Top 10 Foreign Films

If you’re looking to freshen up your film repertoire, set your sights overseas. There’s a whole world of film outside of America’s borders that is often overlooked. Don’t know where to begin? Start off your fearless screenplay exploration with a few of these favorites:

10. Quick Gun Murugan (India) This irreverent Western spoof features a flashily dressed ‘cowboy’ who aims to short circuit an evil restaurant owner’s schemes to create the world’s best non-vegetarian dosa.

9. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (England) It is worth cutting down any multitude of trees with a herring if that means you would watch this quirky comedy, an extravaganza that recounts King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail.

8. El laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth) (Mexico) In this thought-provoking film, a young girl escapes from the harsh realities that surround her by embroiling herself in a complex and, at times, creepy fantasy world.

7. Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) (Germany) In a fear-ridden East Germany, a Stasi officer monitoring a playwright finds reason to help the very man he is supposed to incriminate.

6. Yi Yi (A One and a Two) (Taiwan) Spanning three generations, this heartfelt story examines the intricacies of middle-class life in Taiwan.

5. Tsotsi (South Africa) When a young man from a Soweto slum hijacks a car and discovers a baby inside, he must come to terms with his criminal lifestyle.

4. Le Roi de Couer (The King of Hearts) (France) You won’t stop laughing while watching this French film, a parody of war that makes you question who is really off their rocker – the members of the local insane asylum, or the soldiers belligerently battling in war. View trailer here.

3. The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Ireland) During the 1920s, when Ireland is seething with its war for independence, two brothers take up arms for the IRA, only to reach a dire divide as the country’s politics become more complex.

2. Hotaru no Haka (Grave of the Fireflies) (Japan) The story of a teenage boy and his young sister grappling with the consequences of WWII, this chef d’oeuvre of animation is considered one of the most poignant anti-war films of all time.

1. Ladri di Biciclette (Bicycle Thieves) (Italy) Frequently cited as one of the finest films in history, this neorealist movie has us follow a poor man as he scours the streets of Rome in search of his bicycle, a necessity for his livelihood.

What’s your favorite foreign film?


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  1. Avatar
    Lindsay (ModCloth) 05/13/2010 at 1:04 pm #

    great post! grave of the fireflies is one of my favorite movies of all time. can’t wait to check out the ones I haven’t seen.

  2. Avatar
    Katharine 05/13/2010 at 1:06 pm #

    some nice choices, good representation of countries, but I would definitely put ‘Cinema Paradiso’ on there!

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    Ellen 05/13/2010 at 1:16 pm #

    Amelie- France, or Börn (children)- Iceland

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    Leslie 05/13/2010 at 1:18 pm #

    I can’t believe Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain was not on this list!

  5. Avatar
    Jaclyn 05/13/2010 at 1:46 pm #

    Amélie is such a glaring omission!!

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    Victoria / Justice Pirate 05/13/2010 at 2:09 pm #

    OH NO!! Grave of the Fireflies is the most depressing movie ever. So much so that I sold my copy because I could only watch it once. It is wonderful though. It makes me cry a lot.

    As for Japanese (non-anime) films that would be truly RIGHT UP YOUR ALLEY because of being all about fashion, I recommend you see Kamikaze Girls!!!! My husband would recommend Kikujiro or Casshern. My favourite anime film ever is Armitage: Poly Matrix (not Dual Matrix the sequel) or Vampire Hunter D which was the frist I saw back in 1989 (oh no, I’m dating myself)!

    I can’t believe you didn’t put Run Lola Run or Advertising Rules or The Princess and the Warrior for German movies!

    You guys must not see many British films if Monty Python and the Holy Grail is your choice! oh my there are many amazing ones, not that it isn’t hilarious and wonderful and all in itself too, but out of the many greats I guess I am surprised that is the choice. hehe.I vote Oliver! as the best.

    Oh man there are definitely many. I love foreign films.

