Estonia, a small country located in Northern Europe, has a rich history of filmmaking that dates back to the early 1900s.
Despite facing numerous challenges throughout its history, including occupation by foreign powers and a difficult transition to independence in the 1990s, Estonia has managed to produce a number of acclaimed films that have garnered international recognition.
One of the most famous Estonian films is “Spring” (1969), directed by Arvo Kruusement, which tells the story of a young woman’s journey of self-discovery as she navigates life in a small village.
Another notable film is “The Temptation of St. Tony” (2009), directed by Veiko Õunpuu, which is a surreal and darkly comedic exploration of modern society.
In recent years, Estonian cinema has continued to flourish, with a number of emerging filmmakers bringing fresh perspectives and innovative storytelling techniques to the screen.
Some of the most notable recent Estonian films include “November” (2017), directed by Rainer Sarnet, which is a haunting and surrealistic folk tale set in a rural village, and “Truth and Justice” (2019), directed by Tanel Toom.
Which is a sweeping historical epic about a man’s struggle to build a successful farm in pre-World War II Estonia.
Best Estonian Movies
Overall, Estonian cinema offers a unique and compelling perspective on life and culture in Northern Europe, and is well worth exploring for anyone interested in world cinema.
1. Viini postmark (The Postage-Stamp of Vienna, 1968) Director: Veljo Käsper
“Viini postmark” (The Postage-Stamp of Vienna) is an Estonian comedy-drama film directed by Veljo Käsper and released in 1968.
The film follows the story of a philatelist named Peeter who becomes obsessed with finding a rare Viennese postage stamp, despite the objections of his wife and the disapproval of his colleagues.
The film was praised for its witty dialogue, engaging characters, and clever satire of the philatelist subculture. It was also notable for its use of location shooting in Vienna, which added to the film’s authenticity and visual appeal.
Despite its critical success, “Viini postmark” was not a commercial hit, and its director, Veljo Käsper, would not make another feature film for several years.
However, the film has since become a cult classic in Estonia and is widely regarded as one of the country’s most important and influential films of the 1960s.
2. Hullumeelsus (Madness, 1968) Director: Kaljo Kiisk
Hullumeelsus, also known as Madness, is a 1968 Estonian drama film directed by Kaljo Kiisk. The film follows the story of a young man named Andres (played by Arvo Kukumägi) who is committed to a mental hospital after attempting to commit suicide.
In the hospital, Andres meets a range of other patients, including a young woman named Oskar (played by Ita Ever) who becomes his love interest. As they form a bond, they begin to explore their past traumas and try to come to terms with their mental health struggles.
The film deals with themes of mental illness, love, and the struggles of young people in a changing society. It is notable for its bold and innovative visual style, which incorporates dream-like sequences and surreal imagery to explore the characters’ internal states of mind.
Hullumeelsus was well-received by critics and audiences alike, and is considered a classic of Estonian cinema. It won several awards at international film festivals, including the Golden Leopard award at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland.
Overall, Hullumeelsus is a powerful and moving film that explores important themes with sensitivity and artistry. Its innovative style and strong performances have helped to establish it as a landmark of Estonian cinema.
3. Kevade (The Spring, 1969) Director: Arvo Kruusment
“Kevade” (The Spring) is a 1969 Estonian coming-of-age film directed by Arvo Kruusment. The film is based on a novel of the same name by Oskar Luts, which is considered a classic of Estonian literature.
Set in a small town in Estonia in the early 20th century, “Kevade” follows the adventures of a group of schoolboys as they navigate the challenges and joys of growing up.
The film captures the spirit of youth with its charming and humorous portrayal of the boys’ escapades, crushes, and rivalries.
At the same time, “Kevade” also explores the themes of friendship, loyalty, and the importance of community, highlighting the values that are at the heart of Estonian culture.
The film has become a beloved classic in Estonia and has been praised for its nostalgic and heartwarming portrayal of youth.
“Kevade” was also notable for its innovative use of color, which was a rarity in Estonian cinema at the time. The film’s lush and vibrant visuals add to its overall charm and make it a delightful watch for audiences of all ages.
4. Hukkunud alpinisti hotel (The Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel, 1979) Director: Grigori Kromano
“The Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel” (Hukkunud alpinisti hotell en estonien) est un film de science-fiction estonien réalisé par Grigori Kromanov en 1979. Il s’agit d’une adaptation du roman éponyme de science-fiction du célèbre écrivain estonien-décédé en 1975, Boris Strougatski.
Le film suit un inspecteur de police qui arrive dans un hôtel isolé en montagne pour enquêter sur un meurtre mystérieux. Il découvre bientôt que les autres clients de l’hôtel sont des extraterrestres venus sur Terre pour mener des expériences sur les êtres humains.
Le film explore des thèmes de science-fiction tels que l’existence d’autres mondes, l’identité humaine et les conséquences des contacts entre différentes formes de vie.
Le film a été salué pour sa vision unique et avant-gardiste de la science-fiction, ainsi que pour sa direction créative et son atmosphère mystérieuse.
