Russian Resources: Movies


By: Anthony Davies

When you're learning a language, it's really helpful to have a range of resources readily available so that you can supplement and support your study. To this end, guest blogger Anthony Davies has assembled a series of posts around Russian resources. In this post, he tells you where you can watch Russian films and which ones to look out for. Enjoy and let us know what you think in the comments!


Mosfilm films


Soyuzmultfilm - children's cartoons

Russia's 'Perviy Kanal' offers a selection of 120 films and series, many with Russian subtitles (see 'Помощь' in top right corner of page, followed by '6. Просмотр с субтитрами'). Subscribe for 300 rubles for 30 days (approx. £3/$4) or hire individual films/series for 99 rubles each. Payment to be made using Visa or MasterCard, and you may need to let your bank know you are making a payment to Russia. And as for many, many things in Russia, you will need to give a mobile phone number to receive a confirmation code.

Russia's 'Perviy Kanal' (Channel 1) films can be watched online at the time of broadcasting in Russia (3 hours ahead of UK GMT, 2 ahead of Western Europe, 8-11 ahead of USA).

Amazon Prime has a limited number of Russian films available to view (about 30% of 100 most popular Russian films). Some will need to be rented for $3-4 as they are not included in Prime Membership.


Ирония судьбы, или С легким паром (1976)

Not only the No.1 Russian film you have to have seen, but an interesting story that, although 3 hours long, has you guessing and re-guessing the ending throughout. Helpful for understanding Russian mentality and impulsiveness, «эмоциональность». And perfect for Beginners and Intermediate level, with slow speech occupying 95-100% of film time, and uncomplicated grammar (difficulty 2/5). Vocabulary covers topics such as the home, relationships, drinking habits, and travel, with a difficulty of 4/10 in the first 90 minutes, and 3/10 in the second half. Clarity of speech is 8/10 throughout. Quaint, but highly enjoyable all the same, and gives a good insight into Russian culture. Comes highly recommended. rating 8.1, IMDb 8.4. 184 minutes.

Watch this with other friends who are learning Russian, perhaps in several sittings (can be split nicely into 3 1-hour parts), as whilst in Russia you will be hard pressed to find a Russian willing to watch it yet again, as they see it every year on New Year's Eve, and rarely have охото to watch it at any other time...

И в а н в а с и л ь е в и ч м е н я е т п р о ф е с с и я (1973) (Ivan Vasilevich - Back to the future)

A brilliant film, which sees a truly comic time-travel exchange between a 1970s Communist cadre and a notorious historical figure. Genius originality, laugh-out-loud humour (if slapstick is your cup of tea) and very highly rated ( 8.8/10, IMDb 8.5/10). Hitler jokes in very poor taste bring Fawlty Towers to mind (but this film was made first, by just a few years). Difficulty of vocabulary 5/10, apart from some archaic Russian from centuries past (9/10), particularly in the middle third of the film, which will keep Advanced levels and beyond on their toes. Vocabulary topics covered include history, relationships, Soviet policies and rules. Grammatical difficulty 3.5/5, and clarity of speech 7/10 - but occasionally some characters do speak quite fast. The first third of the film includes several 'interludes' without speech, meaning dialogue fills only 50%, but do not be put off, after easing you in slowly this rises to about 85% for the rest of the film. Rated 12 due to some mild language. Some historical references which will keep any history nerds happy. Watch it! 88 mins.

Джентлмены удачи (1971) (Gentlemen of Fortune)

An enchanting, heart-touching tale for all ages. Soviet authorities decide to place a caring primary school headteacher in the place of a look-alike, highly dangerous criminal, in the hope of finding out the whereabouts of contraband from his cronies. None of whom remember, even after escaping prison together and roaming Moscow. As time passes, the fake crook takes a liking to his subordinates, and his caring heart towards and gentle education of his cronies shows. They, however, hatch a different plan, which of course goes to pot when an unexpected character turns up. A truly charming film, suitable for a range of levels. Vocabulary is fairly straightforward (difficulty 4/10) but clarity of speech is 6/10, with characters speaking fast most of the time, but slowly on occasion. Vocabulary topics covered include crime, prison, school, friendship. Grammar difficulty is 2.5/5. Dialogue occurs 85% of the time, making this suitable for Beginners and Intermediate learners wishing to challenge themselves in listening, and expand their vocabulary somewhat. rating 8.5, IMDb 8.6. 84 mins. (Youtube's warnings about possible inappropriate content are entirely unfounded, this is appropriate for all ages.)

Операция «Ы» и другие приключения Шарика (1965)

Popular with language teachers, this collection of 3 half-hour episodes contains much slapstick comedy, little speech (30-40% of film time) and fairly straightforward grammar (1/5 for final episode, Операция «Ы»; 2/5 for others). Difficulty of vocabulary ranges from 3 to 4/10 throughout, but speech is spoken at native or near-native speed, clarity of speech 6/10. Vocabulary topics covered include construction, student life, crime (in that order). Great listening practice for beginners or lower intermediate, without being too full-on and intense - and, if slapstick is to your taste, entertaining! If you don't have time for all 3, watch the final half-hour, Операция «Ы». rating 8.75/10, IMDb rating 8.6/10. 95 mins.


Mad Max: Fury Road - Безумный Макс: Дорого Ярости

A film with clear speech (8/10 clarity) easy gramar, and straightforward vocabulary (5/10 difficulty), making it ideal for Intermediate learners. About 50% of the movie is speech, giving your brain the time to process and prepare itself for the next bit of language. Vocabulary relating to vehicles, which is likely to be useful to you at some point, is frequent, quite obviously. IMDb rating 8.2/10. You can improve your knowledge of synonyms by watching the Russian dubbed version together with Russian subtitles, as the subtitles almost never follow speech. (Be careful with the misspelling of «бензин» as «бензен» (translation by Aleksei Matveev). And watch out for unusual use of language, in the somewhat mad style of the films characters (you will NEVER hear anyone in Russia talking about an «идеальный ребенок»). Advanced learners may enjoy the challenge of spotting such unusual uses of language, as well as refreshing their vocabulary relating to driving.

B r i d g e o f S p i e s - Ш п и о н с к и й м о с т

An excellent thriller with very challenging vocabulary for Advanced level learners and beyond. Clarity of speech 7/10, and speech fills about 75% of the movie timewise. IMDb rating 7.7/10. Grammatical difficulty 4/5, containing a great many prefixed verbs, as well as your usual subjects, participles and shorts forms of adjectives. Also has some very convincing conversation Russian, good to watch out for. Russian subtitles match the dubbed speech about half the time, so may be useful for learning synonyms if watching a second time, but are different enough to be a distraction otherwise. If you only have 40-50 minutes to watch, are already familiar with the English version, and particularly want to expose yourself to some challenging vocab, watch the middle third of the film, where I have rated the difficulty of vocabulary as 10/10.

The Imitation Game - Игра в иммитацию

Very clear (9/10) and frequent speech (80% of the movie), and an excellent storyline to enjoy again in Russian. IMDb rating 8.1/10. Difficulty of vocabulary 8/10 in the first third of the film, but 6/10 thereafter (so winding down towards the end!) Grammatical difficulty 3/5, watch out for irregular noun declensions. Great for Advanced learners, and strong Upper Intermediate level.

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