Greatest Foreign-Language Flicks (that I need to see!)

  • Canada (in French)
  • Decline of the American Empire (1986)
  • Jesus of Montreal (1989)
  • Leolo (1992)
  • Maelstrom (2000)
  • Red Violin (1998)
  • A Sunday in the Country (1987)
  • 2 Secondes (1998)
  • The Widow of Saint-Pierre (2000)
  • .
  • China
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
  • anything by Zhang Yimou, especially Raise the Red Lantern (1992), Ju Dou (1990), and To Live (1994)
  • .
  • Czechoslovakia
  • Alice (1988)
  • Closely Watched Trains (1966)
  • The Firemen's Ball (1967)
  • .
  • France
  • Beauty and the Beast (1947)
  • Belle du Jour (1967)
  • Breathless (1960)
  • Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932)
  • The Earrings of Madame de... (1953)
  • Day for Night (1973)
  • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
  • Fall of the House of Usher (1928)
  • Forbidden Games (1952)
  • Grand Illusion (1937)
  • Jules and Jim (1961)
  • L'atalante (1934)
  • La Femme Nikita (1990)
  • Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
  • Le Samourai (1967)
  • My Life to Live (1962)
  • Orpheus (1949)
  • Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
  • Pickpocket (1959)
  • Playtime (1967)
  • Rififi (1955)
  • Rules of the Game (a.k.a. Regle du jeu) (1939)
  • A Tale of Winter (1992)
  • The Trois Couleurs trilogy: Rouge, Blanc, and Bleu (a.k.a. the Three Colors trilogy: Red, White, and Blue) (1993-94)
  • Un Chien Andalou (1929)
  • Wages of Fear (1953)
  • .
  • Germany
  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
  • Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
  • Blue Angel (1930)
  • Das Boot (1981)
  • Europa Europa (1990)
  • Last Laugh (1924)
  • M (1931)
  • Metropolis (1927)
  • Nosferatu (1922)
  • Pandora's Box (1929)
  • Stroszek (1977)
  • Wings of Desire (1987)
  • .
  • Greece
  • Eternity and a Day (1998)
  • Travelling Players (1975)
  • Ulysses's Gaze (1995)
  • .
  • Hong Kong
  • Hard Boiled (1992)
  • The Killer (1989)
  • .
  • India
  • The Apu Trilogy (1955, 1956, 1959)
  • The Music Room (1958)
  • .
  • Iran
  • The Circle (2000)
  • Color of Paradise (1999)
  • Gabbeh (1996)
  • Kandahar (2001)
  • Sib (1998)
  • Taste of Cherry (1997)
  • Where Is the Friend's Home (1987)
  • White Balloon (1995)
  • .
  • Italy
  • 8 1/2 (1963)
  • Garden of the Fitzi-Continis (1970)
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
  • L'avventura (1960)
  • La Dolce Vita (1960)
  • La Strada (1954)
  • Mediterraneo (1991)
  • Nights of Cabiria (1958)
  • Once Upon a Time in the West (a.k.a. C'era una volta il West) (1969)
  • Umberto D (1952)
  • .
  • Japan
  • Floating Weeds (1959)
  • Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
  • The Hidden Fortress (1958)
  • High and Low (1963)
  • Ikiru (1952)
  • Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)
  • Maborosi (1995)
  • My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
  • Princess Mononoke (1997)
  • Ran (1985)
  • Seven Samurai (1954)
  • Spirited Away (2002)
  • Tampopo (1985)
  • Tokyo Story (1953)
  • Woman in the Dunes (1964)
  • .
  • Mexico
  • Amores Perros (2000)
  • El Mariachi (1992)
  • The Exterminating Angel (1962)
  • .
  • Poland
  • Ashes and Diamonds (1958)
  • Dekalog (1988)
  • Man of Marble (1977)
  • .
  • Russia
  • Andrei Rublev (1969)
  • Battleship Potemkin (1925)
  • Earth (1930)
  • Ivan the Terrible Parts I and II (1945, 1958)
  • Zvenigora (1928)
  • .
  • Spain
  • All About My Mother (a.k.a Todo Sobre Mi Madre) (1999)
  • Tesis (a.k.a. Thesis) (1996)
  • .
  • Sweden
  • Cries and Whispers (1972)
  • Fanny and Alexander (1982)
  • Persona (1966)
  • Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)
  • .
  • Taiwan
  • A Brighter Summer Day (1991)
  • Yi yi (2000)
  • .
  • Multiple Countries
  • Best Intentions (1992) (Sweden / Germany / UK / Italy / France / Denmark / Finland / Norway / Iceland)
  • Lola Montes (1955) (France / Germany)
  • Pelle the Conqueror (1987) (Denmark / Sweden)
  • Together (2000) (Sweden / Denmark / Italy)
Author Comments: 

