Movie Review:
Moscow on
the hudson 

MOVIE REVIEW: moscow on the hudson (1984)

TITLE: Moscow on the Hudson

RELEASE DATE: April 6, 1984




The film tells the story of a Russian musician named Vladimir Ivanoff who defects from the Soviet Union in a department store in New York City. 

He gets a job and befriends a number of people in his pursuit of making a new life in the US, struggling with culture shock, homesickness, language barrier, and making his way through the American life and legal systems. 

His dream of freedom is put to the test when he falls in love with a Bloomingdale's saleswoman.


The film uses humor and irony to satirize and criticize the Cold War Era, along the way touching on themes of identity, what it means to be “free,” love, both plutonic and romantic, as well as self-love and acceptance. 

It heavily explores the theme of belonging, through Vlad’s character, of course, but as an overall theme for almost every character in the film. Even how Vlad tries to fit in by learning to coexist with other immigrants, minorities, and feminists (something he is not used to at all). The diversity and complexity of American society was well represented without feeling purposely tokenizing. 

Some examples include the lawyer (Cuban), Lucia (Italian), the family Vlad lives with (Black), the doctor (Indian), and the scene in the café where a minimum of four languages are spoken in the span of sixty seconds.

I love how completely this film captures the representative of the American idea of the Soviet Union. It’s over the top and filled with stereotypes, and just tame enough to make people think that’s exactly how the USSR was at the time, tapping into so many stereotypes we always heard, from food lines to living in a panopticon to language barriers. While some is on point, it’s also such a great representation of the propaganda the United States was peddling at the time as well. The scene in the café where a minimum of four languages are spoken.


Robin’s performance is absolutely amazing and I can see how he’s already cementing himself as a sought-after actor who can deliver. While Garp hit some of drama and emotion and Popeye and The Survivors hit some of the comedy, this is the first time I was truly laughing out loud at the jokes and really feeling like I was seeing the Robin Williams I grew up loving (with his later films).  

His mastery of the Russian language was spectacular.

I love the characters. I love each character’s individuality, whether they are shining as well-rounded characters with arcs or throwaway stereotypes who are only around for a bit. Everyone brought the goods in this film.

This movie is funny, even the jokes that didn’t age well. It’s also emotional, and representative of a full person mitigating one of the hardest things one can try in life.


I didn’t really DISLIKE anything in the film, but it wasn’t my favorite. I don’t think a younger generation would grasp this film. It’s too dated and doesn’t discuss immigration issues the way the current audience is used to. That’s not really a gripe, given when it came out, as much as I’m just pointing out that I understand why younger audiences might not like this film.


There were too many to name. I laughed quite a bit watching this. I’m going to go with the two grandfathers, even though they never interact. Each was highly entertaining to me and it was beautiful to see Vlad find someone like his own grandfather to fill that empty hole for him and, in a way, to honor his grandfather whom he knows he will never see again.


The trailer did NOT do this movie justice. I was not looking forward to watching this.

The Russian Language? Robin Williams reportedly spent five hours a day learning Russian for an entire year to play this part. More impressive, they say he was able to speak it well within a year. According to the Foreign Services Institute, Russian is one of the hardest languages to learn for native English speakers… so hats off to him.

The Saxophone? Robin Williams spent months learning to play the saxophone and, according to his music tutor, achieved a level of proficiency that would normally take a student two years.

Imagine being a normal everyday shopper who happened to be in Bloomingdale’s when that bus arrived. LOL

Bonus: I’m a big fan of Family Matters, and Mother Winslow (Rosetta LeNoire) plays the Judge in the Citizenship Ceremony Scene.

This was my 4th movie in my journey to watch all 59 of Robin Williams' films.