The 50 Best Czech Movies Ever Made, According to Czechs

Over at the Česko-Slovenská filmová databáze (ČSFD), the Czech & Slovak version of the hugely-popular IMDb, hundreds of thousands of users have rated hundreds of thousands (millions?) of movies from the past 100+ years.

And like the IMDb, the site provides a neat little compilation of the highest & lowest-rated films. While the rating system, a percentage out of 100 rather than IMDb’s familiar 10 stars, is a little different, the gist is the same.

And there are a lot of similarities in taste: like IMDb’s top 250, The Shawshank Redemption comes in at #1 among local voters, with familiar titles like The Godfather, Forrest Gump, 12 Angry Men, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (from Czech director Miloš Forman) all in the top 10.

Throughout the list of the ČSFD’s top 300 films, roughly 20% are Czech titles. And they give an interesting cross-section of what the general public considers the country’s top movies to be, which may not always meet expectations.

For instance, František Vláčil’s Marketa Lazarová was chosen by Czech film critics as the best Czech movie ever made in a mid-2000s poll, and it was given the Criterion treatment in the US last year. It would also be my choice as the best Czech film ever made – and one of the all-time great films in all of cinema.

But rated at 82% among Czech viewers, it misses the cut for this list. (Also not in the ČSFD’s top 300: Welles’ Citizen Kane and Hitchcock’s Vertigo, two US titles that are routinely named as the top films in many critic polls – and rated highly over at IMDb).

Closely Observed Trains, one of only three Czech movies to win the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar, is also absent from the top 50.

Here’s the top 50, with ratings valid as of June 2017. English titles where applicable:

  • 50. Kristian (1939) – 84.8%
  • 49. The Firemen’s Ball (Hoří, má panenko, 1967) – 84.8%
  • 48. The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (Baron Prášil, 1961) – 84.8%
  • 47. Adele Hasn’t Had Her Dinner Yet (Adéla ještě nevečeřela, 1977) – 84.8%
  • 46. The Assassination (Atentát, 1964) – 85%
  • 45. Kulový blesk (1978) – 85%
  • 44. Happy End (1967) – 85%
  • 43. Larks on a String (Skřivánci na niti, 1969) – 85%
  • 42. Fimfárum Jana Wericha (2002) – 85%

  • 41. Divided We Fall (Musíme si pomáhat, 2000) – 85.1%
  • 40. Mach a Šebestová k tabuli! (1985) – 85.1%
  • 39. Gentlemen, Boys (Páni kluci, 1975) – 85.1%
  • 38. Nebe a dudy (1941) – 85.2%
  • 37. Jáchyme, hoď ho do stroje! (1974) – 85.1%
  • 36. I Dutifully Report (Poslušně hlásím, 1957) – 85.4%
  • 35. Tichá bolest (1990) – 85.6%
  • 34. Czech Soda (Česká soda, 1998) – 85.7%
  • 33. Riders in the Sky (Nebeští jezdci, 1968) – 85.7%

  • 32. Three Wishes for Cinderella (Tři oříšky pro Popelku, 1973) – 85.7%
  • 31. The Creation of the World (Stvoření světa, 1957) – 85.8%
  • 30. The Snowdrop Festival (Slavnosti sněženek, 1983) – 85.8%
  • 29. The Good Soldier Švejk (Dobrý voják Švejk, 1956) – 85.8%
  • 28. The Ear (Ucho, 1970) – 85.9%
  • 27. Station Master (Přednosta stanice, 1941) – 85.9%
  • 26. Kolya (Kolja, 1996) – 86%
  • 25. The Emperor’s Baker – The Baker’s Emperor (Císařův pekař – Pekařův císař, 1951) – 86%
  • 24. All My Compatriots (Všichni dobří rodáci, 1968) – 86.1%
  • 23. Lemonade Joe (Limonádový Joe aneb Koňská opera, 1964) – 86.1%

  • 22. Waiter, Scarper! (Vrchní, prchni!, 1980) – 86.3%
  • 21. Forbidden Dreams (Smrt krásných srnců, 1986) – 86.3%
  • 20. The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (Vynález zkázy, 1958) – 86.5%
  • 19. An Uncertain Season (Nejistá sezóna, 1987) – 86.5%
  • 18. Krabat: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Čarodějův učeň, 1977) – 86.5 %
  • 17. The Shop on the Main Street (Obchod na korze, 1965) – 86.7%
  • 16. Men About Town (Světáci, 1969) – 86.9%
  • 15. Jára Cimrman Lying, Sleeping (Jára Cimrman ležící, spící, 1983) – 87%
  • 14. Škola základ života (1938) – 87.1%
  • 13. Once Upon a Time, There Was a King… (Byl jednou jeden král…, 1954) – 87.1%

