Film, TV + Theatre

Round up: Best of foreign films

Around the world


By Buro247

Round up: Best of foreign films

Those who have experienced the endearing scenes of Japanese anime or danced along to the vivacity of Bollywood’s films can agree that not all the finest movies are in English. It’s only when we reluctantly move outside of our comfort zones that we stumble upon the arresting yet regrettably disregarded world of foreign films. 

Despite the reality that a hefty amount of the movies that make it into Hollywood and thus gain international recognition are in English, this list of films challenge our cinematic norms, opening our eyes into a realm where subtitles do not hinder the film’s true essence. To save your time and energy, we’ve rummaged long and hard to compile a list of our favourite films from around the globe. In no particular order, below are the movies whose splendour doesn’t get lost in translation.


 German: The Lives of Others (2006)

Set in 1984 East Germany ruled by the GDR, the film centres on a meticulous Stasi officer who whilst conducting surveillance becomes emotionally drawn into the lives of his subjects. Diverging from the conventional spy films, this multi-award-winning motion picture reconnoitres the importance of abiding to one’s true identity through the protagonist’s gradual yet stirring transformation within a rigid and controlling society.


Chinese: To Live (1994)

Following the mishaps of a man, who’s gambling addiction and bad fortune bring him and his family from prosperity to peasantry, the film shadows the family’s struggle for survival. Spanning over four decades of China’s history, this energetic drama not only focuses on the families’ internal difficulties, but also the plights of adapting to changes in the nation’s political supremacy. Being the Grand Prize winner of the 1994 Cannes Film Festival as well as the recipient of the Best Foreign Language Film award at the 1995 BAFTA Awards, the movie delivers an honest lesson on hardship and perseverance.  


French: Amelié (2001)

Dedicated to helping those around her in the most charming ways, Amelié unexpectedly reaches her own discovery of love. Featuring Audrey Tautou, who portrays the delightfully naïve protagonist, the whimsical comedy refreshes its audiences by bringing in a cheeky and artistic direction to the screen. Together with its impeccable soundtrack that captures the quirkiness of the quintessential French lifestyle, the witty plot ensures that the movie is more than just an engaging visual carousel. 


French: Intouchables (2011)

Based on a true story, this award-winning film takes us on a stimulating journey to show how two disparate characters from opposite worlds can form the most unlikely yet beautiful friendship. A fusion of drama and uplifting humour, this French motion picture explores the themes of trust and friendship between an ex-con and physically disabled millionaire, teaching its audience the importance of abandoning prejudices and looking deeper than just the surface.


Indian: Three Idiots (2009)

In search of their long lost friend, two college buddies revisit their days of idiocy, drama and laughter in hopes of uncovering the truth. Alongside its unforced humour and perfect assimilation of catchy songs (*cue music- Aal izz well*), the Hindi film bounces back and forth between the past and present to enthral its audience as it embarks upon the insightful theme of “self-actualization”.


Italian: Life is Beautiful (1997)

This Italian classic has been labelled as one of the ‘must-see’ movies in all of filmmaking history. Set during the Holocaust, the movie centres on a man who shields his son from the realities of the concentration camp in hopes of giving his son the childhood that every child rightfully deserves. As indicated by its title, the film imparts an important lesson to its audience, encouraging us to look past the imperfections of the world and look to it in a more positive light.


Italian: The Bicycle Thief (1948)

Still captivating viewers more than 65 years since it was released, this Italian film is considered as one of the most prominent works of the Neo-realism movement. Set in post WWII Rome, a poverty-stricken man and his young son roam the streets in search for his stolen bicycle, the necessary means for his job. Revered as not only as one of the greatest foreign films but also as one of the best movies in history, the film’s humble storyline is enriched by a heartfelt father-son relationship that evolves as the story progresses. 


Japanese: Battle Royale (2002)

Before The Hunger Games was born, this controversial Japanese thriller took bloodbath to an unsurpassed level of raw cruelty. The film is set in a dystopic world in which the Japanese government endorses the BR Law—an annual act that requires one 9th grade class to be transported to a remote island where the students are forced to kill each other until there is only one survivor left. Crowned in all its twisted glory, this film boasts an honorary mention by auteur—Quentin Tarantino who claims that this is the one movie he wished he’d made.  For all those who seek violence, adventure and a hint of jest, this ice-cold masterpiece should be your go-to film. 


Japanese: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

When people think Japanese anime, there’s no surprise that Hayao Miyazaki pops into mind. Amongst the marvellous collection of Studio Ghibli creations, we opted for what we believe to be his finest yet underappreciated work to-date. Created by the genius behind the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, this undervalued gem touches our hearts with its charming soundtrack, unprecedented humour and breath-taking illustrations. In just the span of 119 minutes, the film sweeps its audiences with its unpredictable plot featuring wizards, fire demons and a moving steam punk castle, all during the chaos of a civil war.


Brazilian: City of God (2002)

The film embarks upon a devastating yet truthful depiction of the slums of Rio, taking us deep into the chaos and daily violence that engulf the citizens. From the crime-driven neighbourhood, the film traces the path of the protagonist whose photography career crosses over into the domain of a crazy drug lord. Employing a non-linear narrative, the film not only keeps you on the edge of your seats but also possesses an aura that instils the same response despite the number of times you re-watch it.


Korean: Old Boy (2003)

Based on the Japanese manga by Garon Tscuhiya, this award-winning action thriller embodies just about everything that is needed to epitomise the ideal film-noir. Imprisoned in a hotel room for 15 years without explanation, the movie follows the vengeance-thirsty protagonist on his quest for answers, which he must gather in just five days. With a hint of romance woven between the gut-spilling gore, some would say that this masterpiece puts Tarantino’s work under its shadow.


Spanish: Pan’s Labryinth (2006)

Named as one of Del Toro’s masterpieces, this unrelenting fairy-tale follows a young girl, who is believed to be a legendary lost princess, on her quest to complete three tasks to acquire immortality. Set in Franco’s Spain in 1944, the film audaciously blurs the line between twisted fantasy and the searing horrors of the civil war to craft a dark yet enchanting fable. At the apex of filmmaking innovation, the film is saturated with rich connotations of war and religion, dexterously concealed beneath its mind-blowing visuals and imaginative script.



Explore More