Getting interested in foreign cinema can seem very difficult when you’re recommended nothing but three-hour bores and films based entirely on their *symbolism* when the *symbolism* is lacking a *story*.
If you want to get interested in foreign cinema then what you need is the accessible stuff which will reel you in and ease you towards the more obscure and the more… *gulp*… symbolic…
Here are the ten and a half most accessible foreign films that I would recommend to anyone interested in getting hooked onto foreign cinema.
(I’d suggest watching these in the order they appear)
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
The “.5” in the title of this post, Inglourious Basterds is only half classified as a foreign language film.
Inglourious Basterds is one of the best films of the 2000s and definitely one of Tarantino’s best, not to mention one of the most memorable war films ever written.
I’d suggest watching this first as it is the perfect transition, being half English and half German/French. If reading the subtitles in Basterds throws you off then I’m sorry to tell you, but you won’t like what the rest of the world has to offer.
The Intouchables (2011)
Ok, now we get to ACTUAL foreign cinema.
The Intouchables is a film which takes bugger-all effort to watch but it will put a smile on your face. For that alone, I recommend it.
This film is always the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word “French”.
If anyone asks you if you’ve seen any foreign cinema, this is probably what they’d expect you to say; a cute and very French (romantic) film. Very, very French. Oh-so-French.
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
A nostalgia-based Italian classic. I feel it’s Italian Red Dog if you just switch out the dog for love of cinema; good times capped by good memories.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
The story is quite boring at times, in fact I find myself skipping most of the film but the fight scenes are inspiring.
In every fight scene, each sound effect, each camera shot and each stunt is so carefully crafted to bring us masterful action scenes which rank among the greatest of all time.
Train to Busan (2016)
Easily one of my favourite films of 2016, Train to Busan is one of the best zombie films I’ve ever seen, one of the best action films I’ve ever seen, one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen and also one of the best quiet remakes of Snowpiercer I’ve ever seen.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
All the trailers lacked dialogue so English viewers just assumed the film was spoken in English, only to find themselves victims of an elaborate hoax, an elaborate hoax grossing 83 MILLION SMACKAROOS.
Pan’s Labyrinth is a dark fantasy film about a girl escaping her reality of the Spanish Civil War into an underworld of blind naked weasel-men, giant frogs and the Faun.
Not convinced? It’s the highest scoring film on Metacritic released from 2000 to 2009. How about now?
The Orphanage (2007)
The Orphanage is a criminally underrated drama/horror film produced by Guillermo del Toro, the creator of Pan’s Labyrinth.
All I’ll say is that it’s haunting, has a brilliantly crafted screenplay and it has one of the best endings I’ve ever seen put to screen. You should definitely watch The Orphanage.
Downfall follows the final days of Hitler’s rule over Germany, told entirely from the German perspective… and that’s really all I can say about Downfall.
It’s good. You should watch it.
The Hunt (2012)
The Hunt follows Mads Mikkelsen as a lonely teacher falsely accused of rape by one of his kindergarten students. As you can imagine, following the accusation, he becomes the town’s punching bag as well as outcast.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re hooked. The Hunt is the final test, deciding whether you’re ready to handle the dark reflection of foreign cinema, as opposed to Hollywood’s usual “everything will work out fine” films.
If you watch The Hunt and feel that you can take some more arthouse contemplation, you’re ready for almost anything foreign-language cinema has to offer.
Those are the 10.5 foreign films I’d recommend to get you hooked onto foreign cinema. Are there any you would add? Any I forgot? Was I cheating when I put Inglourious Basterds in there?
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