Tired of watching the same old films on repeat? Well, it’s time to expand your horizons with these critically acclaimed Iranian films that are beautifully scripted and strum your heartstrings.
This 2001 Iranian film directed by Majid Majidi, tells the tale of a construction site worker who falls in love with an Afghan worker, only to find out that it is a woman in disguise of a man, to earn a living. The film won the Best Film award at the Montreal World Film Festival, and Best Screenplay & Best Director at the Gijón International Film Festival.
2. Children of Heaven
Another masterpiece by Majid Majidi, Children of Heaven is a 1997 Iranian family drama about a brother and sister, who are in search of lost shoes. This classic has won awards at the Fajr Film Festival, the World Film Festival, the Newport International Film Festival, the Warsaw International Film Festival, and the Singapore International Film Festival.
This beautiful 2007 animated biographical drama film is based on the Marjane Satrapi’s (Who wrote and directed the film) autobiographical graphic novel of the same name. Set against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution, it tells her story of growing up. The film co-won the Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
4. A Separation
This 2011 drama tells the story of a couple who wants to separate, but are denied divorce, the depression their daughter goes through, the plight of a care-giver hired to take care of the husband’s father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Immensely layer and beautifully told, it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012, becoming the first Iranian film to win the award.
5. The White Balloon
This 1995 film is considered one of Jafar Panahi’s best work. It tells the story of a young girl who wants a goldfish for Eid, but gets the money given to her by her mother, stuck. In her quest to get the banknote back, she meets a shopkeeper, a soldier, and an Afghan balloon seller. The film won awards at the Prix de la Camera d’Or and at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.
This 2006 Jafar Panahi film tells the story of girls who sneak into the stadium to watch the football World Cup qualifying match but are forbidden by law because of their gender. The movie’s storyline was inspired by the director’s daughter, who decided to attend a game anyway. Offside won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2006, and was the official selection for the 2006 New York and Toronto International Film Festivals.
This British-Iranian film made by Mitra Tabrizian is a true homage to her brilliant photography. It follows the journey of an Iranian man in UK as he runs from his past, and picks a conflict with a stranger.
8. About Elly
This Asghar Farhadi drama-thriller is set during a vacation, where a teacher disappears and leaves behind her group of friends fanatically looking for her. The movie won the Jury Award at the Tribeca Film Festival for Best Narrative Feature 2009 and the Special Jury Award at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival 2009, among others.
9. Taste Of Cherry
Made by Abbas Kiarostami, this 1997 is profound and frustrating, and controversial for exactly that reason. The movie tells the journey of a man who is searching for someone to bury him after he commits suicide. However, the movie leaves you with no answers in the end – so watch this brilliant cinema at your own risk.
10. The Salesman
Another fine example of Asghar Farhadi’s brilliant storytelling, The Salesman tells the story of a married couple who performs the play, Death of a Salesman on stage. Aside from the narrative in the play, the wife is assaulted and the husband is out to find the attacker – since she refuses to take legal action and is suffering from PTSD. The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, an event Asghar did not attend in protest of the U.S. Executive Order 13769. It also won the Best Screenplay for Farhadi and Best Actor for Hosseini, at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.
11. Still Life
A simple yet endearing tale, Still Life shows you the life of an elderly railway signalman and his wife. They live in a solitary existence by a railway line that passes through a village in Iran, however, they are yet to discover the price it comes at. This 1974 film won the Silver Bear at the 24th Berlin International Film Festival.
12. Turtles Can Fly
Set in a Kurdish refugee camp town, it follows a group of children who have made a little town of their own in these extreme circumstances. The 2004 film is made by Iranian-Kurdish film director, Bahman Ghobadi and won several awards at film festivals.
This 1990 Iranian docufiction by Abbas Kiarostami shows the real-life trial of a man, who loves cinema so much that he impersonates film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, conning a family into starring in his film and even letting them use his house as a set.
14. The Runner
The Runner is a 1984 film by Amir Nader and was probably the first post-revolution Iranian films to attract worldwide attention. It tells the story of a boy who decides to run in order to fulfil his curiosity but soon it consumes him.
15. Brick And Mirror
This 1964 film directed by Ebrahim Golestan follows a taxi driver who finds a baby abandoned in his back seat by a woman he gave a ride to. While he wants to get rid of the baby, his girlfriend wants to keep it.