Must-See Foreign Films

Quality cinema from all over the world

I've personally found that it's hard to really find anyone who wants to watch a movie with subtitles. Ofcourse everyone would rather watch a movie spoken in their native language, but if you are anti-subtitles then you'll miss out on some great stuff made in other countries. The problem is Hollywood isn't concerned with cinema as art anymore as much as they want to make a buck. So for the most part, the biggest box office movies are generic and souless movies with a big star and an even bigger budget and you can usually figure out how it will end after the first ten minutes.

I will tell you this, if I'm gonna watch a foreign film, I definitely prefer the subtitles over some cheesy voice-over work. I want the words spoken like they were meant in the native tongue, it gives the movie a more unique and real feel. From time to time I'll be channel surfing and stop on one of those Spanish channels that has some American movie on and it just seems really cheesy when you see like a bunch of characters in some Adam Sandler movie speaking Spanish. Could you imagine watching Saving Private Ryan with Spanish voice-over work?

I've watched many foreign films over the years, and you know what I've found out? -while yes, it is some work to have to read subtitles for two hours, it's actually not that bad. In a way, it's kinda better because when you watch a movie with subtitles, you're kind of watching a movie and reading a book at the same time. So you get the best of both worlds in a way. Reading the subtitles allows you to use your imagination much more while watching the movie just like reading a novel does. Another feature is movies with subtitles force you to zero in on the movie with your full attention. -no surfing the web or checking emails while watching a foreign film!

One of the most recent foreign movies with subtitles that I watched was the Swedish 'Let the Right One In'. The movie is primarily about vampires, bullying, and love. It has some very violent moments in it, and some very tender and heartwarming scenes as well. It is a really great film, and if you like horror movies, it is a must-see. They made an American version of Let the Right One In which is really well done, but the original Swedish film is far superior.

So one of the first foreign language films that I added in bluray to my movie collection is called 'City of God'. If you don't mind subtitles and want to see a great movie, you must watch this. I think it might be the greatest foreign film I have ever seen. It's based on a true story and takes place in Brazil. Seeing the poverty represented in the film really makes you feel thankful for what you have. The involvement of drugs and gangs and the police going after youths of all ages is the constant theme. The movie makes it clear that growing up in parts of Brazil is one of the tougher environments to survive. City of God is a must-see and is one of the greatest movies ever made.

Some say that the American film 'The Exorcist' is the scariest movie ever made. While I probably agree with that, the most terrifying foreign-made horror film is called 'Ju-on'. This film from Japan has the creepiest scenes ever filmed on camera. The movie's plot is based on a curse that persists from evil passed on from different people who have commited heinous acts. Ghosts, curses, evil and death consume many unfortunate victims in this terrifying film. A must-see for any horror fan. Unlike the American remake of Let the Right One In, the American remake of Ju-on titled 'The Grudge' is below average.

Two words people: 'Animal Kingdom'! Totally freaking awesome! This movie is based out of Australia, and is all spoken English. If you can understand everything Crocodile Dundee says, than no subtitles needed! Animal Kingdom is about bank robbers in Australia, as well as growing up in a crime family. There are some really tense scenes that can't be matched. This movie is sensational and you should view it asap.

There is a British film which requires no subs called 'This is England'. The acting in this film was simply outstanding, especially the lead character (Thomas Turgoose) who is a little kid. I thought the girl (Hailee Steinfeld) in 'True Grit' played a phenominal role, but this kid in This is England does equally as good if not better. There are quite a few great performances in this movie, and the movie itself was really interesting to watch. It is based on a gang of skinheads in Britain. It also features a television series in the U.K. with the same name. The movie is really good, but the acting in this movie is what really impresses.

The greatest movie ever made about what happens right after you die is called 'Enter the Void'. All I gots to say is...WOW! Gaspar Noe who directed this movie is a total badass. No director has ever come close to making a film like Enter the Void. The narrative structure of the storytelling of the movie was phenomenal, and there's never been anything like it. The way this movie was shot and directed really felt groundbreaking. The morphing transitions from scene to scene were just totally awesome. It is a French made film that takes place in Tokyo, Japan. All spoken English so no subtitles needed!

Unfortunately there are some criticisms of the movie. It went way too long, almost three hours. The actual story of the movie, meaning the main characters life and experiences, have some issues. There is a brother/sister (Nathaniel Brown/Paz de la Huerta) combo that are way too touchy-feely, and post-life the way the main character visited various people in some private situations is very ackward.

Even with the slight criticisms, Enter the Void is the best movie ever made about becoming a spirit. It is one of those movies that you think about for days after you view it. A must-see movie for sure.

