Yugoslavian cinematography was one of the most inventive and interesting somewhere in the 1980s. There are countless war dramas and comedies that we enjoyed watching. And Serbian cinematography was especially memorable and it continued making excellent movies after the fall of Yugoslavia.
Often on the list of the best European cinematographies, with their movies on numerous festivals, it is definitely worth mentioning and putting it on a to-watch list. These are the 20 best Serbian movies of the new Serbian cinematography.
Parada (The Parade, 2011)
This movie was a huge success when it got out in 2011. A delicate topic which hasn’t been really shown until then in these pretty conservative parts of Europe. We follow the story of Radmilo and Mirko, a gay couple who is having a hard time living in their town since they are constantly abused by various homophobic groups there.
They are educated and well situated young men and Mirko is a gay rights activist who would like to organise the first successful gay parade in Belgrade. But Mirko is also a wedding planner and he encounters a strange couple who wants him to organise their wedding, the homophobic gangster Limun and his young fiancee Biserka.
Since Limun doesn’t stand gay people, this meeting ends up in disaster, but Radmilo persuades his boyfriend to plan the wedding. He wants this pride to be organised and offers Limun a deal. Mirko will organise their wedding if he provides them protection during the pride.
Since no one from his staff wants to help him, Limun remembers his friends from the war and together with Mirko and Radmilo, he embarks on a journey to other ex-Yugoslavian countries to gather them and form the best protection group there is. But this is when their greatest challenges begin.
Zona Zamfirova (2002)
This comedy-drama tells the story of Zona Zamfirova, set in Niš in the 19th century. According to data from 2018, this is the most watched Serbian movie ever. Zona is the daughter of a local rich man who has an affair with an ordinary goldsmith named Mane. This was a forbidden love story at the time and Zona and Mane are divided.
There is also a possibility for Zona to marry Manulać who is coming from a wealthy family. But things won’t go as planned when Mane decides to organise a successful conspiracy to have Zona for himself.
Ivkova slava (Ivko’s feast, 2005)
This movie is based on an 1895 book by Stevan Sremac and it was a huge hit in Serbia. It is set in the 19th century Niš, after the liberation from Turkish invasion and the establishment of the railway line Belgrade – Niš. We follow the story of Ivko who wants to celebrate Đurđevdan with the people in the city.
This hilarious comedy shows us what it means for Serbians to celebrate these feasts, how people behave and what they say at these gatherings. His guests will test Serbian hospitality in numerous ways and give us a great time while watching them. This is one of the most famous and memorable comedies of the new Serbian cinematography.
Mrtav ‘ladan (Frozen Stiff, 2002)
In this movie, we follow Lemi and Kiza, two brothers who have to transfer their dead grandad from Belgrade to Vršac. Since they have spent all their money, they decide to hide him on a train and smuggle him to Vršac. They dress him, put him on the train and tell everyone he’s sleeping. No one knew that there would be more complications than expected when a case fell on grandad’s head and other passengers thought it killed him.
Lemi and Kiza were having some drinks when the train suddenly brakes and the mishap happens. The other passengers decide to throw the body out the window, pretending that the man got up and walked away. What no one knows is that a drug dealer Limeni put a drug package in grandad’s pocket while no one was watching. And now the search for his body is on and it will be more difficult than expected.
This movie has it all. It is a complex drama of one man’s promise and an unusual story of a forced friendship that ends in a forbidden love affair. Filip works as the principal in a gymnasium in a small Serbian town when he is summoned to go to war. It is the beginning of World War I, he must go and he has no one to leave his wife Lea with.
Lea is a beautiful Slovenian woman who teaches dance and is now suddenly forced to stay with an illiterate Muslim from Albania who gives Filip his solemn word, besa, to keep her safe. In the Albanian tradition, when someone gives their word, it must be kept under any circumstances. While the war is raging, Lea and Azem need to spend time together and slowly their relationship begins to change and soon it becomes something so much more than anyone expected.
Montevideo, Bog te video! (Montevideo: Taste of a Dream, 2010)
This historical melodrama brings back the old Belgrade from the 1930s when values and virtues differed from the ones today. It is the story of a Serbian football team that decides to go to the First World Football Championship in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1930. These eleven passionate and mostly anonymous, but extremely talented football players have a dream which at the beginning seems completely unrealistic.
