Top 10 Best Foreign Films

by Kali Tuttle
Foreign Films

It seems like films today are dominated by two countries: the United Kingdom and the United States. While these countries do produce exceptional cinema, we often forget the gems that lie in other nations. Today, I’ll put a spotlight on some of the best foreign films. You may know some, but others you may have never heard of — which just means you have more movies to watch!  Side note: I’d like to thank mylilplace for suggesting this Top 10 List for us! Remember: requests are not only welcome — they’re encouraged!

So, turn on the subtitles, kick back with some popcorn (or crumpets, or green tea Kit-Kats, or whatever snack floats your ethnic boat), and enjoy the show!

Honorable Mentions

Ip Man (2008) – Hong Kong

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – Spain, Mexico

Nosferatu (1922) – Germany

Spirited Away (2001) – Japan

Das Boot (1981) – Germany

The 400 Blows (1959) – France

Oldboy (2003) – South Korea

Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) – France

Seven Samurai (1954) – Japan

#10: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) – China

Yes, yes, we all know that the fighting isn’t very realistic and that even the best martial artists cannot fly during fights, but that doesn’t matter because this movie is awesome. In true Chinese fashion, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has some of the best martial arts action of any movie. It tells the story of a Chinese warrior who steals the famous Green Destiny Sword, which leads to mind-blowing adventure. Directed by famed director Ang Lee and starring Yun-Fat Chow, Michelle Yeoh, and Ziyi Zhang, it’s quite a wild ride and I highly recommend it for an adrenaline-fueled movie night.

Foreign Films

Image via Den of Geek

#9: Battle Royale (2000) – Japan

This is the original Hunger Gameswith a lot more violence. Battle Royale is about a group of ninth-grade Japanese students kidnapped and forced to fight to the death on an abandoned island as part of the government’s “Battle Royale” act. Be forewarned: this movie is not for the faint of heart; there is more blood in this film than there is at the Red Cross. What truly sets this dystopian flick apart from all others is the realistic acting. Instead of caking the young stars in makeup, Battle Royale went with a more dirty, bloodied look to reflect the harrowing circumstances the teens find themselves in. This is possibly one of the more horrifying films I’ve ever seen and horror fans would do well to add it to their Saw marathons.

foreign films

image via CineFileReviews

#8: The Battle of Algiers (1966) – Italy, Algeria

If there was one thing I could change about this movie, it’d be to find a better quality version of it. Despite the fact that a copy with a clear picture is hard to find over here in the states, it’s a historically significant piece of cinema. Commissioned by the Algerian government only four years after gaining its independence, The Battle of Algiers details the Algerian War for independence from their French colonizers. What truly sets this movie apart is the fact that it depicts Muslims and those in developing countries as people with wants, needs, and loves just like anyone else — things they would die trying to protect. It’s not only an educational film, but an intense one as well.

Foreign Films

Image via Roger Ebert

#7: Wild Strawberries (1957) – Sweden

Wild Strawberries is a profoundly depressing film, so I wouldn’t watch it if you’re already in a gloomy mood. It stars Victor Sjöström as Dr. Eberhard Isak Borg, a retired doctor and professor traveling to Lund, Sweden, to accept an honorary degree. Instead of flying, he decides to drive, reminiscing about how his life has gone. Through some disturbing dream sequences and melancholy flashbacks, we learn that Dr. Borg is a lonely old man who really has no one in his life to love. This film, directed by esteemed director Ingmar Bergman, is a must-see for film junkies.

Foreign Films

Image via Hidden Woods

#6: Bicycle Thieves (1948) – Italy

Bicycle Thieves is an odd little movie with a very simple plot: Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) sells the sheets off his bed to afford a bicycle to get a job and support his family. When that bicycle is stolen, Ricci and his son, Bruno (Enzo Staiola), set out in search of their treasured item. It’s a landmark film in the Italian neorealism movement, which focused on the poor and working class of the time. It’s a testament to the strength of human will and love for family. Like most films of the neorealism movement, it’s both depressingly realistic and idealistically moving.

