Ready, Set, Action: 16 Israeli Cult Movies to Feel Like a Local

3 min read
Yonatan Engler
Yonatan Engler

1. Halfon Hill Doesn’t Answer / גבעת חלפון אינה עונה

Produced in 1976, this movie is a good-hearted comedy about the Israel Defense Forces and the story of a reserves unit watching the Egyptian border in Sinai.

2. Peeping Toms / מציצים

This 1972 comedy, written and starring beloved Israeli musician Arik Einstein, was entered into the 23rd Berlin International Film Festival.

3. Alex Is Lovesick / אלכס חולה אהבה

This film, set in the 1950s, features a boy and his life as the son of Polish immigrants.

4. Operation Grandma / מבצע סבתא

This 1999 satirical comedy about the military and kibbutz life was filmed on Kibbutz Yakum and based on Kibbutz Kissufim, where director Dror Shaul was born and raised.

5. Lovesick on Nana Street / ‘חולה אהבה בשיכון ג

After being institutionalized for his obsession with an actress, a mentally impaired man falls for a fellow patient.

6. Operation Thunderbolt / מבצע יונתן

Based on real-life events from 1976, a terrorist and his cohorts from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijack an Air France flight on a stopover in Athens and force it to fly to Uganda. After releasing the non-Jewish passengers, the terrorists ransom the remaining Jewish hostages for the release of political prisoners held by Israel, and Israeli commandos launch a daring rescue attempt.

7. Zero Motivation / אפס ביחסי אנוש

In this 2014 drama/comedy, female Israeli soldiers are posted to a remote desert base and spend their time pushing paper until they can return to civilian life.

8. Beaufort / בופור

Released in 2008, this docudrama film tells the story of a group of Israeli soldiers that defends an isolated mountain outpost next to a 12th-century fortress called Beaufort Castle, toward the end of the war in Lebanon.

9. Charlie and a Half / צ׳ארלי וחצי

The main character Charlie, in this 1974 comedy, passes himself off as a rich businessman and attempts to win over the heart of Gila, a rich girl whose parents try to matchmake her to an American millionaire somewhat against her will.

10. Waltz with Bashir / ואלס עם באשיר

In this autobiographical animated film, a 19-year-old infantry soldier in the 1982 war with Lebanon witnessed the Sabra and Shatila massacre, but realizes he has no memory of the event.

11. Party at the Snooker / חגיגה בסנוקר

One of the classic “Bourekas” films (an Israeli genre of comic melodramas or tearjerkers based on ethnic stereotypes), the story is about two twin brothers (both played by the same actor). One is a shy, religious Jew, while the other is a hoodlum and hustler who runs a snooker bar.

12. Kazablan / קזבלן

The story has been called a Jewish adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, and the musical version has been called an Israeli version of West Side Story.

13. Sallah Shabati / סאלח שבתי

This 1964 comedy is about the chaos of Israeli immigration and resettlement in 1949 Israel. It introduced actor Chaim Topol (Fiddler on the Roof) to audiences worldwide.

14. Late Summer Blue / בלוז לחופש הגדול

This 1988 drama/romance movie features seven Israeli friends who graduate from high school during the country’s War of Attrition against Egypt in the summer of 1970.

15. Gett / גט

In this 2014 drama, an Israeli woman fights for three years to obtain a divorce from her devout husband, who refuses to grant his permission to dissolve the marriage.

16. Late Marriage / חתונה מאוחרת

In this 2001 family drama, an eligible 31-year-old bachelor has done his best to remain unattached, but his traditional Georgian-Jewish family is growing impatient, and they aggressively join forces to choose a young bride for him, with the requirement that she must be a virgin.

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