Il est considéré comme un classique du cinéma estonien et est souvent comparé à des films de science-fiction cultes tels que “The Twilight Zone” et “The X-Files”.
- Strugatski, Arkady and Boris (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 278 Pages - 10/16/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)
5. Nukitsamees (Bumpy, 1981) Director: Helle Karis
“Nukitsamees” (Bumpy) is a 1981 Estonian fantasy film directed by Helle Karis, based on the beloved children’s book of the same name by Oskar Luts.
The film follows the adventures of two siblings, Teele and Teele’s younger brother, who journey into a magical forest to rescue Teele’s kidnapped baby brother, Tõnis.
The cinematography in “Nukitsamees” is characterized by its use of vibrant colors and dreamlike imagery, creating a whimsical and enchanting atmosphere that immerses the audience in the fantastical world of the story.
The film also makes use of innovative camera techniques and special effects, such as stop-motion animation and puppetry, to bring the creatures and landscapes of the forest to life.
Overall, “Nukitsamees” is a charming and visually stunning film that has become a beloved classic of Estonian cinema, appealing to both children and adults alike.
The film’s captivating cinematography and imaginative storytelling have helped to establish it as an iconic part of Estonian cultural heritage.
6. Naerata ometi (Well, Come On, Smile aka Games for Teenagers, 1985) Directors: Leida Laius and Arvo Iho
“Naerata ometi” (Well, Come On, Smile) is a 1985 Estonian film directed by Leida Laius and Arvo Iho. The film follows the lives of several teenagers who attend a summer camp and explores their relationships and experiences as they navigate the challenges of adolescence.
The film was notable for its frank and honest portrayal of teenage sexuality, which was a departure from the more conservative approach to sexuality that had been prevalent in Estonian cinema up to that point.
It also featured a cast of mostly non-professional actors, which added to the film’s naturalistic and authentic feel.
“Naerata ometi” was well received by audiences and critics alike, and is now considered a classic of Estonian cinema.
The film’s themes of youth, love, and self-discovery continue to resonate with audiences today, making it a timeless coming-of-age story that remains relevant to new generations of viewers.
6. Need vanad armastuskirjad (Those old love letters, 1992) Director: Mati Põldre
“Need vanad armastuskirjad” (Those old love letters) is an Estonian romantic drama film directed by Mati Põldre and released in 1992. The film tells the story of a young man named Madis who finds a box of old love letters written by his father during World War II.
As he reads the letters, Madis becomes increasingly fascinated by the story of his father’s wartime romance with a young woman named Leena.
The film was praised for its sensitive portrayal of love and loss, as well as its exploration of the effects of war on personal relationships.
It was also noted for its historical accuracy and attention to detail, as the film was based on real-life letters and events from the director’s own family history.
Despite its critical success, “Need vanad armastuskirjad” was not a commercial hit, and its director, Mati Põldre, would not make another feature film for several years.
However, the film has since become a beloved classic in Estonia and is widely regarded as one of the country’s most important and influential films of the 1990s.
7. Ristumine peateega (The Highway Crossing, 1999) Director: Arko Okk
Ristumine peateega, also known as The Highway Crossing, is a 1999 Estonian drama film directed by Arko Okk. The film tells the story of a young man named Jaan (played by Mait Malmsten) who returns to his rural hometown after living in the city for several years.
Jaan reconnects with his family and friends, but also finds himself drawn to a mysterious and beautiful woman named Marju (played by Liina Vahtrik), who is involved in a dangerous love triangle with her abusive husband and her lover.
As Jaan becomes more involved in Marju’s life, he finds himself caught up in a web of violence and betrayal. The film deals with themes of love, loyalty, and the challenges of living in a small community.
Ristumine peateega was well-received by critics and audiences, and is considered a landmark of Estonian cinema. It won several awards at international film festivals, including the Grand Prix at the Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival in Germany.
The film is known for its powerful performances, evocative cinematography, and its exploration of complex human emotions and relationships. Overall, Ristumine peateega is a compelling and thought-provoking film that offers a unique insight into the realities of life in rural Estonia.
8. Nimed marmortahvlil (Names in marble, 2002) Director: Elmo Nüganen
“Nimed marmortahvlil” (Names in Marble) is a 2002 Estonian war drama film directed by Elmo Nüganen. The film is based on a novel of the same name by Albert Kivikas and is set during the Estonian War of Independence in 1918-1920.
The film follows the story of two young Estonian men, Joonatan and Toomas, who volunteer to fight against the invading German forces.
The two friends are tasked with the solemn duty of recording the names of fallen soldiers on marble plaques that are placed on a monument to honor the fallen.
As the war takes its toll and the friends face the harsh realities of battle, their friendship and loyalty are put to the test.
The film explores themes of sacrifice, loss, and the price of freedom, and is a powerful testament to the bravery and resilience of the Estonian people during a difficult time in their history.
