Hungary has a rich and diverse cinematic tradition that dates back to the early days of film.
Hungarian movies have made significant contributions to world cinema, and the country has produced several notable filmmakers and actors. Hungarian cinema is known for its unique visual style, which often incorporates elements of surrealism, satire, and political commentary.
Hungarian cinema has been influenced by various cultural and historical factors, including the country’s turbulent political history and its vibrant artistic traditions.
Many Hungarian movies have won critical acclaim at international film festivals, and several have become classics of world cinema.
Best Hungarian Movies
In this article, we will discuss some of the best Hungarian movies that have left a lasting impact on the international cinematic landscape.
These movies range from classic works of art to modern masterpieces and offer a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Hungary.
1. The Witness (1969)
“The Witness” is a Polish film directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz, released in 1969. The film is a psychological thriller that tells the story of a man named Adam, who is the only witness to a murder committed by a group of criminals.
As the police and the criminals try to track down Adam, he becomes increasingly paranoid and fearful for his life.
The film is noted for its use of innovative camera techniques, including point-of-view shots and subjective camera angles, which create a sense of disorientation and suspense.
The film also explores themes of guilt, morality, and the individual’s relationship to society.
“The Witness” was a critical and commercial success in Poland and abroad, and won numerous awards at international film festivals. It is regarded as a classic of Polish cinema and a landmark in the development of psychological thrillers.
2. Moszkva tér (2001)
“Moszkva tér” (Moscow Square) is a 2001 Hungarian drama film directed by Ferenc Török. The film takes place in Budapest during the summer of 1989, just before the fall of the Soviet Union.
It follows the lives of several characters who live in an apartment complex near Moscow Square, a symbol of Soviet power in Hungary.
The film explores the political and social changes that took place during this pivotal moment in Hungarian history, as the characters struggle to come to terms with their past and their uncertain future.
The film also touches on themes of love, loss, and personal transformation, as the characters confront their fears and desires in the face of sweeping historical change.
“Moszkva tér” is known for its beautiful cinematography, evocative score, and strong performances by the ensemble cast. The film was well received by critics and won several awards, including the Best Hungarian Film award at the Hungarian Film Week.
The film provides a compelling portrait of a moment of historical transition, capturing the mood of uncertainty and possibility that characterized this tumultuous period in Hungarian history.
It is a powerful and poignant film that speaks to the human experience of living through times of great change and transformation.
3. Csinibaba (1997)
“Csinibaba” is a 1997 Hungarian comedy film directed by Péter Tímár. The film is set in 1963 Hungary and follows the story of a group of friends who decide to start their own illegal distillery to make pálinka, a traditional fruit brandy.
The film explores themes of friendship, rebellion, and the challenges of navigating life under a repressive political regime.
The film was a critical and commercial success in Hungary, and has become a beloved cult classic. It is known for its witty dialogue, memorable characters, and a playful sense of humor that captures the spirit of the Hungarian people.
The film was praised for its ability to balance humor and heart, with a poignant underlying message about the resilience and determination of the human spirit.
“Csinibaba” has been compared to other classic films about the struggle for personal freedom and creative expression under totalitarian regimes, such as “Good Bye, Lenin!” and “The Lives of Others.”
It remains a beloved film in Hungarian cinema, and is considered one of the best comedies to come out of the country in recent years.
4. The Stationmaster Meets His Match (1980 TV Movie)
“The Stationmaster Meets His Match” is a made-for-television romantic comedy film directed by Marvin J. Chomsky and released in 1980. The film stars Hal Holbrook as Albert, a middle-aged railway stationmaster who has spent his entire life working for the railroad.
One day, a beautiful and spirited young woman named Celia (played by Dixie Carter) arrives in town, and Albert finds himself drawn to her.
Despite their age difference and the disapproval of their respective communities, the two begin a secret romance, with Albert sneaking out of his house at night to meet Celia in secret.
As their relationship deepens, Albert finds himself questioning the routine and predictability of his life and contemplating a major change. Meanwhile, Celia struggles to come to terms with her own past and the choices she has made.
“The Stationmaster Meets His Match” is a charming and heartfelt film that explores themes of love, aging, and the search for meaning and fulfillment in life.
Holbrook and Carter deliver strong performances, and their chemistry is palpable, making their characters’ unlikely romance all the more compelling.
The film’s nostalgic depiction of small-town life and its gentle humor make it a beloved classic of television movie romance.
5. Control (2003)
“Control” is a British biographical film directed by Anton Corbijn, released in 2007. The film is based on the life of Ian Curtis, the lead singer of the post-punk band Joy Division, who committed suicide in 1980 at the age of 23.
