Though there have definitely been some pretty dark moments in USSR’s history, the country was actually famous for its films about all kinds of topics with Soviet filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky and Sergei Eisenstein making their mark in the world cinema history.

But outside of the post-Soviet countries, not many people know about the Soviet comedies that are so beloved by their audiences that people rewatch them every year during the New Year celebrations. Here are 10 essential Soviet comedies that every movie lover should watch.

10 12 stulev (1971)

Ilf and Petrov’s 1928 novel The Twelve Chairs has been adapted twice in the Soviet Union: by Leonid Gaidai in 1971 and by Mark Zakharov in 1976. Both films are beloved, and while Zakharov’s Ostap Bender (the main protagonist played by Andrei Mironov) is remembered better, Gaidai’s film is considered the superior comedy.

The story follows various characters, primarily Ostap Bender, who are trying to get ahold of the jewels hidden in one of the twelve chairs. The novel is a satirical work that examines the period it is set in very precisely while having many adventurous elements.

9 Devchata (1961)

Devchata (“The Girls” or “Gals”) is a black-and-white romantic comedy-drama based on a novel of the same name which was published earlier in 1961. The lead actress Nadezhda Rumyantseva was especially praised for her performance with foreign newspapers describing her as “Charlie Chaplin in a skirt” and “Russian Giulietta Masina”.

The story is set in an isolated Russian logging camp in the winter of 1960-1961. The eighteen-year-old Tosya arrives at the camp after graduating with a cooking degree. She now has to become a part of the community despite being unusually energetic and a little naive.


8 Lyubov i golubi (1984)

Lyubov i golubi (“Love and Pigeons”) is a romantic comedy that became an incredible commercial success at the time. It is based on Vladimir Gurkin’s play of the same name who also wrote the script. Director Vladimir Menshov previously directed Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

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The story is set in a village where the main character Vasily Kuzyakin lives with his family (wife, two daughters, and a son). One day, he gets an injury at work and is sent to a seaside resort to recover. There, he meets Raisa Zakharovna who works in the human resources department of the forestry enterprise where he works. They have an affair, but Vasily regrets it and wants to return to his family.

7 Sluzhebnyy roman (1977)

Sluzhebnyy roman (“Office Romance”) is a comedy film based on the play Co-workers written by Eldar Ryazanov (who directed the film) and Emil Braginsky. It is notable for comically depicting Soviet everyday life and customs during the Era of Stagnation.

The events take place in Moscow in the autumn of 1976. Anatoly Novoseltsev is a single father with two sons who works at a statistical bureau. While trying to get a promotion and a raise, he starts flirting with his boss Ludmila Kalugina, a strict single woman in her 30s.

6 Dzhentlmeny udachi (1971)

Dzhentlmeny udachi (“Gentlemen of Fortune”) is a crime comedy that remains one of the most popular Soviet films. Directed by Aleksandr Sery, the film has numerous iconic lines of dialogue that have become common catchphrases.

The main character Troshkin is a kind principal of a kindergarten who looks exactly the same as a cruel criminal nicknamed Docent. After Docent has stolen and hidden Alexander the Great’s helmet, Troshkin is sent to prison to befriend Docent’s accomplices who might know where the helmet is hidden.

5 Ironiya sudby, ili S legkim parom! (1975)

Ironiya sudby, ili S legkim parom! (“The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath!”) is a romantic comedy made for television which was also directed by Eldar Ryazanov. The film is loosely based on Ryazanov and Emil Braginsky’s 1971 play Once on New Year’s Eve.

The story begins in Moscow where Zhenya Lukashin is about to meet the New Year with his fiancee Galya in their new flat. He and his friends have a tradition to go to the banya (traditional Russian sauna) on New Year’s Eve. After they finish bathing, they are so drunk that Zhenya is mistakenly placed on a plane flying to Leningrad instead of his friend Pavlik. Upon arrival, he catches a taxi and asks the driver to get him to his Moscow flat which happens to have the same address as the one in Leningrad. The key he uses for the door fits and he gets in, but the owner of the flat arrives soon after to discover him there.

4 Kavkazskaya plennitsa, ili Novye priklyucheniya Shurika (1967)

Kavkazskaya plennitsa, ili Novye priklyucheniya Shurika (“Kidnapping, Caucasian Style” or “Caucasian Prisoner, or The New Adventures of Shurik”) is a comedy directed by Leonid Gaidai. The trio (in the picture) and Shurik are the characters that often appeared in Gaidai’s iconic comedies.

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The plot centers around bride kidnapping which was a tradition in the Northern Caucasus. Shurik is a student who goes to the Caucasus to learn about local traditions and customs. He befriends a young woman named Nina. Eventually, he gets entangled in a plot to steal Nina as a part of bride kidnapping.

3 Brilliantovaya ruka (1968)

Brilliantovaya ruka (“The Diamond Arm”) is a crime comedy directed by Leonid Gaidai and based on a real-life news item about a group of Swiss smugglers who attempted to transport jewels in an orthopedic cast. This cult film was a massive commercial success and is highly regarded to this day.

The story follows Semyon Gorbunkov, a family man who goes abroad on a cruise trip. On the same ship, the criminal courier Gesha is on his way to meet up with the co-conspirators who will need to hide jewels in an orthopedic cast on his hand after he says the code word. Because the co-conspirators don’t know what Gesha looks like, they mistake Semyon for him.

2 Operatsiya ‘Y’ i drugie priklyucheniya Shurika (1965)

Operatsiya ‘Y’ i drugie priklyucheniya Shurika (“Operation Y and Shurik’s Other Adventures”) is a comedy film comprised of three novellas and directed by Leonid Gaidai. The novellas are connected by their central character Shurik who later appeared in Gaidai’s other films.

The first novella “Workmate” shows Shurik working at a construction site and trying to befriend his new colleague. The second novella “Deja vu” has Shurik passing exams and befriending a pretty girl named Lida. The third novella “Operation Y” tells the story of the iconic trio who needs to fake the robbery of a local warehouse which Shurik happens to be guarding.

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1 Ivan Vasilevich menyaet professiyu (1973)

Ivan Vasilevich menyaet professiyu (“Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future” or “Ivan Vasilievich Changes Profession”) is a science fiction comedy film directed – once again – by Leonid Gaidai. The film is very loosely based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s play Ivan Vasilievich.

Shurik, now an engineer who lives in Moscow, invents the time machine. Accidentally, he sends Ivan Vasilievich Bunsha, superintendent of his building, and George Miloslavsky, a burglar, to the time of Ivan IV “The Terrible” while getting the tzar into the modern-day Moscow.

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