Top 10 movies to watch before visiting Prague

While we impatiently wait for Mission Impossible IV that Tom Cruise is currently filming in Prague, here’s a list of movies that are tied to the Czech capital and would be interesting to watch before you come on visit to either get a sneak peak on the city or simply to try understand a bit more about Czech culture.

XXX He jumps from bridges, climbs cliffs and generally spreads mayhem around him: I wouldn’t recommend Vin Diesel as a Prague guide, but the city is very well represented in this movie (except there ain’t any mountains like that around here!): you can see Old Town Square (Starometska), the Municipal House (Obecni Dum, where he dines with Asia Argento at the highly rated french restaurant in the building) the Vltava river and a beautiful panorama view of the red roofs of the old town covered in snow.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being With Daniel Day Lewis and Juliette Binoche, the movie is set in the days leading up to the Soviet invasion of Czech Republic. A doctor with a promiscuous sex life (interpreted by Lewis) meets a woman; the story proceeds in a classic menage a trois among him, his lover and Juliette Binoche. The atmosphere of the movie is very delicate and fragile like the characters in the story. Based on Milan Kundera’s novel the movie was not shot in Prague. Many Czechs were considered for some roles, but most had to give up fearing the Communist party reprisal on their relatives still living in, at the time, Czechoslovakia.
Closely watched trains From Bouhmil Hrabal’s book is this story of a young man that works as a train-dispatcher in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Like in a present American teenage comedy, tries to loose his virginity. Shot in Lodenice by Barrandov Studios, the movie is considered one of the 100 best movies of all time by Empire magazine.
Canone inverso This is an Italian movie that might be difficult to come by dubbed. The story centers around a particular violin changing hands over the course of three generations. The main character is a boy that inherits this violin from his father whom he never met and develops a passion for music, realizing his dream of playing with a very famous and beautiful singer at the time. The movie depicts Prague during the second world war and one can recognize the city’s trademark architecture in many scenes.
Amadeus Milos Forman’s movie about the life of Amadeus Mozart that was in real life a long time Prague resident. Several are the scenes in which Prague (especially Mala Strana and the area of the castle) is clearly recognizable; as Forman itself put it the inefficiencies of Communism made the Czech capital the ideal place to shoot this picture as the 18th century architecture had been left untouched.
Der Golem The story of the Jewish monster created from clay by Rabbi Loew using magic. This silent movie is the father of many horror movies and a witness to one of the legends that have made of Prague an important landmark for Jewish culture.
The student from Prague From the director of  Der Golem and the screenwriter of Murnau’s Nosferatu, this silent movie tells the story of a Faustian deal between a student (Conrad Veidt) and a sorcerer named Scapinelli. A classic movie of the doppleganger genre where Prague, although not visible, comes through with its mystic atmosphere from the scenes shot in the dark alley where the student lives.
A trial in Prague 1952 was the year that the Czech communism turned onto itself in a sort of witch hunt resembling McCarthyism; in the climax of the cold war 14 people among which Rudolf Slansky were sent to trial on charges of espionage and treason. Apparently Stalin wanted to make sure that no other country followed the example of Yugoslavia and so it staged this trial. This movie by Zuzana Justman is an independent reconstruction of this trial and of the period immediately following World War II when some people genuinely believed in a good Communism as opposed to the evil Nazism, and generally failed to see it as two heads of the same monster.
Eurotrip This movie is interesting for the westerners view of Eastern Europe that it depicts. Amazing is the scene of their arrival in Bratislava (represented as a place forgotten by god) which was in fact shot in a village about 40km from Prague. Prejudices about the Eastern Bloc are still shared by many who, upon arrival, are forced to realize that the Communist days are long gone and Prague, despite the cultural differences, is a place that moves fast towards the West. To integrate Eurotrip it is recommended you also read our Italians and Americans survival guides to Prague.
Casablanca In this American classic Prague is in the background of the happenings: the movie is set during World War II and Victor Laszlo, a Hungarian that was hiding in the Prague underground movements, is one of the leaders of the underground resistance to the Nazis. The reason I find this movie relevant though is that it gives Prague a central place in the European cultural and political scene of the time.

8 thoughts on “Top 10 movies to watch before visiting Prague”

  • Don’t you just love the bit in xXx where Vin Diesel runs out of the Obecni Dum rounds a corner, and immediately finds himself on the other side of the river below the castle?!
    And how many people have gone looking for the restaurant in Old Town Square where Tom Cruise destroys a fish tank to escape in Mission Impossible? (actually I did just that the first time I went! I know better now…)

    • LOL! It’s funny when you know the places. And what about that funky disco where he meets the Russians the first time. Isn’t that Kostel, just off Melantrichova?

  • I bought the `Special Edition` DVD of The Unbearable Lightness of Being` under the impression that it was actually filmed in Prague. The director’s commentary put me right on that!

    • You’re right, I’ll have to amend that part, I thought I found that information on IMDB but in fact it’s not listed under the filming locations there either.

  • Dear Director,
     I would humbly recall a beautiful movie which entirely shot in Prague in the 90s. My beloved immortal. A quite romantic and sad movie about Beethoven’s life and hidden passion. Not to forget Amadeus – though it takes places in some small Czech city.

    • @LuigiBonifacio  thanks for chiming in on this.  The correct title is Immortal Beloved and you can see on IMDB that it was filmed in Kromeriz, Prague and Vienna

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