Latvia has a rich cinematic history that dates back to the early 20th century. Despite being a small country, Latvian filmmakers have produced many notable films that have gained recognition both nationally and internationally.
Here are some of the best Latvian movies that have made a significant impact on the country’s cinema.
Best Latvian Movies
These are just a few examples of the best Latvian movies that showcase the country’s unique cultural identity and cinematic talent.
1. Mother, I Love You (2013)
“Mother, I Love You” is a Latvian movie released in 2013, directed by Janis Nords. The film tells the story of Raimonds, a 12-year-old boy who lives with his mother in a modest apartment in Riga, Latvia.
Raimonds is an intelligent but mischievous boy who frequently gets into trouble at school and at home. When he steals his mother’s precious necklace to pay for a train ticket, Raimonds finds himself caught in a web of lies and deceit.
The movie is a coming-of-age story that explores themes of family, trust, and growing up.
The film features outstanding performances by the cast, particularly by the young actor Kristofers Konovalovs, who plays Raimonds.
“Mother, I Love You” received critical acclaim and won several awards, including the Grand Prix at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Best Film Award at the Latvian National Film Festival.
2. The Chronicles of Melanie (2016)
“The Chronicles of Melanie” is a Latvian war drama film directed by Viesturs Kairišs and released in 2016.
The movie is based on the memoirs of a Latvian woman named Melānija Vanaga, who wrote about her experiences during World War II and the Soviet occupation of Latvia.
The film follows Melānija, a schoolteacher and mother, as she is forced to flee her home with her young son when the Soviet army invades Latvia in 1940.
Along with other refugees, Melānija is sent to a labor camp in Siberia, where she is subjected to harsh living conditions and forced to work in the freezing cold.
Despite the hardships she faces, Melānija remains determined to survive and return to Latvia to reunite with her family. Along the way, she befriends other prisoners and finds hope in their shared struggle for survival.
The movie is a powerful portrayal of the human cost of war and political conflict, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
It received critical acclaim and won several awards, including the Audience Award at the Warsaw Film Festival and the Best Feature Film Award at the Latvian National Film Festival.
3. Foam at the Mouth (2017)
“Foam at the Mouth” is a 2017 Latvian drama film directed by Jānis Nords. The movie tells the story of Raimonds (Mārtiņš Vilsons), a 12-year-old boy who is struggling to come to terms with his parents’ recent divorce.
He feels disconnected from his mother (Rēzija Kalniņa) and tries to find solace in his friendship with a neighborhood girl (Krista Dzelme).
As Raimonds navigates his complicated emotions, he becomes increasingly drawn to his father’s (Oskars Jenkšs) dangerous world of crime and violence.
The film explores themes of family, masculinity, and the challenges of growing up in a society that is still grappling with the aftermath of Soviet rule.
“Foam at the Mouth” received critical acclaim and won several awards at international film festivals, including the Best Film award at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.
The movie is notable for its raw and emotionally charged performances, as well as its exploration of the complexities of childhood and adolescence.
4. Mans draugs – nenopietns cilveks (1976)
“Mans draugs – nenopietns cilvēks” is a Latvian film directed by Rolands Kalniņš, released in 1976. The title translates to “My Friend – The Unserious Person” in English.
The film is a comedy-drama that follows the story of a man named Jāzeps, who is struggling with his life and relationships.
Jāzeps is a carefree and irresponsible person who often avoids his responsibilities, but he also has a kind heart and loyal friends who support him.
The film is notable for its portrayal of everyday life in Soviet-era Latvia and the struggles faced by ordinary people.
It also explores themes such as friendship, love, and the search for meaning in life. The film was well-received by audiences and critics, and is considered a classic of Latvian cinema.
5. Firstborn (2017)
“Firstborn” is actually a 1984 American thriller film directed by Michael Apted, starring Teri Garr and Peter Weller.
However, there is also a 2016 Latvian drama film titled “Pirmais” (“Firstborn” in English translation) directed by Aik Karapetian, which follows a couple dealing with the birth of their first child and the unexpected events that unfold afterward.
If you were referring to the Latvian film, I can tell you that it received positive reviews and was praised for its strong performances and tense atmosphere.
It explores themes of parenthood, family relationships, and societal pressures, and features a mix of drama, psychological horror, and thriller elements.
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6. Ezera Sonate (1977)
“Ezera Sonate” is a Latvian movie released in 1977, directed by Aivars Freimanis.
The film is based on the novel “Lake Sonata” by the Latvian writer Vilis Lacis and tells the story of a young woman named Mara, who returns to her childhood home by the lake after spending several years living in the city.
As Mara reconnects with her family and friends, she is forced to confront the unresolved issues of her past. She finds herself torn between two men, her childhood sweetheart Andris and a wealthy businessman named Juris.