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    Julie (ModCloth) 05/13/2010 at 2:10 pm #

    Love Amelie! Also, Good bye Lenin! Is quite a good foreign film, even more so because both soundtracks are done by Yann Tiersen. I’ll have to check a few of these out!

  8. Avatar
    Angela (ModCloth) 05/13/2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Wings of Desire, or called Der Himmel Uber Berlin in it’s home of Germany is one of my favorite all time movies. It’s so beautiful!

  9. Avatar
    Katelyn Likes This 05/13/2010 at 2:34 pm #

    The lives of others was great. I liked “After the Wedding” directed by Susanne Bier. Good movie!

  10. Avatar
    drew 05/13/2010 at 2:41 pm #

    Two great films from India:
    – Monsoon Wedding
    – The Namesake

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    Braiden (ModCloth) 05/13/2010 at 2:50 pm #

    If you love Bicycle Thieves, check out my favorite film, Umberto D (also made by De Sica).

  12. Avatar
    Kate (ModCloth) 05/13/2010 at 3:23 pm #

    Wow, I haven’t seen most of these (a few I hadn’t even hear of)… I guess I should check them out!

    ‘Monty Python & the Holy Grail’ and ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ definitely belong on the list. I’d also add ‘Amelie’ and ‘Good Bye Lenin!’ ‘Run Lola Run’ is another excellent pick.

    Some films that haven’t been mentioned:
    ‘Delicatessen’ and ‘City of Lost Children’ (France – both by the director of Amelie)
    ‘Shaun of the Dead’ (UK – HILARIOUS!!)
    ‘Howl’s Moving Capture’ (Japan – a wonderful fairy tale)
    ‘Hum Tum’ (India – something of a chick flick, actually)
    ‘The Triplets of Belleville’ (France)
    ‘Strictly Ballroom’ (Australia)

    And on the more serious side:
    ‘Matador’ (1986 – Spain)
    ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ (India)
    ‘Life is Beautiful’ (Italy)

  13. Avatar
    Emily 05/13/2010 at 4:35 pm #

    YES YES To Wings of Desire – sooo amazing.

    Also, “Let the Right One In” a funky horror movie from Sweden. The US remake is coming out relatively soon, but this is an AMAZING movie.

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    rhea 05/13/2010 at 4:41 pm #

    City of Lost Children (La cité des enfants perdus) was my first foriegn movie and I love strange, dark and foriegn now.

    The Orphanage (El orfanato) so good can’t stop watching it…

    Spirited Away

    I could keep going…

  15. Avatar
    Sirona 05/13/2010 at 4:49 pm #


  16. Avatar
    Sari (ModCloth) 05/13/2010 at 4:49 pm #

    Awesome List! Bicycle Thieves is one of top 5 favorite movies of all time!
    Also on that list
    400 Blows- Truffaut (France) amazing film!

    runners up:
    Blow up (England)

    Masculine Feminine -Godard (France)

    Weekend- also Godard

    Love Me If You Dare (France)

    Shawn of the Dead

  17. Avatar
    Elle 05/13/2010 at 6:24 pm #

    I don’t consider UK movies to be “foreign”, they’re in English!

    However, foreign language films that are missed from this list are:

    Slumdog Millionaire (India)
    Spirited Away (Japan)
    Mar Adentro/The Sea Inside (Spain)
    Amelie (France)
    Let the Right One In (Sweden)
    Persepolis (France)
    Oldboy (South Korea)
    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (France)
    La Vie en Rose (France)
    Life is Beautiful (Italy)
    The Barbarian Invasions (France)

    I could probably keep going but I’ll stop there.

  18. Avatar
    Alessandra 05/13/2010 at 7:11 pm #

    The Secret of Their Eyes (Its an Argentinian film)

  19. Avatar
    Alessandra 05/13/2010 at 7:11 pm #

    HO and also “In Juli” – it’s a German-Turkish film

  20. Avatar
    Linzy 05/13/2010 at 8:11 pm #

    Pan’s Labyrinth was actually from Spain.

    There are a lot of great movies not on this list.
    La Vie e Bella(Italy)
    Eat, Drink, Man, Woman(China)
    Sliding Doors(England)
    The Science of Sleep(France)
    Paris J’Taime(France)
    City of God(Brazil)
    Not to mention every Hayao Miyazaki film.

  21. Avatar
    Kit 05/14/2010 at 12:10 am #

    Oh my goodness! You don’t have any Australian films?! What about: “Shine”, “Romulus, My Father”, “Samson and Delilah”, “Rabbit Proof Fence”? I could go on all day! (the last two, I suppose, might not be able to be understood if you don’t know australia’s history/culture)
    lol I do love Monty Python!! I would have expected to see more English films in this list. I suppose you have to keep it balenced.
    Oh and “Life is beautiful” Is a wonderful Italian film, please watch it!!

  22. Avatar
    Sydney 05/14/2010 at 12:18 am #

    My favorite foreign films:

    *Almost anything by Hayao Miyazaki (especially Princess Mononoke)


    *House of Flying Daggers

    *Shaun of the Dead


    *Slumdog Millionaire

    *Kamikaze Girls

    *Life is Bautiful

    *Curse of the Golden Flower

    *Goodbye Lenin

  23. Avatar
    Laurel 05/14/2010 at 1:11 am #

    Lagaan, Vitus, Mostly Martha, Kinamand, To Live, and Strictly Ballroom are some good ones too!

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    Misty 05/14/2010 at 1:21 am #

    Let the Right One In I believe it’s origin is Sweden, and it’s a REAL vampire movie, not any of that twilight BS ;P

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    Eliza 05/14/2010 at 5:40 am #

    Thank you for not making this typical “girly” movies – in that case Amelie was probably a deliberate omission. Anyone who liked Goodbye Lenin would enjoy Daniel Bruhl in the Edukators with the always amazing Julia Jentsch (who Americans would know from Sophie Scholl: the Final Days).

  26. Avatar
    Rachel 05/14/2010 at 8:53 am #

    a bunch of my favorite foreign films have already been mentioned so i won’t repeat. waking ned divine was absolutely hilarious! billy elliot is wonderful too

  27. Avatar
    Jenn (ModCloth) 05/14/2010 at 10:29 am #

    Loving all these recommendations! I can’t wait to check some of these out!

  28. Avatar
    jodi 05/14/2010 at 11:07 am #

    TOO many foreign films to list.
    two that come to mind that i didn’t see mentioned…

    Suna no onna (Woman in the Dunes) – Japan

    Se, jie (Lust, Caution) – China

    i’m primarily a sucker for French movies, but these are ones that really stand out in my mind.

  29. Avatar
    Angela (ModCloth) 05/14/2010 at 1:49 pm #

    @ Misty- Let the Right One In was so good! Scary, but good! 🙂

  30. Avatar
    Kate 05/14/2010 at 6:13 pm #

    Hooray for a Grave of the Fireflies mention! This is a great, very important, very heartbreaking, film.

  31. Avatar
    Alyssa 05/14/2010 at 7:16 pm #

    I agree that Amelie, Spirited Away, and Slumdog Millionaire should be on there. I also think Pan’s Labyrinth should be higher on the list.

  32. Avatar
    Laura 05/15/2010 at 12:22 am #

    Amelie, of course, and my favorite film of all time – Life is Beautiful!

  33. Avatar
    Cate 05/16/2010 at 3:53 am #

    Mon Oncle Antoine!
    The Hanging Garden!
    The Trotsky!

    Let’s qualify Canadian films as foreign, please.
    PS, ‘Barbarian Invasions’ is a French-Canadian film, not a French one. 🙂

  34. Avatar
    Charlotte 05/16/2010 at 5:02 am #

    Lots of people have already mentioned some of the movies I would add to the list, but no one has mentioned any Turkish films!
    For some excellent ones from my adopted home country:
    Viziontele (about the first TV in a village in the east)
    Organize Isler (about organized and not so organized criminals 😉
    G.O.R.A- carpet seller gets abducted by aliens (hilarious)
    Hokkabaz- about a magician duo
    Issiz Adam- a love story and very famous
    Recep Ivedik 1,2,3- comedies featuring a guy who is a ‘macho’ from the east (the US equivalent of a redneck) who tries to make it in western Istanbul.

