10 GREAT Soviet movies of the 1970s

Iconic comedies by Leonid Gaidai and Eldar Ryazanov, heartrending war dramas, as well as science fiction by Andrei Tarkovsky, beloved by the public.

1. ‘Belorussian Station’ (1970)

Former comrades-in-arms haven’t met for 20 years, since the Summer of 1945, when they each went their own way after they had arrived at the Belorussian railway station in Moscow at the end of World War II. Now, a sad occasion has brought the no-longer-young men together again – the death of one of their comrades-in-arms. They decide to sit down together, to talk and to reminisce about the war, visiting a former field medic.

Director Andrei Smirnov achieved, it seems, the impossible. He filmed one of the most authentic movies about the Great Patriotic War, without showing a scene from the war itself. The song ‘We need only one victory’ by Bulat Okudzhava also became one of the most powerful songs about the war.

Watch the movie here.

2. ‘Twelve Chairs’ (1971)

Adventurer Ostap Bender arrives in a small town, where he meets a former nobleman named Ippolit Vorobyaninov. Ippolit’s mother-in-law, before her death, confessed to him that she had hidden their family diamonds in one of the 12 chairs of a furniture set. The adventurer decides to help find the diamonds for a cut. But there’s a catch: after the Bolshevik Revolution, the chairs were sold one by one, so the heroes have to hunt down each of them separately, going on various adventures along the way.

This iconic comedy by Leonid Gaidai is based on the popular novel ‘Twelve Chairs’ by Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov. In 1971, this movie was number one at the box office; almost 40 million people went to see it. The movie spawned a lot of quotes, while the role of Ostap Bender became the star role of actor Archil Gomiashvili, who, for many, became their “favorite” version of Bender character, despite several other screen adaptations of the book.

Watch the movie here.

3. ‘Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future’ (1973)

Moscow’s genius scientist Shurik creates a time machine. He opens a portal to the past and Tsar Ivan the Terrible arrives in Soviet Moscow. With that, by mistake, a burglar and a house manager, which everyone mistakes for the tsar, travel to the 16 century…

This, another one of Leonid Gaidai’s comedies, was based on a little-known play called ‘Ivan Vasilievich’ by Mikhail Bulgakov. In the year of its premiere, more than 60 million people watched the movie and it, too, went to number one at the box office. The cast was littered with audience favorites, from Alexander Demyanenko and Savely Kramarov to Yury Yakovlev. The movie itself spawned many quotes and memes, as well; and the entire country knows the movie’s lively songs. 

Watch the movie here.

4. ‘Friend to Foes, Foe to Friends’ (1974)

The Russian Civil War has ended and five Red Army soldiers prepare to send gold to the Soviet authorities in Moscow, which they have seized from the rich in the south of Russia. But, Chekists, White Guard officers and bandits are also after the gold. One after another, they ambush the train that is carrying the treasure. But, it turns out that the Chekists have a traitor in their midst. The main hero, a Red Army soldier, risking his life, takes the gold and disappears.

This was the first full-length director’s work of Nikita Mikhalkov, in which he also plays the gang leader, one of the main roles. The movie was filmed in the ‘Eastern’ genre and it’s believed that Mikhalkov was inspired by movies starring Clint Eastwood. This is an adventure movie; it has a lot of action, fighting scenes and stunts. Even today, this movie is considered a classic.

Watch the movie here.

5. ‘The Irony of Fate’ (1975)

A 36-year-old Moscow doctor named Zhenya Lukashin, as is tradition, goes with his friends to a banya on New Year’s Eve. There, they have “a bit” to drink, and his friends put the tipsy Zhenya on a plane to Leningrad by mistake. Having spent his flight unconscious and having arrived at an airport, Zhenya gets into a taxi and goes home as if nothing happened. It turns out that Soviet residential districts are standardized to such a degree that Leningrad has exactly the same street and apartment block as Zhenya has back in Moscow and even the keys to Zhenya’s apartment fit the same apartment in Leningrad. He comes “home” and falls asleep, having not noticed anything suspicious, since in the USSR everyone even has the same furniture. Soon, however, the real owner of the apartment arrives and finds a stranger in her bed...

This Eldar Ryazanov comedy became, with no exaggeration, the most iconic New Year’s movie ever and it’s a tradition to show it every year on December 31. The actors that play the main roles, Andrei Myagkov and Polish actress Barbara Brylska, became nationwide idols. Several songs from the movie were also performed and dubbed by iconic singer Alla Pugacheva.

