258 Best European Stories to Watch (Page 7)

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.

The Square is a peculiar movie about a respected contemporary art museum curator as he goes through a few very specific events. He loses his wallet, his children fight, the art he oversees is does not make sense to an interviewer... Each one of these events would usually require a precise response but all they do is bring out his insecurities and his illusions about life. These reactions lead him to very unusual situations. A thought-provoking and incredibly intelligent film that's just a treat to watch. If you liked Force Majeure by the same director, The Square is even better!

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anna-Stina Malmborg, Annica Liljeblad, Christopher Læssø, Christopher Laesso, Claes Bang, Daniel Hallberg, Denise Wessman, Dominic West, Elijandro Edouard, Elisabeth Moss, Geica Pruteanu, Jan Lindwall, Johan Jonason, John Nordling, Julia Sporre, Lilianne Mardon, Linda Anborg, Lise Stephenson Engström, Lise Stephenson Engström, Madeleine Barwén Trollvik, Marina Schiptjenko, Martin Sooder, Moa Enqvist Stefansdotter, Nicki Dar, Pauline Hansson, Peter Vitanen, Sarah Giercksky, Sofie Hamilton, Stefan Godicke, Terry Notary

Director: Ruben Östlund

Rating: R

The Guard played by Brendan Gleeson is a new character in cinema that appeals to the funny bone inside all of us. A character like this can make any movie lovable. It also features Don Cheadle playing an FBI agent who is in town to solve a crime under Gleeson's jurisdiction. An overall great movie with great writing. Please note, for those who have a hard time understanding different accents, subtitles are advised.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Brendan Gleeson, Conor Moloney, Darren Healy, David Pearse, David Wilmot, Dominique McElligott, Don Cheadle, Fionnula Flanagan, Gary Lydon, John Patrick Beirne, Katarina Čas, Laura Hitchings, Laurence Kinlan, Liam Cunningham, Liam O'Conghaile, Mark O'Halloran, Mark Strong, Mícheál Óg Lane, Owen Sharpe, Paraic Nialand, Pat Shortt, Ronan Collins, Rory Keenan, Sarah Greene, Wale Ojo

Director: John Michael McDonagh

Rating: R

Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse (The Gleaners and I) is one of the late Agnès Varda’s great documentaries. The film follows “gleaners”—scavengers and collectors of discarded garbage or abandoned items—from the French countryside into the city. The first of Varda’s subjects recalls, “Gleaning, that’s the old way,” marking a clear distinction: old versus new, rural versus urban, wasted versus repurposed.

Fans of Varda will recognize the signature tenderness with which she approaches both her subjects and their objects. Those new to her work will be sure to find something familiar in this documentary: a film largely about loss, but which approaches its ideas of modernization and time with humor and lightness. Among the rubble, there is joy yet to be found—and in this documentary, there is a great comfort, too, to be gleaned.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Agnès Varda, Agnès Varda, Bodan Litnanski, François Wertheimer, François Wertheimer

Director: Agnès Varda, Agnès Varda

Rating: 0, Not Rated

This animated movie is absolutely wonderful. It’s an Irish production, and the drawings/graphics are so beautiful and different from what you usually see in this genre. This alone, along with the music, would be good reasons to watch this.

But what really makes this worth your time is the story – it’s about a boy dealing with the loss of his mother. He embarks on an adventure into a parallel world of feelings to save his sister.

I found it to be refreshingly original, sometimes quite intense (I cried, but I easily cry), and heartwarming. The details are great. And I love the way the story was interwoven with Irish mythology, making it magical.

Genre: Animation, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Brendan Gleeson, Colm ÓSnodaigh, Colm O'Snodaigh, David Rawle, Fionnula Flanagan, Jon Kenny, Kevin Swierszcz, Liam Hourican, Lisa Hannigan, Lucy O'Connell, Pat Shortt, Paul Young, Tomm Moore, Will Collins

Director: Tomm Moore

Rating: PG

Nelly is a concentration camp survivor who undergoes reconstructive facial surgery, and comes back to question whether her husband (unable to recognize her) was the one who betrayed her to the Nazis. Heavy, heavy stuff. But in Phoenix you will also see something else, as the story takes you beyond the subject matter to become almost a celebration of film: elements of Hitchcockian cinema intertwine with the realism of the likes of David Ayer are added to perfect performances to create a stunning, compelling, and exceptional film.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Claudia Geisler, Claudia Geisler-Bading, Daniela Holtz, Eva Bay, Felix Romer, Imogen Kogge, Jeff Burrell, Kathrin Wehlisch, Kirsten Block, Max Hopp, Megan Gay, Michael Maertens, Nikola Kastner, Nina Hoss, Nina Kunzendorf, Ronald Zehrfeld, Trystan Pütter, Trystan Putter, Uwe Preuss, Valerie Koch

