5 Best Romanian Movies Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors
How far would you go to help a friend? The answer to this question might turn out quite differently after you have lived through the 2-hour squalor of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Set in the bleak late-1980s reality of Communist Romania, under the ironclad rule of Stalinist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, Anamaria Marinca and Laura Vasilu play Otilia and Gabriela, two small-town students. Otilia volunteers to help Gabriela go through with an illegal abortion, which takes place in a shoddy hotel room with the help of a man named Bebe (played by Vlad Ivanov). When things don't go as planned, they find their situations quickly going from very bad to outright horrible. Powerful performances, a realistic script, and director Cristian Mungiu's technical finesse create an experience that will force you to relive the desperation the two women must endure. Little wonder that it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2007.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adi Carauleanu, Adina Cristescu, Alexandru Potocean, Anamaria Marinca, Cerasela Iosifescu, Constantin Bojog, Doru Ana, Eugenia Bosânceanu, Geo Dobre, Ion Sapdaru, Laura Vasiliu, Liliana Mocanu, Luminita Gheorghiu, Mădălina Ghițescu, Mărioara Sterian, Tania Popa, Teodor Corban, Vlad Ivanov

Director: Cristian Mungiu

Rating: Not Rated

Mr. Lazarescu is a widower living with his cats in a small Bucharest apartment. One night when he begins to feel sick and calls for help, he sets in motion a kafkaesque parade of nurses, doctors, and hospitals as he is ferried through a bureaucratic maze unable to get treatment for his rapidly deteriorating condition. Cristi Puiu’s searing indictment of a failed healthcare system mixes kitchen-sink realism with tinges of gallows humor for a remarkable one-of-a-kind experience.

Beneath its grim demeanor is a clear-eyed portrait of the heart-rending weariness of paramedics and hospital staff that speaks spectacularly to our current mid-pandemic moment of exhausted doctors and overflowing facilities. This focus on the toll of the system on paramedics, in particular, makes this a fantastic pairing with Martin Scorcese’s’ underrated Bringing Out the Dead.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adrian Titieni, Alexandru Potocean, Alina Berzunteanu, Bogdan Dumitrache, Cerasela Iosifescu, Clara Vodă, Cristi Puiu, Dan Chiriac, Dana Dogaru, Dorian Boguta, Doru Ana, Dragos Bucur, Florin Zamfirescu, Gabriel Spahiu, Ioan Fiscuteanu, Ion Fiscuteanu, Luminita Gheorghiu, Mimi Brănescu, Mimi Branescu, Monica Bârlădeanu, Monica Barladeanu, Rodica Lazăr, Șerban Pavlu, Simona Popescu

Director: Cristi Puiu

Rating: R

Following a group of journalists uncovering an entire architecture of institutional corruption in Romania, Collective makes for an inspiring watch—not just because these people are pursuing a story outside their usual wheelhouse, but because their enemy really is so much greater than they can handle. Yet they continue chipping away, never once backing down from speaking truth to power. Director Alexander Nanau understandably might not have much access to the government's side, but he still manages to portray them as an ever-present, omnipotent invisible force, giving the film a thick atmosphere of dread and paranoia. But still, in the face of such overwhelming odds, the best thing to do is refuse to be scared into silence.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Tedy Ursuleanu

Director: Alexander Nanau

Rating: Not Rated

The Romanian New Wave’s predilection for bleakness gets a tongue-in-cheek dig in this buddy comedy from the same country: “Romanians are bad at making movies,” Pompiliu (Alexandru Papadopol) complains. “They only show doom and gloom.” Indeed, the premise here could easily make for a miserable movie: three hapless working-class pals win a multimillion lottery jackpot but lose their ticket — and, with it, the chance for Dinel (Pedro Pascal-lookalike Dorian Boguță) to pay off the mafia don that’s holding his wife hostage in Italy.

But Two Lottery Tickets takes a decidedly droll view of their predicament. Part of that approach is achieved via the trio’s characterizations: they’re all goofy in different ways, from the ridiculous conspiracy theory-spouting Pompiliu and the gullible Dinel to sleazy chancer Sile (Dragoș Bucur). The rest of the film’s breezy comic tone comes thanks to their amusingly convoluted journey to retrieve the ticket, which they believe is in a bag that was stolen when Dinel was mugged by two thugs. These many segues implicate a cross-section of Romanian society into the film, making it a wry social commentary in places. Mostly, though, Two Lottery Tickets has modest ambitions — to be, simply, an enjoyable comedy — a goal it surpasses thanks to its absurdist humor and pitch-perfect performances.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy

Actor: Alexandru Papadopol, Andi Vasluianu, Codin Maticiuc, Dorian Boguta, Dragos Bucur, Elias Ferkin, Elisa Calin, Mircea Banu

Director: Paul Negoescu