The 100 Best Foreign-Language Movies of All Time

Updated September 15, 2022 • Staff

They say travel is the best way to see the world. I'd say the next best thing would be to transport yourself through international cinema. Most film lists online are dominated by American movies –– which only goes to show how titles that feature a main language other than English tend to get sidestepped by global audiences. But the world is a big place, and there’s more to streaming great films than Hollywood. To reset the balance and help guide your journey through contemporary world cinema, we’ve curated a list of the 50 best foreign-language films to come out in the past decade or so.

Read also:
100.

Han Gong-ju (2013)

This South Korean coming-of-age story, an award-winning debut from Lee Su-jin, is centered around a high school student named Han Gong-ju. There's a dark aura surrounding our teenage protagonist, as she avoids making new friends and closes herself off from the world. More than anything, she is afraid that people will discover the secret behind her shy persona, and the past events that changed her life forever. This is an intricate and truly devastating tale, sensitively told, and is likely to leave even the most hardened viewers filled with rage at those who have wronged Han Gong-ju.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Baek Ji-won, Baik Ji-won, Chun Woo-hee, Dong Hyun-bae, Ji Soo, Jo Dae-hee, Jung In-sun, Kim Hyun-joon, Kim Jung-pal, Kim So-young, Kimchoi Yong-Joon, Kwon Bum-taek, Lee Young-lan, Min Kyung-jin, Oh Hee-joon, Yoo Seung-mok
Director: Lee Su-jin
99.

Good Bye, Lenin (2003)

An intriguing, funny and rather bizarre movie which serves as a fantastic introduction to 'new-wave' German cinema. Featuring a cast of young talented actors and excellent direction, this movie takes place around the time the Berlin wall fell and East and West Berlin were still united. Christiane, a devout socialist activist in East Berlin suffers an accident which leaves her in a coma, during which time the Berlin wall comes down and Western capitalism encroaches on her beloved East Berlin. Fearing that she may relapse into a coma after waking up, her doctors warn that she must remain calm and not endure any shocks. Despite the somewhat contrived premise, the film really takes off from this point as her son Alex and his friend aim to hide this fact from her, by faking news reports on the television, coming up with excuses for a giant Coca Cola banner and a whole host of other amusing exploits to prevent her from knowing. While categorised as a comedy, it is also a moving portrayal of a loving family enduring great, historic change.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Actor: Alexander Beyer, Burghart Klaussner, Christine Schorn, Chulpan Khamatova, Daniel Brühl, Eberhard Kirchberg, Florian Lukas, Hans-Uwe Bauer, Jochen Stern, Jürgen Holtz, Jürgen Vogel, Katrin Saß, Maria Simon, Michael Gwisdek, Peter Kurth, Stefan Walz
Director: Wolfgang Becker
Rating: R
98.

Nobody Knows (Dare Mo Shiranai) (2004)

A very touching film about Japanese children who are abandoned by their mother in their apartment and left on their own. It's movie that perfectly encapsulates the world of kids and its alignment with this story is both heartbreaking and joyful. Their innocence will make you smile from ear to ear until moments come where you will shed tears. This is a film everyone should have watched, it breaks my heart how little-known it is.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Ayu Kitaura, Hanae Kan, Hiei Kimura, Kazuyoshi Kushida, Ken'ichi Endô, Momoko Shimizu, Ryō Kase, Sei Hiraizumi, Susumu Terajima, You, Yuichi Kimura, Yukiko Okamoto, Yûya Yagira
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda, Hirokazu Koreeda
Rating: PG-13
97.

Under the Shadow (2016)

Horror movies have always been creepier to me when they play on our fear of the “unknown” rather than gore. Under The Shadow does exactly that. The story is based around the relationship of a woman, Shideh, and her daughter, Dorsa, under the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq war. As widespread bombings shake the ground beneath their feet, the two grapple with a more insidious evil that is faceless and traceless, coming and going only with the wind. The movie’s dread-effect plays strongly on feelings of isolation and helplessness. The scares are slow and it’s obvious the director takes great care in making every single second count and in raising the unpredictableness of the action. Like the bombs, the audience never knows when or how the next apparition will materialize. The former is always on the edge of fear, wondering what is no doubt there, but is yet to be shown on the frame. In terms of significance, Under The Shadow features too many symbolisms to count and will most likely resonate with each person differently. But one thing remains relatively unarguable: this is a wonderful movie.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller, War
Actor: Arash Marandi, Avin Manshadi, Babak Anvari, Behi Djanati Atai, Bijan Daneshmand, Bobby Naderi, Hamidreza Djavdan, Narges Rashidi, Ray Haratian, Sajjad Delafrooz, Soussan Farrokhnia
Director: Babak Anvari
Rating: PG-13
96.

Aquarius (2016)

If you’ve never heard of Sonia Braga, you’re in for a ride with this movie. She is, in my opinion, one of the best actresses alive today. In Aquarius, she stars as a 65-year-old trying to keep the home in which she pledged to die. In a quiet, yet stoically powerful performance, she reminds us that identity often intersects with the spaces in which we live.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Allan Souza Lima, Arly Arnaud, Bárbara Colen, Bruno Goya, Buda Lira, Carla Ribas, Clarissa Pinheiro, Fábio Leal, Fernando Teixeira, Humberto Carrao, Irandhir Santos, Joana Gatis, Julia Bernat, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Lula Terra, Maeve Jinkings, Rubens Santos, Sônia Braga, Tavinho Teixeira, Thaia Perez, Zoraide Coleto
Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Rating: Not Rated
95.

