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.

31. The Peasants (2023)

7.6

Country

Lithuania, Poland, Serbia

Director

DK Welchman, Female director

Actors

Andrzej Konopka, Andrzej Mastalerz, Anna Grzeszczak, Cezary Łukaszewicz

Moods

Dark, Depressing, Discussion-sparking

After Loving Vincent, DK and Hugh Welchman’s iconic oil paint animation initially seems like old hat, but this time the style is actually more fitting for their second feature. As an adaptation of the iconic Polish novel, The Peasants had to live up to the book’s reputation as the Nobel-winning depiction of the Polish countryside, one of the first to take an intimate look into the lives of the commonfolk, their customs, beliefs, and traditions. The Welchmans’ naturalist, impressionist art style lines up with the way the original Chłopi was inspired by these movements, as does L.U.C’s selection of mesmerizing, haunting Polish folk songs. While the plot is a tad cliché, it only does so in the way folklore tends to weave the same threads. It just so happens that the threads in The Peasants lead to violent ends.

32. The Taste of Things (2023)

7.6

Country

Belgium, France

Director

Tran Anh Hung

Actors

Benoit Magimel, Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire, Emmanuel Salinger, Frédéric Fisbach

Moods

Heart-warming, Lovely, Romantic

If it’s true that to cook is to love, then Dodin and Eugenie must be enraptured by one another. They use the exquisite language of food to express their feelings for one another, and watching their exchange, you can’t help but feel honored, if not embarrassed, to witness such an intimate and love-filled act. Food is everywhere here, delicately prepared and sumptuously consumed, but the film is more than just a glorified Food Network program. It’s a painting come to life, a love letter to craft, and a beautiful example of a life fully lived.

33. Aloners (2023)

7.5

Country

South Korea

Director

Female director, Hong Sung-eun

Actors

Ahn Jeong-bin, Geum Hae-na, Gong Seung-yeon, Jeong Da-eun

Moods

Slow, Thought-provoking

The emotional sterility of modern life comes under the microscope of this understated Korean drama in which a young woman who has built self-preserving walls around her lonely existence begins to wonder if the trade-off is worth it. Outside of the soul-sucking call center job at which Jina (Gong Seung-Yeon) excels, her interactions with others are purely parasocial: she streams mukbangs on her phone as she eats alone, wakes up to the blare of her always-on TV, and checks in on her aging father via the security camera she’s surreptitiously installed in his home. When she reluctantly agrees to train the chatty, warm newbie (Jeong Da-eun) at work, Jina is confronted with a direct challenge to her aloofness, but the provocation is easily ignored until a similarly withdrawn neighbor is discovered long after his death.

This triggers a quarter-life crisis for Jina that’s predictably resolved, but Aloners transcends the neatness of this arc thanks to its quietly persistent challenging of the instinct to contort oneself to fit an inhumane world. Hong Sung-eun’s thoughtful first-time direction and Gong’s nuanced performance as a young woman waking up to the creeping dehumanization of herself make Aloners a genuinely thought-provoking reflection on 21st-century life.

34. Ashkal: The Tunisian Investigation (2023)

7.5

Country

France, Tunisia

Director

Youssef Chebbi

Moods

Dark, Gripping, Original

Ashkal takes an audaciously hybrid approach to genre: it’s part-noir, part-supernatural thriller, and full political allegory. The investigation at the center of this slow-burn Tunisian police procedural is a gripping one, as burnt naked bodies keep turning up in abandoned construction sites in Tunis with no trace of a struggle or even a combustible on them. In post-revolution Tunisia, the deaths are an uncomfortable reminder of recent history: it was a young Tunisian man’s self-immolation that sparked the Arab Spring, after all.

The revolution’s complicated legacy looms over the film, as we watch the country’s Truth and Dignity Commission begin its work of uncovering the former government’s corruption and abuses. Ashkal’s two protagonists — the young Fatma (Fatma Oussaifi) and her more seasoned police partner Batal (Mohamed Grayaa) — find themselves on opposite sides of that political divide, he having been implicated in the abuses of power that are now being investigated by Fatma’s father. There are fascinating elements at play here, and the results of Ashkal’s ambitious genre experiment are mostly inspired. Much of the film’s energies are spent on building a paranoid atmosphere — efforts that can, at times, frustratingly slacken the tension — but its fantastical touches tauten things up enough to make it a haunting political commentary in the end.

35. Mixed by Erry (2023)

7.5

Country

Italy

Director

Sydney Sibilia

Actors

Cristiana Dell'Anna, Emanuele Palumbo, Francesco Di Leva, Giuseppe Arena

Moods

Easy, Funny, No-brainer

Fast and funny with surprisingly tender moments in between, Mixed by Erry doubles as a fascinating period piece and a heartfelt family comedy. On a larger scale, it tracks the rise of musical piracy, which Erry and his brothers accidentally stumble onto with their cassette-copying business, Mixed by Erry. But what starts out as an innovative trade fueled by Erry’s love for music—Erry himself is like a Spotify algorithm come to life, instantly creating mix tapes for people based on what they like—soon transforms into a legal threat that catches the ire of record labels and finance regulators alike. It sounds thrilling and complicated, but the film’s lofty premise is grounded by the relatable dreams Erry and his brothers share. They genuinely believe they’re doing nothing wrong by distributing music and boosting the local economy, and as naive and misguided as that may be, there’s something heartwarming about their intentions. The film itself doesn’t take sides. Instead, it acknowledges the situation for what it is—a landmark case in musical history ripe with educational and entertaining moments.  

36. Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam (2023)

7.5

Country

India

Director

Lijo Jose Pellissery

Actors

'Poo' Ram, Ashokan, Ashwanth Ashokkumar, G. M. Kumar

Moods

Challenging, Quirky, Slice-of-Life

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam might not immediately make sense to audiences new to director Lijo Jose Pellissery, but it’s still an interesting film that depicts Tamil culture. Also known as Like an Afternoon Dream, the contemplative bilingual film is centered around a prejudiced Malayali tour guide who wakes up as another man, specifically someone fluent in Tamil, and walks into the nearby village. Through vignettes focused on the village inhabitants, the film slowly unravels the dynamics between each of the villagers, flitting back to the tour bus on occasion to see how they’re faring. While some of the comedy goes over viewer’s heads, especially for people unfamiliar with the state, the slow-paced film feels like a fond memory from Pellissery. The film doesn’t explain anything at all, in the same way strange dreams refuse to do.

37. Shin Kamen Rider (2023)

7.5

Country

Japan

Director

Hideaki Anno

Actors

Kanata Hongo, Ken Yasuda, Masami Nagasawa, Mikako Ichikawa

Moods

Action-packed, Character-driven, Dramatic

With Marvel and DC monopolizing the superhero landscape with high budgets, big-name actors, and CGI graphics, Shin Kamen Rider feels like a breath of fresh air. Also known as Shin Masked Rider in other territories, the adaptation recalls the campy costumes and over-the-top action of the original 70s tokusatsu series. It’s fun, if a little bit silly, and slightly unhinged, albeit with a more modern polish. The bizarre action sequences tend to be paired with old 70s rock, blood oversplashing, motorcycle stunts, and exaggerated expressions, especially from the villains. It’s a fitting love letter for the series’ 50th anniversary.

38. Sister Death (2023)

7.5

Country

Spain

Director

Paco Plaza

Actors

Almudena Amor, Antonio Duque, Arantza Vélez, Aria Bedmar

Moods

Challenging, Dark, Depressing

Remember the creepy blind nun from the Spanish horror film Veronica? While many nun-related horror films have nuns as its horror element, this time it’s the nun that gets spooked in Sister Death. The new release expands on her backstory, taking the story back in history, in her start as a novitiate in the former convent, a location that’s been changed after the terrors inflicted towards the nuns during the Spanish Civil War. While the film doesn’t delve that deeply, focusing instead on the slowly building up the film’s terror, there is something here about the hidden violence and covered-up trauma that still haunt the Catholic church in Spain, especially to those that have taken vows. Director Paco Plaza meticulously frames each terrific sequence with the isolating doubt in one’s faith that Narcisa experiences.

39. Higuita: The Way of the Scorpion (2023)

7.5

Country

Colombia

Director

Luis Ara

Actors

René Higuita

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Dramatic, Inspiring

When people think of football, they think of teams, and if not teams, they think of individual goalscorers. Higuita: the Way of the Scorpion focuses instead on a single goalkeeper from Latin America. To be fair, this goalkeeper is René Higuita – even just checking his Wikipedia is bound to pull some curiosity. But the documentary does a great job in introducing the man and his life story, starting with his fantastic scorpion kick before delving into the more personal and sensitive aspects of his life. With the wild gameplays and crazy controversies linked to the man, it’s actually unbelievable how a documentary like this hasn’t been made yet.

40. Elena Knows (2023)

7.5

Country

Argentina

Director

Anahí Berneri, Female director

Actors

Agustina Muñoz, Erica Rivas, Marcos Montes, Mercedes Moran

Moods

Dramatic, Emotional, Gripping

After working on Prime’s TV series Verdict, Argentinian director Anahí Berneri has now made her Netflix debut with Elena Knows, a mother-daughter drama based on the book of the same name by famous novelist Claudia Piñeiro (International Booker Prize Shortlist). Berneri has not lost her arthouse touch, on the contrary, Elena Knows looks lush and minimal at the same time. With the use of shallow focus, the cinematography presents the world as an inhospitable place to the protagonist, Elena (Mercedes Morán, recently in Netflix’s The Kingdom), whose advanced Parkinson’s robs her of her agency, day after day. Very early on in the film, she loses her daughter and carer, Rita (Erica Rivas you might know from Wild Tales), and her absence leaves a gaping hole in the life of the grubby elderly woman. Berneri’s newest film owns up to its investigative thriller elements as Elena insists her daughter has been murdered, but at its heart, it holds a paradox: that of maternal love and parental hatred. 

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