What are the Top 10 Russian movies? Russia and the Soviet Union have a rich cinema heritage, but action films were not a part of it for a long time. Russia has amassed a notable archive of genre films during the 2000s, and it’s about time we recognized them with a Top 10 here at the Ultimate Action Movie Club.
I get the impression – and I mean this in the nicest possible way – that due to a 30-year head start for American action films, many Russian movies have a lovely old-school air about them that has vanished from most American action blockbusters these days. In addition to kicking serious ass, they provide “outsiders” with a view into Russian culture and history.
We only examined films in this list that are more or less widely accessible to audiences outside of Russia, and they are all available on at least one of the standard streaming platforms or DVD/Blu-Ray. So, let’s see what Mother Russia has in store for action film aficionados!
List the Top 10 Russian movies:
10) The Blackout (2019)
Stories and films about a strange zone appearing in our world are a frequent theme in Science Fiction, and Russia gave home to some of the finest works in this subgenre, like the book Roadside Picnic and the film Stalker. The Blackout expands on the Russian heritage of “zone” movies and transforms it into a magnificent action film.
Moscow abruptly loses touch with almost the whole globe. Except for a limited region surrounding the city, electricity and communications have been cut off, and the fate of anyone beyond it is unclear. Oleg and Yura, soldiers, accompany a reconnaissance expedition into the dead zone, but nothing can prepare them for the terrors that await in the darkness.
The Blackout is a basic affair that borrows its narrative from several great Science Fiction films. The picture features a dark and dramatic atmosphere, with a well-executed building of suspense that often explodes into violent violence. Viewers are subjected to a flurry of shooting, explosions, and blood, with sections of the film resembling a war film. The Blackout is an intense action thriller that should appeal to every action movie lover.
9) Furious (2017)
A tiny band of soldiers defending their city bravely against an overwhelming onslaught, with lots of brutal slow-motion sword-fighting action? This seems to be a straight-up rip-off of 300, yet Furious has enough going for it to be more than a clone.
The film is based on a fictitious medieval narrative of the Mongol siege of Ryazan, Russia. Kolovrat is a member of the Ryazan city guard, and one day, his beloved city is besieged by a vast Mongol army. Kolovrat and a band of devoted warriors go on a desperate adventure to destroy their adversary and preserve the city.
Furious, like 300, greatly alter its historical framework and transforms it into a violent narrative of valour. It also succeeds in incorporating action scenes within a fantasy-like quest. Epic snow fights alternate with a mysterious trip through woods and mountains, with a dash of Russian mythology tossed in for good measure. A piece of pounding heavy metal music (written by System of a Down bandleader Serj Tankian) is always a fantastic option for gory sword combat. Furious is a masterfully created fantasy epic with stunning graphics and top-tier medieval mayhem.
8) Wolfhound (2006)
Before contemporary Fantasy, there were fairy tales, and the former Soviet Union may be proud of many excellent entries in this genre. Wolfhound does not deny its roots, successfully blending Slavic folklore and mythology with Western Fantasy in the vein of Conan the Barbarian and Lord of the Rings. The film, based on a popular fantasy novel, takes us on a classic quest through a medieval world populated by bandits, demons, and sorcerers.
An evil warlord’s army raids a children’s village, killing everyone, including his parents. Many years later, the youngster has grown into the fearsome warrior Wolfhound. He travels on a mission to accompany a princess to her bridegroom-to-be, and throughout the perilous voyage, Wolfhound discovers that he has a grander destiny in store for him.
Wolfhound’s journey leads us through dark castles, murky swamps, and savage tribes. Swords clash, monsters are destroyed, and every five minutes, Wolfhound faces a new foe or innocents who must be rescued. The film is a high-profile production featuring wonderfully constructed medieval towns and breathtaking Eastern European nature photography. Wolfhound is a lovely old-school adventure that is a must-see for epic Fantasy aficionados.
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7) MONGOL: The Rise of Genhhis Khan (2007)
Genghis Khan ruled the world’s greatest continuous kingdom, and this famous character in human history has now got a decent film treatment. Mongol recounts his life from birth until becoming monarch of all Mongol tribes.
Temujin (his name before becoming Khan) witnesses his father being poisoned as a youngster. His town is soon invaded by his tribe. Temujin gets kidnapped by Targutai, his father’s old lieutenant, but manages to escape. He grows up, is enslaved again, manages to escape, and marries his fiancée. Targutai kidnaps her the night after their wedding. What a narrative, and it’s just the beginning of the movie!
Mongol combines politics, romance, and battle, but it’s not your typical medieval drama; there’s no room in this laconic masterwork for the usual hokum and waffling. The epic cinematography of Mongolia’s boundless and breathtaking steppe provides dream-like images of a land that is both physically and spiritually isolated from the Western world.
There are also lots of terrific action scenes in the film, including violent skirmishes and large-scale conflicts. Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan is a wonderful historical epic with a fantastic mood and stunning cinematography.
6) Newsmakers (2009)
A well-executed remake isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a picture, and Newsmakers proves to be an exciting translation of Johnnie To’s Breaking News. Crime is rife in Moscow, so the police chief decides to transform a planned search into a reality TV program. During the operation, a band of thieves becomes stuck in an apartment complex and kidnaps several people. Verbitskaya, the production’s public relations officer, wants to capitalize on the siege, but her big moment is thwarted by a team of police investigators who have a personal vendetta against the crooks.