I am not very well acquainted with foreign films, and thought this list would serve as a list of many of the best ones that I should see. I have included some films here based on their reputations; feel free to add your own.

Also, although films made in Canada, UK, Australia, etc. are technically foreign films, I am not including them here.

Additions are welcome. Or subtractions, if you feel that a film up here doesn't really belong among the *really* great movies.

BTW, here are some foreign flicks I have seen:
After Life (as of 2/7/03)
Au revoir les enfants
The Bicycle Thief (as of 12/14/02)
Children of Paradise (a.k.a. Les enfants du paradis)
Chungking Express (as of 12/25/02)
Cinema Paradiso
The Closet
The Dinner Game
The 400 Blows (as of 5/29/03)
In the Mood For Love
Juliet of the Spirits (as of 7/18/03)
King of Hearts
La Cage Aux Folles
Legend of Drunken Master
Life Is Beautiful
Mr. Hulot's Holiday
Pocket Change (a.k.a. L'argent de poche)
Run Lola Run (as of some time before 5/30/02, but I just remembered to update it now)
The Seventh Seal (as of 12/23/02)
Talk to Her (see "Run Lola Run")
The Wedding Banquet
Wild Strawberries (see "Run Lola Run")
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Yojimbo (see "Run Lola Run")

P.S. Has anyone seen this 1932 film called "I Was Born But..."? I am intrigued. It's directed by Yasujiro Ozu (better known for his "Tokyo Story"), it's a silent comedy, and it has a 9.2 (!!!) rating at IMDB...although, it only has 76 votes. If you've seen it, is it really all that good? And if it is, is it nearly impossible to find?

Let me try to add one for each country:

China: I sound like a broken record, but you really can't go wrong with anything Zhang Yimou has done (although I haven't seen all his movies yet). Raise the Red Lantern is arguably his best, but it's close.

France: While perhaps not as prestigious as many of the other movies on this list, La Femme Nikita (France) is excellent.

Germany: Europa Europa - "A boy in Nazi Germany, trying to conceal that he is Jewish, joins the Hitler Youth."

India: Ah well, can't come up with one.

Italy: I was going to add Cinema Paradiso, but I just noticed you saw it already. So try Mediterraneo. I don't know why, but I suspect you'll like this one.

Japan: You already have Kurosawa well-represented, so maybe Tampopo? Been a long time since I've seen that one though.

Mexico: El Mariachi. Everybody knows Rodriguez made it for $7,000 and had to sell his own blood to finish it (or something like that) but it's really fun regardless of the budget.

I've run out of time, and thank goodness because I don't have much to say about the last three countries. :-)

Thank you for your contributions! One question: are you sure his name is Zhang Yimou? IMDB credits him as Yimou Zhang.

In Chinese you say the last name of the person first.

Yeah, dgeiser13 is right (not that you needed me to tell you that). Zhang is his surname. Apparently this causes headaches for librarians. Of the two romanization systems, it looks like the IMDb has opted for the one that flips the order to be more anglicized.

You need to add Spain to this list and see...

