12 Best Foreign Movies on Netflix You Have to Watch

March 18, 2019

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 agoodmovietowatch.

Netflix algorithms are hiding good movies from you. Our weekly newsletter uncovers them.

12

Emma, a free-spirited 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 Adele’s evolution, from a highschool girl to a grown-up woman. The spirit Emma lights up in her never dies. Blue Is the Warmest Color or La Vie d’Adèle is an honest, intense, and charming picture, prepare not to blink and have your face glued to screen from start to finish.

11

Death is a weird and scary concept. Ironically, the only way movies have been successful in covering it is through humor (Sunshine Cleaning and Beginners are other great examples). Departures gives this trend a new home, Japan. This film almost never saw the light of day, since at first many distributors refused to release it given the taboos against people who deal with death. Eventually, it received the credit it was due, including an Academy Award. It’s one of those rare movies that will take you on a journey through all of your emotions: it will move from making you laugh, to making you cry, then happy, and finally highly engaged in its subject matter. It’s a beautiful, funny, and compelling movie.

10

Directed by celebrated artist-turned-fillmmaker Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the true story of French journalist and fashion editor Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), who suffered a devastating stroke at the age of 43. Almost completely paralyzed by what is termed “Locked-in Syndrome”, Bauby was left with only the operation of his left eye intact, leaving him forced to communicate via partner-assisted scanning (selection of each letter of the alphabet via blinking). Ultimately, Bauby employed this painstaking procedure to dictate his own memoir “Le Scaphandre et le Papillon”, which became a number one bestseller in Europe. The film alternates between Bauby’s interaction with his visitors and caretakers (including the dictation of his book) and his own dream-like fantasies and memories of his life prior to paralysis. With the title, Bauby uses the diving bell to represent his self-perceived state of isolation, akin to a deep-sea diver encased in an oxygenated chamber, and the corresponding butterfly to represent the freedom he enjoys as he often journeys quite magically through his own mind’s eye. It’s a somber yet engaging film full of heart and vision, featuring wonderful performances by the entire cast across the board.

9

Deep in the suburbs of Paris, Divines follows the story of Dounia (played by Oulaya Amamra) and her best friend Maimouna (played by Déborah Lukumuena). Director Houda Benyamina serves a nest of social issues – welcoming the viewer into a world where poverty is pervasive and adults are haunted by their own ghosts, where there is a life vest only in the reliance on friendship. The nature of this bond between the two female characters is deep, playful, and backed by mesmerizing acting on behalf of Amamra and Lukumuena.

Just as prevailing throughout the film is the commentary on immigrant diasporas and the power of idealization. The girls fantasize about financial excess with guttural determination, guided only by the realization that their escape from their current lives has to come to fruition no matter what the cost. This film is entrancing and thought-provoking. You won’t be able to look away.

8

What happens to genius and complex filmmakers once they reach old age? Agnès Varda at 89 is one example. She maintains an interest in the same deep questions but portrays them in a casual way – basically tries to have a little more fun with things. She finds a friend in JR, a young artist with a truck that prints large portraits. Together they go around French villages (the French title is “Visages Villages”), connecting with locals and printing their photos on murals. Their interactions are researched, but not worked. In fact, they are deeply improvised. Because of this and because the movie is structured in an episode format, it will completely disarm you. And when you least expect it you will be met with long-lasting takes on mortality, loss, but also gender, the environment and the evasiveness of life and art.

2018
7

Alfonso Cuaron is a master storyteller, Academy Award-winning director, and the man behind masterpieces such as Y Tu Mamá También, Gravity, Children of Men, and perhaps more importantly, the (uncontested) best Harry Potter movie (Prisoner of Azkaban, of course). In Roma, he tells a different story. His own.

Building on events from his childhood, he tells the story of a young domestic worker in the Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood. You get tales of class struggle, family dynamics and sexism in 1970s Mexico City.

The first hour is slow but so beautiful. All it does is prepare you for the events to come, and those who stick it out will be handsomely awarded. 

