13 Best Movies to Watch From Hungary

Staff & contributors
On Body and Soul is the impeccably crafted winner of the 2017 Berlin Film Festival and an Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. Is it possible that two people dream the same dream? And meet each other in that same dream? This unique drama directed by Hungarian filmmaker Ildikó Enyedi studies this possibility against the unlikely backdrop of a slaughterhouse. Middle-aged, inconspicuous manager Endre (Géza Morcsányi) can't help but noticing a new girl at work, Maria (Alexandra Borbély), the abattoir's new hygiene manager. They fall in love, but not, as you might suspect, during a fateful mandatory hygiene inspection, but in their dreams—in the shape of two deer in a mysterious, snow-covered forest. The Hungarian director had taken an 18-year break from making movies, which was probably the prerequisite for making something as striking and unconventional as On Body and Soul.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Alexandra Borbély, Ervin Nagy, Eva Bata, Géza Morcsányi, Itala Bekes, Júlia Nyakó, Morcsányi Géza, Nora Rainer-Micsinyei, Pal Macsai, Reka Tenki, Tamás Jordán, Zoltán Schneider, Zsuzsa Jaro

Director: Ildikó Enyedi

Rating: Not Rated

Taking 23 years until its completion, The Tragedy of Man is quite possibly the most ambitious film ever made, not just in its animation, but also in its scope. It’s quite fitting, as an adaptation of the classic Hungarian play, as Imre Madách’s story sets out to question not just the individual’s purpose, but the purpose of humanity as a whole, with writer-director Marcell Jankovics giving life to the play through the historical art styles of past civilizations that shifted today’s Western world, as well as adding what has happened after the play’s publication in 1861. While the film’s length can be daunting, being the Western animated feature in the world, the dialectic hits at the heart of this absurd existence, informed by the cynicism formed after Hungary’s fall of communism in 1989. The Tragedy of Man isn’t an easy film to watch, considering the themes, but it’s an interesting vision of humanity, illustrated in such an interesting way.

Genre: Animation, Drama, History

Actor: Ágnes Bertalan, Mátyás Usztics, Piroska Molnár, Tamás Széles, Tibor Szilágyi

Director: Marcell Jankovics

A special forces team conducts a raid at a multi-story ghetto building where a criminal boss runs his business. Things quickly go wrong and chaos ensues. Full of pure action, with no overblown Hollywood-type CGI nonsense. It is made the way action movies should be made, full of realistic fight scenes. It is exciting, brutal and thrilling. The Raid: Redemption is definitely among the best action movies ever made.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Acip Sumardi, Alfridus Godfred, Ananda George, Bastian Riffanie, Donny Alamsyah, Eka 'Piranha' Rahmadia, Gareth Evans, Henky Solaiman, Iang Darmawan, Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Melkias Ronald Torobi, Pierre Gruno, Ray Sahetapy, Rully Santoso, Saad Afero, Tegar Satrya, Tuhen, Ubay Dillah, Umi Kulsum, Verdi Solaiman, Very Tri Yulisman, Yandi 'Piranha' Sutsina, Yayan Ruhian

Director: Gareth Evans

Rating: R

It's difficult to portray Cinderella stories nowadays without making them feel cliche and irrelevant, but Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris seems to have achieved the impossible: it tells a well-worn tale without losing any of its charms, and Lesley Manville is the person to thank for this surprising triumph. As the titular Mrs. Harris, Manville is so sweet and likable —thoroughly convincing in her rags-to-riches journey—that it's impossible to watch her without grinning from ear to ear. Sure, the beats are predictable, polished to a fault even, but Manville makes every scene worth it. This is a feel-good movie if ever there was one, made even more enjoyable for fans of earnest performances, beautiful dresses, and clean, straightforward storytelling.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: Alba Baptista, Anna Chancellor, Barnabás Réti, Ben Addis, Bertrand Poncet, Christian McKay, Csémy Balázs, Declan Hannigan, Delroy Atkinson, Ellen Thomas, Freddie Fox, Guilaine Londez, Harry Szovik, Igor Szász, Isabelle Huppert, Jade Lopez, Jason Isaacs, Jeremy Wheeler, Lambert Wilson, Lesley Manville, Lucas Bravo, Panka Murányi, Philippe Bertin, Rose Williams, Roxane Duran, Saruul Delgerbayar, Vincent Martin, Wayne Brett, Zsolt Páll

