If you are running out of ideas of what movies to watch cooped up at home during the coronavirus pandemic, consider watching some foreign films. There are many foreign films out there that are absolutely vital to the history of world cinema as a whole.
International and Foreign Films have a lot to offer to audiences. As Bong Joon Ho, the director of the South Korean film Parasite, which went on to win Best Picture at The Oscars this past February, said in his acceptance speech at The Golden Globes when Parasite won Best Foreign Language Film: “Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”
Most of the Foreign Films featured in this article were nominated for and won Academy Awards. Some went on to win The Oscar for Best International Feature Film (The category was previously known as Best Foreign Language Film until it was renamed to its current title on April 23, 2019.) One film went on to win Best Picture, the Academy’s highest honor.
Now, with all of that being said, here are 15 Foreign Films (including Parasite) That Are Worth Watching:
1. Parasite (South Korea) (2019):
In the history of the Academy Awards, only 11 foreign films have been nominated for Best Picture. From those 11 foreign films, only one has won Best Picture.
The 2019 South Korean Film Parasite made history at The 92nd Oscars Ceremony this past February as it became the first film in a language other than English to win Best Picture. The film also took home The Oscars for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film.
2. Life Is Beautiful (Italy) (1998):
One of the greatest foreign films of all time that everyone should definitely watch at least once in their lifetime is the 1998 Italian film Life is Beautiful. Italian filmmaking legend Roberto Benigni directed, co-wrote, and starred in the film. In Life is Beautiful, Benigni plays the movie’s lead character Guido Orefice, an Italian Jewish book shop owner who utilizes his fertile imagination to shield his young son Giosuè (Giorgio Cantarini) from the horrors of internment in a Nazi Concentration Camp. The final scene will leave you sobbing.
Life is Beautiful earned widespread acclaim and received seven Oscar Nominations at the 71st Oscars Ceremony. From the film’s seven nominations, Benigni was nominated for four awards: Best Actor, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Foreign Language Film, becoming the fourth person to earn acting, directing, screenwriting nominations for the same film. Life is Beautiful ultimately won three Academy Awards: Best Original Score, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Actor. Benigni’s win for the latter award is considered one of the biggest upsets in Oscars History.
3. The Chorus (France) (2004):
This 2004 French Drama is an adaption of the 1945 French film A Cage of Nightingales. It was nominated for two Oscars: Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Song (for the song “Vois sur ton chemin” (Translated in English as “Look to Your Path”)).
Of all the foreign films featured in this article, The Chorus is one of the most underrated movies that is definitely worth watching.
4. La Dolce Vita (Italy) (1960):
Federico Fellini’s 1960 comedy-drama follows a journalist searching for love and happiness throughout a week in Rome. The film was nominated for four Oscars, winning one for Best Costume Design. La Dolce Vita is among the foreign films that are frequently regarded as one of the greatest films in world cinema.
5. The Intouchables (France) (2011):
Another one of the most underrated foreign films of all time that is worth watching is the 2011 buddy comedy-drama film The Intouchables, which follows the friendship between Driss (Omar Sy), a streetwise young man and Philippe (François Cluzet), a wealthy quadriplegic. The two men become close friends after Driss is hired to be Philippe’s live-in caregiver.
For his outstanding performance in the film, Sy won The César Award for Best Actor, which was considered an upset as he beat Jean Dujardin, who went on to win The Oscar for Best Actor that year for his performance in The Artist.
6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan) (2000):
Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon received 10 Academy Award nominations at the 73rd Oscars Ceremony, which was the highest ever for a non-English language film, until the 2018 film Roma received the same amount at the 91st Oscars Ceremony. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon ended up winning four Oscars, including Best Foreign Language Film.
7. Roma (Mexico) (2018):
One of the best foreign films that is a Netflix Original film is Alfonso Cuarón’s 2018 movie Roma, which follows a year in the life of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a maid for a middle-class family in Mexico City during the early 1970s. The plot of Roma also deals with the break-up of the family that Cleo works for and her unexpected pregnancy. As a result of these events, Cleo and the family must adapt to their new normal.