The film explores Ian Curtis’s struggles with depression, epilepsy, and the pressures of fame, as well as his tumultuous relationships with his wife Deborah, played by Samantha Morton, and his mistress Annik, played by Alexandra Maria Lara.
The film is known for its stark black-and-white cinematography, which captures the bleakness and despair of Curtis’s life and music.
It also features a haunting soundtrack of Joy Division songs, as well as original music by New Order’s Bernard Sumner, who was a close friend of Curtis’s.
“Control” is a powerful and emotionally charged film, with a focus on the human side of the music industry and the toll it can take on artists. It is also a tribute to the legacy of Joy Division and Ian Curtis, whose music and influence continue to resonate with audiences today.
The film received critical acclaim upon its release and won several awards, including the Best European Film award at the Cannes Film Festival. “Control” is considered a classic of British cinema and a must-see for fans of Joy Division and post-punk music.
6. The Corporal and Others (1965)
“The Corporal and Others” is a 1965 film directed by Miklós Jancsó, one of Hungary’s most prominent filmmakers.
The movie is notable for its innovative and experimental approach to storytelling, as well as its exploration of the complex political and social issues of the time.
The film takes place in a Hungarian prison camp during World War I and follows the story of a group of soldiers who are tasked with guarding a group of Italian prisoners of war.
As the soldiers and prisoners interact, tensions rise and the lines between captors and captives become blurred.
“The Corporal and Others” is known for its visually stunning cinematography, which incorporates long takes and complex camera movements to create a sense of fluidity and movement.
The film is also notable for its use of symbolism and metaphor, as well as its exploration of themes such as power, oppression, and resistance.
Overall, “The Corporal and Others” is a must-watch for anyone interested in Hungarian cinema or experimental filmmaking.
The movie is a powerful exploration of the human condition in times of war and provides a thought-provoking commentary on the complex political and social issues of the time.
7. Glass Tiger (2001)
“Glass Tiger” is a Russian drama film directed by Aleksei German Jr., released in 2001. The film tells the story of a young man named Nikolai, who lives in a remote mining town in Russia.
Nikolai dreams of escaping his bleak surroundings and pursuing a life of adventure and romance. However, his plans are complicated by his relationships with two women:
his girlfriend, who is pregnant with his child, and a mysterious woman who arrives in town and captures his imagination.
The film is noted for its atmospheric and poetic visual style, as well as its exploration of themes of longing, desire, and the search for meaning in a harsh and unforgiving world. The film also features a haunting and evocative score by the composer Andrei Sigle.
“Glass Tiger” was well-received by critics and audiences in Russia and internationally, and won several awards at film festivals. It is regarded as a distinctive and powerful work in the tradition of Russian art cinema, and a testament to the talent of Aleksei German Jr. as a filmmaker.
8. The Whiskey Bandit (2017)
“The Whiskey Bandit” is a 2017 Hungarian action thriller film directed by Nimród Antal. The film is based on the true story of Attila Ambrus, a Hungarian bank robber who became known as the “Whiskey Bandit” for his habit of drinking whiskey during his heists.
The film follows the story of Ambrus as he goes from a professional hockey player to a bank robber, and his pursuit by a determined police investigator named Lajos Tóth.
As Ambrus becomes more notorious for his robberies, he gains a cult following among the public and becomes a folk hero.
The film explores themes of crime, identity, and the allure of the criminal lifestyle. It is a gripping and intense thriller that is also grounded in a strong sense of character and story.
The film was praised for its strong performances, particularly by lead actor Bence Szalay who played Ambrus, as well as its stylish and dynamic direction by Nimród Antal.
“The Whiskey Bandit” was a critical and commercial success in Hungary, and has also gained a following internationally for its compelling and entertaining story.
It remains a notable film in the Hungarian film industry and a must-watch for fans of crime thrillers.
9. Cat City (1986)
“Cat City” is a Hungarian animated film directed by Béla Ternovszky and released in 1986.
The film is set in a world where cats and mice live in a parallel society to humans, and tells the story of a cat detective named Francis who is hired to investigate a series of mysterious disappearances of cats in Cat City.
As Francis delves deeper into the case, he uncovers a sinister plot involving a villainous mouse named Paulie who is using a machine to transform cats into mice, in order to take over Cat City and enslave its feline inhabitants.
The film is notable for its sophisticated animation, which combines traditional hand-drawn animation with cut-out animation and puppetry techniques. The result is a visually stunning and imaginative world, filled with colorful characters and intricate details.