Foreign Films

Image via Christy Lemire

#5: Downfall (2004) – Italy, Germany, Austria

Dismissing all the many parodies there are of Hitler ranting about everything from Chuck Norris to Tide Pods, Downfall is a fantastic cinematic journey. Bruno Ganz gives the best performance to date of crazed dictator Adolf Hitler. As we follow history through the eyes of the Führer’s secretary, Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara), we watch as Hitler goes from a revered leader to a man in the depths of sorrow and insanity. Downfall is an appealing biopic of one of the most diabolical men in human history.

Foreign Films

Image via Junkee

#4: Life is Beautiful (1997) – Italy

Somehow, this movie delicately balances humor and heartbreak without falling too far to one side. Winner of three Academy Awards — including Best Actor for Roberto Benigni and Best Foreign Language Film — Life is Beautiful is the heartwarming tale of a father shielding his son from the horrors of a concentration camp during the Holocaust. Through kooky humor and sweet deception, he protects the young son from most of the terrors inflicted upon them. Mix in some romance and you have the formula for a lovely family movie that will produce both tears of joy and sorrow.

foreign films

image via

#3: Amélie (2001) – France

If I had to describe this movie in one word, it would be breathtaking. The cinematography, the set design, the cast, the score — it’s all absolutely beautiful. Amélie is your everyday romance — a shy young girl meets equally shy young man and the two end up falling in blissful love. But there’s just something about Amélie that’s different from every other romance out there. Maybe it’s the kissing scene where no words are spoken. Could it be how the orchestra perfectly reflects the actions and thoughts of the characters on-screen? Whatever it is, it just puts a smile on your face and makes you believe there is good in the world once more.

Foreign Films

Image via Cinematic Corner

#2: City of God (2002) – Brazil

City of God is a strange film in that it makes you feel sick to your stomach but you also find yourself grimly smirking at certain parts. Directed by Fernando Meirelles, it tells the story of two boys in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who take drastically different directions in their lives — one becomes a photographer, the other becomes a drug dealer. Like watching a car crash in slow motion, your eyes are glued to the events unfolding before you; they are equal parts gruesome and beautiful and you cannot look away. From the moment you watch young Li’l Zé cackling as he guns down multiple victims, you’re hooked by the horrible beauty of it all.

Foreign Films

Image via The Dissolve

#1: The Intouchables (2011) – France

The Intouchables is a movie that can always bring a smile to my face. It stars François Cluzet as an aristocrat, Philippe, who becomes a quadriplegic after a paragliding accident. Realizing he now needs help just doing everyday tasks, he hires a young black man from the projects, Driss (Omar Sy), to aid him day-to-day. Over time, Driss shows Philippe what it means to have fun in life and to learn to laugh at your circumstances and accept them. I know I say it a lot, but this really is a feel-good movie and will make you smile and laugh-out-loud at least once.

Foreign Films

Image via Roger Ebert

Thanks for reading!  What are your thoughts on top 10 foreign films? Did we miss any?  Comment down below!

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therxreviews July 11, 2018 - 8:41 am

I was surprised to see Pan’s Labyrinth as an honorable mention, it is one of my absolute favorite films. This list gave me a lot of great ideas for a movie night though!