All About My Mother (1999)
Tesis (1996)

BTW, I don't know if it was clear from the IMDB entry but Tesis is an early film by Alejandro Amenábar who later directed Abre Los Ojos (1997) (aka Open Your Eyes), later remade as Vanilla Sky, and the Nicole Kidman movie The Others.

Mexico: Amores perros (2000), Y Tu Mamá También (2001). Actually Y Tu Mama Tambien depends. How old are you?

15, but I'll add it anyway.

Probably have to run that one by your parents. I think it's a very good movie but it's pretty saucy.

For China, I have to second Zhang Yimou. I've always slightly favored Ju Dou, but it would probably be hard to go wrong here.

For France, I admit that I have a very soft spot for many films by Eric Rohmer. Boudu Saved from Drowning is worth it, as is Beauty and the Beast and Forbidden Games.

Max Ophuls straddles both France and Germany. Murnau's The Last Laugh is one of the last German silent masterpieces.

For Italy, try two of my favs, The Garden of the Finzi Continis and Blow Up.

Japan - I'll recommend another Kurosawa, High and Low.

Taiwan - Edward Yang (Yi Yi, A Brighter Summer Day (which I haven't seen but have heard it is terrific)

Bunuel at various times made French, Spanish, and Mexican films. Un Chien Andalou is absolutely required viewing.

For Czechoslovakia, try Closely Watched Trains or Jan Svankmajer's Alice.

For Poland, Andrzej Wajda is the major figure - Ashes and Diamonds and Man of Marble are two biggies.

Russia - Next to Eisenstein, the two big ealry Russian directors are probably Alexander Dovzhenko (Earth, Zvenigora) and Vsevolod Pudovkin (Ivan the Terrible Part 1 and 2). I must make a special pitch for Andrei Tarkovsky, especially his unbelievably fantastic Andrei Rublev.

For Sweden, Fanny and Alexander is a pretty nice way to enter into Bergman's world. Victor Sjostrom's The Wind is also worth checking out.

Another major country missing here is Hong Kong - John Woo's The Killer and Hard Boiled, Wong Kar-Wai's Chungking Express (and others),

Well, there's a few. If I think of more, I'll try to post them.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Well thanks to you and dgeiser13! I certainly have my work cut out for me.

One thing, though: I didn't add "Blowup", because, according to the IMDB's page on it, its country of origin was the UK and it's in English (despite the fact that the director appears to be Italian). I will, however, add it to my "How to Succeed..." list. If you think this is in error, let me know.

It's funny, I sometimes don't count Jou Do and give To Live credit as my #2 Zhang Yimou film. I think it's because it seems to share so much with Raise the Red Lantern thematically and cinematographically (although with a different but equally-striking color palette). And I saw them pretty close to each other (RtRL first). All three movies are wonderful though, and I owe them all a rewatch. Maybe if the Criterion Collection treatment ever happens I'll buy them all (with all my extra cash just lying around) and rewatch 'em then. :-)

To Live is wonderful and certainly one of his best. It was also the first Yimou film I got to see at the theater back in 92 or 93, and the spectacle of the chase over the snow was truly breathtaking. I haven't seen The Story of Ju yet; boy, I hope Criterion or somebody can do a nice job getting this on DVD!

An interesting snippet from Mark Deming's All Movie Guide review of To Live:

"Chinese censors objected to the film's commentary about political abuses in China's past, as well as Zhang Yimou's attempts to present the film at several international festivals. As punishment, he was forced to write a formal apology and was not allowed to make another film for two years."

Did you know this? I didn't.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I didn't know that! Well, I knew he often ran afoul of censors, but I didn't know about the specifics of the To Live punishment. I just found this article which states that the original punishment was for five years, but it was lifted after two.

Ironically, from the same article, it sounds like western critics accused him of exporting propaganda with Not One Less, which prompted his angry withdrawl of the film from Cannes. Talk about stuck between a rock and a hard place.