“Cat City” is also known for its playful sense of humor and its sly references to classic film noir and detective stories.
The character of Francis, in particular, is a witty and charming protagonist who embodies the classic tropes of the hardboiled detective, while also subverting them with his feline characteristics.
Overall, “Cat City” is a delightful and entertaining film that appeals to audiences of all ages. Its inventive animation and engaging storyline make it a beloved classic of Hungarian cinema and a standout of the animated film genre.
10. Wild Roots (2021)
“Wild Roots” is a 2021 Georgian drama film directed by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross. The film explores the lives of three generations of women living in Tbilisi, Georgia, as they navigate their relationships, their dreams, and the changing cultural landscape of their country.
The story is set against the backdrop of Georgia’s turbulent political history, including the Rose Revolution of 2003 and the conflict in South Ossetia in 2008.
The film delves into the struggles of women in Georgian society, including the pressure to conform to traditional gender roles and the challenges of balancing family and personal aspirations.
“Wild Roots” is notable for its realistic and authentic portrayal of everyday life in Tbilisi, as well as its use of natural lighting and handheld camera work to create an intimate and immersive atmosphere.
The film also features a standout performance by the veteran Georgian actress Ia Sukhitashvili, who plays the matriarch of the family.
The film premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival and received critical acclaim for its powerful storytelling and its sensitive exploration of complex social issues.
“Wild Roots” is a moving and insightful portrait of a family and a country in transition, and a must-see for fans of Georgian cinema.
11. Meseautó (1934)
“Meseautó” (also known as “The Fairy Tale Car”) is a 1934 Hungarian film directed by Béla Balogh. The movie is notable for being the first Hungarian sound film and for its charming and whimsical story.
The film follows the adventures of a magical car that can fly and talk, as it travels through the Hungarian countryside. The car is piloted by two friends, a young boy and an older man, who are searching for adventure and excitement.
“Meseautó” is a delightful family film that combines elements of fantasy, adventure, and humor. The movie’s innovative use of sound and music, as well as its stunning visuals, make it a timeless classic of Hungarian cinema.
Overall, “Meseautó” is a must-watch for anyone interested in the history of Hungarian cinema or classic family films. The movie is a charming and whimsical tale that is sure to delight audiences of all ages.
12. On Body and Soul (2017)
“On Body and Soul” is a Hungarian romantic drama film directed by Ildikó Enyedi, released in 2017.
The film tells the story of Endre and Mária, two employees of a slaughterhouse in Budapest who discover that they have been sharing the same dream every night.
As they try to understand the meaning of their shared dreams, they develop a deep and unusual connection that transforms their lives.
The film is noted for its delicate and poetic exploration of love, desire, and the mysteries of the human soul. It also touches on themes of loneliness, trauma, and the struggle to connect with others in a modern, disconnected world.
The film features strong performances by its lead actors, Alexandra Borbély and Géza Morcsányi, and a distinctive visual style that combines realism and surrealism.
“On Body and Soul” was a critical and commercial success in Hungary and internationally, winning several awards at film festivals including the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.
It is regarded as a unique and powerful work of art that combines elements of romance, science fiction, and philosophy to create a moving and thought-provoking portrait of human connection.
13. Hyppolit, the Butler (1931)
“Hyppolit, the Butler” (Hungarian title: A butler) is a 1931 Hungarian film directed by Viktor Gertler, based on a play by István Zágon.
The film is a comedy of manners that tells the story of a butler named Hyppolit who is convinced that he is the center of the universe and that everything revolves around him.
Hyppolit’s delusions of grandeur lead him to interfere in the affairs of his employers, causing chaos and confusion wherever he goes.
However, despite his egotism and arrogance, Hyppolit is ultimately a sympathetic character, and the film uses humor to explore themes of class, social status, and human foibles.
The film was a critical and commercial success upon its release and is regarded as a classic of Hungarian cinema. It is known for its witty dialogue, fast-paced action, and excellent performances by the cast, including Pál Jávor as Hyppolit.
“Hyppolit, the Butler” is an important film in the history of Hungarian cinema and a testament to the country’s rich tradition of comedy and satire. It is a timeless classic that remains relevant and entertaining to this day.
14. The Little Fox (1981)
“The Little Fox” is a 1981 Hungarian drama film directed by Péter Gárdos. The film is based on the novel “The Vixen” by István Fekete and tells the story of a young girl named Vuk who is raised by a pack of foxes in the Hungarian countryside.
As Vuk grows older, she must navigate the challenges of living in a human world that is hostile to her animal instincts.
She faces discrimination and persecution from humans who fear and hate foxes, but she also finds love and companionship with other animals and with a young boy who befriends her.
