In my senior year of high school, my English teacher announced we’d be watching an Italian film in class. I remember audibly groaning with most of my classmates. Italian? Subtitles? But…this is America! (Side-eye to my younger self.) Imagine my surprise as the film began to play and I found myself completely wrapped up, forgetting that I was reading subtitles altogether.
That film was La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful) and it has since become one of my all-time favorite movies. I am now a fully converted lover of foreign films and the diverse cultural perspectives they offer.
Here are five foreign films you can stream instantly on Netflix to add some variety to your next binge session:
1. La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful)
Duh. You think I wouldn’t put my favorite movie on this list? The film begins as pure comedy but progresses into something much more dramatic as the protagonist, Guido, and his family are sent into a Nazi concentration camp; Guido orchestrates an elaborate lie to protect his young son from the horrors of camp life. La Vita e Bella is a sweet, incredibly poignant film that highlights the power of parental love.
2. Jagten (The Hunt)
While I would certainly recommend you choose a film other than this one for your date night, this psychological drama is worth the watch. Jagten follows a teacher (Mads Mikkelson, Hannibal) who, accused of a crime that could ruin his life, grapples with the ideas of truth and lies in the chaos that follows. This is not a feel good film, but it provides brutal, honest answers to difficult but important questions.
A lighthearted, ultra-whimsical romance might be just what you need after watching The Hunt, and you’ll certainly find it in Amelie. Perhaps the most well-known film on this list, it has more whimsy and cinematic style than it does actual depth but succeeds in spite of (or perhaps because of) its uncomplicated plotline. Amelie is a love story, but it seems as though the greater love affair is actually with Paris itself, in and around which the movie takes place.
4. Cidade de Deus (City of God)
This movie is not for the faint of heart. I REPEAT, THIS MOVIE IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. That said, it is a must watch film that widens perspectives and offers a painful but very important glimpse into a life that seems worlds away from where we currently sit (comfortable and privileged in our first-world neighborhoods). Cidade de Deus tells a heartbreaking story of life in Brazilian favelas, where a spiral of murder and brutality sets young children on the path for lives of crime and violence.
5. A Coffee in Berlin
As someone who lived in Germany for several years and saw my fair share of German movies, I can say with utmost certainty that this charming film is a breath of fresh air, standing apart from Germany’s typically dark, humorless film style. Shot entirely in black and white (Why? Who knows!), the film follows a 20-something law school dropout (Tom Schilling) who cannot, for the life of him, manage to find coffee in his normally over-caffeinated city. With plenty of dry humor and just a touch of social commentary, A Coffee in Berlin is relatable and sincere but never boring.
Have you seen any of these movies? Which were your favorites? Did we miss your favorite foreign film on this list? Share below in the comments!