The Netflix Original film was a hit with critics and audiences and earned 10 Oscar Nominations at the 91st Academy Awards, among them Best Picture, Best Actress for Aparicio, and Best Supporting Actress for Marina de Tavira, who played the matriarch of the family that Cleo works for. Roma ultimately won three of its’ 10 Oscar Nominations: Best Foreign Language Film (The first Mexican movie to win the award), Best Cinematography, and Best Director for Cuarón.
8. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (France) (2019):
For those of you who love foreign films, this 2019 French historical drama is available on Hulu. Set in the late 18th century in France, the movie tells the story of a forbidden love affair between an aristocrat (Adèle Haenel) and a painter (Noémie Merlant) commissioned to paint her portrait.
9. Never Look Away (Germany) (2018):
This 2018 German coming-of-age romantic drama follows the life of Kurt Barnert (Tom Schilling), an artist who flees Nazi Germany but lives with the trauma from his childhood. The trauma that Kurt suffers is when his Aunt Elizabeth is sterilized and eventually “euthanized” by The Nazis because she is suspected to be schizophrenic.
Never Look Away won the Leoncino d’Oro Agiscuola per il Cinema Award at the 75th Venice Film Festival. The German film was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography at the 91st Academy Awards Ceremony.
10. Y Tu Mamá También (Mexico) (2001):
Another one of the foreign films directed by Alfonso Cuarón is the 2001 coming-of-age film Y Tu Mamá También. The film follows two Mexican teenage boys who take a summer road trip with a woman in her late twenties. Y Tu Mamá También takes place during the economic and political upheaval of Mexico in 1999.
11. Cinema Paradiso (Italy) (1988):
A majority of 1988 Italian Drama is told as a flashback as a filmmaker named Toto recalls how he fell in love with the movies as a child at the Cinema Paradiso. The film also follows the friendship that a young Toto forged with Alfredo, the movie theater’s projectionist. Cinema Paradiso took home the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 62nd Oscars Ceremony.
12. Two Days, One Night (Belgium) (2014):
Another one of the most underrated foreign films that everyone should definitely watch is the 2014 Belgian film Two Days, One Night. Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard earned her second Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Sandra, a Belgian factory worker who has only one weekend to convince her co-workers to give up their bonuses so she can keep her job.
13. Battle Royale (Japan) (2000):
If you are a big film of The Hunger Games books and films, you will absolutely love the 2000 Japanese film Battle Royale. Based on the book of the same name, Battle Royale follows a group of high school students who are forced to fight to the death by the Japanese totalitarian government. The Battle Royale takes place on a remote island and each student receives a survival pack and a random weapon/tool.
Take a look at the trailer to see if you want to watch that Oscar-winning filmmaker Quentin Tarantino said was the best film that he had seen in the last two decades (Note: the interview where Tarantino said this took place in 2009).
14. Elle (France) (2016):
Isabelle Huppert won the Golden Globe for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama and was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of a CEO of a video game company who is raped in her home by a masked assailant and decides not to report it due to her past experience with police.
Huppert lost the Best Actress Oscar to Emma Stone for her performance in La La Land. While Stone does a great job in La La Land, I believe that Huppert’s performance in Elle, by a slight margin, was better and she should have won the Best Actress Oscar that year instead.
15. The Rules of The Game (France) (1939):
Directed by Jean Renoir, the 1939 French Comedy-Drama Satirical film tells the story of a group of French elite (and their servants) gathering for a hunting weekend at a lavish chateau just before World War II. The film’s plot features beautiful rich people flirting with each other, the servants getting caught up in all of the drama, and a murder.
The Rules of The Game is not only one of the best foreign films of all time, but is also considered as one of the greatest films in the history of cinema! Many critics and directors praised the film highly.