But this dream will allow those boys to become living legends and huge stars. And even most importantly, this is a story about friendship, ambition, persistence and love for the game. It shows how people can get together when sharing the same dreams and wishes.
Sedam i po (Seven and a Half, 2006)
This dark comedy is told from seven different points of view and through seven various stories. It is about seven people who live their everyday lives in Belgrade, followed by an obsession with their weaknesses and led by their passions. These stories are about seven deadly sins which are depicted with a comical tone.
In the story about Greed, Keboja and Radule decide to take money from Diego Maradona by presenting him with their fake health problems and asking him to financially help them to get better. In Wrath, we follow the story of Tadija, a bodybuilder who wants to get revenge against a convict who embarrassed him five years ago.
In Lust, we meet Obrad and Radoje, two pedophiles who get in touch through e-mail. Adam and Verica enjoy food, maybe even too much and their Gluttony leads to an event with interesting food. In the story about Pride, we meet Zorica and Srđan who are acing a huge quiz and are about to win a big prize, but Zorica doesn’t want to admit that her husband is the only one answering the questions.
In Sloth, Simka and Konda want to rob a flat while the owners are gone and in Envy, we follow the story of Musa and Banjac who envy a man for his successful life and start provoking him until an accident happens.
Karaula (The Border Post, 2006)
This drama-comedy is a movie you will want to watch again. It is a story set in a small border post on the Yugoslav-Albanian border in 1987. Lieutenant Safet Pašić, always drunk and frustrated feels an inexplicable pain in his groins and gets help from Siniša, the only doctor among the soldiers, who diagnoses him with a sexually transmitted disease.
He wants to keep it a secret. Especially from his wife, so he decides to declare a state of emergency, telling everyone that the Albanian army is about to attack Yugoslavia. The situation slowly runs out of control when everyone starts panicking and this joke slowly becomes war hysteria.
Rane (The Wounds, 1998)
The movie follows the fate of two young boys living in New Belgrade during the Yugoslav War from 1991 to 1995. Pinki and Švaba live in a building block and spend their days in the streets, slowly entering the world of crime. They are both juvenile at the beginning, Pinki a bit more articulate and thoughtful, while Švaba often reacts impulsively and aggressively.
This is an interesting view on the coming of age of two boys who form a friendship very soon find themselves in a rival relationship when they start sleeping with the same girl. They succeeded as criminals and drug dealers but their friendship is forever lost after a shooting where Švaba almost killed Pinki.
Munje! (Dudes, 2001)
This is an urban comedy happening during one night in Belgrade. It is a story of three friends, Mare, Pop and Gojko, who grew up together and decide to meet when Mare and Pop call their old school friend and ask him for help.
Mare and Pop have always been musicians and now they plan to release a record and they want Gojko to assist them since he is the boss of his own club and a recording studio. But Gojko didn’t forget that he was harassed by them in school and is now surrounded by bodyguards and nothing will go as planned in this situation comedy, one of Serbian’s best.
Lepa sela lepo gore (Pretty Village, Pretty Flame, 1996)
Another Serbian classic, directed by the master of the genre, Srđan Dragojević is a historical comedy-drama about two young boys, Halil, a Muslim, and Milan, a Serb who have grown up together near a deserted tunnel. The boys never had the courage to go there, believing there was an ogre living inside.
Twelve years later, Milan and Halil find themselves on the opposite sides of the tunnel, when Milan and his troop get trapped inside it and Halil and his army are about to confront them. The movie begins in a Belgrade hospital where casualties of the Bosnian civil war are treated and they remember their youth and war.
Četvrti čovek (The Fourth Man, 2007)
A man awakens from a two-month-long coma with complete amnesia, told he had a wife and a son who have been killed. He meets the Colonel who reveals his past identity, explaining they are best friends. He is a Major in the Military Security Agency and there are indications that he might find out who killed his family.
After he gets out of the hospital, he can’t live out of despair and sorrow and realises he has to find out what happened to his family. In order to discover his identity and the assassins, he needs to start playing a game the Inspector set up for him. He will meet the Businessman, the Mafiosos and the Politician and come to unthinkable revelations which include the Fourth Man.
Sivi kamion crvene boje (The Red Colored Grey Truck, 2004)
This movie is a mixture of genres, from adventure, through comedy to a love story. It is a story of a colourblind man named Ratko, an ex Bosnian con who can see the world and things differently than others around him, due to his condition.