Director: Anthony Fabian

Surreal, off-putting, and extremely disturbing, Infinity Pool plays with the concepts of cloning and the death penalty to craft an examination on colonial tourism. It’s a thematically rich horror film, with hazy neon-lit sex scenes and absolutely terrible behavior, enabled by their wealth and advanced technology that could have been put to better use. Mia Goth, in particular, is strikingly unhinged, as Gabi taunts and lures James into bigger and more terrible crimes, crimes that he can only pay off with the wealth of his father-in-law. And Alexander Skarsgård as James believably gets sucked into this extremely libertine lifestyle, fuelled by the nepotistic anxiety of not living up to his own potential. The film presents a scary notion that pushed by wealth and playground tactics, one will willingly kill their own conscience, again and again, to belong to their cohort.

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alexander Skarsgård, Alexandra Tóth, Amanda Brugel, Amar Bukvić, Caroline Boulton, Cleopatra Coleman, Gergely Trócsányi, Géza Kovács, Jalil Lespert, Jeff Ricketts, John Ralston, Mia Goth, Roderick Hill, Romina Tonković, Thomas Kretschmann

Director: Brandon Cronenberg

Rating: R

When we think about dog films, we think about overly sentimental, feel-good flicks, with the dogs sometimes voiced by famous actors, that affirm the relationship between man and his best friend. White God is a dog movie, but it’s not that kind of dog movie. The dogs are not voiced, but yet they feel so personable as co-writer and director Kornél Mundruczó turns Hagen’s time in the street into a series of escapades, some exciting and some downright terrifying, where he evades the cruelty of man. And as the film alternates between Hagen and the young Lili, Mundruczó questions the ways we treat our furball best friends, the way we also treat those that are in our care.

Genre: Drama

Actor: András Hidvégi, András Réthelyi, Attila Mokos, Body, Diána Magdolna Kiss, Edit Frajt, Erika Bodnár, Ervin Nagy, Gera Marina, Gergely Bánki, Gergely Kovács, János Derzsi, Károly Ascher, Kata Wéber, Kornél Mundruczó, Krisztián Vranik, László Gálffi, László Melis, Lili Horvát, Lili Monori, Luke, Natasa Stork, Orsolya Tóth, Roland Rába, Sándor Terhes, Sándor Zsótér, Szabolcs Thuróczy, Tamás Polgár, Thuróczy Szabolcs, Virág Marjai, Zsófia Psotta

Director: Kornél Mundruczó

Rating: R

Best friends Miles and Jack are off to wine country to celebrate Jack's last week of freedom before he gets married. They drop white lies about themselves, with Miles pretending to be a successful writer and Jack not mentioning his impending wedding, and soon meet two beautiful women whom they spend the rest of their stay with. What sounds like a dreamy bachelor's celebration, however, soon unravels into a messy tangle of tall tales. Miles and Jack contemplate their situation in smart, sad, and silly turns, delivering excellent performances and an overall hard-hitting road movie. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex Kalognomos, Alysia Reiner, Cesar Ramos, Chris Astoyan, Jessica Hecht, Joe Marinelli, Lee Brooks, M.C. Gainey, Marylouise Burke, Mikael Sharafyan, Missy Doty, Patrick Gallagher, Paul Giamatti, Peter Dennis, Phil Reeves, Robert Covarrubias, Sandra Oh, Shake Tukhmanyan, Shaun Duke, Stephanie Faracy, Thomas Haden Church, Toni Howard, Virginia Madsen

Director: Alexander Payne

Rating: R

Tied together by a song that seems to drive people to end their own lives, Gloomy Sunday's tale of polyamorous love torn apart by the advent of the Second World War is one that doesn't operate according to your usual narrative structure. Its stranger elements might not always work with the very real horrors of the Nazis' invasion of Hungary, but the film still expresses this horror in a unique way. Even long before the war begins, this song that joins our three lovers together seems to touch on a sense of doom everybody is feeling—warning signs of Hitler's rise to power that ordinary people seem to have been powerless to stop in time. It's certainly unique for a non-action-driven war film, bathed in tragedy and bitter irony.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance, War

