10 Best Movies to Watch In Ukrainian

Staff & contributors

Find the best Ukrainian-language movies to watch. These movies in Ukrainian are: highly-rated by critics, highly-rated by viewers, and handpicked by our staff.

Directed by David Cronenberg, Eastern Promises is at times brutal—such is the famous Canadian director's trademark—and operates at a fever pitch of grim violence and revenge. Starring a tattooed, ruthless, and terrifying Viggo Mortensen as a very convincing Russian strong-arm gangster as well as Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassel, it features intense psychological drama and a gritty crime story. Midwife Anna (Watts) delivers the baby of a 14-year-old Russian prostitute, who dies while giving birth, and later learns that she was forced into prostitution by the Mafia. To keep this knowledge from seeping out, she gets entangled deeper into London's criminal underbelly, whose various factions and languages are aptly showcased by Cronenberg. Add to all this a smart script and Mortensen's daring performance and you have yourself an intense auteur thriller in signature Cronenberg style.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Aleksandar Mikic, Aleksander Mikic, Alice Henley, Armin Mueller-Stahl, David Papava, Donald Sumpter, Elisa Lasowski, Jerzy Skolimowski, Josef Altin, Mina E. Mina, Naomi Watts, Raza Jaffrey, Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse, Sinead Cusack, Tamer Hassan, Tatiana Maslany, Tereza Srbová, Tony Cook, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel

Director: David Cronenberg

Rating: R

A calm choir leader lives a secret life as eco-warrior in this visually stunning and intelligent story about our complex times. If you're familiar with Icelandic movies, this one has just the right amount of that Icelandic quirkiness - making it a proper feel-good movie with a message. This is added to the superb acting and an off-beat musical score. Not to be missed.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Björn Thors, Charlotte Bøving, Gunnar Bersi Björnsson, Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Hallgrimur Olafsson, Haraldur Ari Stefánsson, Helga Braga Jónsdóttir, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Jóhann Sigurðarson, Jón Gnarr, Jorundur Ragnarsson, Juan Camillo Roman Estrada, Magnús Trygvason Eliassen, Margaryta Hilska, Olena Lavreniuk, Ómar Guðjónsson, Ragnheiður Steindórsdóttir, Saga Garðarsdóttir, Sólveig Arnarsdóttir, Thorir Sæmundsson, Þorsteinn Guðmundsson

Director: Benedikt Erlingsson

Rating: Not Rated

This teenage crime drama contains enough grit to stand on its own, but The Tribe’s real hook is in the way it’s told: entirely in Ukrainian sign language, without subtitles. Set in a boarding school for deaf students, new arrival Sergei must contend with an institution that’s run like a gang. His journey through the ranks is extremely violent and graphic, including unflinching depictions of rape and a back-alley abortion that lingers long in the mind.

Its unpleasantness will be a barrier for some, but for the curious, it’s an oddly balletic film. Among the misery, actors communicate the entire story via body language. Emphatic dialogue delivery conveys the mood of each scene (which often changes for the worse), and the characters’ actions speak loud and clear. Narratively it breaks little ground, and its darkness can’t be overstated, but there’s grace to its reliance on everything but words to tell its story. A film you won’t stop thinking about.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Alexander Panivan, Grygoriy Fesenko, Hryhoriy Fesenko, Ivan Tishko, Oleksandr Dsiadevych, Oleksandr Osadchyi, Rosa Babiy, Roza Babiy, Yana Novikova

Director: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi

Rating: Unrated

The Earth Is Blue as an Orange chronicles the lives of a single mother and her four children as they live in the war-torn Donbas region of Ukraine. Despite the constant threat of violence, the family finds solace in the arts (more specifically in filmmaking). While striving for normalcy in these tumultuous times, they channel their efforts into creating a film about the effect of war on their family. Even as they try to lead individual lives, nurturing this collective project, bombs, debris, and their reality is unavoidable. 

This film is a moving testament to the power of art, creativity, and hope in the darkest times. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Iryna Tsilyk

Somewhere near the border between Russia and Ukraine lies a shelter for kids coming from unstable homes. Their parents, either alcoholics or abusers, have nine months to prove that they’re fit to look after their children; otherwise, the kids are sent straight to the orphanage, with no chance of a goodbye. A House Made of Splinters is a documentary that quietly and closely follows the shelter’s occupants amid growing joys and pains, not to mention the ever-present danger of war.

