Purpose: Variants in genes encoding sarcomeric proteins are the most common cause of inherited cardiomyopathies. However, the underlying genetic cause remains unknown in many cases. We used exome sequencing to reveal the genetic etiology in patients with recessive familial cardiomyopathy. Methods: Exome sequencing was carried out in three consanguineous families. Functional assessment of the variants was performed. Results: Affected individuals presented with hypertrophic or dilated cardiomyopathy of variable severity from infantile- to early adulthood–onset and sudden cardiac death. We identified a homozygous missense substitution (c.170C>A, p.[Ala57Asp]), a homozygous translation stop codon variant (c.106G>T, p.[Glu36Ter]), and a presumable homozygous essential splice acceptor variant (c.482-1G>A, predicted to result in skipping of exon 5). Morpholino knockdown of the MYL3 orthologue in zebrafish, cmlc1, resulted in compromised cardiac function, which could not be rescued by reintroduction of MYL3 carrying either the nonsense c.106G>T or the missense c.170C>A variants. Minigene assay of the c.482-1G>A variant indicated a splicing defect likely resulting in disruption of the EF-hand Ca2+ binding domains. Conclusions: Our data demonstrate that homozygous MYL3 loss-of-function variants can cause of recessive cardiomyopathy and occurrence of sudden cardiac death, most likely due to impaired or loss of myosin essential light chain function.