Wednesday, May 13, 2020

25 Fantastic Foreign Films You Should Watch at Home Now

Movie theaters are closed and people are spending more time in their homes. It’s a perfect time to explore some exceptional recent cinema that is readily available. This list is not for those who fear subtitles, but anyone who embraces the chance to experience the best of what the international film industry has to offer. This is not a comprehensive ranking, merely 25 films that I still remember strongly, all from the past twenty years. There are also a few included already on this list, all from Israel, that shouldn’t be missed. Every one of the films below is available to rent for just a few dollars on Amazon Prime, and most can also be rented on other platforms including YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, and iTunes (as of May 2020). Get ready for some truly quality cinema – click on each film title to read my full review.

In a Better World (Denmark)

This Oscar-winning film from director Susanne Bier explores how two young boys receive values from the very different examples set by their fathers. It’s a stunning, searing portrait of humanity that’s as compelling visually as it is thematically.

Waltz with Bashir (Israel)

This animated documentary film is fascinating in its format alone, but its content is equally astounding, as writer-director Ari Folman probes his own memories of what he saw and did in wartime and hasn’t come to terms with since that time.

Wild Tales (Argentina)

This series of unconnected segments is indeed wild, focusing on people unable to suppress their anger. Each part spotlights uncontrollably volatile individuals losing their patience with the world with such a marvelously precise lens.

The Lives of Others (Germany)

This exceptionally-titled drama centers on a man charged with surveilling others who develops an affinity for those he is watching, gleaning tremendous depth from unspoken moments and creating an entrancing thriller that doesn’t need large-scale action to drive it.

Broken Embraces (Spain)

A number of films from famed Spanish director Pedro Almodovar could have been on this list, including “Volver,” “Julieta,” “The Skin I Live In,” and “Talk to Her.” But this underappreciated wonder deserves special mention for its formidable use of frequent muse Penelope Cruz in a vividly interesting narrative that is gorgeously decorated.

Dogtooth (Greece)

Before he broke through to American audiences with “The Lobster” and “The Favourite,” director Yorgos Lanthimos crafted this mind-bending portrait of parents who deliberately educate their children incorrectly to exert disturbing control over their lives.

Headhunters (Norway)

This comedy-turned-thriller about an unconventional criminal is riveting from start to finish, constantly uncovering a new surprise and keeping its audience in suspense. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from “Game of Thrones” also makes a strong villain.

A Very Long Engagement (France)

This gorgeous follow-up to the equally brilliant “Amélie” from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet stars Audrey Tautou as a woman who refuses to accept that her fiancé has been killed in war. It’s a lovely story enhanced by wondrous visuals and music.

Tangerines (Estonia)

This moving film makes a metaphor literal with a man who takes in two injured men on opposite sides of a war and insists that they cannot kill each other while in his house. It’s a quiet, sincere film anchored by a haunting score.

Of Gods and Men (France)

This profile of monks in Algeria in the 1990s interacting with their surrounding Muslim community and hostile forces unwelcoming to outside religious influence is a powerful look at faith and perseverance grounded in heartfelt performances.

Land of Mine (Denmark)

Another film with a bitingly fitting title, this drama follows German prisoners of war in the aftermath of World War II forced to search Danish beaches for mines planted by their fellow soldiers and serves as a searing and insightful examination of the fragility of life.

The Insult (Lebanon)

This film tackles a clash of cultures between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee and evolves into an indictment of hatred and the way prejudices pull us apart, transforming simple arguments into large-scale rivalries.

My Life as a Zucchini (France)

This seventy-minute stop-motion animated film is not for children but about children, setting itself in an orphanage and confronting issues such as abuse and negligence. It’s not for the easily unsettled, but it’s a formidable and mesmerizing approach to a difficult concept.

A Separation (Iran)

Best described as a gripping non-thriller, this film opens with a woman seeking a divorce in Iran but turns into so much more than that, honing in on a culture that doesn’t value equality and civil rights with complex characters and astounding performances.

After the Wedding (Denmark)

Recently remade in the United States with Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams starring, this far superior original features a devastating revelation that forces a man to confront what matters in his life and his responsibilities to those he doesn’t know.

Micmacs (France)

From director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, whose “A Very Long Engagement” appears earlier on this list, comes a film that abandons just one star to feature a fabulous ensemble of people having fun working to take down those who have mistreated others, decorated as usual with eye-popping colors and lavish visuals.

In Between (Israel)

This stylish film about three young Palestinian women insightfully navigates the complex differences that exist between them and in their society, fashioning strong characters in an involving and meaningful story.

A Christmas Tale (France)

This creative and delightful film defines the buoyant nature of French cinema with a superb cast including Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Devos, and Mathieu Amalric and a fanciful framing that makes its story inherently more fascinating than it might otherwise be.

Burning (South Korea)

One year before “Parasite” became the first foreign to win Best Picture – and to represent South Korea at the Oscars – this quiet, haunting film also looked at the secret lives people don’t display to others, presenting a mystery man whose seemingly devious actions are shrouded in intrigue.

Tell No One (France)

Conspiracy thrillers may be commonplace these days, but this sleek film has exactly the right pace to keep its audience fixated on the plot and all of its twists and turns as it slowly unravels and transforms into something unexpected.

The Secret in their Eyes (Argentina)

This contemplative film is one that makes excellent use of multiple time periods to weave its narrative together, presenting clues and crucial events at different moments to underscore their importance and meaning.

A Prophet (France)

Prison is a familiar setting for films, and this affecting drama probes the way in which those with limited criminal history or inclinations become criminals as a result of their incarceration, touching on cultural identity and the naivety of youth along the way.

The White Ribbon (Germany)

This unsettling picture of a rural village on the eve of World War I investigates the reason people are suspicious of each other and the impulses towards evil some feel, presented in stark black-and-white to emphasize its disturbing nature.

City of God (Brazil)

The original foreign film that broke through at the Oscars back in 2002 is a dazzling, sun-kissed glorification of the slums of Rio and the conflicts that emerge between achieving power and garnering true satisfaction.

Blue is the Warmest Color (France)

This three-hour NC-17 drama courted controversy for its excessive sex scenes, but there’s so much more to this passionate breakdown of an intimate relationship that portrays the power of attraction and the allure of the unknown.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy these films! For more recommendations and reviews, visit

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