Hollywood studios consistently feed us ‘commercial’ fare. They think that all we want are big explosions, action heroes, supermodels and a source of escapism that requires little thought. But after you’ve gone deaf from explosions in movies like Battleship, what’s next? For those of you with a hankering for stories with far less Hollywood ‘glitz” and a different perspective, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite foreign films of all time. None of these films are for a lazy night in. They’ll make you think, learn, laugh and even cry.
So now, in no particular order:
1. A Separation (2011, Asghar Farhadi)
A Separation addresses issues surrounding family, loyalty, faith and justice. The actors are phenomenal and it’s no wonder that it won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012. Its win was a huge victory for Iranian cinema.
2. The Seventh Seal (1957, Ingmar Bergman)
You have to be in a very special mood to watch anything by Ingmar Bergman. You’ll have to read subtitles and interpret subtext. This film might be difficult to find on Netflix, but the Criterion Collection is sure to provide a beautiful copy. Watch this on a night you’re interested in exploring existentialism… you know.. like a Wednesday.
3. Saving Face (2012, Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy)
This must watch film won the Academy Award for best documentary short in 2012. It explores acid attacks on women in Pakistan. I cried for the entire film. It’s always refreshing to have a real, visceral reaction to a film. Everyone should see this.
4. El Abuelo (1998, Jose Luis Garci)
The first time I saw El Abuelo was in my 11th grade AP Spanish class. At the time, I wasn’t aware that it was nominated for an Oscar. The film explores heavy issues surrounding war and family, but I must say El Abuelo made me fall in love with foreign cinema. A must see!
5. 8½ (1963, Fredrico Fellini)
The Criterion Collection will come to the rescue once again if you search for 8 ½. This film is a little avant-garde so you may have to take a leap of faith. Trust, this 2-time Academy Award winner, about a film director’s creative struggle, is worth the watch.
6. Biutiful (2012, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
I’m not embarrassed to admit that Biutiful made me cry. Without giving too much away, the film follows one man as he fights to provide for his family in the moments leading up to his death. It’s incredibly well acted and directed.
If that’s not enough to satisfy your craving, here are other foreign films to consider: Breathless, Circumstance, Sin Nombre, Abel, Fanny and Alexander, Like Water For Chocolate, Chico & Rita and the list could go on.
I hope you enjoy these selections! And please, post below if you have a suggestion of your own.