ⓘ Cinema of Greece


ⓘ Cinema of Greece

The Cinema of Greece has a long and rich history. Though hampered at times by war or political instability, the Greek film industry dominates the domestic market and has experienced international success. Characteristics of Greek cinema include a dynamic plot, strong character development and erotic themes. Two Greek films, Missing and Eternity and a Day, have won the Palme dOr at the Cannes Film Festival. Five Greek films have received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Though Greek cinema took root in the early 1900s, the first mature films werent produced until the 1920s, after the end of the Greco-Turkish War. Films during this period, such as Astero 1929 by Dimitris Gaziadis and Maria Pentagiotissa 1929 by Ahilleas Madras, consisted of emotional melodramas with an abundance of folkloristic elements. Orestis Laskoss Daphnis and Chloe 1931, one of the first Greek films to be shown abroad, contained the first voyeuristic nude scene in a European film. During the Axis occupation, the Greek film industry struggled as it was forced to relocate overseas.

Following the Greek Civil War, Greek cinema experienced a revival. Inspired by Italian neorealism, directors such as Grigoris Grigoriou and Stelios Tatasopoulos created works during this period shot on location using non-professional actors. During the 1950s and 1960s, Greek cinema experienced a golden age, starting with Michael Cacoyanniss Stella 1955, which was screened at Cannes. The 1960 film Never on Sunday was nominated for five Academy Awards, and its lead actress, Melina Mercouri, won the Best Actress Award at Cannes. Cacoyanniss Zorba the Greek 1964 won three Academy Awards. Other films released in this era, such as The Counterfeit Coin and The Ogre of Athens are nowadays considered some of the greatest works of Greek cinema.

Censorship policies of the 1967 junta and rising foreign competition led to a decline in Greek cinema. After the restoration of democracy in the mid-1970s, the Greek film industry again flourished, led by director Theo Angelopoulos, whose films captured international recognition, making him probably the most acclaimed Greek director to date. Other acclaimed directors of this era include Nikos Nikolaidis, as well as Pantelis Voulgaris and Alexis Damianos, the director of the landmark film Evdokia. However, this drift toward art-house cinema in the 1980s led to a decline in audiences. In the 1990s, younger Greek filmmakers began experimenting with iconographic motifs. In spite of, or because of, funding issues created by the financial crisis in the late 2000s, unique Greek films such as Yorgos Lanthimoss Dogtooth 2009, Panos H. Koutras Strella 2009 and Athina Rachel Tsangaris Attenberg 2010 received international acclaim, constituting what has been called the "Greek Weird Wave".


1.1. History of the Greek cinema Origins

In the spring of 1897, the Greeks of Athens watched the first cinematic ventures short movies in "journal". In 1906 Greek Cinema was born when the Manakis brothers started recording in Macedonia, and the French filmmaker "Leons" produced the first "Newscast" from the midi-Olympic games of Athens the unofficial Olympic games of 1906.

The first cine-theater of Athens opened about a year later and other special projection rooms begun their activity. In 1910-11 the first short comic movies were produced by director Spiros Dimitrakopoulos Spyridion, who also starred in most of his movies. In 1911 Kostas Bachatoris presented Golfo Γκόλφω, a well known traditional love story, considered the first Greek feature film. In 1912 was founded the first film company Athina Film and in 1916 the Asty Film.

During the First World War, production was limited to documentaries and newscasts only. Directors like George Prokopiou and Dimitris Gaziadis are distinguished for filming scenes from the battlefield and later, during the Greco-Turkish War, of the efforts of the Hellenic Army and finally the Great Fire of Smyrna 1922.

The first commercially successful Greek film was Villar in the Womens Baths of Faliro Ο Βιλλάρ στα γυναικεία λουτρά του Φαλήρου, written, directed by and starring comedian Villar Nikolaos Sfakianakis and Nitsa Philosofou. In 1924, Michael 1895–1944, a Greek comedian, presented some short film comedies.

