YouTube is the second best place, after Russian Film Hub, to find and watch Russian movies online. On YouTube, you’ll find a ton of great Russian movies with English subtitles – with many free to watch!
Due to the inability of Russian film studios and distributors to make money off of their titles both domestically and internationally, many of them turn to YouTube to at least earn some ad revenue. As a result, there are far more Russian movies than one might expect on YouTube. Notably, the collection of Soviet classics there is especially large and of an excellent quality (think cult classic comedies every Russian knows as well as masterpieces of world cinema).
While there are many Russian movies on YouTube, you should know that most of them do not have English subtitles. So, this article should be useful in helping you find the most interesting Russian movies on YouTube with English subtitles – including emotional war movies, exceptional sci-fi titles, and hilarious comedies.
As of December 2023, here are the top Russian movies and TV shows available for streaming on YouTube for free. And to further explore Russian film and TV, please also check out Russian Film Hub – the internet’s definitive encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet cinema.
Directed by Elem Klimov, Come and See is a harrowing portrayal of the horrors of war, seen through the eyes of a young Belarusian boy during WWII. As he joins the Soviet resistance against the Nazi invasion, the film explores his brutal journey from innocence to the traumatized realizations of war. The film’s stark realism, combined with haunting imagery, makes it a profound anti-war statement and a significant work in Soviet cinema.
This Oscar-winning drama by Vladimir Menshov beautifully captures the life and struggles of three women in Moscow over several decades. Starting in their youth in the 1950s and moving into their mature years, the film explores themes of love, ambition, and the evolving roles of women in Soviet society. It’s a touching narrative that intertwines personal aspirations with the societal changes of the era.
Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker is a mesmerizing and philosophical science fiction film that transcends the conventional boundaries of the genre. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, it follows a guide, known as a Stalker, who leads two clients into a mysterious and forbidden area called “The Zone.” This enigmatic land is believed to fulfill a person’s innermost desires. The film delves into deep existential questions, making it a profound cinematic experience.
This short animated film, directed by Yuriy Norshteyn, is a mesmerizing piece of art that tells the story of a little hedgehog who gets lost in a dense fog while visiting his friend, a bear. The animation’s unique style and the story’s dreamlike, almost ethereal quality have made it an iconic and much-loved work in Russian animation.
Brat (aka Brother), directed by Aleksei Balabanov, is a gritty and realistic portrayal of post-Soviet Russia. It tells the story of Danila, a young man who moves to St. Petersburg and gets involved in the criminal underworld. The film is notable for its raw depiction of the Russian society during the 1990s and has become a cult classic for its stark portrayal of the era.
In the sequel, also directed by Aleksei Balabanov, Danila travels to the United States, where he confronts various challenges and cultural differences. Brat 2 continues to explore themes of brotherhood and moral ambiguity, set against the backdrop of the Russian diaspora’s experience in America. The film combines elements of action and social commentary, creating a compelling narrative that resonates with viewers.
Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin is a landmark in film history, known for its revolutionary editing techniques and dramatic portrayal of the 1905 mutiny on the Russian battleship Potemkin. The film is a propaganda piece intended to showcase the might of the proletariat against Tsarist oppressors, and its iconic Odessa Steps sequence remains one of the most influential scenes in cinema.
Karen Shakhnazarov’s The White Tiger is a unique blend of war movie and mystical tale. Set in WWII, it follows a Soviet tank commander who becomes obsessively determined to destroy a mysterious, invincible Nazi tank, dubbed the “White Tiger.” The film explores themes of obsession, the futility of war, and the supernatural, set against the brutal backdrop of the Eastern Front.
Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris is a deeply philosophical and psychological science fiction film that challenges the conventions of the genre. It tells the story of a psychologist sent to a space station orbiting a mysterious planet, only to encounter strange occurrences that force him to confront his own memories and psyche. The film is a meditation on human nature, memory, and the unknowable nature of the universe.