And I have to say one more time, I can't wait for Hero.

Ohhh, hahaha. I guess you were wondering why I didn't specifically mention "Jou Do" with my Zhang Yimou entry either. It's because I thought "Jou Do" was the name of a Chinese director, but I didn't see him on IMDB! Hahaha. I'll add "Jou Do."

You might want to consider adding French-Canadian films like Jesus of Montreal which is definitely worth seeing. Perhaps a better name for this list would point towards not so much foreign, as in country, but foreign language, as in non-English.

Jesus of Montreal is certainly worth a watch, as is the same director's The Decline of the American Empire.

Lots of great recent Canadian stuff or course, but most of it that I know of is in English (Ejoyan, McKellar, Girard, etc.). Do you know more, dgeiser?

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Canadian in general?

Good French-language Canadian films. I thought I could come up with several, but it is a little tougher than I anticipated.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Well, I don't think there's a lot of them but there are some that are worthy...

Le Violon Rouge (1998) (aka The Red Violin) [D: François Girard]
Jésus de Montréal (1989) (aka Jesus of Montreal) [D: Denys Arcand]
Le Déclin de L'Empire Américain (1986) (aka The Decline of the American Empire) [D: Denys Arcand]
La Veuve de Saint-Pierre (2000) (aka The Widow of Saint-Pierre) [D: Patrice Leconte]
Léolo (1992) [D: Jean-Claude Lauzon]
2 Secondes (1998) [D: Manon Briand]

to name a few. I really don't think there are all that many. I was suprised to see that Jean-Claude Lauzon died in a plane crash. Their already small filmmaking community dwindles further.

I would also add
Maelström (2000) [D: Denis Villeneuve]

A very good French Canadian film

Oh, another country...

Denmark - Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves, etc.), and Bille August (The Best Intentions, Pelle the Conqueror),

Lukas Moodysson's Together was a co Sweden-Italy-Denmark production, I believe, and is well worth checking out.

Carl Theodor Dreyer was born in Denmark, but most of his films I have seen were French or

BTW, Breaking The Waves is an English-language film.

As far as I have been able to tell lately, Iran has been the latest country to court serious critical buzz. Abbas Kiarostami (The Taste of Cherry, Where is the Friend's Home?), Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Gabbeh, Kandahar), Majid Majidi (The Color of Paradise), and Jafar Panahi (The White Balloon, The Circle) seem to be the directors to watch.

For Greece, you might try Theo Angelopoulos (Ulysses' Gaze, Eternity and a Day, Travelling Players), who seems to be quickly ascending the critics' ladder to international auteur stardom.

Whalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Thanks, I'll add these. And whalom to you too!

I just added all the foreign-language films on Roger Ebert's Great Movies section.

Since most of your Japanese films are older, I'll suggest 1998's After Life and 1995's Maborosi, directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda and Hayao Miyazaki's animated films, such as Princess Mononoke, Kiki's Delivery Service, and My Neighbor Totoro.

I'll also resuggest Taiwan's Edward Yang (Yi Yi, A Brighter Summer Day).

W, er, Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I think "My Neighbor Totoro" is on here already, but I'll add the others.

Whoops, sorry, I must've forgotten the Edward Yang films the first time. I'll add those now.

I think my favourite German film (not that I have seen very many) is
Lola rennt (1998) [d:Tom Tykwer]

Probably one of my favourite foreign language films

i'd like to recommend a couple while we're at it:

for Iran: Sib, or The Apple which was directed by Samira Makhmalbaf, director Mohsen Makhmalbaf's 18 year old daughter. It's truly amazing--based on a true story and the principal characters are played by themselves.

and for Canada: A Sunday in the Country, a beautifully photographed and poignant family portrait which takes place in one afternoon.

I would also Reccomend Le Haine or Hate and Santa or Seventh Seal if you haven't seen it.Also their is always the heart-warming Kolya and the depressing Butterfly.