In 1922, Gaziadis founded Dag Films and tried to produce the first speaking movies. This company presented its first movie, Love and Waves Eros kai kymata, in 1927, and experienced moderate success in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The company mainly produced historical movies, usually adaptations of novels. In 1930, Dag made an attempt for a speaking movie, Apachides of Athens Oi Apachides ton Athinon, which was based on a Greek operetta by Nikos Hatziapostolou.

Gaziadis also filmed the 1927 Delphic Festival, an idea of Angelos Sikelianos and Eva Palmer-Sikelianos, as part of his general effort towards the revival of the "Delphic Idea". The event consisted of Olympic contests, an exhibition of folk art, and a performance of Prometheus Bound.

The 1931 film Daphnis and Chloe Δάφνις και Χλόη, directed by Orestis Laskos 1908–1992, contained the first voyeuristic nude scene in the history of European cinema; it was also the first Greek movie which was played abroad. In 1932 Olympia Films presented the speaking movie The Shepherdesss Lover Ο αγαπητικός της βοσκοπούλας, which was based on a play by Dimitris Koromilas. Also influential during this period was director Achilleas Madras, whose work included Maria Pentagiotissa 1929 and Sorcerer of Athens 1931.

During the late 1930s, a number of Greek filmmakers fled Greece due to the hostility of Metaxas Regime and the material lack of ability for producing speaking movies. The Greek film industry reemerged in Turkey, and later in Egypt.

In spite of German occupation during World War II, Philopemen Finos, a film producer who was active in the Greek Resistance, founded Finos Films 1942, which would later become one of the most commercially successful Greek studios. One of Finoss earliest productions, Voice of the Heart Η φωνή της καρδιάς 1943, directed by Dimitris Ioannopoulos, drew large audiences, to the consternation of the Germans. Another important film during this period, Applause Χειροκροτήματα 1944, directed by George Tzavellas, was produced by Finoss rival, Novak Films.

In 1944 Katina Paxinou was honoured with the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as "Pilar" in the Sam Wood film, For Whom the Bell Tolls.


1.2. History of the Greek cinema The Golden Age

The 1950s and 1960s are considered by many to be the "Golden Age" of Greek cinema. Directors and actors of this era were recognized as important historical figures in Greece and some gained international acclaim: Mihalis Kakogiannis, Alekos Sakellarios, Melina Mercouri, Nikos Tsiforos, Iakovos Kambanelis, Katina Paxinou, Nikos Koundouros, Ellie Lambeti, and Irene Papas. More than sixty films per year were made, with the majority having film noir elements. Notable films were The Counterfeit Coin Η κάλπικη λίρα, 1955 directed by George Tzavellas, Bitter Bread Πικρό Ψωμί, 1951, directed by Grigoris Grigoriou, and The Ogre of Athens Δράκος, 1956, directed by Nikos Koundouros.

Finos Film and director Alekos Sakellarios collaborated on several films in the late 1950s, namely The Hurdy-Gurdy Φτώχεια και Φιλότιμο, 1955 and its sequel, Laterna, ftoheia kai garyfallo Λατέρνα, 1958, as well as Aunt from Chicago Η Θεία από το Σικάγο, 1957 and Maidens Cheek Το ξύλο βγήκε από τον Παράδεισο, 1959.

The 1955 film Stella, directed by Michael Cacoyannis and written by Iakovos Kambanelis, was screened at Cannes, and launched Greek cinema into its "golden age." Melina Mercouri, who starred in the film, met American expatriate director Jules Dassin at Cannes while attending the screening, and the two would eventually marry. Dassin directed the 1960 Greek film, Never on Sunday, which starred Mercouri. The film was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Mercouri, and won the Academy Award for Best Song for composer Manos Hatzidakis title track. The couple also collaborated on the 1967 musical stage adaptation, Illya Darling, for which Mercouri received a Tony Award nomination. She went on to star in such films as Topkapi and Phaedra, both directed by Dassin, and the 1969 American comedy, Gaily, Gaily.