  • 12. Journey to the Beginning of Time (Cesta do pravěku, 1955) – 87.4%
  • 11. Seclusion Near a Forest (Na samotě u lesa, 1976) – 87.4%
  • 10. Witches’ Hammer (Kladivo na čarodějnice, 1969) – 87.7%
  • 9. He Stood at the Till (U pokladny stál…, 1939) – 87.8%
  • 8. My Sweet Little Village (Vesničko má středisková, 1985) – 88.3%
  • 7. The Cremator (Spalovač mrtvol, 1968) – 88.8%
  • 6. Maracek, Pass Me the Pen! („Marečku, podejte mi pero!“, 1976) – 88.9%
  • 5. Give the Devil his Due (S čerty nejsou žerty, 1984) – 88.9%
  • 4. Elementary School (Obecná škola, 1991) – 89%
  • 3. Journey into the Depth of the Student’s Soul (Cesta do hlubin študákovy duše, 1939) – 89.2%
  • 2. Higher Principle (Vyšší princip, 1960) – 90%

  • 1. Cosy Dens (Pelíšky, 1999) – 91.1%

Though Jiří Menzel’s Closely Observed Trains fell short of the list, Seclusion Near a Forest, My Sweet Little Village, The Snowdrop Festival, and Larks on a String give the director four films in the top 50.

That ties him with Karel Zeman (Journey to the Beginning of Time, Krabat, The Fabulous World of Jules Verne, and The Fabulous Baron Munchausen), Martin Frič (Journey into the Depth of the Student’s Soul, Škola základ života, The Emperor’s Baker, and Kristian) and Ladislav Smoljak (An Uncertain Season, Jára Cimrman, Vrchní, prchni!, and Kulový blesk) – as the second best-represented Czech directors in the top 50.

But the top-ranking director here is Oldřich Lipský, with five movies in the list (Maracek, Pass Me the Pen!, Jáchyme, hoď ho do stroje!, Lemonade Joe, Happy End, and Adele Hasn’t Had Her Dinner Yet).

I could fill out a list of the best Czech movies with nothing but Lipský titles – and some of my favorites, like Long Live Ghosts! (Ať žijí duchové!, 1977) and The Mysterious Castle in the Carpathians (Tajemství hradu v Karpatech, 1983), didn’t even make the cut here.

And while Cosy Dens is easily the top-rated Czech film at ČSFD.cz, it just squeaks into the top 10 overall, which resembles IMDb’s top-rated movies:

10. Cosy Dens
9. 12 Angry Men
8. The Intouchables
7. The Godfather
6. Schindler’s List
5. Se7en
4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
3. The Green Mile
2. Forrest Gump
1. The Shawshank Redemption

SHARE THIS POST

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

9 Responses

  1. It’s really quite sad to see, but the Czechs created a brilliant sci-fi film, Ikarie XB-1, but nobody knows about it. A pioneering film that dealt with real scientific issues and influenced sci-fi producers for a decade, but sadly it has been ignored and forgotten.

    1. Ikarie XB 1 is indeed a great film – and just last year, it was newly restored by the Czech National Film Archive and re-issued on blu-ray:
      http://nfa.cz/shop/blu-ray-ikarie-xb-1/

      The new restoration premiered at the ’16 Karlovy Vary film fest and has popped up in a few others around the world, so here’s hoping it brings the film some new recognition.

  2. Greetings from Binghamton, and thanks for this great post. I’m wondering if there are any Czech movies that come to mind for you as being particularly helpful for someone learning the Czech language.

  3. Thank you for putting together this list, there’s so many interesting Czech films here that we have never seen (or even hear of!)

    Criterion has some older Czech movies streaming, but is there any way to see some of these later films (70s-80s and beyond) in the U.S.?

  4. It’s weird that there are so few films from the Czech New Wave in this list. I’d love to check out many of them but everything streaming on Criterion is pretty much limited to the late 1960s stuff.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *