Watching foreign movies resembles travelling in many aspects: you get to see new cities and surroundings, hear new languages or accents, and be exposed to new ideas, issues, and ways of thinking. The only difference between travelling and foreign films may just be that the latter doesn't cost nearly as much.
Sounds great, right? Except that this is also exactly the reason we don't watch them. We don't want to spend two hours struggling to understand, or trying to develop new interests, when what we want from a movie most of all is to relax and be entertained.
This is a misconception, and it came either from stereotypes or weird movie viewing in language classes. Most good foreign movies are in fact as agreeable as any American movie, if not more.
So here is the deal: we are not asking you to take our word for how mind-blowingly great foreign films can be, instead, we have gathered 10 of the best films on Netflix, watch any one of them, and let us know.
All 10 are highly-rated on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes and are widely recognized as "good", like all movies on A Good Movie to Watch.
Francois Cluzet, who you may remember from The Intouchable, plays a man whose wife is killed and is afterwards accused of murdering her. To make matters even more confusing, signs that his wife is actually still alive surface. This well thought out thriller is at all times the furthest thing from boring and has, among other great components, well crafted chase scenes as the protagonist looks for 8 years of unanswered questions.
Human Capital is a rich and absorbing tale of two families tied together by love, money and a hit-and-run accident. One family is wealthy, the other struggling to get by in the days after the 2008 economic meltdown. Human Capital dexterously contrasts the social calculations the characters make about who can afford to step outside the lines of law and morality. The story is told from different perspectives, a device that serves to give the tale and the characters greater depth. In Italian with English subtitles.
Nicole is 22, just out of college, and adrift during her first summer as an “adult.” Tu Dors Nicole (“You’re Sleeping Nicole”) is a French-Canadian take on the late coming-of-age story. Nicole spends most of the summer is her small, sleepy Quebec town lounging around her parents house (they are gone for the summer), occasionally working at the local thrift store, trying to sleep (she’s developed insomnia), and wandering aimlessly around town and the Quebec countryside with her best friend Veronique. The two are joined at the hip (as evidenced by how their bikes are always locked-up together) but the arrival of Nicole’s brother and his bandmates threatens to upend the lifelong relationship between the two; because of this waning friendship Tu Dors has earned comparisons to films like Ghost World and Frances Ha which examine the complexities of young female friendships, particularly when one’s identity is in flux. The film was shot on gorgeous Black & White 35mm film , adding to it’s floating dream-like quality, and boasts a sweet and droll sense of humor. There are occasional touches of the surreal as well — my favorite running gag being the presence of the pre-pubescent Martin, a small boy whose voice has prematurely developed (the voice that comes out of his mouth sounds like that of a world weary 45-year-old) who attempts to woo Nicole with poetic insights such as, “the heart has no age.” This film is a true hidden gem.
Mélanie Laurent’s fifth movie that she both directs and writes, Breathe is an impressive display of deft film-making and honest, insightful storytelling. Charlie is a teenage high school student with seemingly nothing unusual about her. When Sarah comes to her school from Nigeria they quickly form a friendship that brings out many unexpected sides of Charlie. Breathe sometimes veers to darkness which adds the last element to a perfect portrayal of a friendship between two girls at that age.
A Danish cargo ship is hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. The pirates demand millions of dollars in ransom and from there on, a psychological drama between the pirates and the ship owner develops, as they negotiate the price for the ship and its crew. A really great thing about this film is the fact that it doesn’t get tangled up in the weepy feelings of the families back home – but instead focuses on the shrinking hope of the ship’s crew and the psychological consequences of the brutal negotiation, that drives the ship owner to the edge of madness. Inspired by a true story. Brilliantly acted.
Filmed as a “found footage” of a local college film crew investigating local poachers, this movie really surprised me. To be fair, I didn’t really know what to expect. But I definitely didn’t expect to like this movie as much as I did. The pacing is on point. The suspense hits you at just the right times. There are a few drops of levity trickled throughout to keep a smile on your face. And that’s how my face stayed when the credits rolled.
On his daughter’s birthday, Oh Dae-su gets drunk and soon he’s arrested by the police. His friend bails him out of jail and while he is making a phone call Oh Dae-su disappears. Oh Dae-su is held by unknown captors, in a room for 15 years only to see the outside world through a television. But one day he’s released. That’s all that can be revealed, without actually revealing too much of this intense and twisted film. All I can add, and this is precisely how I recommend Oldboy to new viewers: “You’re welcome & I’m sorry.” It is truly a twisted film, one that is so mesmerizing in it’s directing, acting, and plot, all of which will stay with you whether you would like it to or not.