Actor: András Bálint, Anna Ráckevei, Áron Sipos, Ben Becker, Denis Moschitto, Dorka Gryllus, Erika Marozsán, Ernst Kahl, Ferenc Bács, Ferenc Némethy, Ilse Zielstorff, István Kanizsay, István Mikó, Joachim Krol, Jörg Gillner, Karl Fischer, László I. Kish, Markus Hering, Márta Bakó, Michael Gampe, Rolf Becker, Sebastian Koch, Stefan Weinert, Stefano Dionisi, Tibor Kenderesi, Ulrike Grote, Veit Stübner, Wanja Mues, Zsuzsa Mányai

Director: Rolf Schübel

The movie follows Martha (Vanessa Kirby), a young wife who loses her baby in a failed home birth. She tries her best to trudge through the aftermath of loss, but her coping attempts prove to be near impossible, not least because her husband Sean (Shia LaBeouf) and mother Liz (Ellen Burstyn) continually domineer every aspect of her life.

Pieces of a Woman is harrowing and heartbreaking, with the actors giving their all in this realistic and revealing drama. But it's Kirby's performance as the unraveled yet apathetic Martha that is the film's immediate standout, rightfully earning her a Best Actress nomination at the 2021 Academy Awards.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alain Dahan, Benny Safdie, Domenic Di Rosa, Ellen Burstyn, Frank Schorpion, Gayle Garfinkle, Harry Standjofski, Harry Strandjofski, Iliza Shlesinger, Jimmie Fails, Leisa Reid, Molly Parker, Sarah Snook, Sean Tucker, Shia LaBeouf, Steven McCarthy, Tyrone Benskin, Vanessa Kirby, Vanessa Smythe

Director: Kornél Mundruczó, Kornél Mundruczó

Rating: R

A story about inspectors on the Hungarian subway and their struggle to get travelers to pay up. Skinheads with attack dogs, drunks and freaks are the harsh reality of these working-class heroes, who themselves of course are quite the weird bunch. Dark post-soviet humor, refreshingly politically incorrect characters and an abstract parallel love story which barely makes sense even at the end. Kontroll is a movie you will regret having waited 10 years to see.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Balla Eszter, Bence Mátyássy, Csaba Pindroch, Enikő Eszenyi, Eszter Balla, György Cserhalmi, Győző Szabó, János Derzsi, János Kulka, Lajos Kovács, Péter Scherer, Sándor Badár, Sándor Csányi, Szabó Győző, Zoltán Mucsi, Zsolt Nagy

Director: Nimród Antal

Rating: R

Of course, with wartime spy romances, it’s expected to have conflicted desire, twisty betrayals, and the internal war between personal love and national duty. Black Book delivers this in spades, infusing the drama with writer-director Paul Verhoeven’s propensity for sex and violence, which he brings back to his homeland after two decades apart. The drama is well-made, especially with the talented Carice van Houten as a survival-first composite spy character inspired by several resistance members, but the familiar plot, the melodrama, and the pacing can make the 2 and a half hour runtime feel a bit tedious for some viewers. Still, for fans of the genre, Black Book isn’t a terrible choice to watch.

Genre: Drama, Thriller, War

Actor: Bert Luppes, Carice van Houten, Christian Berkel, Derek de Lint, Diana Dobbelman, Dolf de Vries, Frank Lammers, Garrick Hagon, Gijs Naber, Halina Reijn, Hugo Metsers, Johnny de Mol, Marcel Musters, Marisa van Eyle, Matthias Schoenaerts, Menno van Beekum, Merel Pauw, Michiel Huisman, Mike Reus, Nolan Hemmings, Peter Blok, Pieter Tiddens, Ronald Armbrust, Sebastian Koch, Theo Maassen, Thom Hoffman, Timothy Deenihan, Waldemar Kobus, Xander Straat

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Rating: R

Even if Crimes of Fashion: Killer Clutch faithfully sticks to the general template of a mystery film, that doesn't guarantee its quality. It may have structure and suspects and motive but it doesn't inject its own color into the expected story beats. Maybe it's a consequence of the film being made for a network that only really shows "safe," sanitized programming, but there isn't a particularly strong sense of danger here despite the threat of violence being established from the very beginning. And while the movie has fun with individual outsized characters meant to show off how outlandish and how expressive high fashion can be, they fall to the background and are unfortunately diluted in the rest of the film's bland tropes.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, TV Movie

Actor: Alain Van Goethem, Brooke D'Orsay, David Bowles, Gilles Marini, Harry Szovik, Martin Budny, Mohamed Belhadjine, Paloma Coquant

Director: Felipe Rodriguez

Rating: PG