Next up is 'Carlos'. Now, talking about long movies, this is the mother of them all at a whopping 6 hours! I caught this on IFC On Demand, which had three 2 hour blocks. I was hooked after part one, watched part 2 immediately after, and finished off part 3 the next day. Tons of subtitles in this one with French, Spanish, German, and some Arabic all spoken in the film, but still totally worth it!

Carlos (Edgar Ramirez) is about one of the most notorious terrorists of the late 60's and 70's. The movie really captures the beliefs and views of terrorist cells fighting for "their cause". It was interesting because you know if Hollywood made a movie about terrorism today, by the end of it you'd hate the main terrorist and want him dead. Carlos allows the viewer to stay impartial with an outsiders view of people that we label a 'terrorist'. Despite Carlos going about making political moves by his own means (murder, kidnapping, etc.), he is still someone that you could have a conversation with and even agree with many of his views.

The movie also really captures how sophisticated and worldwide that these terrorist cells are, which is something most people never give much thought too. Something the film really does well is demonstrate how many of the different nations were willing to 'play ball' and help the terrorists if it could benefit their own countries political agendas. -and I'm not just talking about the Iran's or Libya's, but also many countries who are supposed to be "good guys" in our world view. Edgar Ramirez and director Olivier Assayas did a phenomenal job.

Another Australian film to see is a movie called 'The Square' . Really good thriller that keeps you watching with anticipation of what's gonna happen next. It had a really good plot that throws you off the trail of what's what. It reminded me a bit of Animal Kingdom, maybe cause they're both Aussie flicks, but it kind of had that feel to it. I thought 'Animal Kingdom' was probably the better movie of the two, but 'The Square' was still a cool watch. Suspenseful thriller movies are always fun when done right. No subs in this one.

'El Orfanato' (The Orphanage) is a Mexican horror/suspense movie about an old orphanage home. Anytime there is a movie about an orphanage, you know that there is going to be some f'd up shit that has happened. I thought it was more suspenseful than scary, but it had one really wicked looking orphan character that wears this badass looking mask. You find yourself wanting to see more of this kid than the movie gives us. His mask was really creepy-awesome looking. As a diehard fan of horror films, I was hoping this movie would be more scary instead of suspenseful, but all in all it is a pretty decent flick with a really cool ending. This movie is all Spanish language with English subs.

A popular horror film from the 1970's is 'Suspiria'. It is an Italian movie (spoken English) and is directed by Dario Argento. The plot deals with a dance student who travels to Germany to study at an esteemed school. She soon realizes that things are not as they seem and creepy events continue to plague her. Suspiria is a great movie to check out on a late, dark Saturday night.

A German film that people should be sure to watch is 'Revanche'. This film has suspense, vengeance, and romance combined for an unusual recipe of film goodness. A bank robbery gone wrong leads Alex (Johannes Krisch) to return to his family farm and contemplate his next move. Along the way he gets involved with a neighbor who has ties to his former life. This movie is artistically well made with great cinematography and is worth a screening.

One of the most sadistic movies ever made is the Korean film 'I Saw the Devil'. A horror/thiller with some revenge action thrown in. This film will make you think twice about talking to strangers. To think there are people so deranged that could be out there is very unsettling. This movie is wild and scary. It will make you double check that your doors are locked before you go to bed! I Saw the Devil is a great movie, and while not for the faint of heart, it is a definite must-see!

'Wild Tales' is a different type of film that basically combines about five short stories into one movie. At first glance that probably doesn't sound that appealing, but trust me this movie is freaking hilarious! Small town citizens get even with a rude mafioso, a man's life is ruined over a parking ticket, and this film has the most insane wedding night scene of all time!! A Spanish language dark comedy directed by Damian Szifron, Wild Tales is a 100% must-see movie that you should've watched yesterday!

To round out this list of must-see foreign films, horror fans have to check out 'A Serbian Film'. This film is the most violent, gruesome, awesome, grotesque, most brilliant, disturbing, sickening movie ever made. Period. A Serbian Film is NOT for the weak-hearted or anyone under the age of 21. I warn you that after watching this movie, there were disturbing images in my head that wouldn't go away. I lost part of my soul that I'll never get back. With all of that said, this movie is brilliant. Even though I've only seen this film once, it is so amazing that I bought the bluray but I've been to scared to watch it again and it's been like 7 years lol. Watch A Serbian Film at your own risk!!

So all in all, a pretty damn good list of foreign films if I do say so myself. All are must-see quality. I'm really finding myself liking these more artistic, smart, foreign-made movies as opposed to most of the Hollywood garbage. I'll take the quality and the subs over some typical lame Adam Sandler romantic comedy any day. As time goes by we'll add more great movies to the list. If you have seen a great foreign film not listed, shoot me an email because word-of-mouth is the best way to discover these great pieces of cinema! Thanks!