Cacoyannis 1964 film, Zorba the Greek, which starred Anthony Quinn, was a major commercial success, and was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film. The movie was based on the novel, Zorba the Greek, by author Nikos Kazantzakis. Other important films during this period include Antigone 1961 and Electra 1962, both of which starred Irene Papas, The Red Lanterns 1963 by director Vasilis Georgiadis, and Battlefield Constantinople 1970, which starred the "Greek Brigitte Bardot," Aliki Vougiouklaki.

The Thessaloniki International Film Festival was first held in 1960, and would subsequently evolve into the primary showcase for emerging filmmakers from Greece and the Balkans region. The festival showcases both international and Greek films, and awards the "Golden Alexander" for the best feature film.

In 1969, the Costa-Gavras film Z was nominated for the Academy Award for both Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture.


1.3. History of the Greek cinema Modern period

The production of Greek films increased after the fall of the dictatorship in the mid-1970s, though the industry struggled with foreign competition and the rise of television. Michael Cacoyannis 1977 film, Iphigenia, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. During the 1970s and 1980s Theo Angelopoulos directed a series of critically acclaimed movies, among them The Travelling Players 1975, The Hunters 1977, and Voyage to Cythera 1984. His film Eternity and a Day won the Palme dOr and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. Costa-Gavrass film Missing won the Palme dOr at 1982 Cannes Film Festival. Director Costas Ferriss 1983 film, Rembetiko, won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.

When the left-leaning Panhellenic Socialist Movement was elected to power in 1981, actress Melina Mercouri, a member of the party, was appointed Minister for Culture. In this role, she obtained government support for the Greek film industry, and set up networks to promote Greek cinema abroad. The increase in government funding led to a predominance of slow-moving, cerebral art-house films, which lacked mass appeal.

Beginning in the 1990s, younger directors turned to more contemporary-paced films and social satires, which brought moderate commercial success. In 1999, TV series writers Michalis Reppas and Thanasis Papathanasiou, collaborating with contemporary famous actors made the sex taboo comedy Safe Sex, which was the most successful movie of the decade.

In 1998, with Money, A Mythology of Darkness, Vassilis Mazomenos created the first European feature 3D animation film, a visual essay on the impact of money on humanity. The film has been acclaimed in both Greece and abroad, nominated for the European Fantasy Award George Melies award in 1999 and won the same year the jurys special award in Fantasporto. Known for his artistic experimentation and influences from early German expressionism, Mazomenos later developed a different narrative with his movies Guilt 2009 and 10th Day 2012. His latest film Lines 2016 focusing on seven individuals suffering from the economic crisis that has devastated Greece, earned critical and festival acclaim.

In 2003, A Touch of Spice Politiki kouzina, a big-budget film by director Tasos Boulmetis, was the most successful film of the year at the Greek box office, making over 12 million euros. 2004 was also a good year for Greek films, with Pantelis Voulgariss Brides Nyfes gathering more than a million spectators and over 7 million at the box office. In 2007 the most successful film was El Greco, directed by Yannis Smaragdis.

In 2009, Dogtooth, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, won the Prix Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival, and in 2011 was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards. The 2010 film Attenberg, directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari, won the Coppa Volpi Award for Best Actress Ariane Labed at the Venice Film Festival. In 2011 Alps won the Osella Award for Best Screenplay Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimiοs Filippou at the 68th Venice Film Festival. Dogtooth, Attenberg and Alps are part of what some film critics, including Steve Rose of The Guardian, have termed the Greek Weird Wave," which involves movies with haunting cinematography, alienated protagonists and absurdist dialogue. Other films mentioned as part of this "wave" include Panos H. Koutrass Strella 2009 and Yannis Economidess Knifer 2010.

In 2011, just twenty feature-films were produced.

In 2013, Miss Violence, directed by Alexandros Avranas won Silver Lion for best director at the 70th Venice International Film Festival. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, compared the film to the previously mentioned, saying that "It self-evidently does not have the humour of those movies by Yorgos Lanthimos and Athina Rachel Tsangari and by that token, less of their richness and inventiveness. But its force cant be doubted."


