barber Of Siberia is a Russian film directed by Nikita Mikhalkov and starring Julia Ormond, Oleg Menshikov, and Aleksey Petrenko. The movie was screened out of competition at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival. The film tells the story of a woman (Ormond) who, in early 1900s Russia, first helps a man who might be her father and then falls in love with a cadet (Menshikov) who gets exiled to Siberia.
The Barber of Siberia was filmed in the Czech Republic, Portugal, and Russia. The Russian locations include the city Krasnoyarsk, the largest city and administrative center of Krasnoyarsk Krai. It is situated along the Yenisey River, and is the third-largest city in Siberia after Novosibirsk and Omsk.
Khakassia is also one of the shooting locations. It is a federal subject of Russia, and its capital city is Abakan, which is the largest city in the republic. Cameras also rolled in Nizhny Novgorod, which is the administrative center of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast and the Volga Federal District, and Russia’s capital Moscow.
This concludes our list of ten movies set and filmed in Russia. We hope our list will inspire you to give these movies a watch. And who knows, after the credits have rolled it might even inspire you to visit the world’s largest country, with its 11 time zones across two continents and shores on three oceans.
Enjoy your vodka, and safe travels!