15 Hollywood Films with a Czech Connection

Did you catch the key Czech dialogue in Saving Private Ryan? Or Bill Murray's Czech comparison in Stripes?

Have you ever watched a Hollywood movie and gotten a little kick when a character namedrops Prague, or the Czech Republic becomes a significant plot detail?

In the final season of Breaking Bad, local audiences got a laugh when Bryan Cranston’s Heisenberg turns his meth dealing operations to the Czech Republic.

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Hey… I know that place! (At least, better than most mainstream US audiences.)

Well, here are 15 Hollywood movies with a little (or big) connection to the Czech Republic. Some are obvious, but you might not have caught all of these.

Note: I’m going for obscure references, so no movies shot in the Czech Republic or primarily about the country (The Unbearable Lightness of Being).

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

After US forces take Omaha Beach during the film’s incredible opening scene, two German soldiers come forward with their arms up in an attempt to surrender. But after the gruesome firefight, the Americans aren’t having it, and shoot them dead.

But waitaminute. The soldiers are actually speaking Czech, saying “Já jsem Čech, já nikoho nezabil!” (I am Czech, I did not shoot anybody) before being killed by the US troops. The line is unsubtitled in English.

Mission: Impossible III (2006)

The first and fourth Mission: Impossible films were shot in Prague, but in this one Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt disguises himself as a Czech man for a brief period. He even has a brief exchange in Czech with an airline worker: Ještě jsem v Číně nebyl. Je to tam hezký? (I’ve never been to China. Is it nice?)

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Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession (1980)

Harvey Keitel and Art Garfunkel star in Nicolas Roeg’s underrated mystery-thriller about an American expat (played by Theresa Russell) living in Vienna. Denholm Elliot plays her older Czech husband, and a number of scenes are set in then-Czechoslovakia – including a memorable one on the Czech-Austrian border.

This one is worth checking out for both the Czech connection and experiences of American expats in the Cold War-era area. And the steamy sex scenes (Bad Timing was originally rated ‘X’ upon release). 

Stripes (1981)

In this 1980 army comedy, basic training cadets Bill Murray and Harold Ramis take a tank for an Austrian joyride while their squad gets lost behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia, and the duo are forced to make a daring rescue. Filming locations in and around Louisville filled in for the foreign locales.

Murray: “We’re not going to Moscow. It’s Czechoslovakia. It’s like going into Wisconsin!”

15 Minutes (2001)

Czech actor Karel Roden got his juiciest Hollywood role as a spree killer in this Robert De Niro cop drama. But that’s not all: Roden plays a Czech bank robber who flees to New York City to claim his share of a bank heist, and he ends up tracking down Czech émigré Daphne (?) Handlova, played by Vera Farmiga.

Before Midnight (2012)

During a heated discussion, Ethan Hawke’s Jesse claims that wife Celine (Julie Delpy) once gave a blowjob to Czech president Václav Havel (!)

Hawke, of course, mangles his name.

Kicking and Screaming (1995)

The cliché of Americans heading to Prague in the early-mid 1990s becomes a central plot point in Noah Baumbach’s indie comedy.

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Grover (Josh Hamilton): “Look, everyone else in America has already been to Prague, what’s the big deal if you send one extra?”

Anna (1987)

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It’s all but forgotten today, but Sally Kirkland was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of a Czech actress exiled after the 1968 Soviet invasion, now living in New York, who takes young Czech émigré Krystyna (played by real-life Czech model and actress Paulina Porizkova) under her wing.

The Invasion (2007)

In this remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a Czech diplomat (played by Roger Rees) is turned into a pod person in front of protagonists Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. I recall audible groans in a Prague cinema when Rees utters this line: “All you need is what every Czech needs: a stiff Russian boot up your behind!”

Dancer in the Dark (2000)

Björk plays a Czech immigrant in this divisive musical from director Lars von Trier. The title of the song Cvalda – the nickname for a character played by Catherine Denueve – means “Chubby” in Czech.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979)

In the original John le Carré novel and 1979 BBC miniseries, this WWII spy thriller opens in Brno. The 2011 movie changed the location to Budapest.

The Amateur (1981) 

In this Cold War thriller starring John Savage and Christopher Plummer, a CIA agent heads into Czechoslovakia to get revenge for the murder of his wife. Vienna locations fill in for Prague.

Blue Ice (1992)

Throwaway line from Michael Caine’s MI6 agent: 
“A Czech agent broke the rules, he hurt the wife of one of my sources. They asked me to ignore it. I couldn’t.” 
“What happened?” 
“I took him up to the roof of my office building.”
“The Czech bounced.” (groan)

Also read:  Czech culture goes online: 30 tips for concerts, exhibits, films, and more

Bonus Family Guy quote: “I’ve been to New York. It’s like Prague sans the whimsy.”

Bonus Slovak trivia:

Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

In this (highly) fictionalized recounting of the filming of Nosferatu by F.W. Murnau, the German director (played by John Malkovich) brings his cast and crew (including Willem Dafoe’s Max Schreck) to the Slovak countryside for filming.

1922’s Nosferatu was actually filmed at the Orava Castle and Vrátna dolina in Slovakia, though Shadow of the Vampire was primarily filmed Luxembourg.

The Living Daylights (1987)

Casino Royale was primarily filmed in the Czech Republic, but I don’t think any James Bond film has ever been set in the country. The Living Daylights, however, opens in Bratislava (then-Czechoslovakia) and one of the film’s best scenes has Timothy Dalton’s bond sledding across the border into Austria with a cello.

Not enough? Check back next week for Czech trivia from some Hollywood classics (pre-1970).

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