Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears (1980): Worst Winner of the Best Foreign Language Feature Oscar

Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, 1956-present

1980: Year 25–Soviet Melodrama

Written by Valentin Chernykh and directed by Vladimir Menshov, Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears is one of the least deserving winners of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Grade: C (*1/2* out of *****)

Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears
Moscow for US.jpg

Poster for US promotion

The film, which received mixed to negative reviews from critics, is considered to be the worst winner of Best Foreign Film in the history of the Academy Awards.

Set in Moscow in 1958 and 1979, the plot centers on three young women: Katerina, Lyudmila, and Antonina, who come to Moscow from smaller towns.

After being placed in workers’ dormitory room, they go on to become friends.

Antonina (Raisa Ryazanova) is seeing Nikolai, a reserved but kind man whose parents have a dacha in the country. Katerina (Vera Alentova) is a serious woman who strives to earn her chemistry degree while working at the factory. She is asked to house-sit an apartment for her Moscow relatives (a famous professor’s family) while they are away on a trip.

Lyudmila (Irina Muravyova), a flirty go-getter femme looking for rich husband while working at a bakery, convinces her to throw a dinner party at the apartment, and pretend that they are the daughters of Katerina’s professor uncle.

It’s a ploy to meet successful Muscovite men. At the party, Lyudmila meets Sergei, a famous hockey player, who falls in love with her and marries her even after discovering her real origins.

Katerina meets Rudolf (Yuri Vasilyev), a smooth talker who works as a cameraman for a television channel. They start dating. During Antonina and Nikolai’s wedding, Lyudmila and Antonina find out that Katerina is pregnant. Upon discovering that Katerina deceived him and is not a professor’s daughter, Rudolf refuses to marry her. Katerina is unable to get an abortion, as her pregnancy is in late stage, and ends up giving birth.

The title of this soap opera, “Moscow does not believe tears,” is inspired by the popular Russian proverb meaning “don’t complain, solve your problems by yourself.”

The first part of the film, which is set in 1958, is slightly more engaging than the second, which jumps ahead 20 years to 1979.

Outdated and vacuous, the melodrama is too shallow to serve as a decent Soviet counterpart to Hollywood melodramas of the same kind.

At 140 minutes, the movie, which is naive in both intentional and unintentional ways, is overlong by at least half an hour.

Oscar Context:

Each of the four other nominees in this category, especially Truffaut’s The Last Metro (representing France) and Kurosawa’s Kagemusha (Japan’s entry), was far superior.

The New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) chose the Jacques Tati’s French satire, Mon Oncle d’Amerique, as the best foreign film.


Directed by Vladimir Menshov
Written by Valentin Chernykh
Music by Sergey Nikitin
Cinematography Igor Slabnevich
Edited by Yelena Mikhajlova

Production company: Mosfilm

Release date: February 11, 1980

Running time: 140 minutes