If you don’t watch foreign language films, either because you don’t think they will be up to the high standards of the Hollywood productions you are used to, or you simply can’t be bothered with subtitles, you are missing out, big time. There’s tens of thousands of brilliant foreign language films out there, which is of course too many to list. But to get you started, and to show you the potential you may already be missing out on, here’s ten of our personal favourites.
This 2003 Korean mystery thrills from start to end. It begins with a man called Oh-Dae Su (Min-sik Choi) being captured and imprisoned for 15-years – and that’s just the start of the film. It gets better and more shocking from the minute he is released, as he goes on a violent killing spree in order to find his captor. There’s plenty of secrets and lies along the way and the famous Corridor Scene’ has to be one of the most iconic in film history. There is a 2013 Hollywood adaption starring Josh Brolin, but it is nowhere near as good as the original.
Jules Et Jim
This 1962 French film was directed by arguably one of the greatest directors of all time, Francois Truffaut. It stars Jeanne Moreau, Oscar Werner and Henri Serre caught up in a typical love triangle as Jules and Jim both strive for Catherine’s affection. The film is beautifully shot, fun to watch and doesn’t try to be something it’s not, it’s just an interesting love story. If you enjoy this, you will have to check out some more of Truffaut’s fantastic work.
Ringu (The Ring)
I love and hate this 1998 Japanese horror. I love it because it’s a brilliant horror, I hate it because it’s bloody terrifying. I’m not just saying this, but this film genuinely left me too scared to watch my own television for a whole week. I even found the 2002 American adaption starring Naomi Watts scary. The story is about a cursed videotape that kills the viewer seven days after watching it. If you’re a glutton for punishment there is a whole bunch of Ringu/Rings out there to catch up on, but I won’t be joining you I’m afraid (literally!).
Night Watch/Day Watch
This 2004 Russian action/fantasy and its 2006 sequel are still relatively unknown, which is a shame because they are brilliant. The action is cleverly done, the fight scenes are epic and even the subtitles are cool (you’ll have to watch it so see what I mean.) Rumours of a third film (Twilight Watch) currently remain just rumours as Timur Bekmambetov still hasn’t got around to making it, if he ever will. In the meantime, you can watch Night Watch/Day Watch and see the forces of light and dark battle for supremacy.
Train to Busan
I love zombie movies, and this 2016 Korean horror, is one of the best I’ve seen to date. The story follows Sok-woo (Yoo Gong) and his daughter Sok-ahn (Su-an Kim) as they board the KTX train from Seoul to Busan. However, their journey is hampered by flesh eating zombies. The passengers are inevitably forced to fight the zombies (and each other) as they journey on towards Busan.
This 2001 French film is about a naïve girl called Amelie and how she reacts with the world around her. Amelie (brilliantly played by Audrey Tautou) likes to do nice things for people, and helps several people along their own individual journeys. It is a real feel-good film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Director of Delicatessen, A Very Long Engagement and Alien: Resurrection). Besides being one of the best foreign language films on offer, Amelie reliably makes most publications list of all-time greats.
This creepy (yet captivating) Spanish film is set in 1944. It follows the adventures of a young girl (Ivana Baquero) as she is drawn into a fascinating yet terrifying fantasy world in order to escape her equally terrifying real circumstances. This Guillermo Del Toro masterpiece is a must see for any horror/fantasy fan.
Before the Hunger Games there was Battle Royale, and this Japanese Sci-fi classic is more gruesome, faster paced and easier to follow. Set in the near future, it follows a class of captured ninth-grade students who must fight each other under the revolutionary Battle Royale Act’ imposed by the government. The film starts with forty-two students which must be whittled down to just one over a period of three days.
When a S.W.A.T arrives to arrest a ruthless mob boss they quickly realise he isn’t going to just come willingly, and he has the entire tower block, and its occupants, on his side. Main star Iko Uwais is brilliant in this martial arts/shout-out brought to you by upcoming Welsh director Gareth Evans. If you enjoy the Indonesian films epic fight scenes, there is also a Raid 2 you can watch. Raid 3 and an American remake are both rumoured to be on their way.
District 13 (Banlieue 13)
Released in 2004, this French action-crime-thriller is set in the ghettos of near-future Paris. It is full of superfast free-running as Captain Damian Tomaso (Cyril Raffaelli) and Leito (David Belle) begin the movie on opposite sides of the law, but find themselves forced to work together in order to diffuse a Neutron bomb. Fans of the Mirrors Edge‘ games will love this, and if you enjoy this it is worth checking out its sequel District 13: Ultimatum, and the American remake Brick Mansions.