In addition to being a place where many big-budget international films are made, and being the location of the prestigious Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, the Czech Republic also has a thriving film industry of its own which still produces and has produced myriad amazing films since the first half of the 20th century. A golden age of Czech film is generally considered to have occurred during the 1960s, but it came to an end with the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. And since the end of Communism here in 1989, the cinema arts have undergone a period of rebirth since the 1990s with a new generation of film makers and actors who have admirably continued the region’s long history of cinematic excellence, many of whom are graduates of FAMU, the school of film and television at the Performing Arts Academy.
The following list of film trailers is by no means a comprehensive or complete overview of Czech film, but it should provide some kind of a starting point which will provide entertainment and intrigue to people with a wide spectrum of different tastes, while also giving some insight into the unique and sometimes curious aspects of Czech culture which those of us from the outside find usually endearing but sometimes perplexing. I’ll freely admit that I haven’t seen all of these films, and that many of them were recommended by friends and colleagues whom I asked for suggestions while writing this article. So I won’t go so far as to personally endorse all of them. But it seems like it would be a bit limited and somewhat boring if everything was only listed according to my own specific tastes. Anyway, have a look through here and most likely you’ll find something of interest to yourself. Click on the film titles to take you to the IMDB entry for all the detailed info, and enjoy the trailers. For a long, long list of Czech films, scroll to the end of the article. (And if you have some favorites of your own that you don’t see included here, please leave us link in the comment field.)
1. Closely Watched Trains (1966), a classic of classics about a young railway worker who is trying to defeat the Nazis and lose his virginity, not necessarily that order.
2. Pelíšky (1999), a dramatic comedy or perhaps comedic drama about growing up in Communist Czechoslovakia with raging hormones and unsympathetic parents, which is for some reason one of the first films that will always be suggested by Czechs to immigrants. Sorry, I couldn’t find a trailer with English subs, but watch the trailer anyway ‘cuz it’s hilarious even if you can’t understand the dialog.
3. Kolya (1996), is the story of a middle-aged cellist leading the perfect bachelor life, until he finds himself the reluctant guardian of one of the cutest tiny boys in all of the Eastern Bloc. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film of 1996.
4. The Firemen’s Ball (1967), the last film Miloš Forman directed in Czechoslovakia before going into exhile.
5. Lemonade Joe (1964), an hilarious Czech parody of good old-fashioned American Westerns.
6. Ecstasy (1933), a romance about a young woman married to an older man, who leaves her husband for a younger lover, was pretty racy for its time. According to numerous Youtube videos, the film has the first depiction of a female orgasm in the history of cinema. Perhaps not coincidentally, Prague is today one of Central Europe’s most prolific cities for the production of porn…
7. Akumulátor I (1994), a sci-fi fantasy about doppelgangers living inside TV sets. Again, I couldn’t find a trailer with English subs, but the visuals are still worth seeing.
8. Skřítek (2005), a grotesque slapstick tragicomedy about a dysfunctional family and their encounters with a local garden imp and each other, and sometimes the police.
9. Divided We Fall (2000), is one of my personal favorites. Like many Czech dramas, it swims in black humor. The trailer doesn’t do it justice.
10. Burning Bush (2013) is an HBO Europe mini-series based on Jan Palach, the Czech student who set himself on fire as a protest against the Soviet occupation of 1968, and the trial of his family by the Communist government after the fact.
Final Note: As will be obvious to anyone already acquainted with Czech film, I haven’t included any of the long list of fairly tales, animated features, or other types of films which have been made here since days of old. Nor have I touched on any of the edgier avant-garde stuff which this country produces in abundance. But hopefully as a consolation, I did manage to acquire (through the miracle of Facebook) a “Top 100” list of Czech films that was apparently passed around among FAMU students under the title “Czech Golden Treasure”. So in closing, I’ll paste that list here at the bottom of this article in order that you may do your own research and find the cinematic marvels most suitable to you mood…
CZECH GOLDEN TREASURE list:
Akumulator – Accumulator 1, comedy, 1994, 102 min.
Andel exit – Angel Exit, drama, 2000, 100 min.
Babi leto – Autumn spring, drama, 2001, 95 min.
Balada pro banditu – Ballad for a bandit, musical, 1978, 89 min.
Blizko nebe – Close to heaven, drama, 2005, 96 min.
Bobule – Grapes, comedy, 2007, 90 min.
Bumerang – Bumerang, drama, 1997, 97 min.
Cesta do hlubin studakovy duse – Journey to the depts of the students soul, comedy, 1939, 88 min.
Cesta z mesta – out of the city, comedy, 2000, 104 min.
Diky za kazde nove rano – Thank you for every new morning, comedy, 1994, 100 min. golden lion
Divka na kosteti – The girl on the broomstick, comedy, 1971, 76 min.
Divoke vcely – Wild bees, drama, 2001, 94 min.
Dobry vojak Svejk – The good soldier Svejk, comedy, 1956, 102 min.
Dovolena s andelem – Angel on vacation, comedy, 1952, 76 min.
Duse jako kaviar – Dirty soul, drama, 2004, 99min.
Grandhotel – Grandhotel, comedy, 2006, 100min.
Hezke chvilky bez zaruky – Pleasant moments, drama, 2006, 90min.
Horem padem – Up and down, drama, 2004, 108min.
Hori, ma panenko – annual firemans ball, comedy, 1967, 71 min.
Hotel Modra Hvezda – The Blue Star Hotel, comedy, 1941, 89min.
Ikaruv pad – Ikars fall, drama, 1977, 101 min.
Indianske leto – Indian summer, 1995, 65 min.
Jachyme, hod ho do stroje – Give him The works, Fella!, comedy, 1974, 95 min
Jak basnici prichazeji o iluze – How poets lose their illusions, comedy, 1974, 98min.
