Music, movies, and fiction are the holy trinity of “chill” language learning activities. And movies are perhaps the best mix for beginners and low-intermediate learners, especially if they can get both target and first-language subtitles to help them along.
For those learning Modern Greek, it makes sense to dive head-first into Greek movies. But before we get to the recommendations, let’s cover some vocabulary.
When speaking in Greek, the most common word for films or movies is η ταινία. It’s a feminine word, and it comes from the ancient Greek τείνω, which means “stretch, extend.” This makes more sense when you look at some of the adjacent modern definitions—either a cloth or tape that can be rolled up or a parasite that infects the intestines.
But, in most conversations, ταινία will probably refer to movies, especially for beginners and intermediate learners.
A movie theater, meanwhile, will likely go by ο κινηματογράφος or το σινεμά. The first is a combination of two terms, κινημα for movement and γράφος, which comes from the verb γράφω, to write. Meanwhile, σινεμά has its origin in the French cinéma, which itself stems from a Greek root. Basically, it comes from the κίνημα we see in κινηματογράφος.
This scenario—when two languages have words that share a root but how the word enters the language differs—is called a doublet.
What Greek Films Are We Talking About Here?
Greek film has been around since the turn of the century. Many of the most noted films are older, namely from the 1960s-1980s. They are great to watch, and some are filmed entirely in English.
You probably will recognize these titles from Greek cinema:
- Zorba the Greek
- Eternity and a Day
- Never on a Sunday
All of these films are amazing, and there are many others I didn’t list here. I mean, I’ll watch anything with Melina Mercouri or Irene Papas. And you may know Yorgos Lanthimos from all his art films, more recently Lobster and Killing of a Sacred Dear. But this upcoming list is a little different.
The following movies and series are great for language learners in that they are mostly in Greek and offer English or Greek subtitles—sometimes both. There are several genres listed, but most are dramas. Many are hosted on Ertflix, which is free. So they are accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Plus, they have a Greek Film Archive, mostly in Greek, without any subtitles, but it’s helpful.
They may not necessarily be on a list of “best Greek movies,” but they are entertaining and easy to follow.
So, without further ado, let’s get started.
7 Greek Movies and Series with English Subtitles
There are some other movies and shows out there, but here are 7 movies or series that have subtitles for those learning Greek.
1. You Are My Soulmate (Είσαι το Ταίρι μου)
George, a wonderful YouTuber, has subbed all 30 episodes of this classic romantic comedy (ρομαντική κωμωδία).
The story seems simple. Stella and Vicky, two Greeks living in Australia, are very different. Stella is confident and talented, but overweight and fails to attract a quality romantic partner. Vicky, too, finds it difficult to find positive relationships with men, but for a different reason—she is tall, thin, and a model.
Both women fall in love with Nikos, but he only has eyes for Vicky, and they are quickly engaged. They decide to have the wedding in Greece, and Vicky travels there early to meet his family. Except she’s terrified, afraid that their view of her as a model will prevent them from seeing her for who she really is.
When Vicky discovers that Stella will be traveling to Greece for a vacation and to meet a pen pal, she comes up with a devious (and incredibly inconsiderate) plan. She pressures Stella into switching places with her.
Chaos ensues as Vicky and Stella try to keep up the act of switching places.
This is a fun, short, amazing series filled with numerous songs. Seriously. Everyone is either smoking or singing, and it’s quite a lot of fun. All while pointing out society’s issues with unattainable and unfair beauty standards.
2. Son of Zeus
Netflix’s Son of Zeus has Greek subtitles and dubbing, and it’s a fantasy based on Greek mythology (φαντασία βασισμένη στη μυθολογία). Created by Charley Parlapanides and Vlas Parlapanides, Son of Zeus follows Heron, a commoner in ancient Greece, who discovers he is the son of Zeus (Ζεύς).
Which, side-note, if you can read Greek already, you may notice that Ζεύς is pronounced like “Zefs” or “Zevs,” not the English “Zoos.”
Anyway, this save-the-world fantasy series is beautifully drawn and interesting for those on a Greek mythology kick. It’s also important to note that this isn’t a Greek myth retelling but a new story altogether, based on Greek culture and myths.
3. Maestro in Blue
Originally called Maestro and retitled by Netflix to Maestro in Blue, this series will be the first Greek serial on the streaming platform.
Set to release on March 17th, the 9-episode show revolves around Orestis, who goes to Paxos to revive the music festival there post-pandemic. It’s a family drama (οικογενειακό δράμα and romance, as Orestis learns more about the locals.
