Pirates of the 20th Century (1979) – The first action movie in the Soviet Union!

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Recently I took a flight from Moscow to Bangkok.

I was scrolling through the inflight movie options when this 80’s aesthetic movie poster caught my eye. It caught it good. (Later, I found out this was a historically significant movie in the Soviet Union times.)

Pirates of the XX century flight entertainment resize
Movie summary on the headrest console

I had just popped a Valium (from my Cambodia stash) and figured this would be the perfect movie to watch as I drifted into pharmaceutically induced relaxation.

Flight over Russia
Sunset over frozen Russia.


In Soviet Russia, movie pirates you…

In the movie, a Soviet cargo ship crew are transporting a load of medical opium back to the USSR. They are attacked by well armed pirates who leave them to die on their sinking ship. They escape and must fight the pirates for survival.

The story was written by Boris Durov and Stanislav Govorukhin, and directed by Boris Durov. It was the most popular movie in the Soviet Union in 1980.

Pirates of the th Century movie poster

Watching this movie made me wish that I lived just a few decades earlier – when there were surplus WWII weapons floating around and you could get away with these kind of shenanigans without satellites tracking your every move.

All the elements of a good action movie

Film Pirates of the XXth Century ENG Пираты го века Moment
Stoic Russian Captain with bare-chested, gun-toting sailors.
Film Pirates of the XXth Century ENG Пираты го века Moment
Evil mastermind with bearded and aviator wearing crew.
Film Pirates of the XXth Century ENG Пираты го века Moment
Martial arts combined with WWII machine guns
Film Pirates of the XXth Century ENG Пираты го века Moment
Tropical island hide-away lagoon
Film Pirates of the XXth Century ENG Пираты го века Moment
Carefree island natives
Film Pirates of the XXth Century ENG Пираты го века Moment
Sexy native ally
Film Pirates of the XXth Century ENG Пираты го века Moment
Damsel in distress
Film Pirates of the XXth Century ENG Пираты го века Moment
Underwater, covert activities – with re-breathers
Film Pirates of the XXth Century ENG Пираты го века Moment
Heavy machine gun and porn-star mustache

The first Soviet movie in the banned “Hollywood Action Style”

While researching this article, I learned that “Hollywood Action Style” movies were previously banned in the Soviet Union. This movie was the first of its kind permitted as Soviet regulations loosened.

Pirates of xx century movie poster

It certainly didn’t feel like any Russian movie I had seen before. They were clearly looking to Hollywood for inspiration. However, it didn’t feel like an American movie either. It had its own vibe.

You can watch for free on YouTube!

Interested in Russian movies?

Fortunately, MANY Russian movies can be found online – free to watch. You can find whole YouTube channels of them.

When I was studying Russian, I watched a lot of Russian movies at sovietmoviesonline.com. You can watch for free and they have many subtitle options.

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