One of the most intriguing and creative European cinematography, especially in the last two decades, is undoubtedly Romanian. Original and interesting, these movies deal with people’s problems and everyday situations from a somewhat different angle. The genre they often use to depict their society and people is comedy and they really became masters of it.
Often on the lists of must-watch movies, elected as some of the best in various festivals, these movies might be something new and a bit different from the ones we are used to. This is the list of the 15 best Romanian movies of all time.
If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle (2010)
In this movie, we follow the story of a teenager Silviu who is getting out of the state youth penitentiary. He was there for years, but now, before he can leave, his mother wants to take his younger brother to Italy, despite his objectives. In prison, he befriends a young woman Ana who is working on a research project there.
Desperate with his mother’s decision, Silvio chooses violence as his defense and takes Ana hostage. He threatens to kill her if his mother doesn’t return and when she finally does, he repeats the same threat to her. There will be a lot of struggle before Silviu finally gets what he desires.
This dark comedy tells the story of an unhappy high school teacher who is desperate to earn more money. On a night in town, he meets a drunk and a beggar who talks to him about an organization named Filantropica Foundation and invites him to meet them in a desolate basement. He soon realises that this is the lair of Bucharest beggars’ leader who instructs others how to receive more money when they beg.
Ovidiu, who is really in need of more money, soon makes more than he expected and is pleased to know that his object of affection, Diana, will be more than happy. She is the reason why this is happening to him in the first place. But nothing is as it seems and Ovidiu will have to pay a big price for everything he’s done.
The Death of Mister Lazarescu (2005)
Another dark comedy, this one is about an old man who is carried by an ambulance from hospital to hospital all night long. Doctors simply don’t want to treat him and send him away. Mr Lazarescu is 63-years old, cranky and not very friendly. One evening he feels sick and calls the ambulance and that’s when his real troubles begin.
Since no one seems to be dealing with him, his heart conditions start to deteriorate fast and he will really need and proper help very soon. The only one who stays by his hide this whole evening is paramedic Mioara who tries to get him admitted. Finally, she succeeds in the fourth hospital that night when the situation is anything but nice.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)
This is an art movie with dramatic and thriller elements that takes us back to Romania in 1987 under the brutal Ceausescu communist regime. Gabita and Otilia are friends and roommates who find themselves in jeopardy after Gabita shares with Otilia her wish to perform an abortion. She is five months pregnant and doesn’t want the baby so she will have to perform an illegal operation.
The two girls find themselves in a situation they didn’t exactly plan when Gabita finishes in the hands of a male abortionist. This movie gives us a view of past Romania under the dictatorship, silenced by the big ones and with its people suffering during this repression and bad socioeconomic status. It is a big critique of the social and political scene at the time. The movie won numerous awards, among which the Cannes’ Palme d’Or.
Child’s Pose (2013)
This movie shows us what a mother would do for her son and his reputation. When her son gets accused of manslaughter, a rich Romanian woman gets herself into the world of power, corruption and influence, only to be sure he is not going to prison. The story here and the message it conveys is pretty familiar.
It deals with a mother-son relationship seen dominantly from a mother’s perspective. This mother is possessive and afraid of her son leaving her so she doesn’t stop at anything to protect him from going away from her. It is an interesting outtake on an unhealthy relationship which is actually not that simple, especially when it comes to some serious matters.
This is a comedy-drama that follows a successful neurologist who is going to visit his family after the terrorist attack on the offices of Parisian weekly Charlie Hebdo and his father’s death. Lary is spending the Saturday with his relatives to commemorate the deceased. What was meant to be a quiet and nice gathering, ends in a meeting full of contemplation.
Lary will have to confront his fears and his past and think about his position in the family and after a long time of rethinking and reminiscing, Lary will decide to take his version of the truth.
Beyond the Hills (2012)
In this movie based on a true story, we follow Alina and Voichita, two friends since their orphanage days and lovers since they became sexually mature. Girls swore fidelity to each other and promised not to ever leave one another’s side, but Alina can’t bear the poverty and decides to move to Germany.
