Famous scene from the film The Girls 1962. Featuring Tosya eating at a table alone.

Russian Romantic Comedies and Dramas

In this post I talk about some of the most loved Soviet Russian Romantic comedies and dramas. Some are black and white films; others are in color. Many of these feature beautiful songs. These films have become part of Russian culture, even modern Russian culture – I will explain this more later in the post.

From black and white love stories during a war such as The Cranes Are Flying (1957) with its catchy and tender song, to colorful fun films like The Irony of Fate, these films are splendid. Fun and innocent.

I started watching Russian films – specifically Soviet Russian films – on weekends as part of my slow journey learning the Russian language and to learn a bit about the culture. My wife and I enjoy watching old films together, black and white films from the 1920’s– late 1940s. When we started watching Russian films, we didn’t know how long it would last, but we are still enjoying them about a year and half later. In doing so, my wife and I have discovered many new favorites – most of which are ‘melodramas’ (which is the closest analog to western romance comedies or drama).

Russian RomComs are not as soppy as the western counterparts. Russian romantic dramas often have more soul as I would put it, more emotional depth. They are unique time capsules and a peek behind the Iron Curtain. Something you could say that many in the West are still under – since they have never explored anything Russian (especially post-Soviet Russia) and therefore only have archaic notions of what Russia is like based notions that haven’t been true for decades, or from stereotypes consumed through mass media. There are adults who think that Russia is still communist, or that it is a frozen land without a summer. Neither are true and Russia has not been communist since 1991.

In this post I cover six classic Russian romantic films, covering a range of romance comedies, melodramas, and drama.

These films often featured satire about different aspects of life in Soviet Russia. They form a part of Russian culture today. Not only did many Russians grow up with these films, or are familiar with their timeless songs, but they feature in modern day Russian life and I will show this later in my post.

I love the songs in many of these films. They have catchy tunes, they are simple and innocent.

I will give a short spoiler-free description of what each film is about and then discuss how some of these films are still are a part of Russian life. An important point to note is that many of these films are popular not just in Russia but in former states of the Soviet Union, and many popular actors and singers of the time were from many different nationalities and cultures.

Office Romance
Служебный роман (1977)

This is our all-time favorite Russian film. For me it’s right up there with The Irony of Fate. This tells the story of a romance between a worker and his aloof boss. It was based off a play titled Co-Workers – Сослуживцы (1973).

The Girls
Девчата (1962)

A beautifully framed black and white film in such a picturesque setting – log cabins and snowy wintry landscapes. A recent graduate from a cooking school gets sent to a logging site and falls in love with a lumberjack.

Although it is a stereotype that Russians drink a lot of vodka, Russian actually drink more tea than vodka. In this iconic photo Tosya drinks her tea from a saucer – this was a common practice that some people still do today but is quite rare. It was a way of drinking tea that was too hot to drink out of a cup. Tea is a prominent part of Russian culture from Banyas to the home.

The Merchant’s Wife, by one of my favorite Russian painters Boris Kustodiev (Борис Кустодиев), is featured here drinking out of a saucer.

Carnival Night
Карнавальная ночь (1956)

This was one of my first Soviet Russian films I watched. I had watched Stalker some years before because it was a classic of world cinema, but this was the first Russian film I watched after I began my journey of learning more about Russian culture and the language.

The Most Charming and Attractive
Самая обаятельная и привлекательная (1985)

This is another type of office romance film. We really enjoy watching Irina Muravyova, and have seen her in a couple of films.

This is about a fun romance of unrequited love in the office of a research institute, and a mid-30’s woman’s quest to find a husband.

The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath!
Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром! (1976)

This film is about a man that gets drunk on New Years Eve, and instead of spending it with his fiancée ends up in the wrong apartment, in the wrong city. In Soviet Russia, many cities were built with the same structure, including the same road names and identical-looking buildings. It was possible to have the same address as someone else in a different city.

This film even features part of the New Years celebrations, where many Russians watch Soviet films as part of the preparation for the celebrations.

Here is a New Years postcard featuring soviet apartments. It reads “Happy New Year!”.

Postcard of the USSR “Happy New Year”, artist M. Matveev, 1982

The Cranes Are Flying
Летят журавли (1957)

A black and white film of a couple’s romance in the midst of WWII. This film is notable for being the only Soviet and Russian film to win a Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or. It is one of few films about the war that does not show any battle or action, but instead is focused on the lives and people outside of the battlefront.

Multiple generations of Russians are familiar with the song журавли.The song from this tender and sad love film was used in some of the memorials of the Kocus terrorist attack that happen on the 24th of March 2024.

Moscow Crocus City Hall 22 March 2024

Notable mentions:

Here are some that I have enjoyed and would also recommend.

Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears
Москва слезам не верит (1980)

Spring on Zarechnaya Street
Весна на Заречной улице (1956)

Walking the Streets of Moscow
Я шагаю по Москве 1964

This is not a complete list of all the Russians films that we have watched but our favorite Romantic comedies and dramas. Our favorite director is Eldar Ryazanov.

These films had a simple innocence to them, they were more down to earth than the glamour of Hollywood and they had happiness as well as struggle of life. I think they have a more realistic portrayal of emotion as well.

Many of these films had a moral element emphasizing the values of restraint, loyalty, love, or emphasizing the consequences with their opposites.

When I watch these films, I like to imagine life in Russia back then and all the events around the world and innovations that were going on, and how much has changed since then – and so suddenly.

Since these films were created, so much history has unfolded in such a brief time. I don’t think the people in the Soviet Union at the time would have imagined the end to be as soon as it was. And I don’t think they would have thought that someone in Mauritius would be watching the films 80 years after it’s release.

Russia was first in and first out of the Soviet Union. Entering on the 30th of December 1922, and leaving on the 25th of December 1991.

These films have a lot of nostalgia and are loved by many Russians today. There are radio stations dedicated to playing these old classics, there are idioms from these films used in every day life, and they feature at concerts and memorials.

I’m grateful for all these films that are available, they are such rare gems and make learning the language more interesting.

Let me know what your favorites are.

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