12 Best Polish Movies of All Time

Polish movies are widely noted for their emotional restraint, distinctive visual style and stories that are profoundly universal and human at its core. Polish cinema has produced some of the greatest auteurs of all time including Krzyzstof Kieslowski, Andrzej Wajda, Tadeusz Konwicki and Roman Polanski. Most Polish movies are deeply rooted in their culture and explore the various socio-political changes it went through over the years and as a country that suffered the most in Europe during World War II, it’s not surprising that most of their films are set during the tragic times of the Nazi occupation of Poland with stories examining the devastating consequences and futility of war. 12 is not a huge number for a country that is known to have produced some of the greatest classics in cinema history but for the time being we’ll have to make do. So here is a list of the 12 greatest Polish movies of all time.


 12. Knife in the Water (1962)

Most people tend to forget that Roman Polanski is in fact a Polish filmmaker and not an American one. But such has been the man’s influence on Hollywood that people often bracket him alongside the great Hollywood filmmakers of the 70s. However, one of his greatest works were produced in his native country, his debut feature, ‘Knife in the Water’. The film follows a couple, on their way to a sailing trip, who invites a young man who was nearly hit by their car as they were driving to the lake. But things turn increasingly complex when the young man gets attracted to the wife as tension sustains the atmosphere of the story. The film is widely considered to be a classic and one of Polanski’s highly acclaimed films. It was ranked number 61 in the Empire Magazine’s list of “The 100 Best Films of World Cinema.


11. Ida (2014)

Hauntingly dark, gorgeously enigmatic and strikingly painful, ‘Ida’ is one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen. The film tells the story of a woman who wants to become a nun and is about to take vows when she discovers from her estranged aunt that she is Jewish. She sets out on a journey in an attempt to discover the true identity of her parents and tries to cope up with the realities that have finally found their way to her. The film is beautifully shot and the black and white cinematography creates an eerie atmosphere that plays well with the narrative and provides the film with a more distinctive, authentic look and feel.


10. Man of Marble (1976)

Andrzej Wajda is one of Poland’s greatest auteurs. His films were truthful explorations of the major cultural and political changes his native country had gone through during the 20th century. ‘Man of Marble’ is certainly not his greatest work but is undoubtedly one of the most important Polish films ever made. The film follows a young filmmaker who is looking to document the life of a once heroic bricklayer and meets various people who knew him, conducting interviews and collecting other information related to the subject. The film marked a radical thematic shift for Wajda and his astute, layered, critical anatomization of the various intricacies of socialism forms the thematic essence of the film.


9. Night Train (1959)

This intense thriller directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz focuses on two strangers who board a train and must share a sleeping compartment but tension unfolds when it is rumored that one of them could be a murderer. Impeccably written and gorgeously shot by Kawalerowicz, the film is replete with stunning imagery and wildly intriguing characters from various walks of life. Kawalerowicz’ technique is strikingly impressive and involving and though the film falters at places, struggling to transcend its genre, there’s never really a dull moment throughout and we are captivated by the characters’ actions, motives and desires.


8. The Passenger (1963)

Andrzej Munik’s last film feels, in some ways,like a tribute to the director himself. Munk died in a car accident while returning home from the Auschwitz concentration camp where he was shooting. The film was nearly completed but the remaining parts were compiled and edited by his assistant director Witold Lesiewicz. The film depicts the relationship between an SS officer and one of the inmates of the concentration camp whose life she manages to save on an occasion. It follows a documentary style narrative, capturing the sheer brutalities of life inside the camp and the kind of realism Munik brings on to the screen is unnervingly powerful and devastating.


7. Eroica (1958)

Andrzej Munk’s darkly comic exploration of the painful atrocities of war tells two different stories set during World War II involving two men caught up in starkly different situations; one which involves a cowardly man forced to become a soldier during the Warsaw uprising and the other involving a soldier trying to escape from POW camp. The central thematic focus of the film is on the exploration of the concept of Polish heroism. The way Munk tackles the subject is endearingly humorous and yet so profoundly layered, making it a thoroughly refreshing and thought-provoking affair.

1 comment

  • Life As A Sexual Transmitted Disease, Supplement, but most importantly The Constant Factor, it is as good as The Dekalog and that is saying a lot since The Dekalog is one of the very best films of the 80s