10 Of The Best Films In World Cinema

If my local multiplex is anything to go by, there is only one language in cinema - and that’s English. Indeed, precious few subtitled, world cinema movies make it anywhere near the big screen. 


In February 2016, British Film Institute (BFI)’s Sight & Sound magazine called the performance of foreign language films at cinemas in 2015 a “crushing disappointment”. The reason? Film distributors just don't feel they will get enough bang for their world cinema buck.


This is, without doubt, a travesty. We, the ticket paying audience, are being given a skewed picture of the cinema world and are also being deprived of some truly wonderful film experiences. 


For its part, BFI launched The New Release Strategy in 2016. Supported by the nine regional UK Film Hubs, this initiative aims to “expand the reach of titles that may be perceived as ‘challenging’, including foreign language films, ensuring they are seen by more people in more cinemas”.


The first two films to benefit from this scheme were Patricio Guzmán’s Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear winner, The Pearl Button, and Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s best foreign language Oscar and Golden Globe nominee Mustang.




Meanwhile, audiences seeking foreign language films are left to try their luck at a handful of art house cinemas or, of course, venture online. If you hear about an exciting new world cinema movie, it is always worth checking to see if this film is being released online at the same time.


For example, last week, Pablo Trapero’s chilling film, The Clan, was released in cinemas and via Curzon At Home’s video on demand (VOD) service. In addition, at the beginning of September, I was able to watch Mia Hansen-Løve’s superb Things To Come at home on the date of its release.  


I am so grateful for this opportunity. I just couldn’t imagine a cinematic life without foreign language films - ten of my recent favourites are listed below. 


10 Amazing Foreign Language Films

10. Amour

Michael Haneke's Oscar winning film, Amour, is a devastating tale of lasting love. It tells the story of an elderly couple - Anne and George - whose cultured life is changed forever when Anne suffers a stroke.   


Haneke's camera observes Anne's deterioration and George's struggle to care for her. It is a tough, heartbreaking watch. However, Amour is also strangely uplifting. In the midst of despair you witness the human race's phenomenal capacity for love.

Click to read my full review of Amour 

9. Our Little Sister

Filled with stunning cinematic landscapes, I fell in love with this gorgeous and warm-hearted film. This movie is a wonderful breath of fresh air, making you feel better just for watching.


Director, Hirokazu Koreeda's, film tells the story of three sisters who, after the death of their estranged father, invite their teenage half-sister, Suzu, to live with them. Suzu's arrival has a deep and lasting impact on each sister.

Click here to read my full review of Our Little Sister  

8. Mustang

Mustang is a superb, thought-provoking film about the life of five sisters who, after an innocent game on the beach, are locked away from society and prepared for an arranged marriage. However, these spirited sisters are not about to lose their freedom without a fight.

Click here for my full review of Mustang 

7. Embrace Of The Serpent

Director, Circo Guerra’s, visually stunning and deeply spiritual film, Embrace Of The Serpent, explores how the ravages of colonialism have cast a dark shadow over the South American landscape.


The movie was inspired by the real-life journals of two explorers (Theodor Koch-Grünberg and Richard Evans Schultes) who traveled through the Colombian Amazon during the last century in search of the sacred and difficult-to-find psychedelic Yakruna plant.

Click here for my full review of Embrace Of The Serpent

6. The Hunt

The Hunt, directed by Thomas Vinterberg, is a stunning film, unafraid to ask important questions of our society. Lucas' life as a nursery school assistant falls apart when he is falsely accused of inappropriate conduct by one of his children. Mads Mikkelsen is just superb in this movie.

Click here for my full review of The Hunt 

5. Of Gods And Men

Xavier Beauvois' wonderful film, Of Gods And Men, tells the true story of a group of French monks who, while living in The Monastery Notre-Dame de l'Atlas of Tibhirine in Algeria, come under threat from Islamist rebel groups.


Their lives at great risk, the monks are told to leave their monastery. However, they are reluctant to abandon their community. Each monk must examine his faith and choose to stay... or leave.

Click here for my full review of Of Gods And Men

4. Ida

Ida won the Oscar for best foreign language film in 2015. It is easy to see why. This is an important, gripping and visually stunning film from director, Paweł Pawlikowski.


