Adelheid Harriman

Written by Adelheid Harriman

Modified & Updated: 02 Jun 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett


In the realm of cinematic masterpieces, “Z” stands as a timeless and thought-provoking gem. Directed by Costa-Gavras and released in 1969, this political thriller captivated audiences worldwide with its gripping narrative, stellar performances, and bold exploration of corruption and injustice. Let us delve into the intriguing world of “Z” and uncover 35 captivating facts that shed light on the making, impact, and enduring legacy of this iconic film.

Key Takeaways:

  • “Z” is a thrilling movie with a captivating plot, stunning visuals, and exceptional performances that keep audiences on the edge of their seats from start to finish.
  • The movie “Z” explores thought-provoking themes, features a twist ending, and has gained a dedicated fanbase, making it a must-watch for all movie enthusiasts.
Table of Contents

The Origins of “Z”

Z” is based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Vassilis Vassilikos, which is a fictionalized account of the real-life assassination of Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963. Costa-Gavras was deeply moved by the events surrounding Lambrakis’ murder, inspiring him to bring this story to the silver screen.

A Multilingual Production

“Z” is a French-Algerian production and was filmed in French, making it the first non-English language film to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.

Political Turmoil as a Backdrop

The film is set against the backdrop of political turmoil in Greece during the 1960s, showcasing the escalating tensions between the left and right-wing factions in society.

Engaging Performances

The stellar cast of “Z” includes Yves Montand as the fictional politician and Jean-Louis Trintignant as the investigative magistrate. Their performances bring depth and authenticity to their respective roles, immersing the audience in the story.

A Gripping Narrative Structure

Z” employs a non-linear storytelling technique, which adds suspense and intrigue to the plot. This approach allows the audience to piece together the events leading to the assassination and the subsequent investigation.

The Letter “Z”

The title of the film, “Z,” carries significant symbolism. In Greek, “Z” is an abbreviation for “He lives” (“Zē”) and became a symbol of resistance against the oppressive regime in the film.

Cannes Triumph

“Z” premiered at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival, where it received widespread critical acclaim and won the prestigious Palme d’Or. This recognition catapulted the film into the international spotlight.

Box Office Success

Despite being an art-house film, “Z” enjoyed remarkable commercial success worldwide. Audiences were captivated by its powerful storytelling and its relevance in addressing political issues of the time.

Banned in Greece

The Greek military junta ruling Greece at the time banned “Z” due to its politically charged content. However, the film’s underground circulation within Greece heightened its impact and significance.

Academy Award Triumph

At the 1970 Academy Awards, “Z” received five nominations and won two: Best Foreign Language Film and Best Film Editing. Its recognition by the Academy further solidified its place in cinematic history.

Energetic Score

Mikis Theodorakis composed the film’s vibrant score, incorporating a wide range of musical styles to reflect the intense emotions and tension portrayed on screen.

Inspirational Filmmaking

“Z” inspired a generation of filmmakers with its audacious approach to political storytelling. Its influence can be seen in subsequent political thrillers and films dealing with social issues.

Impact on Greek Society

“Z” played a significant role in raising awareness and inspiring resistance against the oppressive Greek military junta. Its portrayal of corruption and injustice resonated deeply with the Greek populace.

Critically Acclaimed Directing

Costa-Gavras’ masterful direction in “Z” solidified his reputation as a visionary filmmaker, earning him praise for his ability to tackle complex political themes with finesse and precision.

Film Editing Excellence

Françoise Bonnot’s exceptional editing work in “Z” was instrumental in creating its distinctive pacing and maintaining the film’s intense atmosphere throughout.

Subtitles and Accessibility

The film’s success highlighted the importance of subtitles in bridging the language barrier for non-English speaking audiences, encouraging more international films to be subtitled for global distribution.

Power of Investigative Journalism

“Z” emphasizes the role of investigative journalism in uncovering the truth and exposing corruption. This theme resonated with audiences and reinforced the importance of a free press.

A Political Statement

Through its portrayal of political corruption, censorship, and abuse of power, “Z” serves as a powerful political statement that transcends its time and place, resonating with viewers across generations.

International Distribution

“Z” achieved significant international distribution, allowing audiences worldwide to experience the film’s gripping narrative and engage with its political themes.

A Cult Classic

Over the years, “Z” has garnered a dedicated following, becoming a cult classic admired for its boldness, social commentary, and enduring relevance.

