13 Incredible Romanian Movies You Should Definitely See

Diana Condrea
Diana Condrea
Diana is a tourism consultant, tour guide, travel writer and amateur photographer. You can find Diana on LinkedIn

Surprising and often paradoxical, Romanian movies are a distinct cinematographic universe. Discover our suggestions, and pick your favorites. You have enough choices whether you’re a fan of comedies, dramas, or films based on real-life events.

Romanian movies that launched the Romanian New Wave

After decades of censorship and propaganda, the Romanian movies started presenting the reality of how communism forever changed the country and its society.

A young generation of Romanian directors surprised the audience with their minimalist and realist approach. They set the grounds of the Romanian New Wave with their acclaimed movies. Their focus centered on the good, the bad, and the ugly of post-communist Romania. The black humor and a sense of self-irony Romanians master better than anyone gave their films a plus of authenticity.

If you’re curious to discover this particular universe, our Top 13 Romanian Movies is a good start for your to-watch list.

1. Aferim (2015)

Director: Radu Jude

A bold black and white historical film, Aferim presents the delicate topic of gypsy slavery in 19th century Southern Romania. The action is set in a backward world of unbreakable social barriers, superstitions, and prejudices. A young gypsy man, Carfin, runs for his life after his owner discovers the affair with his wife. 

Aferim was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlinale International Film Festival.

2. Beyond the Hills (2012)

Director: Cristian Mungiu

Beyond the Hills is based on dramatic real events that shocked Romanian society a few years before.

The movie explores the clash between religious indoctrination and religious indifference. The story of the two women, a nun and her less religious friend, is set in the surreal atmosphere of an isolated Orthodox monastery. The emotional rollercoaster leads to a tragic end, almost unbelievable in the 21st century.

3. California Dreamin’ (2007)

Director: Cristian Nemescu

California Dreamin’ offers a fabulous incursion in yet again post-communist Romania. The action is set in 1999, during the Kosovo war, in a small village from southern Romania. There, the train station chief is a mini-God who steals as much as he can to survive.

His life and his daughter’s, who wants to leave as soon and as far away as possible, are completely changed by his refusal to allow a train with American soldiers to pass by. A stunning movie, alternating hilarious moments with memories of childhood traumas that explain the chief’s grudging attitude towards the Americans, California Dreamin’ is a must-see.

4. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

Director: Cristian Mungiu

Maybe the most famous Romanian movie on our list, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days is one of the pioneer films of the New Wave.

Two best friends face a life-changing decision as they confront the shady and illegal practices of securing an abortion in communist Romania. Far from pro-life moralizing debates, the film presents the crippling lack of freedom and the overwhelming power of friendship.

The movie received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

5. Graduation (2016)

Director: Cristian Mungiu

Nine years after Four Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu delivers another heartbreaking movie, Graduation.

A doctor who wants to offer his only daughter a better life and the opportunity to do her university studies abroad has to make a painful decision. He faces a choice between integrity and corruption as an omnipresent daily life practice in Romania.

6. The Way I Spent the End of the World (2006)

Director: Catalin Mitulescu

We go back to the absurd realities of communism. The film tells the story of Eva and Lalalilu, sister and brother, and how their lives change after a minor incident with dramatic consequences.

Lead actress Dorotheea Petre received the Un Certain Regard Award for her role at Cannes Film Festival.

7. Philanthropy (2002)

Director: Nea Caranfil

No other movie presents better the many realities of the chaotic Romanian transition after 1989The plot follows the double life of an ordinary teacher who needs to make enough money to keep his young mistress happy.
Preceding the New Wave, the film features star actors Mircea Diaconu and Gheorghe Dinica in an incredible and thrilling story about appearances in a world of princes and beggars.

8. The Rest is Silence (2007)

Director: Nae Caranfil

The same amazing Nae Caranfil enchanted the public with another masterpiece in 2007, The Rest is Silence. Hilarious, sad at times, and captivating until the end, the film is the story of how another film was made almost one century ago.

The personal dramas and professional struggles of a young director, sponsored by a rich businessman, are the main narratives.

9. Police, Adjective (2009)

Director: Corneliu Porumboiu

Corneliu Porumboiu’s Police, Adjective focuses on the moral dilemmas of its main character. A young policeman’s system of values sets him in opposition to his superior and the rigid law system of post-communist Romania.

The movie won the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes Film Festival 2009.

10. 12:08 East of Bucharest (2006)

Director: Corneliu Porumboiu

Was there or wasn’t there a revolution in December 1989 in the small city of Vaslui from Eastern Romania? This is the main question of this acclaimed film by the same Corneliu Porumboiu.

A former textile engineer turned into a tv-show host, an alcoholic high school teacher, and a pensioner who dresses as Santa Claus every Christmas are the main characters. Each one has a different version and interpretation of the events, turning a tv-show into a comical and absurd dialogue.
The film received the Camera d’Or prize at Cannes Film Festival.

11. If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle (2010)

Director: Florin Serban

A young man serving his last days in prison is the main character of Florin Serban’s film If I want to Whistle, I Whistle. The closer he gets to freedom, the more complicated things become. He has to deal with his inmates’ aggressivity, the return of his mother after many years, and the presence of a volunteer he falls in love with.

The movie received the Silver Berlin Bear.

12. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)

Director: Cristi Puiu

This film can be too shocking and sad to watch, but it’s too good to miss. Based on a real story, the movie reenacts the last night of an old man, sent from one hospital to the other until it was too late.

13. Hello! How are you? (2009)

Director: Alexandru Maftei

This romantic film has little in common with the other Romanian movies from our top, but Hello! How are you? is the perfect choice for a Sunday afternoon.

A middle-aged couple goes through a marriage crisis the two make even worse when they start their own secret online affairs. The surprise is more than they can handle when they discover who was on the other side of the computer. All while their teenage son is seeking his own identity, from wannabe adult movies actor to brilliant physics student.

Many of the Romanian movies from the past decade opened the way for talented directors, actors, and producers. Excellent new Romanian films appear every year, conquering new audiences and fans.

Add your favorites in the comments section below.

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