4. The Oath (Ο Όρκος)
This drama and mystery (δράμα και μυστήριο) centers around surgeon Angelos Raptis, who quits medicine after his wife and daughter die in an accident. Pessimistic and focused entirely on money, his perspective shifts when he learns that his family may have been targeted.
What’s interesting about this show is that Angelos tends to grow and learn more as he goes back to medicine. It’s not quite a medical drama, but it offers an interesting mix of genres on top of the main mystery. There is, of course, romance as well!
5. Crucial Moments(Κρίσιμες Στιγμές)
A historical drama (ιστορικό δράμα), Crucial Moments takes place in 1941 and takes place just as the Nazis took over Greece from Albania. The narrative follows an upper-class couple as they experience the tumultuous occupation, with their sons actively fighting in the resistance. It should be an interesting watch for those obsessed with World War II history.
6. Sinful Love (Αγάπη Παράνομη)
Based on the short story of the same name by Konstantinos Theotokis, Sinful Love is set in 1906 Corfu. If you love wild, passionate, and problematic romances, this is probably the series for you.
Essentially, a farmer sets up a marriage for his son, primarily because he’s in love with the daughter-in-law. I haven’t watched it myself yet but based on the descriptions, the overall vibe feels like: Everything is terrible and problematic, but you can’t tear your eyes away.
7. Flame and Wind (Φλόγα και Άνεμος)
Another historical romance, Flame and Wind revolves around the theater and is a framed story. The now-separated lovers Georgios and Kyveli meet again in 1968 during the military junta. Georgios has gone into politics, Kyveli to the theater.
The story jumps from the present day, the junta, to the past as the two explore their relationship.
Vocab Break: Greek Words to Know
|ο/η Ηθοποιoς||Actor/Actress||το Είδος||Genre|
|το Εκμαγείο, το καστ||Cast||η πλοκή, η υπόθεση||Plot|
|η Κατηγορία||Category||ο/η Παραγωγoς||Producer|
|η Κωμωδία||Comedy||η κριτική||Review|
|το Εγκλημα||Crime||η Σκηνή||Scene|
|ο/η Διευθυντής||Director||η Οθoνη||Screen|
6 More Greek Movies or Series with Greek Subtitles
For those at an upper-intermediate level or higher, you may want more of a challenge. So here are some movies with only Greek subtitles:
1. One August Night (Μια Νύχτα του Αυγούστου)
So, this is on my list, and I haven’t seen it yet, but it looks like a crime drama (εγκληματικό δράμα).
The year is 1963, and Anna Vandoulaki has been dead for six years. Thought to be murdered by her husband, Andreas, who has been in prison and isolated since her death. But now, he begins to receive a mysterious visitor.
But why did he kill his wife? Signs point to a love affair with his cousin…
2. Remember When (Τα Καλύτερά μας Χρόνια)
A three-series-long comedy, Remember When takes place in the 80s. This era marks a time in modern Greek history in which rapid developments and changes took place. In a post-junta drama, we see fewer anxieties and tragedies around war and military dictatorship but focus on daily life and family drama.
3. Act like you’re asleep (Κάνε ότι Κοιμάσαι)
If you want to be on the edge of your seat, Act like you’re asleep is probably your best bet. Nicholas is a school teacher in a low-income school. Despite being married, he has an affair with a student’s mother, only to learn that she died a long time ago.
To make matters worse, his wife is gunned down during a break-in, and his daughter is injured. Nicholas then embarks on a journey to bring his wife’s murderers to justice.
4. Cartes Postales from Greece (Καρτ Ποστάλ)
An archeologist from Crete returns to the island for work. He expects that his fiancee, from London, will meet him later…but she never shows up.
So, he begins to walk around the island and visit his childhood hangouts, where he meets a man abandoned by his new wife years ago. The man is clearly unhinged, still angry about the event.
This short series follows Josephe as he learns more about the people and copes with the loss of his own relationship.
5. I’m Still Here (Κι όμως είμαι ακόμα εδώ)
After a stroke of bad luck in life and relationships, Katerina is told she only has 6 months to live. However, not everything is as it seems, both with the diagnosis and her personal life. This is a wild, flat-out drama with multiple twists and turns.
6. In a Stranger’s Hand (Σε Ξένα Χέρια)
This series is a comedy with a bizarre and original storyline. A father seeks to fake the abduction of his newborn son, in order to sell him without the mother finding out. However, the kidnapping is botched, and the child ends up in the mansion of a wealthy business tycoon. The child becomes the man’s grandson; incidentally, the original mother works at the mansion.
If that sounds like a lot, it is, and there are 157 episodes to tide you over!