2. Notable films


  • 1931 Daphnis and Chloe, Orestis Laskos
  • 1927 Eros kai kymata, Dimitris Gaziadis
  • 1914 Golfo, Konstantinos Bachatoris the first Greek feature film
  • 1930 Oi Apachides ton Athinon, Dimitris Gaziadis
  • 1932 Shepherdesss Lover, Dimitris Tsakiris first speaking
  • 1939 The Parting Song film by Filopimin Finos
  • 1944 Chirokrotimata, George Tzavellas

After-WWII Golden Age

  • 1972 The Countess of Corfu, starring Rena Vlachopoulou
  • 1956 O Drakos, Nikos Koundouros, starring Dinos Iliopoulos
  • 1971 What did you do in the war, Thanasi?, Dinos Katsouridis, starring Thanasis Veggos
  • 1962 Electra, Michael Cacoyannis
  • 1955 The Counterfeit Coin, George Tzavellas
  • 1960 Egklima sta paraskinia, Dinos Katsouridis
  • 1955 Stella, Michael Cacoyannis, starring Melina Mercouri
  • 1975 The Travelling Players, Theo Angelopoulos
  • 1948 The Germans are coming again, Alekos Sakellarios, starring Vassilis Logothetidis
  • 1959 Astero, Dinos Dimopoulos
  • 1962 Nomos 4000, Giannis Dalianidis
  • 1951 Pikro Psomi, Grigoris Grigoriou
  • 1970 Ipolochagos Natassa, Nikos Foskolos tickets record
  • 1950 The Drunkard, George Tzavellas, starring Orestis Makris
  • 1965 And the Wife Shall Revere Her Husband, George Tzavellas
  • 1960 Madalena, Dinos Dimopoulos, starring Aliki Vougiouklaki
  • 1957 I theia ap to Chicago, Alekos Sakellarios, starring Georgia Vasileiadou
  • 1960 Never on Sunday, Jules Dassin
  • 1954 Despoinis eton 39, Alekos Sakellarios
  • 1977 Iphigenia, Michael Kakogiannis
  • 1967 Oi kyries tis avlis, Dinos Dimopoulos
  • 1961 Woe to the Young, Alekos Sakellarios, starring Dimitris Horn
  • 1956 Aces of the Stadiums, Vasilis Georgiadis
  • 1956 Thanassakis o politevomenos, Alekos Sakellarios
  • 1963 Young Aphrodites, Nikos Koundouros
  • 1961 Alice in the Navy, Alekos Sakellarios
  • 1958 A Hero in His Slippers, Alekos Sakellarios, starring Vassilis Logothetidis
  • 1961 Antigone, George Tzavellas
  • 1954 Kiriakatiko Xipnima, Cacoyannis
  • 1968 Girls in the Sun, Vasilis Georgiadis
  • 1963 The Red Lanterns, Vasilis Georgiadis
  • 1959 Elias of the 16th, Alekos Sakellarios, starring Costas Hajihristos
  • 1956 The Girl from Corfu, Yiannis Petropoulakis, starring Rena Vlachopoulou the first colour film
  • 1959 Stournara 288, Dinos Dimopoulos
  • 1966 Blood on the Land, Vasilis Georgiadis
  • 1962 Glory Sky, Takis Kanellopoulos
  • 1972 Days of 36, Theo Angelopoulos
  • 1971 Evdokia, Alexis Damianos
  • 1964 Zorba the Greek, Michael Cacoyannis, starring Anthony Quinn
  • 1971 The Trojan Women, Michael Cacoyannis
  • 1956 A Girl in Black, Michael Cacoyannis, starring Ellie Lambeti


