10 Must-See Films at Karlovy Vary 2016

Going to the illustrious Czech film festival this weekend? Don’t miss these ten picks from the 200+ films playing

Willem Dafoe, Jean Reno, Michael Shannon, and other Hollywood celebrities will be on hand at the Czech spa town over the next 10 days, but the real stars of the 2016 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival will be the movies.

What to see? For starters, don’t miss the free outdoor summer cinema screening of Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ on the night of Sunday, July 3rd. It’s a true classic in an unforgettable setting, with Dafoe presenting the movie.

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Here are ten more films to try to catch at this year’s fest: 


Well, duh. The highest-profile event at this year’s festival is the world premiere of this Czech co-production about the 1942 assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, which was shot on the streets of Prague last summer. Stars Jamie Dornan, Toby Jones, and Aňa Geislerová, along with director Sean Ellis, will be in attendance.  

Anthropoid will screen in three cinemas concurrently to open the fest on Friday night before playing at Thermal’s Grand Hall Sunday afternoon. Get in line early for this one, as interest will be sky-high.

Toni Erdmann

This nearly three-hour German-Austrian comedy-drama from director Maren Ade (Everyone Else) was the surprise hit of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, but even more surprising was the awards near-shutout by that festival’s jury, with critics such as Variety’s Justin Chang opining that a mistake had been made.

Wunderkind Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World, which took the Cannes Jury Award, will also be playing at Karlovy Vary.


Director Cristian Mungiu is best known for his penetrating 2007 abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, and his latest – a contemporary portrait of small-town life in Transylvania – received similar praise when it premiered in Cannes last month. 

The Handmaiden

The latest from Oldboy director Chan-wook Park delighted audiences in Cannes and was deemed “an amusingly kinky erotic thriller and love story that brims with delicious surprises” according to The Hollywood Reporter’s Deborah Young.  

Der Nachtmare

This German-Austrian coming-of-age drama-cum-horror film was the hit of this year’s Shockproof Film Festival in Prague. At the center of it all is a bizarre ET-like alien, who will be on hand in Karlovy Vary for the film’s screening in the Midnight Movie section.


Any new film by iconic Spanish director Pedro Almodovar comes with high interest, even if his more recent (The Skin I Live In, I’m So Excited!) have split critics and audiences. This one, which marks a return to the “women’s drama” the director had previously been known for, will be introduced in Karlovy Vary by stars Adriana Ugarte and Inma Cuesta.

Also read:  Czech filmmakers calling for video submissions from “Life in Corontine”

O Lucky Man!

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When people ask me what my favorite movie is, I have no hesitation in naming Lindsay Anderson’s endlessly-rewatchable, nearly-indescribable 1973 classic, which succeeds in ways other films don’t dare to try.

A surprise addition to the 2016 KVIFF slate, don’t miss the rare chance to catch it on the big screen; if you can’t make a Karlovy Vary screening, the O Lucky Man! will also screen in Prague as part of the Echoes festival.

Takový je život (Such is Life)

This 1929 Czech answer to Battleship Potemkin, made by German director Carl Junghans but shot in Prague with a Czech cast and crew, is – dare I say – as inventive and dramatically effective as Eisenstein’s quintessential cinema classic. And yet it’s virtually unknown today.

I was lucky enough to catch it with live music accompaniment during one of Aerofilm’s Biofonie events, and now here’s your chance – a single Karlovy Vary screening on Monday, June 4. 

Blood Father

Photo: KVIFF
Photo: KVIFF

Legendary filmmaker Jan Němec (Diamonds of the NightOratorio for Prague) passed away earlier this year, but not before completing this final, semi-autobiographical feature.

It’s one of two Czech films in competition for this year’s Crystal Globe, the other being Jan Hřebejk’s The Teacher.

Some other notable mentions: Aquarius, which played to great acclaim at Cannes; The Greasy Strangler, which looks to be the craziest film among this year’s Midnight Movies selection; Paterson, the well-received latest from Jim Jarmusch; Swiss Army Man, starring Daniel Radcliffe as a rotting corpse.

Can’t make it to Karlovy Vary this year? You can catch many of the festival’s hits at the Echoes of Karlovy Vary festival at Prague cinemas Aero and Světozor during the week after the festival proper. 

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