Director: Christian Petzold

Rating: PG-13

Little England is one of those rare cases in small-nation cinemas, where a film was equally appealing to mainstream and arthouse audiences. Upon its release, it was box office success and 2013's Oscar submission for Best International Feature. Festival darling Pantelis Voulgaris equipped this interwar romantic drama with the attributes of an epic: it's two hours and a half long, spans across decades, and is based on a novel of a notable size. Written by renowned author Ioanna Karystiani, who is also Voulgaris's wife, "Little England" the novel was adapted in a riveting screenplay where love, jealousy, passion, and betrayal sizzle in a dangerous mix. As any good period drama, the emotional range is high, and the beauty in the premise—forbidden love—is a gift that keeps on giving. The film features two stellar lead performances, as Pinelopi Tsilika and Sofia Kokkali make their acting debuts as the two sisters, the latter being the face of a new, even more daring phase of Greek cinema today. 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aineias Tsamatis, Andreas Konstantinou, Angeliki Papathemeli, Anneza Papadopoulou, Christos Kalavrouzos, Eleni Karagiorgi, Evangelia Adreadaki, Maximos Moumouris, Penelope Tsilika, Sofia Kokkali

Director: Pantelis Voulgaris

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.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alessandro Betti, Bebo Storti, Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Fabrizio Gifuni, Federica Fracassi, Gigio Alberti, Giovanni Anzaldo, Guglielmo Pinelli, Isabelle Tanakil, Luca Toracca, Luigi Lo Cascio, Matilde Gioli, Paolo Pierobon, Pia Engleberth, Saman Anthony, Silvia Cohen, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Valeria Bruni‑Tedeschi, Valeria Golino

Director: Paolo Virzì

Rating: Not Rated

Happy-Go-Lucky is a Mike Leigh feel-good movie tells the story of Poppy, a North London teacher, whose story we follow through a number of different situations: driving lessons, solving work issues, having fun with friends, all while trying not to lose her optimism. The acting is superb, Sally Hawkins is a gem as Poppy, and one cannot describe it, one simply has to see it and enjoy it, because it leaves you smiling :)

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alexis Zegerman, Andrea Riseborough, Caroline Martin, Eddie Marsan, Elliot Cowan, Joseph Kloska, Karina Fernandez, Kate OFlynn, Nonso Anozie, Oliver Maltman, Philip Arditti, Rebekah Staton, Sally Hawkins, Samuel Roukin, Sarah Niles, Sinéad Matthews, Stanley Townsend, Sylvestra Le Touzel, Trevor Cooper, Viss Elliot Safavi

Director: Mike Leigh

Rating: R

Graduation is a Romanian movie from the director of the Palme d’Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (also number 15 in the BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.) Romeo is a 49-year-old doctor in the city of Cluj-Napoca. He is immensely proud and dedicated to his daughter, Eliza, who gets awarded a scholarship to go to Cambridge provided that she does well in her last high-school exam. The day before this exam, Elisa is sexually assaulted outside her school, and her wrist is broken. The event haunts the family and jeopardizes Elisa’s chances of succeeding in her exam. Romeo, still determined to ensure his daughter’s success, vows to do anything to not let the assault ruin his daughter’s future. Graduation is about this father and daughter duo as they go against a corrupt but quickly changing Romanian system.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adrian Titieni, Adrian Văncică, Claudia Susanu, Claudiu Dumitru, Constantin Cojocaru, Emanuel Pârvu, Gelu Colceag, Gheorghe Ifrim, Ioachim Ciobanu, Kim Ciobanu, Lia Bugnar, Liliana Mocanu, Malina Manovici, Maria Dragus, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Petre Ciubotaru, Rares Andrici, Robert Emanuel, Tudor Smoleanu, Valeriu Andriuță, Vlad Ivanov

Director: Cristian Mungiu

Rating: R

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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.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Abdihakin Asgar, Amalie Ihle Alstrup, Andre Royo, Carsten Eigil Hedegaard, Clancy Brown, Dar Salim, Gary Skjoldmose Porter, Jacob Lentz, Keith Pearson, Linda Laursen, Michael Christensen, Ole Dupont, Pilou Asbæk, Pilou Asbæk, Roland Møller, Roland Moller, Søren Malling, Søren Malling, Stephen Gevedon

Director: Tobias Lindholm

Rating: R

Filmed as a “found footage” of a Norwegian 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 humour trickled throughout to keep a smile on your face. And that’s how my face stayed when the credits rolled.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Horror

