10 Best Foreign Films of All Time | TheReviewGeek Recommends

Ever feel like you’re in a movie rut, watching the same old Hollywood blockbusters and franchises over and over? Maybe it’s time to shake up your streaming queue and experience the magic of world cinema. Some of the most creative, thought-provoking, and visually stunning films were produced outside of the US. We scoured reviews from critics and audiences alike to find the absolute best foreign language films of all time.

These 10 movies will transport you to new cultures, expose you to different ways of storytelling, and remind you why cinema is such a powerful art form. From Japanese classics to Italian thrillers to mind-bending sci-fi, this list has something for every film fan looking to broaden their horizons. So grab your popcorn, turn on the subtitles, and get ready for an adventure. These films are about to change the way you think about movies.

Best Foreign Films
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, Spain)

Pan’s Labyrinth is a dark fantasy set in 1944 Spain. This film blends mythology and history in a moving story of a young girl named Ofelia.

In the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Ofelia and her pregnant mother move into an old mill with her stepfather, a sadistic army officer. While her mother rests, Ofelia explores the labyrinth behind the mill, meeting magical creatures along the way.

Best Foreign Films
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, China)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a visual masterpiece that ignited interest in wuxia films outside of Asia. Set in 18th-century Qing China, the story follows two warriors as they hunt for a legendary sword called the Green Destiny.

The cinematography is breathtaking, using wire-fu to showcase gravity-defying fight scenes and stunts. The film is also a poignant study of duty, love, and loss. At the centre is the conflict between Yu Shu Lien, a renowned warrior, and Jen, the rebellious daughter of a nobleman who runs off to learn martial arts.

Best Foreign Films
Amelie (2001, France)

Amelie is a whimsical romantic comedy that captured the hearts of audiences around the world. Set in Paris, the film follows Amelie, an innocent and naive girl who decides to change the lives of those around her for the better.

Amelie was raised by eccentric parents and grew up without many friends, relying on her imagination for entertainment. As a young woman, she gets a job as a waitress in a cafe and lives alone in an apartment. Amelie discovers a box of old toys hidden by a boy decades earlier and returns them to their now-elderly owner, sparking her desire to spread kindness anonymously around Paris.

Best Foreign Films
Run Lola Run (1998, Germany)

The classic German thriller Run Lola Run is one of the most creative foreign films of all time. In the film, Lola needs to quickly raise and deliver 100,000 Deutschmarks to save her boyfriend Manni from the mobsters he works for. She only has 20 minutes to navigate the streets of Berlin and get him the money.

To make things more interesting, the story is told in three different ways based on split-second choices Lola makes that lead to different outcomes. Each version has the same beginning and end, but the middle unfolds in completely different ways. This innovative storytelling technique will keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what small change will alter events next.

Best Foreign Films
Oldboy (2003, South Korea)

Oldboy is a South Korean thriller film directed by Park Chan-wook. Released in 2003, it is the second instalment of The Vengeance Trilogy, following Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.

The story follows Oh Dae-su, who is imprisoned in a hotel room for 15 years without knowing the identity of his captor or the reason for his imprisonment. When he is finally released, he seeks vengeance against his tormentor and tries to find the reason behind his capture.

Best Foreign Films
Life Is Beautiful (1997, Italy)

This 1997 Italian film from director Roberto Benigni won three Academy Awards, including Best Foreign Language Film. It follows the story of Guido Orefice, a Jewish Italian bookshop owner, who employs his fertile imagination to shield his son from the horrors of internment in a Nazi concentration camp.

Set during World War II, the movie is a tragicomic tale of the indomitable human spirit. Guido and his young son become separated from his wife Dora when they are taken from their home and deported to a concentration camp. Determined to shelter his son from the evils around them, Guido convinces him that the camp is just an elaborate game.

Best Foreign Films
Spirited Away (2001, Japan)

Spirited Away (2001) is a fantastical animated film by famed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. This whimsical coming-of-age story follows 10-year-old Chihiro as she stumbles upon a mysterious abandoned amusement park inhabited by spirits. When her parents are turned into pigs after eating the park’s enchanted food, Chihiro must rely on new friends to figure out how to free them.

Filled with strange and imaginative creatures, Spirited Away is a visual masterpiece. Miyazaki’s signature hand-drawn animation style is on full display, with colourful spirits, fantastical environments, and whimsical character design around every turn. Underneath the magical surface, however, are meaningful themes of independence, courage in adversity, and environmentalism.

Best Foreign Films
Seven Samurai (1954, Japan)

One of acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa’s most renowned films, Seven Samurai is considered a landmark in world cinema. Set in 16th-century Japan, the story follows a village of farmers who hire seven rōnin (masterless samurai) to defend them against bandits.

Each of the samurai is a memorable character, from the wise leader Kambei to the temperamental Kikuchiyo. Although they come from different backgrounds, the seven band together to protect the helpless villagers. The climactic battle scene in the rain is a visceral display of swordsmanship and teamwork.

Best Foreign Films
The Lives of Others (2006, Germany)

The Lives of Others is a 2006 German film that takes place in East Berlin in 1984. It centres around the secret police, the Stasi, and their constant surveillance of citizens. Specifically, it follows a Stasi agent named Gerd Wiesler who is assigned to spy on a playwright named Georg Dreyman and his girlfriend, the actress Christa-Maria Sieland.

At first, Wiesler approaches his assignment with cold, detached professionalism. But as he listens in on the couple’s private lives and conversations over time, he starts to become attached to and care for them. He realizes that they are not threats to the state, just two people living their lives and finding moments of beauty where they can. His loyalties become torn between the oppressive East German government he serves and the humanity he sees in his targets.

Best Foreign Films
Tokyo Story (1953, Japan)

Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story is a poignant film that explores familial relationships in post-World War II Japan. The plot revolves around an elderly couple who travel to Tokyo to visit their grown children, only to find themselves treated as an inconvenience.

As the couple shuffle between their indifferent offspring, the film offers a subtle critique of the weakening of traditional family bonds in the face of modernization. Yet Ozu’s vision remains very humanist, with empathy for each character and the societal forces shaping them.

Have you seen any of these movies? Do you agree with our picks? Let us know in the comments below.


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