The 50 Best Foreign Movies of 2023 So Far

The 50 Best Foreign Movies of 2023 So Far

May 28, 2024

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Film knows no borders, and true enough, these exceptional movies from around the world will whisk you away on an extraordinary international journey. Each one showcases a rich diversity of cultures, languages, and perspectives, inviting you to explore uncharted cinematic realms. As Parasite director Bong Joon-ho once advised, you shouldn’t let the one-inch barrier of subtitles stop you from finding your next favorite film. So bookmark this page (which we’ll update throughout the year) and read on to learn more about the best foreign-language movies of 2023. For your convenience, we’ve also added information on where and how to stream them online.

11. A Life Too Short: The Isabella Nardoni Case (2023)

best

8.1

Country

Brazil

Moods

Depressing, Intense, True-crime

The tragic death of 5-year-old Isabella Nardino shocked the people of Brazil, sparking a national outcry for justice whilst turning the case into a frenzied, televised spectacle. Directors Micael Langer and Cláudio Manoel illuminate how the media and public quickly formed their opinions, regardless of the incomplete evidence. And although there are a few alternative theories to contest with Alexandre Alves Nardoni (father) and Anna Carolina Jatobá (stepmother) being guilty, the lack of hard evidence or a thorough investigation doesn’t derail the public’s demand for their sentence. The final result? A shocking yet uneasy experience watching a partially-fabricated, 3D demonstration of the crime scene, a verdict announced over speakers for outside spectators, and enough shortcuts by professionals to sow doubt about the sentencing (even if you believe they’re guilty). 

12. Alcarràs (2023)

best

8.0

Country

Spain

Director

Carla Simón, Female director

Actors

Ainet Jounou, Berta Pipó, Jordi Pujol Dolcet, Josep Abad

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Dramatic, Easy

On one level, Alcarràs is a story about land, about how inextricable it is to livelihood, about how ownership of it has bred conflict since time immemorial. Director Carla Simón emphasizes this even more by hiring actual Catalan farmers as the leads. We’re not just watching the Solés sing and fight for their land, but Alcarràs natives who are also very much at risk of losing what’s theirs in real life. The acting comes off as natural because it is. 

But on another level, Alcarràs is also a story about family, in particular about how family ties run so deep, they’re bound to coil around each other under the ground they’re rooted in. Like a family portrait come to life, Alcarràs shows us the beauty and the peril of loving your family and the legacy they leave behind as much as the Solés do. 

13. The Blue Caftan (2022)

best

8.0

Country

Belgium, Denmark, France

Director

Female director, Maryam Touzani

Actors

Lubna Azabal, Saleh Bakri, Zakaria Atifi

Moods

Dramatic, Romantic, Touching

Set in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas, Blue Caftan is a tender portrayal of pure love and the different forms it takes. It follows traditional tailor Halim (Saleh Bakri) and his wife Mina (Lubna Azabal) who, despite their imperfect marriage, prove their affection in small but moving ways. He peels tangerines for her and washes her hair, she preps his meals and defends his craft from demanding customers. When a third person, Youssef (Ayoub Missioui), enters the picture, even more manifestations of passion (and the lack and longing and excess of it) emerge. 

It’s a dramatic film, but never overly so. Like the silky fabric Halim handles with expert care, it’s rich but soft, detailed but delicate. In the face of poverty, sickness, and discrimination, the film mines moments of joy, friendship, and pleasure, subverting the expectation that tragic circumstances must mean tragic outcomes. 

Blue Caftan, even in its saddest moments—and there are plenty—is a film full of love, made even more memorable by the deft performances and palpable chemistry of its three leads.

14. Wingwomen (2023)

7.9

Country

France

Director

Female director, Mélanie Laurent

Actors

Adèle Exarchopoulos, Annick Roux, Aurélien Gabrielli, Camille Verschuere

Moods

Action-packed, Character-driven, Dramatic

An all-female action comedy that doesn’t get self-serious about the way it’s subverting the genre — Wingwomen feels like a breath of fresh air. It wisely grasps that plot isn’t paramount for a movie like this, and so it joyously dunks on cerebral scenarios with its unabashedly silly story convolutions, like when its professional thieves take a brief pause from their momentous One Last Job™️ to sail to Italy and exact bloody, flamenco-delivered revenge on the gangsters who killed their beloved rabbit. Exotic Mediterranean location-hopping isn’t the only way Wingwomen milks Netflix’s finance department for all it can get, either: director-star Mélanie Laurent also packs in all manner of stunts, from spectacular base-jumping sequences to dramatic drone shootouts. 

For all its breezy style, though, there is real heart here, and not the kind that feels crafted by an algorithm. It’s true that a late twist unwisely uses the movie’s embrace of implausibility for emotional ends, but otherwise, the relationship between its professional thieves — ostensibly platonic but very much coded otherwise (a la Bend It Like Beckham) — has surprisingly sincere warmth. Thanks to the cast’s natural chemistry and characters that feel human despite the ridiculous plot, Wingwomen is much more moving than you might believe possible for a Netflix action-comedy.

15. You & Me & Me (2023)

7.9

Country

Thailand

Director

Female director, Wanweaw Hongvivatana

Actors

Anthony Buisseret, Karuna Looktumthong, Natee Ngamneawprom, Supakson Chaimongkol

Moods

Character-driven, Feel-Good, Heart-warming

With the nostalgia and the twin love triangle, at first glance, You & Me & Me seems like nothing new. However, this Thai coming-of-age drama is done so well that it feels entirely unique. Taking inspiration from the childhood of twin writer-directors, You & Me & Me brings us to a summer vacation in Isan, north Thailand, where the twins, distinguishable only by a mole and by dual-sided acting of Thitiya Jirapornsilp, encounter a boy named Mark. Amidst test taking, phin lute playing, and rowing in lotus filled lakes, their summer evokes some nostalgia, but also some drama, as their first forays into love threaten their bond. While the pacing is slow, and it does focus on the love triangle, You & Me & Me cares about each twin as they start to delve into new experiences outside of their duo. The film is a sweet and nuanced tale of twin sisterhood, but also a love letter to the Hongvivatanas’ childhood summer home.

