With the Academy Awards previously acknowledging English-language movies for their award categories, to honour deserving movies from the rest of the globe, the Oscars came up with the Foreign Film category. That led to an unspoken theme of all the countries mostly sending in movies with heart wrenching and extremely emotional subjects for the illustrious award show.
But with the major categories’ requirements changing from diversity and representation to having a US release, several foreign movies like All Quiet on the Western Front, Parasite and Roma are finally getting the spotlight at the Oscars. So, to get started on non-English releases, we have curated a list of past foreign film winners with a good mix comic and tearful watches we’d recommend you check out!
The 2019 South Korean film makes a scathing critique of the class system as a poor family decides to take advantage of a rich but naive family. When Kim Ki-woo gets a chance to tutor the Parks’ only daughter, one by one the members of their house-help start disappearing only to be replaced by Ki-woo’s family members. But the Kims’ vicarious living through the Parks is jeopardized by the sudden appearance of an old house servant.
A Fantastic Woman
The 2017 Chilean movie follows a trans woman, Marina who lives a happy life with her boyfriend Orlando. However, after his accidental death, instead of allowing Marina to grieve she becomes a suspect purely because of her gender.
Thus follows a rollercoaster of emotions as the police assume that she is a sex worker who beat Orlando to death. While she must defend herself, she must also come to terms with her lover’s unfortunate demise.
Ida, the 2013 Danish Oscar winner takes the usual road trip movie and gives us an emotional tale of introspection and pain. Years after World War 2, its effects are still seen when Anna who was orphaned during the Holocaust tries to become a nun.
Before she can take her promise, her superior tells her to find Wanda, her aunt to find the truth about herself and her parents. A novice who is about to become a nun, Anna must travel with Wanda, a prosecutor, a no-nonsense and raucous woman and the polar opposite of her to help her find her family.
The 2012 French film takes us through the crux of romance as the melodrama tells the story of Georges and Anne, a couple in their 80s. They live a happy life until one day Anne’s right side is paralysed.
His promise to her makes Georges a dutiful nurse even when he is irritated, even when she gives up hope or even when their daughter persuades them to consider a nursing home. His struggle to stick to his promise gives us a heart wrenching tale of love and life as Anne continues to worsen.
Iran’s A Separation is the 2011 foreign film winner as it tells the tale of a young child who is affected when her parents decide to separate. Following the expectations and the subsequent failure to achieve them, working couple Nader and Simin decide to divorce but the family court denies them their request.
Having displayed their true feelings, the environment at home becomes overwhelming as they must care for their daughter Termeh while also taking care of Nader’s father who has Alzheimer’s.
The Lives of Others
2006’s German entry tugged at everyone’s heartstrings as it focuses on the residents of East Berlin and the secret police that are tasked with keeping an eye on everyone and the inevitable corruption.
Wiesler is ordered to keep tabs on the writer Dreyman only to find out that the orders come from Minister Hempf who wants to get with Dreyman’s girlfriend. Wiesler is torn between following his orders and sympathising with the man he is spying on who turns out to be a simple but righteous man.
No Man’s Land
Released in 2001, the Bosnian war film follows wounded soldiers of rival camps as they are stuck in no man’s land, the area between either camp’s territory. Amidst a verbal match, as they wait for reinforcement, they find another wounded soldier who is stuck on a land mine which can explode at any given moment. In a humanitarian effort to free them, the French do their best while the trapped soldiers need to keep their tempers in check.
[trigger warning: rape]
The 1995 fantastical film from the Netherlands follows a female community in a small Dutch town after World War II which Antonia and her daughter Danielle find. As they look for intellectual and romantic companionship, they must face the struggle of incompatibility.
At the same, they must protect their found family as Antonia’s friend, Crooked Finger lives a depressing life while one of her followers, Deedee is harassed by her brother and a simpleton.
Life is Beautiful
With Roberto Benigni known to make movies that require watching them through teary eyes, the 1997 Italian tragicomedy Life is Beautiful is no different. Guido, a young Jewish man heads to Tuscany to work with his uncle Eliseo and falls for the non-Jewish girl Dora.
They live a fun and cheerful life for a few years until one day Guido and their son are taken to a concentration camp. Dora must do her best to get to them even if it means that she needs to be imprisoned in the camp.
The Tin Drum
Another war film that makes use of comedy, as well as surreal tropes, is the 1979 German film The Tin Drum. After observing his parents, the adults around him and their immature escapades, Oskar decides to just stop growing on his third birthday after he is given a tin drum.
He also ends up getting special powers like breaking glass with his scream and making the Nazi dance with his drum. This leads the little boy to go about meting out judgment wherever he sees fit.
There are obviously many worthy foreign films like the above being acknowledged by the Oscars. If there are any notable omissions that you feel should have been mentioned, let us know in the comments below!