At the beginning of the movie, Ratko meets a free-spirited young girl, his complete opposite who will join him on his ride in a red coloured grey truck. On this strange journey, they will fall in love and find a way to overcome their differences.
Crna mačka, beli mačor (Black Cat, White Cat, 1998)
Emir Kusturica is one of the most famous and talented Serbian directors of all time and almost all of his movies will find a place on any list of unforgettable movies. But this one is maybe his very best. A story of a group of people whose lives get intertwined after a failed business deal when Matko, a small-time hustler, needs to give back the money to a more successful gangster Dadan.
Matko lives by the Danube river with his 17-year old son Zare. He uses him to strike a deal with Dadan, in order not to pay him the money. Dadan’s sister Afrodita desperately wants to get married so he decided to force Zare to marry her. But they don’t care about the arranged marriage, since Zare is in love with Ida and Afrodita is waiting for the man of her dreams.
Klopka (The Trap, 2007)
An interesting movie, a combination of different genres, but finally a noir that deals with Eastern European society and its true face. A very realistic story that could happen to anyone and this movie very realistically depicts what might happen in that situation.
It is set in post-war Serbia where ordinary people need to struggle for their dignity and pay attention to what they say and do. We follow a couple who needs to decide between the life and death of their own child. And since they are just an ordinary family, they will have to fight a lot more than maybe someone else. This is a sad story that excellently portrays the life of normal people in the Balkans.
Apsolutnih sto (Absolute Hundred, 2001)
Another movie by Srđan Golubović worth mentioning, after The Trap. And once again we witness the post-war situation in Serbia and the struggle of an ordinary man, this time an athlete who has lost all his faith and hope. Igor Gordić was a shooting Olympic champion who is now a junkie without money, in debt to the mafia.
Saša is his younger brother and also a talented shooter who is preparing for the next Olympics but also feels the pressure of the society and people around him. He sees the injustice and corruption, feels the mob pressure on his back and decides to take justice into his hands and practice shooting on the streets of Belgrade. But he will soon find out that this is simply too much for everyone’s psyche and conscience.
Kad porastem biću Kengur (When I Grow Up, I’ll be a Kangaroo, 2004)
This movie is told through three parallel stories set in the Belgrade municipality Voždovac. The first story is about Braca who tries to seduce Iris who belongs to a completely opposite world. Even though they would like to think they are similar, these differences are more than obvious.
Then we follow Dule and Šomi who bet on a game between Eastwich and Manchester and put their money on Eastwich since they know its goalkeeper Kengur. And the third story is about Avaks and Hibrid who are on the roof of a skyscraper and spend their day doing nothing, expecting something to happen. And something indeed happens when Avaks witnesses an unusual occurrence in the sky.
Turneja (The tour, 2008)
It is 1993, the gloomiest time of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina when a group of actors from Belgrade go on a tour around the Serbian Krajina to earn some money. They are utterly unaware of the situation around them, but soon begin to witness the monstrosities of war.
They find themselves in the very heart of it and start going from army to army and war front to war front, completely unprepared for everything they might encounter or what might get in their way. Although it sounds very serious, this is actually an adventure comedy that shows how ignorance can definitely be bliss.
Otac (Father, 2020)
One of the newest movies on the list and once again a Srđan Golubović masterpiece, this difficult drama tells the story of a man who wants to gain custody over his children. Nikola is a day labourer and a father of two who is forced to give up his children after his wife commits a desperate act.
Since he does not have enough money to take care of his children, until he earns it so he can provide for them, they will be put in foster care. Nikola starts to appeal and makes numerous efforts to get his children back, but he constantly gets rejected by the head of the social services centre.
When he finds out that the whole system might be corrupt, he decides to travel across Serbia on foot and present his case to the national ministry in Belgrade. He won’t give up on justice and the right to have his children back.
Nebeska udica (Sky Hook, 2000)
This movie was Serbia’s official submission for the “Best Foreign Language Film” in 2001 but was not accepted as a nominee. It is a war drama set in Belgrade during the war in 1999. Kaja fears every day, dreading the moment when he might get drafted.
Even worse and more depressing is his relationship with his wife Tijana who is waiting on divorce and plans to emigrate with their son.