After some time she turns back to Romania, resolute to take Voichita back with her. But what welcomes her in Romania is something beyond any beliefs. Voichita decided to become a nun and she lives in a convent where she waits for her vows to be made. Alina insists on staying there and the priest grants her wishes, aware that this girl is not only materialistic but dangerous and troublesome, too.
This drama talks about a father and his altruistic wishes for his daughter. Romeo Aldea is a physician who lives in a small town in the mountains of Transylvania where he raised his daughter Eliza with the idea that she leaves the country when she turns 18. His wishes seem to be granted since Eliza got a scholarship to study psychology in the UK.
The only thing she needs to do now is pass her exams but on the night of the first exam she gets attacked and her future becomes jeopardised. It is on her father now to solve the situation, but none of the solutions is nearly similar to everything Romeo has taught his daughter.
This is an unusual love story about a young couple, Luci and Sorina who get evicted from their apartment. Sorina decides they need to visit her father’s grave in search of a sign. The sign arrives immediately when Luci is hit in the head and taken to hospital. Sorina soon forgets about her love for Luci and moves in with a good samaritan.
At the same time, we follow another story which slowly becomes very close to the previous one and we learn that its protagonists are somehow connected to Luci and Sorina. This movie talks about the young Romanians who dream to move to the West and find their happiness away from their homeland.
This adventure comedy is set in the 19th century Wallachia when a policeman Costandin is hired by a nobleman to find Carfin, a gipsy slave who ran away from his master’s estate after an affair with his wife. Costandin will soon find himself on a journey of a lifetime, full of adventures.
This movie is not only an excellent comedy but also gives us an insight into something not well known about Romania. It talks about gipsy slavery which was present there from the 14th to the 19th century. It is an important topic, not familiar to the public today, but one that still influences Romanian social life.
Michael the Brave (1971)
This is a biographical adventure drama that brings us the story of one of the most famous and important Romanian national heroes, Mihai Pätrescu. It depicts his reign from 1593 to 1601 when this fearless prince united the three provinces: Transalpine Wallachia, Transylvania and Moldavia into Romania.
Full of grandiose battle scenes, this movie shows the uprising of a small country against the two great empires, the Ottoman and Austrian. Besides war and fights, it gives us an insight into political intrigues, family drama and treachery.
The Rest is Silence (2007)
In 1911 a movie director decides to make a movie about The War of Independence which is going to reconstruct the 1877 struggle between the Romanians, Russians and the Turks. In order to make it, he makes a political, ideological and familial campaign to prove that cinema and art are important and have a future.
But he has no luck since his project is constantly being held up by the local authorities, he also is constantly fighting with his father and his love for a frivolous woman. But he won’t let anyone or anything get in the way of his dream.
Nunta muta (2008)
This interesting movie takes us to a small village where its enigmatic mayor hires a small film group to make a documentary on his isolated town just before the country’s elections. The crew is specialised in filming unexplained paranormal phenomena and soon they witness something of a kind in the mayor’s village.
A woman dressed in black is roaming around the town’s ruins and another one, an eerie presence in a white dress appears every now and then, too. They start to wonder what was the cause that made people desert this village and if it may be related to Stalin’s death. But the most important question is: Is the mayor hiding something?
Terminus Paradis (1998)
In Bucharest’s suburbs, two strangers meet and start a conversation, accompanied by a few shots more. This is not just a one night stand and Norica’s and Mitu’s encounter would end if destiny allowed them to. But she is about to marry her boss and boyfriend and Mitu needs to do his two-year-long military service.
But their relationship won’t end since Mitu becomes obsessed with Norica and makes something unforgettable.
This movie gives us an insight into Romania before Ceausescu’s downfall, through the story of Nela. She is the daughter of a former colonel of the Securitate who didn’t want to become an agent of the Securitate like her sister. She still lives with her father but after his death, she leaves Bucharest.
She is now preparing to transfer to a small town outside Bucharest where she received the position as a teacher and wishes to learn more about her father’s dark past. On the way, her train is stopped by a washed-out bridge and when it continues she gets gang-raped and decides to report the crime. Eventually, she meets a surgeon Mitica who will help her with her quest.