A nasty little chase film with dark humor and balls to the walls action sequences. It is slightly insane, has some brutal fights in it and is completely beyond belief. The thing that keeps it going is its sheer pace; often circumstances shift so quickly the whole film seems a little surreal, which is part of its charm. The only point at which the film does slow down is when it hits incredibly suspenseful moments, which are stretched to near infinity. As it’s from the continental tradition, expect all the raw colors, emotion and slightly off kilter characters reminiscent of a violent Lars Von Trier.
Having only made its way to the U.S. 6 long years after its initial release, this is the long-awaited film from the Oscar-winning director of A Separation– and it is in every way extraordinary. It’s a movie stripped down of almost everything to keep only its humans in focus, it is honest and realistic beyond belief and quite simply a must-watch. A group of old friends and relatives reunite for vacation in northern Iran with one of them bringing a new person to the group, Elly, in hopes of her marrying one of the friends, Ahmad. When Elly vanishes without notice, the questions that follow expose the group to unexpected levels, and eventually pose subtle yet sincere questions about gender, politics, and the delicate balance modern-day Iranians live in.
Thanks to the perfect performances and the director’s unparalleled talent, About Elly will feel interesting at times, thrilling and devastating at others, but above all, and because of it being so… human, it will feel familiar to you no matter where you are from.
Emma, a free minded girl with blue hair, influences Adele’s life dramatically, teaching her how to be honest with herself and discover her true desires about love. The film beautifully and realistically portrays the evolution of Adele, from a highschool girl to a grown-up woman, even though the spirit which Emma lighted up in her never dies. Blue Is the Warmest Color or La Vie d’Adèle is a very honest, intense, and charming picture, prepare not to blink much and have your face glued to screen from start to finish.
Frida is a biographical depiction of the life of famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, portrayed with unabridged passion and zest by Salma Hayek. It follows her early life (including a debilitating trolley accident that would haunt her physically), through her burgeoning passion for painting, her often tumultuous marriage to fellow artist Diego Rivera, and her notable dalliance with Leon Trotsky in later years. The heart of the film is the relationship between Kahlo and Rivera (Alfred Molina), as fiery and passionate as it was tender and sympathetic. Director Julie Taymor does an exceptional job of bringing both Kahlo and her art to life—her art quite literally through animation and visual effects that galvanize the viewer without distracting from the overall presentation of one woman’s remarkable true life story.
Tenoch and Julio, mischievous and sex-crazed teenagers and best friends, embark from Mexico City to a remote and mythical beach with the company of an older and very attractive woman. This poetically written and directed film has it all; great acting, cultural relevancy, though-provoking questions, and beautiful scenery. All put together by Alfonso Cuarón and his brother in star-marking efforts for both of them.
When Russian director Vitaly Mansky is commissioned by the North Korean government to make a documentary about an average Pyongyang child, he follows their every guideline. Except the end result, Under The Sun, is the complete opposite of what they had intended. For example starting every take earlier than they thought, he makes the documentary about the watchdogs around the child and other mechanisms of propaganda. He uses quiet storytelling to expose just how brainwashing in a fascist regime takes place, and how the people caught in it function. May just be the smartest, most important film you can watch on North Korea.
Five orphaned sister are put under house arrest by their uncle and grandmother after they are seen horsing around with some local boys from school. While their actions were purely innocent, their behavior is viewed as scandalous and shameful by the more conservative elders in their small Turkish village. After this incident, their grandmother turns her attention towards marrying off her granddaughters. Each of the five sisters rebel in their own way, but it is the youngest and rowdiest sister, Lale, who is the central protagonist of the film. She watches helplessly as each of her older sisters is married off with an increasing sense of dread and desperation. While this may sound hopelessly depressing, the movie is equal parts beautiful and tragic, and floats across the screen in a dreamlike manner. Not all of the sisters may escape their oppressive surroundings or their assigned fate, but the message is clear: it’s crucial to try.
Once again, Mads Mikkelsen gives us an unforgettable performance in this Danish thriller. Lucas is a new teacher in a small town. He is just starting a new life after a divorce and the loss of his last job. One day, a child from the class he is teaching accuses him of an unforgivable act. The lie will spread throughout the small community and will tear Lucas’ life apart. The Hunt, or “Jagten” in its original version, is one of those rare thrillers that will haunt you for days, and make you question everything in its aftermath. Extraordinary!