Preservation and Restoration

Recognizing its cultural and historical significance, efforts have been made to preserve and restore “Z” to ensure its availability for future generations of film enthusiasts.

A Cannes Reunion

In 2019, “Z” celebrated its 50th anniversary with a special screening at the Cannes Film Festival. Costa-Gavras and surviving cast members attended the event, reflecting on the film’s enduring legacy.

A Defining Role for Montand

Yves Montand’s performance in “Z” is considered one of the defining roles of his career. His portrayal of the charismatic politician captures the complexities of the character and his unwavering commitment to justice.

A Disturbing Truth

“Z” exposes the chilling reality of state-sponsored violence and the lengths to which those in power would go to maintain their control. This exploration of dark truths contributes to the film’s lasting impact.

The Trial that Inspired the Film

The trial following the assassination of Grigoris Lambrakis, which served as the inspiration for “Z,” was widely covered by the media. The film’s accuracy and attention to detail in depicting the trial further added to its authenticity.

The Power of Symbolism

Costa-Gavras skillfully incorporates symbolism throughout the film to convey deeper meanings. The recurring motif of the letter “Z” and its association with resistance and hope resonates with viewers on a profound level.

A Universally Resonant Film

Despite being set in Greece during the 1960s, “Z” transcends its specific time and place, addressing universal themes of political corruption, activism, and the fight for justice.

Critical Acclaim

Beyond its Palme d’Or and Academy Awards, “Z” received widespread critical acclaim, with many praising its engaging narrative, powerful performances, and its ability to provoke thought and inspire action.

The Legacy of Costa-Gavras

“Z” solidified Costa-Gavras’ reputation as a political filmmaker. His subsequent works continued to explore socio-political themes, establishing him as a prominent figure in the genre.

A Bridge Between Cinema and Reality

Z” blurs the line between fiction and reality, drawing parallels to actual political events and encouraging audiences to reflect on the state of their own societies.

Exploring the Consequences of Silence

“Z” delves into the consequences of remaining silent in the face of injustice. It serves as a reminder of the power of collective action and the importance of standing up for what is right.

A Lesson in Resilience

The characters in “Z” exemplify resilience in the face of adversity. Their unwavering commitment to justice serves as an inspiration for viewers, encouraging them to fight against corruption and oppression.

Cultural Impact

Z” sparked a cultural shift in Greece, leading to increased awareness and activism among the populace. It became a symbol of resistance against authoritarian regimes and a catalyst for change.

Academic Analysis

The film has been the subject of extensive academic analysis, with scholars exploring its themes, narrative techniques, and its broader socio-political context.

Enduring Relevance

More than five decades after its release, “Z” remains a relevant and powerful cinematic experience. Its exploration of political corruption and the fight for justice continues to resonate with viewers in a world grappling with similar challenges.


“Z” stands as a remarkable film that leaves an indelible mark on its viewers. Costa-Gavras’ masterful direction, captivating performances, and exploration of political themes have solidified its place in cinematic history. Through its compelling narrative and thought-provoking storytelling, “Z” continues to inspire and ignite discussions on social justice, political activism, and the power of the human spirit.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is “Z” based on a true story?

Yes, “Z” is based on the novel by Vassilis Vassilikos, which fictionalizes the assassination of Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963.

Was “Z” banned in Greece?

Yes, due to its politically charged content, “Z” was banned by the Greek military junta ruling Greece at the time. However, it gained significant underground circulation within the country.

Did “Z” win any awards?

Yes, “Z” won the Palme d’Or at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival and received two Academy Awards, including Best Foreign Language Film.

Who composed the music for “Z”?

The score for “Z” was composed by Mikis Theodorakis, who incorporated various musical styles to reflect the film’s intense emotions and tension.

How did “Z” impact Greek society?

“Z” played a significant role in raising awareness and inspiring resistance against the oppressive Greek military junta. Its portrayal of corruption and injustice struck a chord with the Greek populace, contributing to a cultural shift and increased activism.

If you found these captivating facts about the movie Z intriguing, you'll be thrilled to explore more fascinating trivia. Delve into the life and career of talented actor Milo Manheim, uncovering lesser-known details that will leave you amazed. From his early beginnings to his rise to stardom, Milo Manheim's journey is filled with surprising twists and turns. Get ready to be captivated by the untold stories behind this rising star, as you embark on a journey of discovery through his remarkable achievements and unique experiences.

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