Les Misérables (2020)

This Oscar-nominated French movie is set in Montfermeil, the Paris suburb where Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables but which today is a rough neighborhood.

Inspired by instances of police violence that happened in 2008, the movie follows a squad of police officers who try to keep the neighborhood under control. Their methods, or lack thereof, inevitably cause things to explode. This is a thriller with a message, one which sometimes feels forced; but the payoff at the end will make you forget all of that.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Actor: Alexis Manenti, Almamy Kanoute, Bonnie Duvauchelle, Damien Bonnard, Djebril Zonga, Djibril Zonga, Issa Perica, Jaihson Lopez, Jeanne Balibar, Ly Lan Chapiron, Marine Sainsily, Nizar Ben Fatma, Romain Gavras, Sofia Lesaffre, Steve Tientcheu
Director: Ladj Ly
Rating: R

Free Watching Options:

Watch Les Misérables (2020) on Amazon Prime for free
94.

A White, White Day (2020)

A man is struggling to mourn his passing wife in this slow-burning Icelandic drama. The story starts with him converting an abandoned electricity station into a house, in an effort to find peace. Soon, however, questions about a possible extramarital affair that his wife disturb this peace and make it seem unattainable. 

The way A White, White Day's brilliant story unfolds might catch you off-guard a couple of times. Still, it's slow and requires a little bit of patience. Make sure you're in the mood for that to be rewarded with unmatched insight on how differently people process grief.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Arnmundur Ernst Björnsson, Björn Ingi Hilmarsson, Elma Stefanía Ágústsdóttir, Haraldur Ari Stefánsson, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir, Ingvar E. Sigurðsson, Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, Ingvar Sigurdsson, Laufey Elíasdóttir, Sara Dögg Ásgeirsdóttir, Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Sverrir Þór Sverrisson, Thor Tulinius
Director: Hlynur Palmason

Free Watching Options:

Watch A White, White Day (2020) on Fubo for free
93.

By the Grace of God (2018)

In Lyon, the second biggest city in France after Paris, a man confronts the church about a prominent priest who sexually assaulted him and his friends when they were young.

The man, being religious, wanted to keep the issue within the church. He only asked that the pedophile’s priesthood be revoked so that he doesn’t assault more children.

When it becomes clear that the church will not act, he considers legal action, even though the statute of limitations has expired. But, as is usual in these cases, he was far from being the only victim.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Éric Caravaca, Alexandre Steiger, Amélie Daure, Arnaud Viard, Aurélia Petit, Aurelia Petit, Baya Rehaz, Bernadette Le Saché, Bernard Verley, Chloé Astor, Christian Sinniger, Damien Jouillerot, Denis Ménochet, Denis Ménochet, Éric Caravaca, Fayçal Safi, Fejria Deliba, Frédéric Pierrot, François Chattot, François Marthouret, François Chattot, François Marthouret, Frédéric Pierrot, Hélène Vincent, Hélène Vincent, Jeanne Rosa, John Sehil, Josiane Balasko, Jules Gauzelin, Julie Duclos, Laurence Roy, Lilly Rose Debos, Martine Erhel, Martine Schambacher, Max Libert, Melvil Poupaud, Nicolas Bauwens, Nicolas Bridet, Pierre Lottin, Sébastien Pouderoux, Stéphane Brel, Swann Arlaud, Xavier de Guillebon
Director: François Ozon, François Ozon

Free Watching Options:

Watch By the Grace of God (2018) on Amazon Prime for free
92.

Mother and Son (1997)

Alexander Sokurov might best be known for Russian Ark, his grand single-take jaw-dropper featuring over 2,000 actors. In a way, Mother and Son is the exact opposite, featuring only two, and instead of traversing hundreds of years of history, it wades through a singular moment in time. This intimate and hypnotic piece of slow cinema trails a son taking care of his dying mother out in the beautiful countryside.

Sokurov’s frames mirror impressionist paintings, while the mix of slow movement and sparse dialogue creates heartbreaking poetry. So many films casually employ death like a light-switch - on and off and out of mind. Sokurov instead confronts it as a corrosive force that bends time to its will and pulls both the dying and the grieving into its grasp.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Aleksei Ananishnov
Director: Aleksandr Sokurov
91.

Su-ki-da (2005)

Su-ki-da is a Japanese romantic drama about Yu and Yosuke, a girl and a boy studying in the same school. Their odd friendship develops as Yu starts following Yosuke to the meadow, where he goes to play his guitar. As the years go on, Yu and Yosuke grow apart — until a night of coincidence reunites them. Throughout the movie, there are a lot of silent moments shared between the two protagonists, which sometimes make for an awkward watch. But the soft sound of guitar and views of the lush meadow will be sure to fill you with serenity.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Aoi Miyazaki, Eita, Eita Nagayama, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Hiromi Nagasaku, Maho Nonami, Nao Ōmori, Ryō Kase, Sayuri Oyamada
Director: Hiroshi Ishikawa

Ready to cut the cord? Here are the 12 cheapest Live TV streaming services for cord-cutting.

More lists