The film is a powerful and poignant exploration of the themes of identity, belonging, and the struggle for acceptance. It is a visually stunning film that features breathtaking natural scenery and impressive performances from its cast of human and animal actors.
“The Little Fox” was a critical and commercial success in Hungary, and has become a beloved classic of Hungarian cinema. It remains a moving and powerful film that resonates with audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
15. Sose halunk meg (1993)
“Sose halunk meg” is a Hungarian action-comedy film directed by Róbert Koltai and released in 1993. The film follows the misadventures of two bumbling, but lovable thieves named Jóska and István, as they attempt to pull off a series of heists in Budapest.
Their plans are complicated by the appearance of a beautiful young woman named Eszter, who catches Jóska’s eye and becomes involved in their schemes.
As the trio navigates the criminal underworld and tries to stay one step ahead of the police, they also face unexpected challenges, including a group of eccentric Russian gangsters and a rival gang of thieves.
“Sose halunk meg” is known for its irreverent humor, slapstick comedy, and fast-paced action sequences.
The film’s witty dialogue and engaging characters make it a beloved classic of Hungarian cinema, and it remains a favorite among audiences both in Hungary and around the world.
The film’s title, which translates to “We Never Die,” is a nod to the characters’ resilience and determination, as they continue to get back up and pursue their dreams despite the obstacles in their way.
“Sose halunk meg” is a fun and entertaining film that celebrates the human spirit and the power of friendship in the face of adversity.
3 Characteristics of Hungarian Movies
Artistic and experimental: Hungarian cinema has a reputation for being artistic, innovative, and experimental.
Filmmakers in Hungary often explore unconventional themes and employ creative techniques to tell their stories. Hungarian films frequently feature striking cinematography, unique visual styles, and thought-provoking narratives.
Social commentary: Many Hungarian films tackle important social and political issues, reflecting the country’s complex history and culture.
Hungarian cinema often explores themes related to identity, national history, and social justice. Filmmakers in Hungary are not afraid to address controversial topics and offer critiques of the current state of society.
Dark and melancholic: Hungarian cinema is often characterized by a sense of darkness and melancholy, reflecting the country’s turbulent past and present. Many Hungarian films explore themes related to trauma, loss, and despair.
The films can be emotionally challenging and intellectually engaging, offering viewers a unique perspective on the human experience.
3 Reasons To Watch Hungarian Movies
Unique cinematic style: Hungarian cinema has a unique and distinct style that sets it apart from other countries.
Hungarian filmmakers are known for their unconventional storytelling techniques, use of dark humor, and exploration of complex themes such as identity, memory, and history.
Rich cultural heritage: Hungary has a rich cultural heritage that is reflected in its cinema. From traditional folklore to modern-day struggles, Hungarian films often touch on themes and issues that are deeply rooted in the country’s history and culture.
Watching Hungarian movies can give you a deeper understanding of the country’s traditions and way of life.
Acclaimed filmmakers and actors: Hungarian cinema has produced some of the world’s most renowned filmmakers and actors, including Oscar-winning director István Szabó and Palme d’Or-winning director Béla Tarr.
Watching their work can give you a glimpse into the minds and creative processes of some of the greatest artists of our time.
Additionally, Hungarian actors such as László Nemes, who won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for his movie “Son of Saul,” have received critical acclaim and recognition on the international stage.
Best Hungarian Movies – Wrap Up
Hungarian cinema has a rich and diverse history, spanning more than a century of filmmaking. From early silent films to modern blockbusters, Hungarian cinema has produced many notable works that have captivated audiences around the world.
Some of the best Hungarian movies include “Son of Saul” (2015), a powerful and emotionally gripping drama about the Holocaust; “White God” (2014), a thrilling and visually stunning film about a pack of stray dogs in Budapest; and “Mephisto” (1981), a classic of European cinema that explores the complex relationship between art, politics, and personal identity.
Other notable Hungarian films include “It Happened in Europe” (1947), a post-war drama about youth gangs; “My Twentieth Century” (1989), a magical realist film about twin sisters in turn-of-the-century Hungary; and “The Red and the White” (1967), a haunting and lyrical war film set during the Russian Revolution.
Hungarian cinema has also produced many beloved classics over the years, such as “The Round-Up” (1965), a historical epic about a failed Hungarian uprising against the Habsburg Empire, and “Love” (1971), a timeless romantic drama that explores the complexities of human relationships.
Whether you’re a fan of drama, comedy, or action, there is sure to be a Hungarian film that will capture your imagination and leave a lasting impression.