In 1960s Poland, Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is a novice preparing to be a nun.

Before she can take her vows, Anna is encouraged to see her only living relative, her Aunt Wanda.


However, Wanda has shocking news. Anna is Jewish and, before her parents were killed during World War 2, she used to be called Ida. Together, the two women go

on a journey to discover what happened to their family and find out where they belong.

Click here for my full review of Ida

3. A Separation

A Separation won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2011. This is a wonderful, gem of a film about the breakdown of a marriage, familial responsibility and so much more. I was utterly, on the edge of my seat, gripped by A Separation.

Click here to read my full review of A Separation

2. Let The Right One In

To save us from the chore of actually reading subtitles, many foreign language films are remade in English. However, these remakes rarely match the atmosphere and quality of the originals. Thomas Alfredson's Let The Right One In is a case in point.


Lonely boy, Oskar, is bullied at school - horribly bullied. When Eli moves into his apartment block, Oskar wonders if she might become a friend. However, Eli warns Oskar that this cannot be - she is not what he think she is and has been 12 for a very, very long time...

Click here for my review of Let The Right One In

1. Pan's Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth is one of my all time most favourite films ever. This fairy tale (for adults) is set in a rural military outpost in post-war Spain where young Ofelia moves with her mother.


Ofelia's new home is full of danger, unimaginable cruelty and repression. She seeks refuge in her books about fairy stories and by wandering the woods nearby. It is here that she discovers a labyrinth, home to a collection of otherworldly, fantastical monsters.


The monsters believe that Ofelia is a princess, long lost to their world and promise her an escape from her miserable surroundings if she can fulfill three important tasks. 

Click here for my full review of Pan's Labyrinth

What Is Your Favourite Foreign Language Film?

Of course, this list barely scrapes the surface of world cinema (for more subtitled films just click here). However, these ten films have really stayed with me.


What do you think of this list? What is your favourite foreign language film?


Do you wish your local cinema would show more of these movies?


Let me know! Leave me a comment in the box below!


Write a comment

Comments: 4
  • #1

    Gavin (Friday, 07 October 2016 12:29)

    I love getting away from the mainstream and delving into world cinema. You just get a whole different perspective on life and because of this the films always seem fresh and vibrant. I'm a particular fan of Korean/Japanese and their take on action/horror/thriller but I have a few more sombre films on my to-watch list.
    I don't know why anyone wouldn't want to watch a foreign film, subtitles shouldn't be a barrier to the enjoyment and I'm all for more exposure of films of foreign origin.
    Great article and your selections have given me some to add to my ever burgeoning list (Of Gods and Men/Mustang)!

  • #2

    Jane (Wednesday, 12 October 2016 10:32)

    Hi Gavin, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!
    I also love Japanese horror - however, I am not so familiar with Korean scary movies - must look into that! Is there a film that you would recommend?
    I think that a lot of people worry about subtitles getting in the way of their enjoyment of a film. It is such a shame because they are missing some absolute cinematic gems.
    Let me know what you think of Mustang and Of Gods and Men!

  • #3

    Ian (Thursday, 10 August 2017 18:55)

    Some great foreign language films in your list. There is a wonderful cinema up here in Newcastle - Tyneside Cinema - which shows a great mixture of foreign and independent films. Do you ever go to the London Film Festival (October)?
    World cinema in 2017 has been particularly good. I have enjoyed:-
    The Handmaiden, The Wailing, Train to Busan, The Age of Shadows (South Korea)
    A Man Called Ove, The Midwife, Harmonium, Frantz, Heal the Living
    I despair at some of the movies coming out of Hollywood. Hope you get to see more foreign films in the future.

  • #4

    Jane (Saturday, 12 August 2017 17:35)

    Hi Ian,
    Thanks for reading! I am so jealous of your cinema in Newcastle. I often have to wait until these films come out on VOD.
    I have never been to London Film Festival. However, I intend to put that right this year!
    Your suggestions are first class. I love Train To Busan, found The Wailing highly entertaining and Heal The Living is one of my favourite films of the year so far. I cannot wait to watch The Handmaiden (think I may rent it this weekend) and A Man Called Ove.
    I agree... rather than embarking on pointless remakes, Hollywood could do with taking a leaf out of World Cinema's book and focus on the art of storytelling once again.