My Favorite Foreign Films

Times must really be desperate if I’m devoting an entire post to the foreign film genre. Did I even use the word ‘genre’ right? I feel like it’s interchangeable with the word ‘category’ but I could be wrong. Also, am I using those single quote marks correctly? I don’t even know who I am anymore.

Sooo yeah foreign films. This is a dry subject that I’m going to try to make fun and colorful! Most people roll their eyes at foreign films because they’re a lot of work:

A) They’re hard to find. You can’t just run to Target an pick up a copy of Gomorra. It’s just not gonna happen. They do have every season of Friends available though.

B) They require a lot of attention. You can’t play Candy Crush and read subtitles at the same time (much to my chagrin).

C) It’s hard to know which movie to choose when you’re unfamiliar with another country’s actors and actresses. It’s also difficult because you most likely haven’t heard much about any titles or watched any trailers for these movies. So how do you know where to start?

The words ‘foreign film’ mean different things to different people. To some, it simply means any movie with subtitles. To others it means films made by foreign directors. And a lot of people equate the term with anything that isn’t American made.

I personally feel like it’s a combination of all three. It definitely depends on the film, but not all movies with subtitles constitute a foreign film in my book. For example, I don’t think of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds as a foreign film even though most of the movie is subtitled. However, I feel like some movies that are spoken in English are foreign to me simply because they take place in a different country, like Slumdog Millionaire for example.

If you have no idea where to start, here are some of my favorite foreign films:

Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006) This magical tale takes place in fascist Spain in the 40’s. The main character is a young girl who moves with her mother into a new, grand house with storybook surprises around every corner. It’s a beautiful movie and a captivating

The Magdalene Sisters (Peter Mullan, 2002) Taking place in the harsh Catholic society of Ireland, this movie shows the devastating struggles that women had to endure in asylum laundry houses. It’s unbelievable. A great story that you’ll never forget. (No subtitles)magdalene_sisters_verdvd

Raise the Red Lantern (Yimou Zhang, 1991) The fascinating story of the four wives to a powerful lord in 1920’s China. At just nineteen years old, Songlian is sent to become the master’s fourth wife and learns the ins and outs of her new home. Raise_the_Red_Lantern_DVD

Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001) Amélie is just trying to make sense of the world around her. She wants adventure and something worth living for. Her escapades in Paris are sweet and fun to watch. She’s an enjoyable character that you can’t help rooting for.amelie_ver1

Bicycle Thieves aka The Bicycle Thief (Vittorio De Sica, 1948) The touching story of a man and his son looking for their stolen bicycles. The twosome run all over Rome in search for their bikes. It’s frustrating and sad but overall a good watch.bicycle_thieves_criterion_dvd_image

Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008) A true vampire classic, this story is about a lone female vampire living in the frozen tundra of Sweden. She befriends a young boy living in her neighborhood and protects him when he needs her help. A great and creepy story of what life must really be like for those sad vampire children.MV5BMjE1OTY2MTM5MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzQ5Mjc5MQ@@._V1._SX640_SY949_

M (Fritz Lang, 1931) This early black and white tale takes place in a German town where a child murderer is on the loose. Unable to catch him, locals keep their eye out for the criminal. It’s a great early cinematic production worth watching.M

Do you like foreign films? What are some of your favorites?


34 thoughts on “My Favorite Foreign Films

  1. Great post! I like infernal affairs, which was the original film before hollywood snapped it up and made their own ie, the departed. i also like oldboy, a South Korea film which is apparently getting a Hollywood remake. Nooooooo!

    • Thank you! I actually haven’t seen The Departed so maybe I should watch Infernal Affairs first. Yeah!
      I haven’t seen Oldboy either! Thanks for the recommendations. Looking forward to watching those 🙂

  2. Love foreign films! I`ve been recently introduced to Bollywood and 3 Idiots is awesome and Kai Po Che! is also pretty awesome 🙂 To me, its not foreign but Hong Kong has had some really impressive movies these days with last year`s Cold War.

    Great choices! Pan`s Labyrinth and Amelie is possibly two of my absolute faves!

    • Bollywood films are usually pretty good. I like how they have dancing at the end of some films. Never seen 3 Idiots or Kai Po Che. Yay new movies to look for! I don’t know a lot of newer Chinese movies, but my video store has a pretty good selection so I will check it out.

      Yeah Pan’s Labyrinth is so great. I recently watched Amelie and I was like, how have I gone so long without seeing this?!

  3. Wow, such coincidence, I recently started listening a lot to a piece of music used in the soundtrack of Amelie… I even posten about it a week ago.
    Can you imagine living somewhere where basically every movie is foreign? For me, American movies are foreign and subtitled. (Which doesn’t mean I don’t understant them without.) There are some Belgian movies that are worth to watch though. Do you know The Loft? They’re making that one in Amerika right now, but the original is Belgian (and really good!).
    There are some great foreign movies but I can’t really think of examples now. I want to see Pan’s labyrinth, just have to find it…

    • Ahh I’ll have to go back and find that post of yours! So crazy. We have the same brain 🙂

      Yeah that must be so weird for American movie to be foreign…because so many of them suck. I mean, there are some great ones but there are also so many bad ones. I’ve never seen The Loft but I like the title. I’ll have to look for it in my video store. They might have a Belgian section…*crosses fingers*

      Oh man you would love Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s so beautiful and parts of it are so messed up and creepy. It’s amazing.

