Even though the Russian cinema craze kicked off with the renowned French duo that gained worldwide popularity under the name The Lumiere Brothers, original Russian movies have been filmed and screened by and for local and foreign audiences ever since the old days of the Russian Empire. Here are eight of the best Russian fantasy movies of our time, which offer something for every film buff out there.
1. Viy (Вий)
Based on the eponymous story by the notorious Nikolai Gogol, Viy (also known as The Forbidden Empire and the Forbidden Kingdom in the US and the UK in their respective order) is a High Fantasy movie set in the 18th century, which tells the story of a cartographer whose discoveries lead him to Transylvania and its supernatural creatures. With a mixture of horror, science fiction and crime mystery entwined into its plot, Viy offers cinematic sceneries, unexpected twists and an epic journey audiences of any age would enjoy.
2. Ghouls (Вурдалаки)
If you’re fed up with the hype of the cheesy Twilight type vamp stories, 2017’s Ghouls will seem like a breath of fresh and much needed air and an absolute feast for sore eyes. There is an inevitable love story around which the plot is centered, but this movie brings back the good old portrayal of dark, creepy and menacing vampires residing in horror stories instead of in Bella’s tween fantasies. And did I mention that these vampires don’t sparkle?
3. Black Lightning (Черная Молния)
Starring the acclaimed Russian actor Viktor Verzhbitsky, Black Lightning is a contemporary superhero movie revolving around a university student who receives a flying ’66 Volga car as a birthday present. Packed with adventure, comedy, romance and science fiction elements this film is an excellent way to pass the time for adults and youngsters alike. What sets off Black Lightning from the rest of the superhero movies out there is the fact that our superhero actually doesn’t have any superhuman powers at all – just a flying car and the will to right the wrongs.
4. The Scythian (Скиф)
Also known as The Last Warrior, this movie tells the adventurous story of the nearly extinct Scythian warriors during the ruthless times of the 11th century. Betrayal, gory assassinations and masterful swordsmanship are the focal points of the protagonist’s tale, which can easily be compared to the undertakings of the legendary Norse Vikings and the Homeric Greek heroes. Despite being released in 2018, The Scythian is far from the CGI packed blockbusters, which makes it ideal for those movie buffs who prefer less computer-generated action scenes and more authentic settings.
5. Night Watch (Ночной Дозор)
Night Watch, based on Sergei Lukyanenko’s famous works, is one of the highest grossing Russian fantasy movies of all times. With its unique plot, eccentric characters, cliffhanging twist and turns and a brand new perspective on the battle between good and evil, Night Watch is the project that turned Timur Bekmambetov and Konstantin Khabensky into glamorous household names. Although it may seem a bit confusing at first for someone unfamiliar with Lukyanenko’s books, the movie and its sequel are definitely a great option for audiences of all ages.
6. He’s A Dragon (Он Дракон)
Also marketed under the title I Am Dragon, this movie is a hidden gem for fans of the paranormal romance genre. With stunning visual effects, a mellow atmosphere with a sense of timelessness and a slightly cheesy Beauty And The Beast subplot, He’s A Dragon takes the viewers on a romantic journey with a powerful female lead and a male protagonist whose once loathed mythical nature controversially also happens to be one of his redeeming qualities.
7. Guardians (Защитники)
If you’re looking for a clichéd, action-packed superhero fantasy movie that focuses more on battles and visuals instead of character development, witty dialogue or mind-bending unpredictable surprises, Guardians is a marvelous pick. Disgraced by the critics for not being authentic enough and not setting apart from a typical Hollywood production, this particular movie is unsurpassed when it comes down to killing off less than two mindless hours of your time without bothering your brain cells with its stereotypical plot.
8. Last Knight (Последний богатырь)
The Last Knight is truly a masterpiece of the Russian fantasy cinema. Centered around a bunch of famous Russian fairytales, it brings hated and beloved characters such as Baba Yaga to the big screen. With lively visual effects, a touch of comedy, well-written action scenes and a relatable young protagonist this movie will take audiences to a whole new level of cinematic adventures as they follow the hero out of Moscow and into the magical world of Slavic folklore amidst the ultimate battle between dark and light forces.