16. The Eternal Memory (2023)

7.9

Country

Chile, United States of America

Director

Female director, Maite Alberdi

Actors

Augusto Góngora, Gustavo Cerati, Javier Bardem, Paulina Urrutia

Moods

Depressing, Emotional, Lovely

Documentaries about people suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other neurodegenerative diseases will always occupy a bit of an uneasy space—how much consent can they really provide in their condition? At what point does presenting their struggles become exploitative? Maite Alberdi’s The Eternal Memory doesn’t entirely assuage these concerns, but it certainly knows better than to define its characters by the things that they lack. In fact, much of this film’s romance comes from the image of Pauli and Augusto (who sadly passed away earlier this year) simply sharing space together, present in one another’s routines even as the gap between their shared understanding grows. Their life is one populated by art and literature, which seems to act as both a cage and a liberating escape throughout their relationship.

In the times when Augusto’s struggle with basic cognition is too severe, Alberdi doesn’t look away, and the resulting footage is truly painful to watch. But it should be emphasized that Alberdi displays the same attentiveness to the couple’s ordinary moments of quiet contemplation or married-life silliness without allowing them to be reduced into tragedy in retrospect. The film never tries to define their bond as either purely doomed or hopeful. For them, the mere possibility of love continuing to persist even in brief flashes is enough.

17. A House Made of Splinters (2022)

7.8

Country

Denmark, Finland, Sweden

Director

Simon Lereng Wilmont

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Touching

Somewhere near the border between Russia and Ukraine lies a shelter for kids coming from unstable homes. Their parents, either alcoholics or abusers, have nine months to prove that they’re fit to look after their children; otherwise, the kids are sent straight to the orphanage, with no chance of a goodbye. A House Made of Splinters is a documentary that quietly and closely follows the shelter’s occupants amid growing joys and pains, not to mention the ever-present danger of war.

Perhaps one of the most striking things about A House Made of Splinters is how attuned it is to the kids. It serves as a reminder of their immense sensitivity and observational skills (more than once, you’ll hear a child assess their home situation in the calmest of manners), as well as their clever ingenuity (there’s a lot of playing going on despite everything, which is heartwarming to watch.

18. Nowhere (2023)

7.8

Country

Spain

Director

Albert Pintó

Actors

Anna Castillo, Antonio Buíl, Emma Sánchez, Irina Bravo

Moods

Challenging, Dark, Discussion-sparking

While not its only cause, the increase of conflict and civil wars has spurred a global refugee crisis. Millions of refugees have been displaced from their homes, taking dangerous journeys to a hopefully safer place. Nowhere, now on Netflix, showcases one possible journey. Escaping a future totalitarian Spain, the film is centered on leading lady Anna Castillo, whose excellent performance pulls most of the tears here. With her character Mia’s ingenuity, she maximizes her shipping container’s resources and takes steps to ensure her survival. While some of the backstory can feel thin, after all, for most of the runtime Mia has only herself to talk to, this new one-location survival film is a thrilling addition to the genre. It’s a chilling reminder of what could be happening to the millions of refugees seeking safe haven around the globe.

19. Ballerina (2023)

7.8

Country

South Korea

Director

Lee Chung-hyun

Actors

Jang Yoon-ju, Joo Hyun, Jun Jong-seo, Kim Ji-hun

Moods

Challenging, Dark, Discussion-sparking

Stoic, unflinching, and almost near silent, Ballerina takes a fitting approach to enact its protagonist’s revenge. Within its lean 90 minute runtime, ex-bodyguard Ok-ju single-mindedly searches for answers, through following the lead from her friend’s suicide note. The film shares nothing personal, no doubts, worries, or fears from Ok-ju – except for her affection for best friend Min-hee. Instead of capitalizing on Ok-ju’s tears, or on the violence inflicted on Min-hee, writer-director Lee Chung-hyun relies on action, on stunning cinematography, and on Jeon Jong-seo’s performance to create a spectacle that doesn’t hold back from the gruesomeness, but somehow still incredibly restrained. Jeon Jong-seo delivers Ok-ju’s bloody revenge, a fitting retribution to all perpetrators of sexual violence.

20. Doi Boy (2023)

7.8

Country

Cambodia, Thailand

Director

Nontawat Numbenchapol

Actors

Arak Amornsupasiri, Awat Ratanapintha, Bhumibhat Thavornsiri, Ornjira Lamwilai

Moods

Challenging, Character-driven, Discussion-sparking

After years of documentaries covering Thailand’s controversial issues, some of which have been temporarily banned by the Ministry of Culture, Nontawat Numbenchapol takes a step into feature film in Doi Boy. The plot covers plenty of the topics he’s previously depicted– immigration, prostitution, and corruption– but it unfolds naturally into a slow-paced, but moving drama where an undocumented sex worker tries to find home. Awat Ratanapintha as Sorn excellently leads this journey, but Arak Amornsupasiri as reluctant cop Ji, and Bhumibhat Thavornsiri as passionate activist Wuth also make their mark. While the film doesn’t delve into the intricate intersectionality, it feels like that’s part of the point. The notion of a nation doesn’t care about people’s dreams, even if that dream is for the nation to be better.

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