Until lately, the Greek film industry has received a bit of a raw deal in the film industry. Politics has hindered Greece’s film industry since the beginning of the medium, preventing it from being as important as Russian, French, or American cinema (amongst other major events). As a result of this growth restraint, one of two things happened: either overseas filmmakers began to work (as you’ll see in the list below), or local cinema began to rebel. When it comes to the Greek film industry, it’s never too early or late to rejoice. Top 10 Greek films from all time are here.
Yanaki and Milton Manaki’s films from the turn of the 20th century were foundational to cinema as we know it today. The Weavers, their first picture, serves as a good example (part of which is featured here). To skip over such a significant moment in Greek movie history, which helped pave the way for generations of Greek filmmakers to come, just didn’t seem right.
Never on Sunday
Melina Mercouri collaborated with a number of Greek directors, notably Jules Dassin, on a regular basis at one point in her career. To date, their best picture together is Never on Sunday, which was a wonderful introduction to Greek filmmaking and daily life for worldwide audiences (during the golden years of Greek cinema). Ultimately, this was the film’s most fruitful collaboration, resulting in Academy Award nominations for both Dassin (for his writing) and Mercouri (for his direction) (for Best Actress).
Michael Cacoyannis is most known for Zorba the Greek, but his other Greek works are also worth noting. There are two notable entries in his Greek Tragedy trilogy (including Iphigenia). Let’s go with Electra, which has a lot of mythical undertones because we can only pick one. An version of Euripides’s tragedy, Electra is a melodrama that will forever be associated with Cacoyannis.
The New Weird Greek Wave Cinema movement is responsible for the recent surge in interest in Greek films, which are counterculture works that challenge cinematic and political authority. Attenberg, a film by Athina Rachel Tsangari, is an example of a film that goes against the grain. Attenberg’s film explores sexuality and the resistance to comply after a lifetime of restrictions, telling the story through a 2010’s lens that genuinely sells the storyline.
The Auntie from Chicago
The Auntie from Chicago, starring Alekos Sakellarios, is a crowd-pleasing Greek film from the golden age of Greek cinema. When a Greek native returns to her homeland after living in the United States, she intends on making a difference in the lives of her brother’s family. An enjoyable diversion, The Auntie from Chicago is a welcome addition to the ever-expanding catalog of Greek films.
The Red Lanterns
It is safe to say that Vasilis Georgiadis enjoyed considerable success in the 1960s, garnering two Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Language Feature Film (once for Blood on the Land). Red Lanterns was his first significant success of this kind: an increasingly unorthodox take on society with an attempt at the feminine gaze. When it comes to sex workers and the importance of religion in Greek culture, The Red Lanterns feels like a film that New Hollywood would try to emulate a few years later. (when world cinema was already leagues ahead).
The Counterfeit Coin
The enthralling As Yorgos Tzavellas’s response to Italian Neorealism, the Counterfeit Coin places a major emphasis on the problems of being absorbed by society. To survive, The Counterfeit Coin tells a series of anecdotes including both authentic and manufactured methods of coping. The pain of one’s difficulties will be exacerbated by the lies of the other when these stories collide. It’s a wonderful display of how people live their lives in accordance with society’s norms.
Predating the more experimental Greek works that would follow, Nikos Nikolaidis experimented with the arthouse films of his Greek peers for a few years. “Sweet Bunch,” his crowning work, has the feel of Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch” done in neon and synth (only with an obvious sense of sarcasm). Knowing that their time on Earth is limited, four petty criminals go out to discover the darkest corners of the human heart. Sweet Bunch is a kaleidoscope of paradoxes, with practically every one of them a home run.
Savagely satirical film-maker and current Greek export, Yorgos Lanthimos, is often regarded as the country’s most successful current filmmaker. With Dogtooth, he laid the groundwork for the New Weird Greek Wave Cinema trend. Dogtooth is a series of perversions formed from delirium and corruption when the youngsters are trapped in their own home by their parents. It’s a crazy allegory for a civilization shrinking inward due to political constraints, Dogtooth.
The Ogre of Athens
A crime satire by Nikos Koundouros, The Ogre of Athens, is one of Greece’s best films of the golden era of Greek cinema. As long as the authority was given to the wrong person, The Ogre of Athens could have been an enjoyable, lighthearted comedy. To the contrary, Koundouros builds a significant connection to the reality of things by mirroring corruption and evil with this odd cinematic mistake that is delightfully cynical.
The Travelling Players
When discussing Greek cinema, it is practically difficult to avoid mentioning Theo Angelopoulos. Eternity and a Day, for example, is a magnificent film, but it’s also simple to point to The Travelling Players as his greatest achievement. “The Travelling Players” is an ambitious investigation of history and culture in a very unique fashion, traversing time, space, consciousness, and reality. The Travelling Players is a strong contender for Greece’s greatest film, both in terms of its visual beauty and its intellectual depth.