259 Best European Stories to Watch (Page 17)

Staff & contributors

In Europe, Brexit and similar nationalistic movements increase the need for finding what’s common in European storytelling. And abroad, European movies are often acclaimed but under-watched. This section’s goal is to guide you through the vast array of high-quality European films available on streaming services.

TV reporter documenting a day with a local fire crew, they encounter a deadly virus trapped in a tower block. This film is bloody brilliant! Innovative camera work and a simple idea perfectly executed. When I watched this, I was alone in the dark and ended up constantly jumping around with fright and excitement. A real wake up for other horror filmmakers, Hollywood hasn't come close to anything like this.

Genre: Horror, Mystery

Actor: Akemi Goto, Ana Isabel Velásquez, Ben Temple, Carlos Lasarte, Carlos Vicente, Claudia Silva, David Vert, Ferran Terraza, Jana Prats, Javier Botet, Javier Coromina, Jorge-Yamam Serrano, Kao Chen-Min, Manuel Bronchud, Manuela Velasco, Maria Lanau, Maria Teresa Ortega, Marita Borrego, Martha Carbonell, Pablo Rosso, Vicente Gil, Víctor Massagué

Director: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza

Rating: R

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Renton (McGregor), a Scottish twenty-something junkie, must choose to clean up and get out, or continue following the allure of the drugs and the influence of friends. Find out if he chooses life in this brutal yet entertaining Danny Boyle masterpiece. While definitely not for the faint of heart, Trainspotting still manages to be funny at times, and provides an overall very entertaining experience.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Annie Louise Ross, Billy Riddoch, Dale Winton, Eddie Nestor, Eileen Nicholas, Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Finlay Welsh, Fiona Bell, Hugh Ross, Irvine Welsh, James Cosmo, Jonny Lee Miller, Kate Donnelly, Keith Allen, Kelly Macdonald, Kevin Allen, Kevin McKidd, Pauline Lynch, Peter Mullan, Robert Carlyle, Shirley Henderson, Stuart McQuarrie, Susan Vidler, Victor Eadie

Director: Danny Boyle

Rating: R

The late German actor Ulrich Mühe plays Gerd Wiesler, a merciless Stasi officer who has doubts about the loyalty of a famous playwright (Sebastian Koch) and his wife Christa-Maria (Martina Gedeck) to the communist party. To say he spies on the artist couple is an understatement: in true Stasi fashion, he watches them day and night, listens in on their conservations, reads their mail, and watches them have sex. However, it turns out this was a tad too close, because Wiesler becomes increasingly absorbed in them and is forced to question his obedience as a Stasi officer. In his feature film debut, German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck delivers a quietly chilling melodrama on a topic that still affects the lives of many East Germans and was deserving of more attention. It is also a telling piece on the inhumane nature of totalitarianism and the humanity of individuals that are forced to live with it. A special film that will stay with you for a long time.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Anabelle D. Munro, Bastian Trost, Charly Hubner, Fabian von Klitzing, Gabi Fleming, Gitta Schweighöfer, Hans-Uwe Bauer, Herbert Knaup, Hildegard Schroedter, Hinnerk Schönemann, Hubertus Hartmann, Inga Birkenfeld, Jens Wassermann, Kai Ivo Baulitz, Klaus Münster, Ludwig Blochberger, Marie Gruber, Martin Brambach, Martina Gedeck, Matthias Brenner, Paul Faßnacht, Paul Maximilian Schüller, Sebastian Koch, Sheri Hagen, Susanna Kraus, Thomas Arnold, Thomas Thieme, Ulrich Mühe, Ulrich Tukur, Volker Michalowski, Volkmar Kleinert, Werner Daehn

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Rating: R

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Besides the futuristic tech that pops in and out, there’s not a lot about The Kitchen that signals it as a sci-fi film. Neglected housing projects and violent raids have become too common to count as dystopian, so it often feels like The Kitchen could’ve gone without labeling itself as part of the genre (the real world is bad enough). But underneath those layers is a subtle but sublimely tender story about father and son finding each other amid the rubble of real life. First-time directors Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, The Black Panther) and Kibwe Tavares delicately balance the personal and the political, never undermining the former as many socially aware films do. If Kaluuya and Tavares had fleshed the world it built a little more and removed the parts, such as the sci-fi elements, that did not work out, then Izi and Benji’s story would have been memorably devastating, instead of just affecting.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: BACKROAD GEE, Demmy Ladipo, Ewart James Walters, Henry Lawfull, Hope Ikpoku Jnr, Ian Wright, Jedaiah Bannerman, Kane Robinson, Karen Williams, Lola-Rose Maxwell, Rasaq Kukoyi, Rhys Yates

Director: Daniel Kaluuya, Kibwe Tavares

Rating: R

Inspired by the real-life Hepta Group, Phenomena is an entertaining, though familiar supernatural horror comedy. As the three women in the Hepta Group take on a case that took down their leader, Sagrario, Paz, and Gloria can’t help but bite and snap at each other affectionately, even just before conducting a seance. But it’s their chemistry that keeps the predictable plot entertaining. It’s a bit old school, and at times, inconsistent, but the technical aspects are decently executed. Big horror fans and viewers looking for a creepier thrill might not enjoy this lighthearted seance, but it might be a fun watch for viewers new to the genre.

Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Antonio Pagudo, Belén Rueda, Emilio Gutiérrez Caba, Gracia Olayo, Ivan Massagué, Jesús Puente, Lorena López, Miren Ibarguren, Óscar Ortuño, Pedro Casablanc, Toni Acosta

Director: Carlos Therón

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Transporting the Henry James novella to the nightclub, The Beast in the Jungle turns the Edwardian era story into a surreal, escapist drama spanning the last decades of the 20th century. As John and May wait for that all-important event, they lose the importance of everything else, like love, friendship, and family, all to the decadence they only acknowledge as patience. This concept paired with the visuals are interesting, especially since the film also makes the viewer wait with them, drawing out the existential frustration, the fear of a life not lived, and the self-absorption, but the film struggles with the historical events, haphazardly inserting tragedies like the AIDS epidemic for what seems to be no reason.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anaïs Demoustier, Bachir Tlili, Béatrice Dalle, Mara Taquin, Martin Vischer, Tom Mercier

Director: Patric Chiha

Nuovo Olimpo is stunning, atmospheric, and the very concept of the film – where lost love intersects with Italian cinema – is an interesting one. Starting the film’s relationship at a specific movie theater feels reminiscent of Cinema Paradiso, especially as Enea’s path mirrors Salvatore becoming a famous director. However, the film doesn’t really dive deep into this concept, nor does it add much to say with its gay romance. There’s something here about the relationship between the creator and the viewer that is undeniably interlinked, and there’s a hope that they can meet in the middle. But when the film doesn’t care about the couple’s individual paths, there are times it feels like it’s just going through the motions.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aglaia Mora, Andrea Di Luigi, Aurora Giovinazzo, Damiano Gavino, Giancarlo Commare, Greta Scarano, Loredana Cannata, Luisa Ranieri

Director: Ferzan Özpetek

Rating: R

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Dropping on DVD and digital download in America at the end of summer 2023, Mavka: the Forest Song made its Hulu debut this November. Taking the plot of the 1912 poetic play and rewriting the tragic deaths into lighthearted, fantastical adventures, the film is precisely the sort of generic, child-friendly fairy tale that we’ve come to expect from Disney, albeit with a Ukrainian twist. The plot is predictable, and the humor is rife with cliche, but it’s still a fairly entertaining watch for young audiences.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Andrii Mostrenko, Artem Pyvovarov, Julia Sanina, Nataliia Denysenko, Nataliia Sumska, Nazar Zadniprovskyi, Oleh Skrypka, Olena Kravets

Director: Oleg Malamuzh, Oleksandra Ruban

Rating: PG

Crypto Boy may seem, at first, to primarily warn against the allure of cryptocurrency, but at heart, it’s a family drama centered around an ambitious man and his immigrant Egyptian father. The Dutch Netflix film is actually a whole family affair, with writer-director Shady El-Hamus casting his brother Shahine and their father Sabri Saad in a real and relatable struggle between generations. That being said, the film is definitely less interested in the actual cryptocurrency scam presented. It takes such a predictable route that the protagonist comes off as foolish, rather than understandably ambitious. With his parallel to the villain, the film seems like it wants its viewers to empathize with the rich Mark Zuckerberg-wannabe, rather than cathartically put him through the consequences. This makes the film feel as disappointing as the crypto promises, as viewers are lured into the film for this, but come out with another thing entirely.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aus Greidanus, Hannah van Lunteren, Jonas Smulders, Kendrick Etmon, Leny Breederveld, Loes Schnepper, Manoushka Zeegelaar-Breeveld, Minne Koole, Raymond Thiry, Shahine El-Hamus, Tobias Kersloot