    • Yeah it’s so cute. I wish I spoke French because I felt like the subtitles were especially fast in Amelie. But I still really enjoyed it. Good thing I could keep up!

  4. I’m so happy you included Let the Right One In. That’s one of my favorites.

    I’m not sure if this would be considered “foreign”, but Saving Face is excellent. Though parts of it are in English and it technically takes place in Manhattan, most of it is in the “Chinatown” of the city, the deep aspects of Chinese culture and family dynamics makes it more foreign. (and directed by a Chinese-American I believe)

    It’s probably what would be considered a rom-com, but I enjoy it more than any American ones!

    • That sounds like a good one. I’ve never seen Saving Face, but if you consider it a foreign film, then it probably is. I’ll add it to my list. There’s nothing wrong with rom-coms!

      Yes, Let The Right One In is so good. So many creepy parts and rewarding scenese.

  5. I love Amelie and Let The Right One In. I’ve been meaning to watch Pan’s Labyrinth forever now – probably since 2006. My other favorites include: The Artist (is that foreign? I’m calling it foreign), Waste Land, Lola Rennt (or Run Lola Run), Goodbye Lenin, and Das Wunder von Bern (or The Miracle of Bern). Those last three are German … I took a lot of German in high school and the teacher spent a lot of time having us watch movies instead of learning. But, I recommend all of those 🙂

    • Gahh you have to watch Pan’s Labyrinth! Then do a blog review on it 😀

      Yes, The Artist is foreign but I never saw it…so I’ll add it to my list! Man you gave me a lot of good suggestions. I will try to watch all of these. That’s kind of awesome of your teacher, not gonna lie. I took Latin and nothing fun came out of it 😦

    • Ohh cool okay I’m make sure to watch both of those. I love me some foreign films. Maybe because they make me feel cultured without having to leave my couch? Hah I’m so lame.

  6. I’ve watched very few foreign films as the thought of reading subtitles puts me off, but then when I do watch a good film with subtitles they don’t put me off.

    Bonkers, eh?

    I haven’t seen any of the films you listed but Downfall, set in the last month or so of Nazi Germany, is very good. Tropa de Elite (or Elite Squad) is also very good and is about a squad of Brazilian police who take on the drug gangs in Brazilian slums.

    Also, I’m stuck on level 105 of Candy Crush.

    • I know how you feel. It’s like, you never regret watching a good foreign film, but it just takes a lot of effort to talk yourself into watching one in the first place.

      Coolio. I will add your movies to the list even though they sound like guy movies. Haha well, maybe Paul will like them!

      Dude, don’t complain until you’re on level 385 (like me).

  7. chasethatgreenlight says:

    Gonna add in Life is Beautiful, Cinema Paradiso, Y Tu Mama Tambien, and Biutiful. Much more modern movies than some of what you listed, but they should be much more easy to find.

    I remember back in my HS days, asking for M at the local blockbuster. Yeah, not gonna happen!

    • I’ve heard great things about all of those movies and hate myself for still not having seen any of them! Thanks for those recommendations. I can’t wait to watch them!

      Haha yeah M is so hard to find. I think my college library had a copy in stock so I was lucky to find it!

  8. Addie says:

    I loved Amelie and Let the Right One In (the book was even better!) and Rust and Bone among others. I find subtitles distracting to a point, because I can’t read while watching the film, however, I’d rather the subtitles than awful dubbing. Good post, Lily.

    • I’ve heard good things about Rust and Bone. I need to check that one out. Thanks Addie! Yeah I know what you mean about subtitles. I found it really hard in Amelie because they seemed extra fast and it was hard for me to get used to them. And also sometimes the background of a scene is the same color as the subtitles and you end up missing entire sentences. No fun.

      • Addie says:

        That happened to me in La Strada at the beginning. All those white subtitles on white sand. Well done, Fellini, well done, indeed.

    • Haha thanks girl that one sounds god. I liked the American Cuckoo’s Nest so I’m sure I would like this one. I’m impressed that you’ve seen those three. Good ones!

  9. Hi Lily, Recently discovered and enjoying your blog.

    I’m not well versed in foreign films or even “films,”, but my all time favorite is Life is Beautiful with Robert Benigni, a poignant and funny story about survival. I also liked The Road Home, which was a little less tragic than Raise the Red Lantern.

    • Wow thank you so much!

      I’m not well versed in anything, especially foreign films, but I like to pretend! Haha. I’ve heard Life is Beautiful is amazing. I need to rent that one for sure. I will check out The Road Home. Sounds good!

  10. I loved all these! (I read your post on my phone when you posted it and totally forgot to come back and hit like and such. Sorry!) I wanted to add/suggest, even though it’s gruesome, violent, and shocking… City of God. 🙂

    • Aww haha thanks Rara! I do that all the time with blog posts. I’ve been the worst blogger/commenter/reader ever this year. City of God sounds good. I’m sure my husband will like it. Haha

  11. I’m still a huge fan of the Three Colours trilogy, by Kieslowski, and my favourite is definitely Red. I discovered Preisner’s music through those as well. Great stuff!

    But for me, anything made outside New Zealand is foreign, so there are a lot to choose from 🙂

    • Never heard of the Three Colors Trilogy but I will check them out thanks to your recommendation.

      Haha that gives you a lot of choice and makes you somewhat of an expert I would think! Was the movie Whale Rider filmed in NZ? I remember liking that one.

      • Hi Lily – yes, Whale Rider is one of ours. I see a recommendation above for “Life is Beautiful”. That’s a great movie too, but be prepared to cry!

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