Perhaps one of the most striking things about A House Made of Splinters is how attuned it is to the kids. It serves as a reminder of their immense sensitivity and observational skills (more than once, you’ll hear a child assess their home situation in the calmest of manners), as well as their clever ingenuity (there’s a lot of playing going on despite everything, which is heartwarming to watch.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Simon Lereng Wilmont

Formally speaking, 20 Days in Mariupol is little more than a compilation of footage bravely collected by Mstyslav Chernov in Ukraine, excerpts of which may seem familiar from when they were broadcast by major news stations. Unsure of whether or not Chernov would survive long enough to pass on his footage, he shot as much as he could day-in and day-out, resulting in this numbing, relentless compilation of anguish and death. As a documentary, there isn't exactly a unifying idea to 20 Days in Mariupol, with Chernov's narration only meant to provide necessary context and a foreboding score that probably didn't have to impose itself as much as it does.

And yet it's hard to deny the importance of the very existence of this footage, especially in a time when genocide is occurring elsewhere in the world with far fewer cameras on the ground to counter the denialist propaganda of those in power. Chernov's decision to let the images speak for themselves, without feeling the need to dissect every major moment for political analysis, isn't reductive; it's a statement that nothing can rationalize the indiscriminate killing of civilians and children. That the footage becomes overwhelming and hard to watch isn't a reason for us to look away.

Genre: Documentary, War

Actor: Liudmyla Amelkina, Mstyslav Chernov, Vladimir Putin, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Zhanna Homa

Director: Mstyslav Chernov

Rating: NR

In 2013, following the Ukrainian government’s termination of an EU agreement (in blatant disregard of what its citizens have been calling for), a wave of peaceful protests start to crop up at the country’s capital. Things escalate when the police violently disperse the protestors, but the people of Ukraine are not so easily held down. They fight back, growing in number and conviction each time they do, until an all-out war finally breaks out. 

Winter on Fire documents this series of events, staying close to the ground and allowing bits of humanity to shine through its subjects. In between chilling clips of the clashes, we're shown intimate interviews with people of all walks of life. They're doctors, actors, students, bankers, lawyers, and clergymen, from various classes, races, religions, and genders. Despite their many differences, all of them share one hope: to secure a better future for the people of Ukraine. 

Genre: Documentary, War & Politics

Actor: Bishop Agapit, Catherine Ashton, Cissy Jones, Kristina Berdinskikh, Kurganskyi Eduard, Natan Hazin, Serhii Averchenko, Valery Dovgiy

Director: Evgeny Afineevsky

Rating: Unrated

A very cool documentary about old ladies living in a forbidden zone near Chernobyl. They just came back to their homes in the "stalker zone" few years after the accident and kept living their lives care-free for a staggering 30 years. All of them seem healthy and they love telling jokes. It's a completely different view on this zone and you just find yourself full of admiration for these old ladies for their will and humorous way of living despite the circumstances. Home is home after all.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Anne Bogart, Holly Morris

Rating: Not Rated

Dropping on DVD and digital download in America at the end of summer 2023, Mavka: the Forest Song made its Hulu debut this November. Taking the plot of the 1912 poetic play and rewriting the tragic deaths into lighthearted, fantastical adventures, the film is precisely the sort of generic, child-friendly fairy tale that we’ve come to expect from Disney, albeit with a Ukrainian twist. The plot is predictable, and the humor is rife with cliche, but it’s still a fairly entertaining watch for young audiences.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Andrii Mostrenko, Artem Pyvovarov, Julia Sanina, Kateryna Kukhar, Mykhailo Khoma, Nataliia Denysenko, Nataliia Sumska, Nazar Zadniprovskyi, Oleh Mykhailiuta, Oleh Skrypka, Olena Kravets, Serhii Prytula

Director: Oleg Malamuzh, Oleksandra Ruban

Rating: PG

Despite a solid premise that should lead to compelling drama—about men scarred by war and the morally grey inner workings of the police—Confidential Informant devolves into a half-baked thriller that's as dull as its title. Flat direction, a lack of connective tissue between scenes, and an unfortunately visible lack of production resources suck the life out of the script and from the actors' performances. There's clearly a foundation to be built upon here, but the film makes a crucial mistake in trying to have its cake and eat it too: it wants to deliver all the (unsatisfying) thrills of an antihero police procedural, but it just doesn't have the money or the creativity to do this, on top of being a character drama. And so any tension that it tries to build up deflates by the end, its characters nothing but hollow shells, stuck in a story that that never gives them a chance to be anything more interesting.

Genre: Action, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Arielle Raycene, Dominic Purcell, Erik Valdez, Jon Lindstrom, Kate Bosworth, Meadow Williams, Mel Gibson, Nick Stahl

Director: Michael Oblowitz

Rating: R