5 Best Movies to Watch In Yiddish

Staff & contributors

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

Mary and Max is the tale of an overlooked 8-year-old girl from Australia starting an unlikely friendship via mail with a middle-aged Jewish man from New York. Shot completely in monocromatic claymotion, it is the first feature film by Australian stop-motion animation writer, Adam Elliot, and the first ever animated film to score the opening slot at Sundance Festival. In all its playful absurdity, Mary and Max is an emotional and wise gem of a film that examines the human condition through the eyes of a troubled child and an autistic American. In contrast to its clay-based animation, it deals with some pretty dark and adult themes, but succeeds in balancing those with happiness and absurd humor. Moreover, Elliott gathered an ensemble cast to do the voice-overs, which includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, and Eric Bana. We recommend it 8 condensed milks out of 10.

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Barry Humphries, Bethany Whitmore, Carolyn Shakespeare-Allen, Christopher Massey, Eric Bana, Ian 'Molly' Meldrum, Ian Meldrum, John Flaus, Julie Forsyth, Michael Ienna, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Renée Geyer, Renée Geyer, Toni Collette

Director: Adam Elliot

Rating: Not Rated

Before he was Jim Morrison, Iceman, or Batman, Val Kilmer made his big screen debut as Nick Rivers, the doltish American rock 'n' roll idol who is unwittingly embroiled in an East German underground resistance plot in Top Secret!. Skewering everything from WWII romances and Cold War spy thrillers to ‘60s popstar musicals, this delightfully silly spoof from the team behind Airplane! is jampacked with sight gags, double entendres, and multi-layered setpieces delivered at such a manic pace that you’ll need several rewatches to exhaust all of its comedy. Its lowbrow style means that some jokes are undoubtedly dated, but there’s a lot of timeless wit on display here, including zinging one-liners, tongue-in-cheek lampooning of cinematic clichés, and slapstick gags in the vein of masters of the form like Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton. Top Secret! is blessedly under no illusions as to what we want from a movie like this, so the fact that there’s no comprehensible plot in sight only adds to the enjoyment here.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Andrew Hawkins, Billy J. Mitchell, Charlotte Zucker, Christopher Villiers, Dimitri Andreas, Eddie Powell, Harry Ditson, Ian McNeice, Jeremy Kemp, Jim Carter, John Sharp, Lucy Gutteridge, Mac McDonald, Michael Gough, Nicola Wright, Omar Sharif, Peter Cushing, Val Kilmer, Warren Clarke

Director: David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams

This is an inexplicably and philosophically dark comedy.

Its protagonist, Larry, is a lackluster professor at a dull university. Then his life starts to unravel: his wife decides to leave him for one of his more successful colleagues; his unemployed brother moves in to stay on his couch.

So Larry ventures on a quest for meaning and clarity within his Jewish community.

All Cohen Brothers fans will appreciate the movie's aesthetics and comedic strength. The protagonist’s struggle will resonate with anyone who has had a religious upbringing: guilt is a big theme here.

I felt like I had to rewatch it to understand it. But I also enjoyed that weird sense of not understanding everything that's going on. Much like life itself.

The film rightfully earned itself two nominations for the Oscars, including Best Picture.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Aaron Wolff, Adam Arkin, Alan Mandell, Allen Lewis Rickman, Amanda Day, Amy Landecker, Brent Braunschweig, Claudia Wilkens, Fred Melamed, Fyvush Finkel, George Wyner, Jessica McManus, Joel Thingvall, Katherine Borowitz, Landyn Banx, Michael Lerner, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Breitmayer, Punnavith Koy, Raye Birk, Richard Kind, Sari Lennick, Simon Helberg, Stephen Park, Steve Park, Yelena Shmulenson

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Rating: R

When German forces occupy Paris in 1942, a close-knit Jewish family tearfully sends their two youngest sons, Jo and Maurice, to escape the city on foot, with promises that they will all eventually be reunited in the Free Zone in the South. Told from the perspective of Jo – and based on the 1973 memoir of Joseph Joffo – what follows is a story of adventure, discovery, loss, love and the resilience of family bonds. A tapestry of cherished memories woven together with traumatic ones, the tone shifts again and again as Jo and his brother reach the bright shores of Nice––before they are driven to hiding again. Above all else, this is a story about the power of a family’s love, and of children who rise against the odds by their own courage and tenacity.

Genre: Drama, War

Actor: Batyste Fleurial, Bernard Campan, Candide Sanchez, César Domboy, Christian Clavier, Coline Leclère, Dorian Le Clech, Elsa Zylberstein, Émile Berling, Eric Bougnon, Etienne Chicot, Fred Epaud, Frédéric Epaud, Holger Daemgen, Ilian Bergala, Joël Dupuch, Kev Adams, Luc Palun, Lucas Prisor, Patrick Bruel, Pierre Kiwitt, Vincent Nemeth

Director: Christian Duguay