With COVID-19 closing down countries around the world we’ve all found ourselves spending a lot more time indoors. It makes you realise just how much of a privilege travelling really is and hopefully once this is all over I will appreciate the beauty of travel so much more. So while I have plenty of of spare time on my hands and all I can do at the moment is dream of the next trip, I’m adding a little bit of culture to my life by revisiting some of my favourite foreign language films. From new to old, check out the list below.
Let me know in the comments what you’ve seen or what you plan on watching!
1. Parasite (2019)
South Korean, Gisaengchung
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Best International Feature, Best Director and also the unexpected winner of the Best Picture award at this years’ Oscars, Parasite has gained popularity around the globe. A dark comedy with some elements of horror thrown in, it’s a story of infiltration and social class divide. A family living in Seoul struggling to make ends meet, find a way to orchestrate employment with a wealthy family. With its witty dialogue and unexpected twists, 2 hours 20 minutes absolutely flies by. This gripping piece of cinema mastery, will for sure have you seeking out more of Bong Joon-ho’s work. You can check out a more detailed review over at UpLateAtNightAgain.com. Streaming is available via Amazon Prime.
Runtime: 132 minutes
2. Capernaum (2018)
Lebanese Arabic, Capharnaüm
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Capernaum has a fairly powerful opening scene. Zain, a young boy stands in court telling a judge that he is suing his parents for giving birth to him. As the story moves from the courtroom to the series of events which led there, Capernaum can be a tough watch at times, as we watch a young boy struggle to live and survive in an unjust world. Syrian refugee Zain Al Rafeaa who was not trained in acting and who had experienced similar hardships to the central character is outstanding in his performance and he adds great authenticity to the film. For a full review head on over to UpLateAtNightAgain.com and for streaming visit Hulu or Amazon Prime.
Runtime: 123 minutes
3. A Fantastic Woman (2017)
Chilean Spanish, Una Mujer Fantàstica
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
After the unexpected passing of her partner, Marina who is transgender, has to fight to prove that she had no involvement in his death. Facing a torrent of abuse and harassment from the authorities and his unforgiving relatives, Marina is forced to defend her rights as Orlando’s grieving girlfriend and as a human being. Daniela Vega who is trans herself and plays the misunderstood Marina is outstanding in her performance. This complex and often emotional drama shows us just how closed minded society can be. To read a full review head on over to UpLateAtNightAgain.com. The film can be streamed on the Sky Store or Curzon.
Runtime: 100 minutes
4. Under the Shadow (2016)
Persian, زیر سایه
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Iranian horror, Under the Shadow is set in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war. Shideh (Narges Rashidi) lives with her family in Tehran, but when her husband is drafted by the army, Shideh is left at home alone to protect herself and their daughter, Dorsa (Avin Manshadi). Soon after her husband leaves, an unexploded missile hits their apartment block and with the horror of war and destruction, comes a supernatural force which begins to torment them. As spirits lurk in the wind and the foundations, will the family triumph over evil? You’ll have to watch to find out. There is one thing for sure, this chilling horror will have you reaching for the cushion. Under the Shadow is currently available to watch on Netflix and a more in depth can be found at UpLateAtNighAgain.com.
Runtime: 84 minutes
5. The Hunt (2012)
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Better known for his role as Hannibal Lecter, Mads Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a lonely divorcee fighting for the custody of his son. Just as things are looking up, his world comes crashing down when a little lie spreads through his small community like wildfire. As the psychological phenomenon of group-think sets in Lucas faces violence and abuse from people who were once friends. This disturbing social drama will have you on the edge your seat and shouting at your screen throughout. Will the truth come out in the end? Stream via Amazon Prime Video to find out.
6. Pot Luck (2003)
French/Spanish/English, L’Auberge Espagnol
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Ok, so this one might not be an Oscar winning masterpiece but it gets my vote purely for nostalgic reasons. For anyone who has spent an ERASMUS semester or year abroad, this film will bring back fond memories. A pretty straight lace French guy (Romain Duris) moves to Barcelona to study for a year. The film follows his journey navigating a new city, a new language and learning to live with a group of people of different nationalities. It is particularly lighthearted and definitely plays up to country stereotypes. This film might not be for everyone but it definitely takes you back to your university days and the fun, chaotic nature of young adulthood. Unfortunately, streaming doesn’t seem to be readily available in the UK but the DVD is available to buy on Amazon.
I’m French, Spanish, English, Danish. I’m not one, but many. I’m like Europe, I’m all that.
7. Amores Perros (2000)
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Loosely translating to ‘Love’s a Bitch,’ Amores Perros was Alejandro González Iñárritu’s debut film. Despite the director not being a fan of Quentin Tarantino, the film definitely has some Pulp Fiction vibes. The film follows three central stories, Octavio who is in love with his violent brother’s wife, Daniel who leaves his wife and family to live with his supermodel lover, Valeria and El Chivo, a homeless man desperately looking to make contact with his estranged daughter. These three stories of love, loss and obsession intertwine, connected by one horrific car crash. Amores Perros is tremendously acted and its powerful storytelling will take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Note that this film could be upsetting to animal lovers as the plot contains several dog fighting scenes. If you think you can stomach the gore head over to Amazon Prime to stream.
Runtime: 153 minutes
8. Battle Royale (2000)
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Set in a dystopian future, the Japanese government passes a law where by each year, school students are sent to a remote island where they are given random weapons and they are forced to fight to the death until there is only one survivor left. Sound familiar? Despite coming out in the year 2000, twelve years before the Hunger Games graced our screens, Battle Royale very much fell under the radar. With an unusual mix of comedy and gory horror, the film was not widely released due to its violent nature. Since the release of the Hunger Games film franchise, Battle Royal has been enjoying the resurgence of popularity and has even included a tongue in cheek reference in it’s own re-release.
…Without Battle Royale there would be no, The Hunger Games. This is the film that started it all.
9. La Haine (1995)
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
To many, Paris may seem like the city of love, style and charm but underneath all of this, social and economic division lurks and festers e. La Haine follows the day to day lives of three young men, Vinz (Vincent Cassel), who is Jewish, Hubert (Hubert Kounde), who is Black, and Said (Said Taghmaoui) who is Arabic. Unemployed with little prospects, they spend their days hanging around the streets often coming to blows with the police. You know it’s only a matter of time before one of the characters makes a decision which will change their lives forever. Despite the film being 25 years old now the plot remains as relevant as ever. Gritty, authentic and often unsettling, this film is a much watch. It’s available to stream via the Sky Store
Runtime: 97 minutes
10. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
No film list would be complete without reference to a Studio Ghibli film. Full disclosure, do not be fooled into thinking that this is another lighthearted anime classic. Grave of the Fireflies follows the struggle of two orphans during the final months of the Second World War. After the death of their mother, Seito and his little sister Setsuko have to fight for survival, in the war ravaged countryside of Kobe where food and shelter is in short supply.
It is the most profoundly human animated film I’ve ever seen.Ernest Rister
The film has praised by critics and its also ranked number 11 in Time Out’s ‘The 50 best World War II movies’ list (as at March 2020). At the beginning of the year it was announced that Netflix would be adding 21 Studio Ghibli films to their library. Unfortunately Grave of the Fireflies isn’t one of these, but you can find it on Amazon Prime or Hulu.
Runtime: 88 minutes
Happy binge watching!