  • 1998 Eternity and a Day, Theo Angelopoulos
  • 2009 Guilt, Vassilis Mazomenos
  • 1998 Money, A Mythology of Darkness, Vassilis Mazomenos
  • 2007 El Greco, Yannis Smaragdis
  • 1981 Learn How to Read and Write, Son, Thodoros Maragos
  • 1984 Loafing and Camouflage, Nikos Perakis
  • 2004 Brides, Pantelis Voulgaris
  • 1991 The Suspended Step of the Stork, Theo Angelopoulos, starring Marcello Mastroianni
  • 2011 Alps, Yorgos Lanthimos
  • 2012 10th day, Vassilis Mazomenos
  • 1999 Peppermint 1999 film, Kostas Kapakas
  • 1986 The Beekeeper film, Angelopoulos, starring Marcello Mastroianni
  • 1983 Rembetiko, Costas Ferris
  • 1984 Voyage to Cythera, Theo Angelopoulos
  • 2009 Strella, Panos H. Koutras
  • 1988 Landscape in the Mist, Angelopoulos
  • 2015 Chevalier, Athina Rachel Tsangari
  • 2016 Lines film, Vassilis Mazomenos
  • 2013 Miss Violence, Alexandros Avranas
  • 2009 Dogtooth, Yorgos Lanthimos
  • 1987 Doxobus, Fotos Lambrinos
  • 1995 Ulysses Gaze, Theo Angelopoulos
  • 1985 Stone Years, Pantelis Voulgaris
  • 2013 Little England, Pantelis Voulgaris
  • 2010 Attenberg, Athina Rachel Tsangari
  • 2003 A Touch of Spice, Tasos Boulmetis, starring Georges Corraface
  • 1998 Safe Sex, Reppas-Papathanasiou
  • 2015 Ouzeri Tsitsanis, Manousos Manousakis

3. Notable musicals

  • 1965 Kiss the Girls 1965 film, Giannis Dalianidis
  • 1963 Merikoi to protimoun kryo Some Like it Cold, Giannis Dalianidis
  • 1968 Gorgones kai Mages, Dalianidis
  • 1964 Something Is Burning, Dalianidis
  • 1967 Oi Thalassies oi Hadres, Giannis Dalianidis

4. Filming, distribution companies and studios


  • Athina Film
  • Hero Films Greek: Ἡρώ
  • Olympia Films
  • Astra Film
  • Asty Films
  • Dag Films
  • Anzervos
  • Spentzos Films
  • Klak Film


  • Karagiannis Karatzopoulos
  • Karamanos Studios biggest studios in Greece
  • The new studios of Nu Boyana Film Studios Nu Image will open inside 2020 in the area of Thessaloniki
  • Audiovisual biggest distributor
  • Madbox Entertainment operates its own studios
  • Horme Pictures by Vassilis Mazomenos
  • Odeon Hellas
  • Novak Films operates own studios
  • Finos Films operates its own studios, founded by the major figure of Philopemen Finos
  • Haos Film, founded by Athina Rachel Tsangari
  • Cinegram
  • Make a Movie in Greece/Media Productions
  • Village Films Hellas Greek branch of Village Roadshow


5. Renowned figures


  • Thanos Leivaditis
  • Efthymis Filippou
  • Mimis Traiforos
  • Giorgos Lazaridis
  • Iakovos Kambanelis
  • Petros Markaris
  • Alekos Sakellarios
  • Nikos Tsiforos
  • Dimitris Psathas

Film score composers

  • Eleni Karaindrou notable: Eternity and a Day
  • Stamatis Spanoudakis
  • Vangelis Papathanassiou notable: El Greco
  • Stavros Xarchakos notable: The Red Lanterns, Rembetiko
  • Michalis Souyioul
  • Manos Hatzidakis
  • Mikis Theodorakis
  • Loukianos Kilaidonis notable: The Travelling Players
  • Kostas Kapnisis
  • Giorgos Mouzakis
  • Kostas Giannidis
  • Manos Loïzos notable: Evdokia
  • Yannis Markopoulos
  • Giorgos Zambetas
  • Mimis Plessas notable: What Did You Do in the War, Thanasi?
  • Giorgos Katsaros


6. Bibliography

  • Journal of Modern Greek Studies 18.1, May 2000, Special Issue: "Greek Film."
  • Vrasidas Karalis, A History of Greek Cinema, Continuum, 2012.
  • Dimitris Koliodimos, The Greek filmography, 1914 through 1996 vols. 1 and 2, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1999.