The film explores themes of love, loyalty, and the search for identity.
“Ezera Sonate” is widely regarded as one of the best Latvian movies ever made and has won numerous awards, including the Silver Hugo award at the Chicago International Film Festival.
The film features stunning cinematography that captures the beauty of the Latvian landscape and a memorable soundtrack by the Latvian composer Raimonds Pauls.
7. Four White Shirts (1987)
“Four White Shirts” is a Yugoslav film directed by Goran Marković and released in 1987. The movie is a satirical comedy that explores the social and political issues in Yugoslavia in the 1980s.
The film follows four friends who are all struggling to make a living in a society that values conformity and obedience.
They decide to start a business making and selling white shirts, but their efforts are constantly thwarted by bureaucratic obstacles and corrupt officials.
As they try to navigate the absurdities of daily life in Yugoslavia, the friends begin to question their own values and priorities.
They ultimately realize that their dreams and ambitions are not compatible with the oppressive system in which they live.
“Four White Shirts” is a clever and witty film that offers a humorous critique of the socialist system in Yugoslavia at the time.
It received critical acclaim and won several awards, including the FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
8. Is It Easy to Be Young? (1986)
“Is It Easy to Be Young?” is a 1986 Soviet-Latvian drama film directed by Juris Podnieks.
The movie portrays the lives of young people in Latvia during the 1980s, as they navigate the complexities of coming of age in a society that is undergoing significant political and cultural changes.
The film’s main protagonist is a young man named Mārtiņš (Ivars Kalniņš), who dreams of becoming a rock star and struggles to find his place in the world.
Along the way, he falls in love with a girl named Līga (Baiba Indriksone) and becomes involved in a youth protest movement that challenges the Soviet government’s policies in Latvia.
“Is It Easy to Be Young?” was a groundbreaking film for its time, as it tackled controversial topics such as youth culture, political dissent, and the struggle for national identity in the Soviet Union.
The movie was also notable for its use of popular music, including songs by Latvian rock bands such as Prāta Vētra and Dzelzs Vilks.
The film was well received both in Latvia and abroad, and is considered a classic of Latvian cinema. It remains relevant today as a snapshot of a generation and a society in transition.
9. Dream Team 1935 (2012)
“Dream Team 1935” is a Russian sports comedy film directed by Nikolay Lebedev and released in 2012.
The film is set in 1935 and follows the story of a group of amateur football players who are recruited to represent the Soviet Union in a high-profile international tournament.
The film is based on a true story and features an ensemble cast of well-known Russian actors, including Danila Kozlovsky, Oleg Menshikov, and Sergey Bezrukov.
The film explores themes of friendship, teamwork, and the power of determination and hard work.
“Dream Team 1935” was a commercial success in Russia and was praised for its humor, performances, and attention to historical detail.
It was also selected as Russia’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 85th Academy Awards, but did not receive a nomination.
10. Dolgaya doroga v dyunakh (1982)
Dolgaya doroga v dyunakh is a Soviet drama film directed by Igor Minaev and released in 1982. The English translation of the title is “A Long Way to the Dunes”.
The film is based on the novel of the same name by Yulian Semyonov and tells the story of a group of Soviet soldiers who are stationed in the desert during World War II.
The soldiers must battle extreme conditions and fight off German forces while also dealing with their own personal struggles and conflicts.
The film is notable for its realistic portrayal of war and its emphasis on the psychological toll that it takes on the soldiers.
It was well-received in the Soviet Union and continues to be regarded as a classic of Soviet cinema.
11. The Foundation of Criminal Excellence (2018)
“The Foundation of Criminal Excellence” is a Russian movie released in 2018, directed by Oleg Sentsov.
The film is a dark comedy that tells the story of two small-time crooks, Venya and Dimon, who dream of becoming big-time gangsters.
The duo decides to start their own criminal enterprise, but they quickly realize that their lack of experience and incompetence are major obstacles to their success.
As they bumble their way through a series of mishaps and failed schemes, Venya and Dimon find themselves in increasingly dangerous situations.
The movie explores themes of ambition, loyalty, and the corrupting influence of power.
“The Foundation of Criminal Excellence” is a satirical take on the gangster movie genre and has been praised for its humor and irreverent style
. The film features strong performances by the cast, particularly by Alexander Kuznetsov and Vitaliy Khaev, who play Venya and Dimon, respectively.
The movie was also notable for being directed by Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker who was imprisoned by the Russian government on politically motivated charges.
12. Varnu ielas republika (1970)
“Vārnu ielas republika” (Republic of Crows Street) is a Latvian movie directed by Jānis Streičs and released in 1970. The film tells the story of a group of children who create their own republic on Crows Street, a rundown and neglected area of their town.
