Russian Books That Have Been Made Into Movies

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Russian cinema draws inspiration from a rich cultural heritage.

Russia has a rich and varied literary history, from the bleak fatalism of Dostoevsky to the vibrant wordplay of Nabokov. Drawing on this cultural heritage, filmmakers have adapted classic Russian novels to global critical acclaim. As in all art that emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, Russian novels and movies are packed with symbolism and imagery.

  1. Lolita

    • Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita" was first published in 1955. It met with instant controversy due to its depiction of dark and forbidden love written in a stylized, comic tone. It tells the story of Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged man who falls in love with the pre-teen daughter of his landlady. He becomes obsessed with the girl, Dolores, and Nabokov charts his descent into madness. The book was adapted in 1962 by cult director Stanley Kubrick and starred Sue Lyon in the titular role.


    • Andrei Tarkovsky, arguably the most famous Russian film director of the late 20th century, released his film "Stalker" in 1979. It was based on the novel "Roadside Picnic" by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, published in 1977. A stark and haunting work of science fiction, the story tells of a future habitat surrounded by the Zone, a no-man's-land of deadly radiation. In the heart of the Zone is the Room, a place where your deepest wishes are realized. Both the novel and the film are an allegory for Stalinist Russia.

    Night Watch

    • The film "Night Watch" was released in 2004 and has grossed over $31 million worldwide, making it one of the most successful Russian films of all time. It is adapted from the novel of the same name by Sergei Lukyanenko, and is the first part of a trilogy. It is a science fiction horror film, depicting the story of the two opposing forces of Light and Dark who wage an ancient battle to keep the universe stable. It features state-of-the-art special effects and a contemporary rock soundtrack.


    • Isaac Asimov is one of the most well-known Russian writers of the 20th century, and his "Foundation" series is regarded as a seminal piece of science fiction. In 2004, Will Smith starred in "I, Robot," a blockbuster based in a set of short stories by Asimov. Boris Pasternak, one of the Russian literary giants, had his novel "Dr Zhivago" adapted by David Lean in 1965. The film starred Julie Christie and Omar Sharif.

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