This is a stunning, wise and deeply personal movie. It’s everything we should ever ask from filmmakers at their prime.

6

The Look of Silence is an incredible documentary from Director Joshua Oppenheimer, a follow-up/companion piece to his award-winning documentary The Act of Killing. Both films focus on the Indonesian Genocide of 1965-66, where the military government systematically purged up to one million communists. In this film an optician named Adi Rukun meets with various members of the death squad that murdered his brother, under the guise of providing them eye examinations. As he questions them about their participation in the killings, they show little remorse and in fact provide lurid details to the many executions. It’s a stunning and provocative look at the legacy of historical violence, along with the insidious propaganda that provoked it then and continues to justify it to younger generations.

5

Five orphaned sister are put under house arrest by their uncle and grandmother after they are seen horsing around with local boys from school. While their actions were purely innocent, their behaviour is viewed as scandalous and shameful by the 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 are 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 escape their oppressive surroundings or their assigned fate, but the message is clear: it’s crucial to try.

4

On Body and Soul is the impeccably crafted winner of the 2017 Berlin Film Festival.

Two strangers have the same dream every night, they meet as deer in a forest and eventually fall in love. When they run into each other in real life, they search for the love they experience unconsciously. The reality of their introverted personalities and their surroundings make it hard to establish that same connection.

This unconventional love story is passionately told by Hungary’s best director, Ildikó Enyedi. Before it, she had taken an 18-year break from making movies, something that kind of makes sense when you watch On Body and Soul. That break was probably the only way to come up with something as thoughtful and creative as this.

3

This movie will punch, kick and slap the crap out of you. Something that will be hard to believe after you watch it – it is based on a true story. Filmed and set in the poverty-stricken favelas of Rio de Janeiro, it follows two young men who choose two opposite paths; one an aspiring drug leader and the other an aspiring photographer. City of God is their story; a movie filled with great performances (from mostly non-professionals), and an experience that is as compelling as it is adrenaline-inducing.

2

I saw this movie about a month ago, and I can’t stop seeing it again every weekend. It’s so heartbreaking. Wiesler, an officer of the Stasi, is designated to spy on a playwright and his girlfriend because the State Security has doubts about their loyalty. However after a while Wiesler becomes absorbed in Dreyman and his girlfriend’s lives and that’s when the empathy and the human component surge to be confronted with orders, and the realities of the time.

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s film is a melodrama , quietly affecting, quietly chilling, quietly quiet. It captures the drab architecture of totalitarianism, the soul-dead buildings of a soul-dead state and the haunted freedom in that time.

1

Winner of an Oscar and a Golden Globe among endless accolades, A Separation is the much celebrated movie about an Iranian couple faced with the decision of leaving the country for better opportunities or staying to take care of a sick parent. If you’ve ever been curious about the humans of Iran beyond the politics, and by cultural extension, humans of Middle-Eastern countries, watch A Separation. But hold it, “An interesting foreign movie” is not how A Separation should be viewed (it’s not Slumdog Millionaire). As someone who grew up in a middle-class Muslim family, this film may be the only one to thoroughly portray many integral aspects of my upbringing.  It perfectly depicts the delicate interaction between high moral standards and the realities of underdevelopment: how many bad people are only good people running out of options, and how parents raise their children in a shell of love and protection by keeping them away from the outside world while struggling to also introduce them to it. On a separate level, it also portrays how people live ready to have every privilege they have ever had revoked and how the constant need to “man up” transforms people, as well as the role of religion in all this. A Separation is my movie, not yours. And so I am asking you to watch this film the same way I’d want you to come visit and get to know my home country.

Get so much more from us...

Our newsletter is the key to getting the most of your streaming subscriptions.

We strive to give you everything you need to know about Netflix and Amazon Prime. You get heartfelt and curated recommendations that you won't read elsewhere, by humans for humans, no algorithms involved.

Readers call it an "excellent resource", and praise it for being "insightful", "thoughtfully curated", and "trusted". Read more here.