The children, led by a boy named Jēkabs, decide to take matters into their own hands and create a new society with its own laws, currency, and government.
They set up a system of mutual support and cooperation and work together to clean up and revitalize their neighborhood.
However, their utopian vision is threatened by the outside world, including corrupt officials and a gang of local bullies who want to take control of the area for their own purposes. The children must fight to defend their republic and protect their way of life.
“Vārnu ielas republika” is a charming and nostalgic film that captures the innocence and optimism of childhood. It is also a powerful commentary on the importance of community and the need for people to work together to create a better future.
The movie was a critical and commercial success in Latvia and has become a beloved classic of Latvian cinema.
13. Three to Dance (2011)
“Three to Dance” is a 2011 Latvian drama film directed by Jānis Putniņš.
The movie tells the story of three women – Anna (Guna Zariņa), a ballet dancer; Olga (Baiba Broka), a contemporary dancer; and Milda (Lilita Ozoliņa), a folk dancer – who come from different dance backgrounds but share a common passion for their art.
The film explores the personal and professional struggles of each woman as they pursue their dreams and face the challenges of the competitive world of dance.
Anna faces pressure to maintain her physical appearance and deal with the demands of her choreographer, while Olga grapples with the loss of her partner and the need to find a new creative direction.
Milda, meanwhile, struggles with her identity as a traditional dancer in a world that values modernity.
“Three to Dance” received critical acclaim for its portrayal of the diverse world of dance and its exploration of themes such as identity, gender, and creativity.
The film also features stunning dance sequences that showcase the talents of the lead actresses and the beauty of Latvian dance traditions.
The movie was a commercial success in Latvia and went on to be screened at several international film festivals. It remains a celebrated example of Latvian cinema that highlights the country’s unique cultural heritage and artistic talent.
15. Purva bridejs (1966)
Purva Bridejs is a Latvian film directed by Aleksandrs Leimanis and released in 1966. The English translation of the title is “The Bride of the East”.
The film tells the story of a young woman named Zane who falls in love with a wealthy merchant named Robert, who is already engaged to another woman.
The story is set in the early 20th century and explores themes of love, loyalty, and social class.
The film was well-received in Latvia and is considered a classic of Latvian cinema. It was praised for its stunning cinematography and costume design, which captured the beauty of the Latvian countryside and the elegance of the era.
The film’s romantic plot and its depiction of Latvian traditions and culture have made it a beloved classic in the country.
16. Defenders of Riga (2007)
“Defenders of Riga” is a Latvian historical movie released in 2007, directed by Aigars Grauba. The film is set during the First World War and tells the story of the Latvian Riflemen, a group of soldiers who fought on the Eastern Front as part of the Russian Army.
The movie follows the experiences of several young Latvian men who join the Riflemen, including the idealistic Jānis and the hotheaded Oskars.
The Riflemen become known for their bravery and determination in battle and are eventually called upon to defend the city of Riga against German forces.
“Defenders of Riga” is a patriotic movie that celebrates the bravery and sacrifice of the Latvian Riflemen. The film features spectacular battle scenes and impressive production values, including elaborate sets and costumes.
The movie was a box office success in Latvia and received several awards, including the Best Picture Award at the Latvian National Film Festival.
17. Apple in the River (1974)
“Apple in the River” is a Filipino film directed by Mario O’Hara and released in 1974. The movie is a coming-of-age story that explores the themes of love, family, and societal expectations in rural Philippines.
The film tells the story of a young girl named Lina, who is sent to live with her grandmother in a small village while her mother works in the city.
Lina must adjust to the strict rules and customs of the community, including the arranged marriage her grandmother has planned for her.
Lina’s life is further complicated when she falls in love with a young man named Tonio, who comes from a rival village. Their love is forbidden by their families, and they must find a way to overcome the obstacles in their path.
“Apple in the River” is a poignant and beautifully crafted film that captures the beauty and complexity of rural life in the Philippines.
It was praised for its richly drawn characters, sensitive portrayal of social issues, and stunning cinematography. The movie is considered a classic of Filipino cinema and continues to be celebrated for its timeless themes and universal appeal.
18. Pohádka o Malíckovi (1986)
“Pohádka o Malíckovi” is a Czechoslovakian fairy tale movie directed by Oldrich Lipský and released in 1986. The film tells the story of a small boy named Malíček, who embarks on a magical adventure to save his parents from an evil sorcerer.
Malíček is a mischievous boy who lives with his parents in a small village. One day, his parents are turned into stone by the evil sorcerer Zlobor, who lives in a nearby castle.
Malíček sets out to save them and enlists the help of various magical creatures, including a talking fish and a wise old owl.
