Brother (1997)

  • Genre: Crime drama

Directed by Aleksei Balabanov, this film has become an anthem for the generation of Russians who lived through the gloomy ’90s. The plot is rather trivial: Danila Bogrov just got out of the army and came to St. Petersburg to find his brother. Learning the rules of the сruel big city life, he soon becomes involved in some criminal activities. 

Even after some 20 years and a change of political and economic environment, the movie remains extremely popular – it’s quoted, discussed, and shown on the big screen. While some feel nostalgic about the atmosphere and soundtrack, others may still adore the hero of the time – despite soon becoming a criminal himself, the main character is still kind and honest and is there to defend the weak. Besides, it’s just a great visual record of that age: from stores selling CDs to rave parties.

If you feel like walking in Danila’s footsteps check out our movie guide to St. Petersburg!

Mermaid (2007)

  • Genre: Drama, comedy

Not so widely known among the Russian audience as the options mentioned above (read – it’s not shown on Russian TV every month), Mermaid by Anna Melikyan, however, was recognized internationally: in 2008, the movie was nominated for an Oscar, before that taking prizes at Sundance and Berlin International Film Festivals.

The movie tells a romantic story about a girl with a superpower, who, after turning 18, heads to Moscow to run away from her apocalyptic past, and falls in love with a young businessman whom she saves from suicide. And further plot twists only demonstrate the unconventionality of the author's idea. Thanks to the gentle mix of light comedy, drama, and fantasy Mermaid became trailblazing for the Russian cinema industry of the late ’00s and remains so today. Some journalists call this movie “A Russian Amélie” pointing to similarities in ambiance, colors, and the director’s attention to detail.

I’m Losing It (2018)

  • Genre: Comedy 

For those who enjoy important messages being conveyed through simple, at first sight, comedy tricks, here's a movie to your to-watch list. The highest-grossing film of 2018, I’m Losing It is a comedy on the importance of self-love in the modern world with the reigning cult of beauty.

The plot revolves around Anya from Nizhny Novgorod, a young woman who tries to lose her weight to save her relationship with her boyfriend while coping with fat shaming in obvious and not so obvious ways. In general, the movie is made in the vibe of I Feel Pretty or Bridget Jones’s Diary yet it represents the problem of self-acceptance taking Russian realities into account.

Major Grom: Plague Doctor (2021)

  • Genre: Action, adventure 

For now, Major Grom can be called the most-talked-about movie of the year 2021 in Russia – at least because the premiere took place three years after its teaser was screened. Based on the graphic novel series made by the local Bubble Comics, it’s rather noticeable for another reason: the movie’s superhero is a police officer, acting in a peculiar comics universe unfolding in St. Petersburg. Despite his unconventional working methods, Igor Grom is an honest and skilled cop (as you can see, honesty is a highly appreciated trait in Russian movie characters), who succeeds in catching criminals far better than his colleagues. So it’s not a surprise that when the city falls under threat from the villain with a plague doctor’s mask and imperial plans, only major Grom can save the day.

As the Russian motion picture industry is only making its first steps in producing spectacular action movies, it’s fair to say that by now Major Grom is no match to the epic Marvel universe films. But is it that bad? That’s the thing that caused the heated discussion around: should we sometimes close our eyes to flaws to support one's development or demand the best here and now? Nevertheless, for me, it's a movie worth checking out at least to make your own opinion on the topic.

To explore the world of Russian cinema and culture, check our stories on movies.