“Nimed marmortahvlil” has been praised for its stunning cinematography and powerful performances, particularly by the lead actors Priit Võigemast and Indrek Sammul. The film has become a beloved classic in Estonia and is considered one of the most important films in the country’s cinematic history.
- Names Engraved in Marble ( Nimed marmortahvlil )
- Names Engraved in Marble
- Nimed marmortahvlil
- Peter Franzén, Priit Võigemast, Indrek Sammul (Actors)
- Elmo Nüganen (Director) - Names Engraved in Marble ( Nimed marmortahvlil ) (Producer)
9. Klass (The Class, 2007) Director: Ilmar Raag
“Klass” (en estonien “Klass: elu pärast”) est un film dramatique estonien réalisé par Ilmar Raag en 2007. Le film suit deux adolescents, Joosep et Kaspar, qui sont victimes de harcèlement à l’école.
Joosep est un garçon timide et solitaire qui est régulièrement intimidé et agressé par ses camarades de classe, tandis que Kaspar est un garçon populaire qui participe activement au harcèlement.
Le film explore les thèmes de l’intimidation, de la violence et de la cruauté dans les écoles, ainsi que les conséquences émotionnelles et psychologiques que cela peut avoir sur les victimes.
Il montre également comment les adultes, comme les professeurs et les parents, peuvent être impuissants ou même complices dans la violence qui se déroule dans les écoles.
“Klass” a été salué pour sa représentation réaliste et puissante de l’intimidation et de la violence à l’école. Il a remporté plusieurs prix dans des festivals de cinéma internationaux et est considéré comme un film important dans la lutte contre l’intimidation et la violence à l’école.
- Klass ( The Class )
- The Class
- Vallo Kirs, Prt Uusberg, Lauri Pedaja (Actors)
- Ilmar Raag (Director) - Klass ( The Class ) (Producer)
3 Characteristics of Estonian Movies
Intimate Portrayal of Human Experience: Estonian movies often focus on the lives and experiences of ordinary people. These films tend to be character-driven, exploring themes of identity, relationships, and the human condition.
The characters in Estonian movies are often complex and nuanced, with their struggles and triumphs depicted in a raw and authentic manner.
Historical Context: Many Estonian movies deal with the country’s history and its people’s experiences during times of war, occupation, and political upheaval. These films often examine the impact of these historical events on individual lives and explore themes of trauma, survival, and resilience.
Visually Stunning: Estonian movies often feature breathtaking landscapes and innovative cinematography, showcasing the natural beauty of the country. The use of symbolism and metaphor is also common, with visual storytelling playing a key role in many Estonian films.
Additionally, many Estonian movies make use of creative and unique camera techniques, adding to the overall visual appeal of the films.
3 Reasons To Watch Estonian Movies
Unique Perspective: Estonian movies offer a unique perspective on life and culture in Northern Europe. The country has a rich history and culture, and its films often reflect this through their exploration of themes such as national identity, tradition, and history.
Watching Estonian movies can provide a glimpse into a world that may be unfamiliar to many viewers, and can broaden one’s understanding of the diversity of global cinema.
Talented Filmmakers: Despite its small size, Estonia has produced a number of talented filmmakers who have gained international recognition.
Directors such as Veiko Õunpuu, Rainer Sarnet, and Tanel Toom have received critical acclaim for their innovative and daring approach to filmmaking.
Watching their films can offer an insight into their unique artistic visions and can inspire viewers to explore other works by these talented filmmakers.
Compelling Stories: Estonian films often tell compelling stories that are both entertaining and thought-provoking.
From coming-of-age stories such as “Naerata ometi” (Well, Come On, Smile) to historical epics such as “Truth and Justice,” Estonian films offer a diverse range of stories and genres that can captivate audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
Watching Estonian movies can be a great way to discover new and exciting stories that might not be found in mainstream Hollywood cinema.
Best Estonian Movies – Wrap Up
Estonia has a rich cinematic history and has produced several noteworthy movies over the years. Here are some of the best Estonian movies:
“Tangerines” (2013) – This anti-war drama film by Zaza Urushadze received critical acclaim and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
“The Fencer” (2015) – Directed by Klaus Härö, this historical drama film tells the story of an Estonian fencer who becomes a teacher in a remote school.
“The Class” (2007) – This drama film by Ilmar Raag explores issues of class and social status in contemporary Estonian society.
“The Last Relic” (1969) – This adventure film by Grigori Kromanov was a box-office success in the Soviet Union and is considered a classic of Estonian cinema.
“Viini postmark” (1968) – This comedy-drama film by Veljo Käsper is a cult classic in Estonia and is widely regarded as one of the country’s most important and influential films of the 1960s.
“Need vanad armastuskirjad” (1992) – This romantic drama film by Mati Põldre explores the effects of war on personal relationships and is widely regarded as one of the country’s most important and influential films of the 1990s.
These are just a few examples of the best Estonian movies. There are many more great films that have been produced in Estonia, and the country’s cinematic output continues to grow and evolve with each passing year.