Newsmakers do not show us the most beautiful parts of Moscow but instead create a rough and realistic scene. The film contains a lot of social criticism, and it also serves as a parody of TV stations’ insatiable need for new formats, no matter how foolish. The action is flawlessly woven into the plot and has a grim realism reminiscent of genre classics such as Heat. The shootouts are extraordinarily fierce, and they are recorded with a calm camera technique that catches the mayhem in all its gruesome intricacies. Newsmakers is a gritty action thriller with an intriguing plot, memorable characters, and outrageous action scenes.
5) Dark Planet (2009)
Arkady and Boris Strugatsky are to Russian Science Fiction literature what Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick are to American Science Fiction literature. Dark Planet is based on their book The Inhabited Island, which was transformed into a breathtaking blockbuster film by filmmaker Fyodor Bondarchuk in 1969.
Maxim Kammerer, a space investigator, crashes his spacecraft on the planet Saraksh. He makes friends with the people and rapidly integrates into the society of the nation Fatherland, which is at war with its neighbours. Maxim wants to interfere in order to make things better, but his actions have serious repercussions.
Dark Planet recounts a narrative that spans 3.5 hours and is divided into two films. It has much food for thought regarding the human condition in its many aspects, yet it is far from a dry philosophical treatise. In this bright yet dystopic universe, Maxim encounters an astounding array of enormous set pieces, and the combat sequences are also fairly fantastic.
Tank battles, automobile chases, and martial arts duels may seem out of place in an otherwise intellectual Science Fiction picture, but everything comes together perfectly, and the action helps to keep the pace up. Dark Planet is an amazing example of a well-executed contemporary and action-packed Science Fiction film.
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4) Legend No. 17 (2013)
When a fascinating tale is blended with adrenaline-charged athletic competition moments, sports dramas may be just as thrilling as action flicks. Hero No. 17 is a biopic based on the life of Soviet hockey legend Valeri Kharlamov. The film traces his life from his modest beginnings in a bush-league club to his ascension to stardom with national hockey powerhouse CSKA Moscow.
Friendship, love, and tragedy abound in Kharlamov’s life, which looks to be the perfect material for an epic sports film. The film also depicts the everyday lives and problems of individuals in the Soviet Union throughout the 1960s and 1970s, as well as some of the political system’s oddities of the time. There are several amazing hockey moments throughout the film, but the final 30 minutes are dedicated to the opening match of the classic Summit Series between the USSR and Canada in 1972.
You’ll believe you’re watching an action movie, with high-speed chases and brutal battles between Russian and Canadian athletes, with the camera constantly in the thick of it all. Sports action doesn’t get much better than Legend No. 17, and the picture ranks with genre classics such as the Rocky franchise.
3) Night Watch (2004)
Timur Bekmambetov pioneered Russian action filmmaking with his Night Watch and Day Watch flicks, which provided an intriguing combination of action, fantasy, and horror. Supernatural entities, known as the Others, coexist with humanity invisibly. After decades of conflict, the armies of Light and Dark have agreed to a tenuous ceasefire. Anton is a clairvoyant on the side of the Light who finds a prophesy that has the potential to permanently change the balance of power.
Bekmambetov was successful in developing a fascinating narrative, interesting characters, and a harsh atmosphere of wintery modern-day Moscow where sorcerers, vampires, and demons lurk around every corner. To some sense, the opening section might be called an overture, since it introduces us to the characters and mythology. The second portion is much more action-packed and focuses on the final clash between the Dark and the Light.
Supernatural entities clashing in an urban setting causes a slew of mayhem, including automobiles racing up buildings, magically supercharged elevators, and a grand conclusion that is insane beyond comprehension. We seldom come across a film these days that has a lot of action, a compelling narrative, and wonderful characters. Night Watch and Day Watch have everything.
2) The Scythian (2018)
The Scythian followed Russia’s history of producing first-rate historical and fantasy films, and it proved to be the most magnificent Russian foray into the genre to date. Lutobor is a devoted servant of the Russian emperor. He gets entangled in a scheme and must abandon his homeland to save his family from the clutches of the Scythians, a supposedly cruel tribe. He embarks on the perilous voyage over the steppe with the honour-bound Scythian warrior Marten.
An iconic narrative is one man’s journey across treacherous land, and The Scythian is a rather basic film in that regard. Its atmosphere, photography, and breathtakingly dramatic action moments set it apart. The film depicts a desolate yet beautiful setting, with practically every scene set against the great open areas of the Crimean steppe.
The Scythian civilization is rife with bloodshed and misery, and almost every man is a warrior or bandit. The battles are thrilling to watch, and they are flawlessly planned and recorded. Several times, the brutality is over-the-top, and the action sequences have a raw, even scary intensity. Tons of harsh action, a unique premise, and a nasty, yet captivating environment propel The Scythian to greatness.
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1) Hardcore Henry (2015)
Because of the overuse of CGI in modern action films, many of them seem like video games, but only Hardcore Henry can claim to be the genuine McCoy. Just when you thought creativity in the action genre was dead, filmmaker Ilya Naishuller hit a home run and crafted the greatest first-person action film.
Henry awakens in a hidden facility and discovers he is a cyborg. A mystery supervillain attempts to apprehend him, resulting in a never-ending chase. The tale doesn’t important, even if it isn’t as foolish as it seems. Hardcore Henry goes for sheer lunacy, and the camera mounted to Henry’s brow will allow you to see action situations from a magnificent and occasionally nausea-inducing vantage point.
The video is packed with nonstop action, with grenades and bullets flying left and right. Hardcore Henry features a death count that makes Sylvester Stallone’s 2008 Rambo appear like a PG-13 film. Every successive fight is more brutal and explosive, and the ending is a fitting climax that amps up the mayhem just when you thought it couldn’t be any crazier. Ilya Naishuller’s Hardcore Henry is the finest Russian action film and one of the best genre films of the twenty-first century.