For decades, Hollywood has been synonymous with film. Since most major films come from the Hollywood studio system, it is easy to forget that there are plenty of amazing stories that are made in other parts around the globe. Below is a list of 10 outstanding foreign films that represent some of the finest films made outside of the United States.
Nosferatu dir. F. W. Murnau (1922) – Germany
Despite being almost 100 years old, Nosferatu still packs plenty of frightening visuals that stand up even to today’s standards. Murnau’s silent horror masterpiece is one of the most influential vampire films of all time, and deservedly so. Max Schreck’s Count Orlok is a visually terrifying creature who has become an icon that is still referenced today (the Nickelodeon show, Spongebob Squarepants used footage from Nosferatu in the episode titled, “Graveyard Shift”).
Suspiria dir. Dario Argento (1977) – Italy
Dario Argento’s Suspiria has become somewhat of a “cult classic” as time has gone by. Suspiria is the story of an American ballet student who transfers to a prestigious dance school in Germany, only to discover that the academy is a cover for an evil being. Argento’s film is filled with awe-inspiring camera work and very vivid colors that make the film be as beautiful as it is terrifying. Expect to hear more and more about this horror masterpiece this year, when Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria re-imagining hits theaters in the fall.
Cinema Paradiso dir. Giuseppe Tornatore (1988) – Italy
Cinema Paradiso is an unconventional love story. It isn’t really a “boy meets girl” type of movie, although there is some of that to be found here. Instead, it is a love story about a boy and film. Rather than focusing on the art of filmmaking, it focuses on the movies themselves and how they affect the film’s protagonist. This is the ultimate love-letter to cinema and it is a must see for anyone who loves film.
Amores Perros dir. Alejandro G. Iñárritu (2000) – Mexico
Long before becoming the first Mexican director to win back to back Best Director Oscars (and only the third director to ever do it), Alelejandro G. Iñárritu received a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film for his film, Amores Perros. The film uses three separate stories that come to a head in a fateful car accident in order to explore the depths of Mexican society. The film explores themes of loyalty, violence and inequality, using dogs in every story as a way to emphasize these themes. It is a harrowing film that flawlessly intertwines three separate stories, and it is a wonderful debut film for a director who would go on to make history just 15 years later.
Trouble Every Day dir. Claire Denis (2001) – France
When coming up with this list, I knew that French director Claire Denis had to be included. Throughout her career, she has made some truly remarkable films. Films such as 35 Shots of Rum, Chocolat and White Material are all worth watching, and I would highly recommend doing so. For the purpose of this list, however, I have chosen her one horror film, Trouble Every Day. Trouble Every Day is one of the most terrifying films that most people have never seen. It’s a shame, because it is a body horror masterpiece. At first glance, Trouble Every Day appears to be just another gory cannibal film. If you can look past that, however, you will find a thoughtful and innovative riff on the vampire genre. The story follows a man and a woman who after being subjected to scientific experiments, they are left with an insatiable thirst for blood. It is extremely hard to watch, but if you can stomach it, you will not be disappointed.
Spirited Away dir. Hayao Miyazaki (2001) – Japan
Spirited Away is widely considered to be one of the best animated films of all time, a notion that is difficult to argue against. It is the story of Chihiro, a young girl who moves to a new town, leaving all of her friends behind. After her father takes a wrong turn, Chihiro and her parents find themselves transported to a magical world. When her parents turn into pigs after devouring the food at an empty restaurant, Chihiro must find a way to turn her parents back to normal and return to the real world. It is a delightful and honest story about growing as a person and adapting to change. Spirited Away is a beautiful example of the wonderful worlds our minds are able to create.
La Misma Luna dir. Patricia Riggen (2007) – Mexico
La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon) stars Kate del Castillo, Eugenio Derbez and Adrian Alonso in this incredibly powerful drama a young boy, Carlitos, who crosses the border illegally in order to reunite with his undocumented mother who is living in Los Angeles. In his journey, Carlitos enlists the help of farm-worker Enrique (Derbez) who agrees to help him get to his mother. There aren’t very many films that openly discuss what it is like to be an undocumented immigrant in the United States, and even fewer discuss it as tenderly and earnestly as this film does. La Misma Luna is a film that will make you laugh and make you cry. It is a story that speaks about what the power of love can make us do. By the end of it, your heart will soar.
3 Idiots dir. Rajkumar Hirani (2009) – India
3 Idiots is a brilliant addition to the coming-of-age genre. It follows three friends as they navigate through the social pressures that come with being part of the Asian education system. The film jumps back and forth between the past and present, seamlessly intertwining both storylines together as we are taken on a journey fueled by the friendship our three protagonists developed in their time as college students. 3 Idiots is a tender and hilarious story about friendship that challenges the general perceptions about what it means to be successful. This film became so popular that it garnered multiple remakes from other countries, including the equally great Mexican version titled, 3 Idiotas.
What We Do in the Shadows dir. Taika Waititi (2014) – New Zealand
Nowadays, you might know Taika Waititi for his extraordinary job in directing the Marvel film, Thor: Ragnarok. Four years before that, however, he began his rise to fame with his vampire horror-comedy mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows. The film, in which he also stars, follows a group of vampires living together in a New Zealand flat. Throughout the film, this odd group of friends share what it’s like to live day-to-day as vampires. It is hilarious and shows off the type of witty comedy that Taika Waititi is known for. For non-horror fans, this is a wonderful first step if you are trying to get into the genre. Despite its silliness, What We Do in the Shadows is one of the very best vampire films to come out this decade, and it deserves to be seen.
Camino a Marte dir. Humberto Hinojosa Ozcariz (2017) – Mexico
Camino a Marte, which literally translates to Road to Mars, is also a play on words that can be translated to “the road to loving you”. It’s a fitting name for this charming road-trip drama. The film follows Emilia, who is on the verge of dying from cancer, and her best friend, Violeta. Together, they embark on a journey through Baja California in order to get to Emilia’s favorite beach. Along the way they meet Mark, a mysterious man who claims to be an alien from Mars. Despite Violeta’s concerns, Emilia lets Mark tag along for the adventure. Camino a Marte is a fantastic story about love, friendship, and even manages to make you think about your place in the universe. It may sound like a weird premise, but it is a wonderfully unique story filled with humor and feel-good moments.
The beautiful part about film is that it is universal. Hollywood may be the epicenter of the film industry, but that doesn’t mean it is the only place for films to be made. That is the purpose of this list, to help you connect with some of the most incredible stories that have been made outside of Hollywood. Most of these films are easily accessible through various streaming platforms. If any of these films seem even a little bit interesting, I urge you to seek them out. You won’t be disappointed.