Director: Shady El-Hamus

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Just like with its predecessor, it can be surprising how sober Street Flow 2 is. You expect stories about street gang life to be of a certain tone, but these films are more interested in the emotional and philosophical struggle to respond to violence and poverty in a just and proper way. This sequel continues this conversation from a more stable (but therefore less interesting) position: youngest sibling Noumouké is no longer torn between the influence of his older brothers, as all three try to move forward as a united front. But without a more distinct dilemma driving the action forward, the film ends up spinning its wheels—and rushes to an incomplete ending  that doesn't say enough about survival, lawfulness, or the African immigrant experience in France.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Alessandra Sublet, Alix Mathurin, Bakary Diombera, Cherine Ghemri, Foued Nabba, Georgina Elizabeth Okon, Jammeh Diangana, Kadi Diarra, Kery James, Krystel Roche, Mahamadou Coulibaly, Sana Sri

Director: Alix Mathurin, Kery James, Leïla Sy

Rating: R

The Dutch Netflix film Happy Ending means well, but its insistence on the heterosexual relationship limits the film’s potential. Centered on the concept of the orgasm gap, it’s understandable to see the main character Luna have difficulty in expressing this to her partner Mink, however, the film doesn’t fully explore their relationship, or even the reasons behind Luna’s hesitation. Because of this, it’s hard to root for their relationship, especially when the third of their threesome Eve proves to be able to rise to the challenge of Luna’s orgasm. Without spoiling too much, the end result feels as unsatisfying as the main relationship.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Claire Bender, Gaite Jansen, Joy Delima, Martijn Lakemeier, Sidar Toksöz, Sinem Kavus

Director: Joosje Duk

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For those familiar with the movie In Time, this German Netflix thriller has a similar premise, but with a few changes. Time is exchanged for money, instead of entirely replacing it. Time donation also acts more like blood donation – there needs some DNA compatibility to do so and more prominent individuals are prioritized for these exchanges. Paradise’s world also hasn’t figured out how to completely stop aging. These changes come with a side of more overt anti-capitalist commentary, so the movie could have had a more focused and critical approach to the time donation. However, like In Time, Paradise quickly devolves into the sci-fi thriller shenanigans we’re all familiar with, but without any of the spectacle.

Genre: Action, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Aistė Diržiūtė, Aleyna Cara, Alina Levshin, Andreas Windhuis, Clovis Kasanda, Corinna Kirchhoff, Dalila Abdallah, Eglė Lekstutytė, Haley Louise Jones, Iris Berben, Kostja Ullmann, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Lisa-Marie Koroll, Lorna Ishema, Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen, Lukas von Horbatschewsky, Marlene Tanczik, Matthias Ziesing, Numan Acar, Simon Amberger, Tom Böttcher

Director: Boris Kunz

Rating: R

With the rise of fascism globally, and concerns about an upcoming world war, depictions of World War II have become popular, with the most notable being Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. Einstein and the Bomb instead takes a look at the prominent scientist, whose theory of relativity made the atomic bomb possible, who had a personal stake in ensuring the Nazis were defeated, but who also had to reckon with the horrific consequences in pursuing the West’s promises of peace. It’s a needed perspective, and director Anthony Philipson pulls from Einstein’s very words, his own ideas about the society at the time eerily echoing the concerns about today’s society. However, there’s something off about the way these ideas are presented, as it feels like the film was less interested in Einstein as a man, and more interested in using him as a spokesperson, using his image to cry over today’s conflicts.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Aidan McArdle, Andrew Havill, Helena Westerman, Leo Ashizawa, Rachel Barry

Director: Anthony Philipson

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First shown in 2021 Madrid International Film Festival, Support Group Olympus made its US debut early 2023 through Prime Video. Given the wacky premise, it was easy to assume that the film would be humorous, and there are moments when its dry humor shines. However, the film takes a more contemplative approach, as the unchanging gods refuse to change, though they crave the status and power they used to have. This slow-paced approach feels appropriate, and had the film’s internal logic worked, the film could have contemplated the changes that happened not just to the gods, but to human livelihood as well. It’s definitely a unique story that needed more work on its execution.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

There's a powerful drama in here somewhere, where the toll of wrongful imprisonment tests the resolve of an Armenian repatriate, as he clings to traces of hope that he can see just beyond his prison cell window. Unfortunately, Amerikatsi constantly overstates itself through corny jokes and music choices, and it overestimates how compelling its mostly single-location narrative can be. This is a film that, for all its good intentions, relies far too heavily on fish-out-of-water quaintness and Rear Window-esque storytelling from a distance—downplaying the emotional and psychological toll of imprisonment and the violence inflicted upon other Armenians during this time. Amerikatsi doesn't really tell us much about the situation in the country at the time; it only ever tries too hard to make us feel something.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Hovik Keuchkerian, Michael A. Goorjian, Michael Goorjian, Mikhail Trukhin, Narine Grigoryan, Nelly Uvarova

Director: Michael A. Goorjian, Michael Goorjian

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