This Soviet animated adaptation of A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, directed by Fyodor Khitruk, offers a distinctly Russian take on the beloved children’s story. With its unique animation style and charming storytelling, it captures the whimsical adventures of Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, resonating with audiences both young and old.
Pavel Lungin’s The Island is a spiritually profound film that explores themes of guilt, redemption, and faith. It follows the life of a Russian Orthodox monk living in a remote monastery, who is haunted by a sin from his past during World War II. The film is a contemplative and visually stunning journey into the depths of spiritual struggle and enlightenment.
This film, directed by Oleg Fomin, portrays the story of a renowned Soviet sniper during World War II. It focuses on his lethal prowess on the battlefield and his psychological turmoil as he faces the realities of war. Siberian Sniper combines intense action sequences with a deep exploration of the sniper’s inner conflict and the impact of war on the human soul.
Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, The Return is a powerful drama about two brothers who embark on a journey with their father, whom they haven’t seen for 12 years. The film is a gripping exploration of family dynamics, masculinity, and the search for identity, set against the backdrop of the Russian wilderness.
The Edge, directed by Aleksey Uchitel, is set in the immediate aftermath of World War II in a remote Siberian settlement. The film follows a former soldier who discovers a derelict steam locomotive and becomes obsessed with restoring it. This post-war drama explores themes of obsession, isolation, and the struggle to regain humanity after the dehumanization of war.
This film, directed by Alexei Uchitel, is set during the Russian Civil War and follows the story of two officers, one from the Red Army and the other from the opposing White Army, who are forced to cooperate to survive. Enemies is a gripping portrayal of the complexities and ambiguities of war, where the lines between friend and foe are blurred.
Directed by Roman Karimov, this contemporary Russian film is a quirky and heartwarming story about an unlikely friendship between two socially awkward individuals in a big city. The film is a charming and insightful look at the challenges of finding connection and understanding in a world that often feels isolating.
Kim Druzhinin’s film is a war drama based on the true story of Panfilov’s Twenty-Eight Guardsmen, a group of Soviet soldiers who heroically defended Moscow against a German tank division during World War II. The film is a tribute to their bravery and a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made during the war.
This satirical comedy, directed by Elem Klimov, humorously critiques the Soviet bureaucracy through the story of a summer camp and its strict regime. The film uses humor and absurdity to comment on the restrictions and regulations of Soviet society, making it a classic in Russian cinema.
This charming animated series, created by Roman Kachanov, introduces Cheburashka, an adorable and unique creature, and his friend Crocodile Gena. The series is beloved for its heartwarming stories, endearing characters, and its reflection of the innocence and simplicity of childhood.
Directed by Sergei Eisenstein, Alexander Nevsky is an epic historical drama that depicts the legendary 13th-century battle on the ice, in which Prince Alexander Nevsky led the Russians to victory against the invading Teutonic Knights. The film is renowned for its dramatic battle scenes and is a patriotic portrayal of a Russian hero.
Another of Eisenstein’s masterpieces, this historical epic dramatizes the life of Tsar Ivan IV, known as Ivan the Terrible. The film is a visually stunning portrayal of the Tsar’s complex personality and his reign, marked by both progressive reforms and brutal tyranny.
Directed by Aleksandr Kott, Brest Fortress is a powerful war drama that portrays the heroic defense of the Brest Fortress by Soviet soldiers at the onset of Operation Barbarossa in 1941. The film is a vivid and emotional depiction of courage and resilience during one of the most critical moments of World War II.
Teens in the Universe is a captivating sci-fi adventure that offers a unique glimpse into the imagination of the Soviet 1970s. The story follows a group of intrepid teenagers on a daring space expedition. Set against a backdrop of stunning interstellar visuals, the film beautifully merges elements of science fiction with the exuberance of youth. The teenagers’ journey is not just through space, but also a journey of growth and camaraderie. With its blend of whimsical humor and thought-provoking themes, this movie is a timeless piece that resonates with both young and mature audiences.