Watch the movie here.

6. ‘The Dawns Here Are Quiet’ (1972)

Experienced Senior Sergeant Fedot is sent five anti-aircraft gunners, young female volunteers, fresh out of school. Each of them has a very different story, but all of them have been united by World War II. Under the leadership of their commander, they, risking their lives, track the Nazis in forests and among swamps. However, not everyone survives until the end…

This movie, directed by Stanislav Rostotsky, became an instant war drama classic. It’s based on Boris Vasilyev’s novel of the same name. The magazine ‘Soviet Screen’ called ‘The Dawns Here Are Quiet’ the best movie of 1972. It received a range of state awards in the USSR, a Venice Film Festival prize and was nominated for an Oscar for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ (losing to ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’ by Luis Buñuel).

Watch the movie here.

7. ‘Office Romance’ (1977)

There is a very strict woman that directs a statistical bureau in Moscow. She’s just 36, but all her subordinates call her “an old hag” behind her back. Anatoly Novoseltsev is among her regular employees, a modest single father of two, who hopes for a promotion, but is too shy to talk about it with his boss. Suddenly, his old friend, who has just returned from overseas, is appointed as the assistant of the “old hag”. This friend advises Novoseltsev not to get discouraged and “flirt a bit” with the boss. His clumsy flirting, however, is successful in the end…

At first glance, it seems that this is a simple comedy about Soviet office life. But this Eldar Ryazanov movie also became a box office success; the audience loved it very much. Not least because of its star-studded cast. This was yet another star role for Andrei Myagkov, who many already know from the ‘Irony of Fate’, where he played another shy man. The boss was played by Alisa Freindlich. Episodic cameo roles in the movie were especially beloved by the public: a fashionista office secretary (Liya Akhedzhakova) and gossiper Shura from the accounting department (Lyudmila Ivanova).

Watch the movie here.

8. ‘Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears’ (1979)

It’s the end of the 1950s. A shy, but determined, Katerina arrives from a province to conquer Moscow. Failing to enroll at a university, she opts to work at a factory, while living in a dormitory with her friends. One of her friends is asked to house-sit a professor’s apartment and she suggests to Katerina to pretend to be the absent professor’s daughter. They invite guests and young, rich men and the hoax goes too far as it’s revealed that Katerina is pregnant from one of them… Cut to twenty years later and Katerina is an executive director at a factory, has her own apartment and a car. But what she doesn’t have is a woman’s happiness and she’s caring for a grown-up daughter alone. Her life does change, however, when she meets a regular locksmith by accident… 

Vladimir Menshov’s movie won an Oscar for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’. According to rumors, it was this movie that U.S. President Ronald Reagan watched before meeting Mikhail Gorbachev, to better understand the “mysterious Russian soul”. It achieved large success also among Soviet audiences – 90 million people watched it during the premiere year. This movie is still popular; its soundtrack, ‘Alexandra’, became an unofficial anthem of Moscow.

Watch the movie here. Also read more about what the name of the movie means here.

9. ‘Stalker’ (1979)

The protagonist, nicknamed Stalker, earns his bread by leading people to the closed anomalous Zone, which formed after a meteorite fall. One day, he is approached by the Professor and the Writer to guide them there. Stalker agrees, but he is oblivious to the real plans these regular-looking people have…

This sci-fi parable movie was the last filmed by Andrei Tarkovsky in the USSR. The plot is based on the science fiction novel ‘Roadside Picnic’ by Brothers Strugatsky, which they altered significantly along with the director. This is one of the most popular movies by the legendary director, who was also noted by the judges of the Cannes Film Festival.

Watch the movie here.

10. ‘Air Crew’ (1979)

The personal lives of an air crew are shown at the beginning of the movie: each of them has their own problems and family struggles. But all of them are united by one thing – they’re all working together on the same international flight. Soon after takeoff, it turns out that the plane has a crack and it depressurizes. The pilots try to save their passengers, risking their own lives. This deed impacts their personalities and characters; after their return, each of them manages to become a little different as a person and resolve their problems.

This movie by Alexander Mitta was one of the first Soviet catastrophe movies (even with erotic scenes!), which hasn’t lost its relevance and entertainment value to this day. This Soviet movie became a number one box office smash in 1980 – it was watched by 71 million people. It’s believed that the production was inspired by the success of Arthur Hailey’s ‘Airport’, as well as its big screen Hollywood adaptation.

Watch the movie here.

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