Rosy Mathew June 17, 2018 - 11:15 am

I love Watching foreign films, it’s a great way to know about other countries, their culture and traditions, food. Back when I was a child, I used to watch a lot of Bollywood movie and other Indian language movies. Since I came to the US at a young age, I didn’t know much about India. It was through those movies I got to learn so much about the culture, it’s people and the amazing food. Recently I started watching French and Turkish movies. My favorite has been life is beautiful, Intouchables, sadece sen, dil se, Swades. At first, it was really annoying reading the subtitles, paying attention to the screen, the character, trying to understand what the story is about. But after a while, it made me really pay attention to the movie and it’s little details. Some of the movies are really different from the western movies which me fall in love in with foreign movies more. I noticed they really focused more on the moral of the story, the lighting on each screen, direction. I can’t wait to watch more movies. If you any of you have suggestions, please let me know :)

Angela May 15, 2018 - 7:30 am

Some wonderful classics on the list. “Recent,” of course, is a designation that differs based on one’s own vantage point. I am glad to see, however, that people still pay attention to older foreign films.

minimalloy May 13, 2018 - 6:03 am

Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources are both amazing French films with a Shakespearean tragi-comic feel to them. Eat, Drink, Man, Woman is a favourite of mine (although definitely don’t watch it if you’re hungry).I also think Raise the Red Lantern (1991) should have an honourable mention. My favourite horror films are straight from Japan (Ju-On The Grudge, The Ring, and Audition). Let the Right One In (2008) is a fantastic Swedish vampire story and miles better than the English language remake. Also the original The Vanishing (not the Kiefer Sutherland remake) is well worth a watch. For sci-fi fans, try La Cite des Enfants Perdus. Those are my particular preferred ‘foreign’ films which spring to mind, and thank you for including Amelie, which might actually be my favourite film of all time. Everyone should watch it: it is truly gorgeous.

J.D. Phoenix May 8, 2018 - 9:07 am

A Brighter Summer Day. Maybe.

mylilplace May 6, 2018 - 9:14 pm

Thanks so much for the list! I personally would have put Old Boy somewhere at the top of the list, although it is a deeply disturbing movie. Pan’s Labyrinth is an absolute favorite of mine. Another dark one but it is so well done! Love love the Intouchables! Can’t agree more.

Ken Dowell May 6, 2018 - 8:05 pm

There are so many that could be on this list. I thought of 8-1/2, Death in Venice, any number of Almodovar films, The Marraige of Maria Braun, The Seventh Seal, The Piano Teacher. And that’s just off the top of my head.

Nick Kush May 7, 2018 - 10:04 am

8 1/2 is one of my favorite films period! Such a lovely movie

andrewmisk May 6, 2018 - 8:01 pm

This list has several great movies on it, but I think it skews a bit too heavily towards recent films. Everyone’s tastes are different, but I can’t see a list of Best Foreign Films that doesn’t include any Bresson or Ozu. If you’re not familiar with Ozu, start with “Tokyo Story” and explore from there. Bresson’s “Au Hasard Balthazar” is nothing short of a masterpiece. One of the most moving and beautiful films of all time. If you’re looking for more modern movies, check out some stuff from The Dardenne brothers. Particularly “The Son,” or their more recent film, “Two Days, One Night.” Great, great stuff. Anything from Wong-Kar Wai is always a great choice, as well. That being said, the only movie on your list I haven’t seen is at #1, so I should definitely try to check out “The Intouchables.” I enjoyed the post and was glad that it got me thinking about some of my favorite foreign language films.

Kali Tuttle May 7, 2018 - 2:41 pm

I actually haven’t heard of the older films you mentioned, so I’ll be sure to check them out! Thanks for your comment!

M.P. Ossa May 6, 2018 - 2:06 pm

India- again ignored by the Westerners. Sad

Kali Tuttle May 7, 2018 - 2:41 pm

Fear not! I figured Bollywood was a big enough industry that it deserved its own list, which I am in the process of creating right now

Priyanka Agarwal May 8, 2018 - 2:37 pm

Hope you know Bollywood is just one industry in India. Films are made in several other languages here.

Priyanka Agarwal May 8, 2018 - 2:38 pm

Do let me know if you need inputs here. I can help you.

bloggerpikachu May 6, 2018 - 12:49 pm

It’s a pity India didn’t make the list!

Nick Kush May 6, 2018 - 12:46 pm

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