Actor: André Øvredal, Anton Yelchin, Eirik Bech, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Hans Morten Hansen, Inge Erik Henjesand, Johanna Mørck, Johanna Mørck, Kelsey Grammer, Knut Nærum, Knut Nærum, Lexi Medrano, Otto Jespersen, Robert Stoltenberg, Tomas Alf Larsen, Torunn Lødemel Stokkeland, Urmila Berg-Domaas

Director: André Øvredal, André Øvredal

Rating: PG-13

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In this documentary by Bianca Stigter, a three-minute home video of a nondescript Jewish town in Poland is examined in great detail to reveal the history and humanity behind it. Taken just before the Holocaust, it’s one of the few remaining proofs of life the town has before its population was decimated in the war. And so the footage is repeated and stretched in this documentary, because as the narrator puts it, “as long as we are watching, history is not over yet,” and the people have yet to be gone.

Glenn Kurtz, the grandson of the person who shot the home video, takes it upon himself to investigate the history of the town and its citizens: what they were and what became of them. The results are often grim and unsettling, and the eerie editing matches them with great effect. But when it's not haunting, the film is oddly hopeful—for a future that remembers its past and preserves it in meaningful ways. Couple this sentiment with the narrator’s own poetic observations, and you get a powerfully moving elegy about loss and memory. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama, History

Actor: Helena Bonham Carter

Director: Bianca Stigter

Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) is a 12-year-old kid fueled by rage because of his father’s death. Over the course of the summer in good ole’ Northern England, he befriends a group of local skinheads and instantly feels at home – with the mischief-making still partially at bay then. This was prior to meeting Combo, the most ill-bred of the gang, and being led down a path of greater danger. Dubbed as director Shane Meadows’s best work, it’s easy to pick this one off a list and give it all the praise, depicting England perfectly in a coming-of-age approach you otherwise would’ve paid no mind to.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Andrew Ellis, Andrew Shim, Chanel Cresswell, Danielle Watson, Frank Harper, George Newton, Hannah Walters, Jack O'Connell, Jack O'Connell, Jo Hartley, Joseph Gilgun, Kieran Hardcastle, Kriss Dosanjh, Michael Socha, Perry Benson, Rosamund Hanson, Stephen Graham, Terry Haywood, Thomas Turgoose, Vicky McClure

Director: Shane Meadows

Rating: Not Rated, Unrated

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This is a touching saga based on the plight of the women labelled as "fallen" that the Magdalene Laundries housed in Ireland. The movie grips you by the throat right from the first minute and the sense of injustice to women that characterizes the entire length of the film only rarely eases up to give you room to appreciate the emotional complexities that each individual character represents. The stories of Margaret, Bernadette and Rose and the people they meet inside the Magdalene Laundry will force you to ask time and again during the movie, "Why?" and "Who are they to?". You will share in Bernadette's sense of outrage, in Rose's compassion and Margaret's acute fear of the church, of speaking up and asking for justice. So much so, that you may even find yourself identifying with (or at least understanding) Crispina's questionable grasp on reality. Worst of all, the devout Catholic establishment that this was, hypocrisy and corruption ran through its every vein, adding to the shock and resentment that builds towards the, for the lack of a better word, captors of our protagonists. The Magdalene Sisters is a tribute to one of the forgotten chapters in a long history of injustice to women and an absolutely moving one at that. It does not fail to utterly horrify while it also warms your heart.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Anne-Marie Duff, Britta Smith, Chris Patrick-Simpson, Daniel Costello, Dorothy Duffy, Eamonn Owens, Eileen Walsh, Eithne McGuinness, Frances Healy, Geraldine McEwan, Mary Murray, Nora-Jane Noone, Peter Mullan, Phyllis MacMahon, Stephen McCole

Director: Peter Mullan

Rating: R

Witty, unexpected, and thrilling, The Innocent pulls off an excellent European heist film with modern sensibilities and its stylistic mix of genres. All at once, the film is a crime film, as well as a family farce, but also a screwball romantic comedy. The genres line up with the premise perfectly, but there’s something intriguing about the way director Louis Garrel uses each genre’s tropes. Abel’s clumsy spying over his mom’s ex-convict husband and drama pupil Michel is framed through noir techniques, while his friend Clémence gleefully interrupts his efforts with witty repartee. Abel’s suspicion of Michel’s schemes ironically leads to one of his own. And when his mom’s expressive acting techniques are used in that scheme, Abel expects fake emotions, only to reveal his true feelings. With each new twist, The Innocent plays with genre expectations for unexpected but delightful results.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Romance

Actor: Louis Garrel, Manda Touré, Noémie Merlant, Roschdy Zem

Director: Louis Garrel

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