  35. Avatar
    Charlie 05/16/2010 at 5:26 am #

    I would add these:

    Love Me If You Dare (France)
    Together (China)
    Behind the Sun (Brazil)

    and some great Bollywood
    Main Hoon Na
    Khabie Khushi Kabhie Gham
    Kal Ho Na Ho
    Veer Zaara
    Rab Ni Bana Di Jodi
    *yes, I am a Shah Rukh Khan fan*

  36. Avatar
    Rebecca 05/16/2010 at 11:36 am #

    MICMACS! It’s just been released (or is about to be released). Classic Jeunet… the same director who did Amelie (which should also be on this list, as everyone before me has noted)

  37. Avatar
    jb 05/16/2010 at 1:38 pm #

    Still missing:

    The Seventh Seal — easily one of the best movies of all time, let alone just foreign movies.

    Amores Perros — the second most haunting movie I’ve ever seen (after Requiem for a Dream; the book is still better). Iñárritu is just that good when he’s on.

  38. Avatar
    margaine 05/16/2010 at 5:04 pm #

    In the Mood for Love (Hong Kong) is one of the best movies.

    I disagree that Rabbit Proof Fence is only understandable if you are already familiar with Australia’s history and culture. To the contrary, I think it teaches a lot to those (like me) who were previously unfamiliar.

    Also films by Peter Weir would be nice to see from Australia.

  39. Avatar
    Jo 05/16/2010 at 5:18 pm #

    Lovers of the Arctic Circle is my favorite. I’m Canadian, so American films are foreign to me. Try this Canadian titles: The Decline of the American Empire/ Barbarian Invasions by Denys Arcand; Kissed by Lynn Stopkewich; Last Night by Don McKellar; Hard Core Logo by Bruce McDonald; and everything from David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan!!

  40. Avatar
    Nina 05/16/2010 at 6:24 pm #

    The original, British Death At a Funeral is wonderful.

  41. Avatar
    Jill 05/16/2010 at 9:56 pm #

    Amores Perros (Mexico)

    and, The Happiness of the Katakuri (Japan).. ok, it’s definitely not one of the best foreign films ever made.. but when you can combine dancing, singing, zombies, humans and claymation, then you’ve got yourself a pretty fantastic movie!

  42. Avatar
    Erin 05/17/2010 at 2:01 am #

    Just to clarify, Slumdog Milionaire is a UK film, not an Indian one. And has already been corrected, The Barbarian Invasions is a Canadian film, not French. Pan’s Labyrinth in a Mexico-Spain co-production.

    And finally, while I think the concept of “foreign film” only further alienates the film market and gives people the impression that these are “other” films, instead of just films, my favourites are La Jetee, Rashomon, Cache, and Panora’s Box,

  43. Avatar
    mar 05/17/2010 at 11:46 am #

    waltz with bashir (israel), 25 watts and whisky (uruguay), el secreto de sus ojos (argentina)
    anything by almodovar (especially his earliest works), the french new wave/italian neo-realism, wim wenders (germany), claudia llosa (peru), lucia puenzo and lucrecia martel (both from argentina)

    and lots more!

  44. Avatar
    Heather 05/20/2010 at 11:45 am #


  45. Avatar
    Chelsea 05/21/2010 at 12:54 am #

    I ran a foreign film night during high school for three years and watched some wonderful films.
    -The triplets of bellville (french)
    -Mosltly Martha (German)
    -Outsourced (Indian?)
    -Bride and Prejudice (Indian)
    -Ladron que roba a ladron (Mexican)
    -200 pound buety ( Korean)
    – Suicide Club (Japan)
    Shaun of the Dead (brtish)
    – eath at a Funeral the origianal britis oe)

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