As Malíček journeys through enchanted forests and treacherous mountains, he learns valuable lessons about courage, perseverance, and the power of friendship.
Along the way, he must overcome numerous obstacles and outsmart Zlobor’s minions, including a band of bumbling robbers.
“Pohádka o Malíckovi” is a beloved classic of Czechoslovakian cinema, renowned for its imaginative storytelling, charming characters, and stunning visuals. The movie was a critical and commercial success upon its release and has remained a popular family favorite in the years since.
19. Laura un Vineta (2017)
“Laura and Vineta” is a 2017 Latvian drama film directed by Ināra Kolmane. The movie follows the story of two sisters, Laura (Madara Dišlere) and Vineta (Elīna Vāne), who grew up in a small Latvian town and have drifted apart in adulthood.
When their father passes away, Laura and Vineta must come together to settle his estate and confront the painful memories of their past. As they sift through their father’s belongings, they discover old family photographs and letters that reveal secrets and long-buried emotions.
The film explores themes of family, loss, and the search for identity, as the sisters grapple with the complexities of their relationships and the challenges of their own lives.
Through flashbacks and present-day interactions, the movie paints a poignant picture of two women trying to find their way back to each other.
“Laura and Vineta” was well received by audiences and critics alike and won several awards at Latvian film festivals. The film is notable for its sensitive and nuanced portrayal of sisterhood and its evocative depiction of small-town life in Latvia.
20. Midsummer Madness (2007)
“Midsummer Madness” is a Brazilian film directed by Alexandre Stockler, released in 2007. The film is a comedy-drama that follows the story of a group of young people who travel to a remote island off the coast of Brazil to celebrate Midsummer’s Eve.
The film explores themes of love, friendship, and personal growth as the characters navigate the challenges of their relationships and confront their own insecurities and desires.
The film is notable for its stunning cinematography, which captures the beauty of the island and the surrounding natural environment.
“Midsummer Madness” was a critical success and won several awards, including the Best Film Award at the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival.
The film has been praised for its intelligent script, strong performances, and beautiful visuals, and is considered one of the best Brazilian films of the 21st century.
3 Characteristics of Latvian Movies
Strong Cultural Identity: Latvian movies often reflect the country’s cultural identity, featuring themes such as the importance of family, love of nature, and the preservation of Latvian traditions.
Many Latvian films showcase the country’s stunning landscapes and historical landmarks, highlighting the unique beauty of the country.
Emphasis on Realism: Latvian movies often prioritize realism over fantasy or escapism. They focus on portraying realistic characters and situations, often dealing with difficult and serious topics such as social inequality, political oppression, and personal struggles.
Many Latvian films are introspective and character-driven, exploring the complex emotions and motivations of the people involved.
Experimental Approach: Many Latvian filmmakers have a bold and experimental approach to filmmaking, exploring unconventional narratives and visual styles.
Latvian movies often push the boundaries of traditional storytelling, with directors incorporating unique techniques and elements to create a truly distinct and unforgettable viewing experience.
3 Reasons To Watch Latvian Movies
Unique cultural perspective: Latvian movies offer a unique cultural perspective that is not often seen in mainstream cinema.
They explore the country’s history, traditions, and social issues, providing a window into Latvian life and culture that is both informative and entertaining.
High-quality productions: Despite their smaller budgets and limited distribution, Latvian movies are often well-made and feature impressive production values.
They are known for their stunning cinematography, strong performances, and creative storytelling.
Exposure to new voices: Watching Latvian movies is an opportunity to discover new voices in cinema. Many Latvian filmmakers are emerging talents who are making bold and innovative movies that challenge traditional storytelling conventions.
By watching Latvian movies, audiences can broaden their cinematic horizons and discover new and exciting filmmakers.
Best Latvian Movies – Wrap Up
Latvian cinema has a rich and varied history, with a number of standout films that have garnered critical acclaim and won awards both locally and internationally. Here are some of the best Latvian movies:
“Dream Team 1935” (2012) – a historical drama about the Latvian basketball team that competed in the 1935 European Championships.
“The Spider” (1991) – a psychological thriller about a woman who becomes obsessed with a spider living in her apartment.
“The Child of Man” (1991) – an adaptation of the classic Latvian novel by Jānis Rainis, which explores the themes of love and sacrifice.
“Vārnu ielas republika” (1970) – a charming and nostalgic film that captures the innocence and optimism of childhood.
“The Chronicles of Melanie” (2016) – a powerful war drama based on the memoirs of a Latvian woman who survived the Soviet occupation of Latvia during World War II.
These are just a few examples of the many great Latvian movies that have been produced over the years.
Latvian cinema continues to thrive today, with filmmakers exploring a wide range of genres and subjects and making their mark on the global film industry.