Jan Hus – Jan Hus, historical, 1954, 127 min.
Jan Zizka – Jan Zizka, historical, 1955, 115 min.
Jara Cimrman, lezici, spici – Jara Cimrman, recumbent, dormant, comedy, 1983, 81 min.
Je treba zabit sekala – It is necessary to kill sekal, drama, 1998, 109 min. golden lion
Jizda – Ride, drama, 1994, 90 min.
Kalamita – Calamity, comedy, 1984, 96 min.
Kdo chce zabit Jessi? – Who wants to kill jessie?, comedy, 1966, 80 min.
Kdyby tisic klarinetu – a thousand clarinets, musical, 1964, 132 min.
Kladivo na carodejnice – witches hammer, thriller, 1969, 103 min.
Knoflikari – Buttoners, comedy, 1997, 102min.
Kolja – Kolya, drama, 1996, 105 min.
Kour – Smoke, musical, 1991, 89 min.
Krakonos a lyznici – The mountain giant and the ski-men, comedy, 1980, 72 min.
Kraska v nesnazich – Beauty in trouble, comedy, 2006, 110min.
Kvaska – Kvaska, comedy, 2006, 106 min.
Kytice – Wild Flowers, Drama. 2000, 81 min.
Lasky mezi kapkami deste – Love betwen drip of rain, romantic, 1979, 126 min.
Limonadovy Joe aneb konska opera – Lemonade joe or the horse opera, 1964, 99 min.
Marecku, podejte mi pero! – Marecek, give me a pen! comedy, 1976, 93 min.
Mestecko – Small town, comedy, 2003, 99 min.
Milenci a vrazi – Lovers and murderers, drama, 2004, 108 min.
Mistri – Champions, comedy, 2004, 100 min.
Musime si pomahat – Divided we fall, comedy, 2000, 120 min.
Na samote u lesa – A cottage by the wood, comedy, 1976, 95 min.
Navrat idota – Return of the Idiot, comedy, 1999, 100 min.
Nebesti jezdci – Heaven riders, drama,1968,92 min.
Nejasna zprava o konci sveta – An ambiguous report about the end of the world, drama, 1997, 154min.
Noc na Karlstejne -A night at Karlstejn, musical, 1973, 87 min.
Nuda v Brne – Boredom in Brno, comedy, 2003, 103 min.
Obecna skola – elementary school, comedy, 1991, 100min.
Obchod na korze – shop on a busy street, tragedy, 1965, 128 min.
Obsluhoval jsem anglickeho krale – I waited up english king , drama, 2006, 120 min.
Otesanek – Litle Otik, comedy, 2000, 125 min.
Pelisky – Small letty, comedy, 1999, 115min.
Pernikova vez – Coal Tower, tragedy, 2002, 98 min.
Poslusne hlasim – Beg to report sir, comedy, 1957, 95 min.
Postel – The Bed, experimental, 1998, 90 min.
Postriziny – Cutting it short, comedy, 1980, 93 min.
Prazska petka – The prague five, comedy, 1989 97 min.
Pribehy obycejneho silenstvi – Wrong side up, comedy, 2005, 100 min.
Proti vsem – against all, historical, 1956, 113 min.
Pupendo – pupendo, comedy, 2003, 120 min.
Rebelove – The Rebels, comedy, 2001, 109 min.
Rok dabla – year of the devil, comedy, 2002, 88 min.
Roman pro zeny – From Subway with Love, comedy, 2005, 100 min.
Rozmarne leto – The capricious summer, comedy, 1967, 74 min.
S tebou me bavi svet – With you the world is fun, comedy, 1982, 82 min.
Sakali leta – Big beat, musical, 1993, 110 min.
Samotari – Loners, comedy, 2000, 103 min.
sedmikrasky – Daisies, comedy, 1966, 74 min.
Skrivanci na niti – Larks ona string, comedy, 1969, 90 min.
Slavnosti snezenek – Snowdrop festivities, comedy, 1983, 83 min.
Slunce seno a par facek – Sun hay and a slap, comedy, 1989, 128 min.
Slunce seno jahody – Sun hay strawberries , comedy, 1984, 83 min.
Slunecni stat – The city of the sun or working class Heroes, comedy, 2005, 90 min.
Smradi – Brats, drama, 2002, 93 min.
Smrt krasnych srncu – Death of the beautiful deer, drama, 1986, 91 min.
Snezenky a machri – The snowdrops and the wise guys, comedy, 1982, 82 min.
Spalovac mrtvol – The cremator, drama, 1968, 95 min.
Stesti – Something like happiness, comedy, 2005, 100min.
Svetaci – Man about town, comedy, 1969, 99min.
Tajemstvi hradu v Karpatech – The mysterious castle in Carpathia, comedy, 1981, 97 min.
Tajnosti – Little girl blue, drama, 2007, 95 min.
Tmavomodry svet – Dark blue world, drama, 2001, 112 min.
U pokladny stal – Cash claim chaos, comedy, 1939, 102 min.
Udoli vcel – Valley of the bees, historical, 1967, 97 min.
Ucho – The ear, drama, 1970, 94 min.
Venkovsky ucitel – Country teacher, drama, 2008, 117 min.
Vesnicko ma strediskova – home sweet home, 1985, 98 min.
Vrat se do hrobu – Ready for the grave, comedy, 1990, 96 min.
Vratne lahve – comedie, 2007, 100 min.
Vrchni, prchni – Waiter, run for it ! , comedy, 1980, 85 min.
Vsichni dobri rodaci – drama, 1968, 114 min.
Vsichni moji blizci – drama, 1999, 91 min.
Zahrada – The garden,comedy, 1995, 99 min.
Zelary – drama, 2003, 142 min.