5 Hit Foreign-Language Movies to Get You Into International Cinema


If the thought of subtitles are enough to turn you off watching a particular film, to put it simply: you’re missing out – big time. Let’s open an array of cinema for you, shall we?

If you and/or perhaps a buddy is thinking about dipping a toe into the ocean of ridiculously impressive films available from all over the world, we may have just the right sampler for you to get started. Admittedly, it’s a little hard to know where to start if you’re just getting started with foreign cinema; so. many. options.

Well, we’ve lined up a few foreign-language features that were hits, films arguably more on the mainstream side of cinema, to bring you into the fold. No mind-bending, ultra-challenging, foreign arthouse pictures… at least not yet. From the dangerous gang life on the streets of Brazil’s favelas, to Hitler’s final days in his Berlin bunker, here are five acclaimed foreign-language films that you need to add to your must-see list…

City of God

This Rio-set masterpiece blew audiences and critics away throughout 2002 and 2003, earning rave reviews and scoring four Academy Award nominations, including a nod for director Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener). This potent, based-on-true-events crime-drama follows two boys growing up on the violent streets of Rio de Janeiro’s neighbourhoods, and the two very different paths they take. Some of the brutality isn’t easy to take, but this is one energetic, engrossing picture that demands to be seen. Get on it.

The Intouchables

Talk about a hit. French feel-good picture The Intouchables was a gigantic smash in its home country and aced it across the world, raking in an impressive $US426.5 million worldwide, putting it up there among the highest-grossing non-English language movies of all time. Based on a true story, this comedy-drama tells the story of a quadriplegic aristocrat (a fantastic François Cluzet) who hires a young man from the projects (a great Omar Sy) to be his caregiver. It’s not an absolutely perfect film, especially when the emotionally calculated plot hits its more obvious beats, but it’s just oh-so likeable. Not all the critics were on board, but audiences certainly were: it currently stands as the 38th highest-rated movie on IMDB according to user votes.

Train to Busan

One for the zombie lovers out there. BUT, it ain’t just for those that love films crowded with the walking dead. South Korean picture Train to Busan offers horror, action, humour and surprising drama in one kinetic vehicle… which is a train here. The plot finds a group of passengers aboard a train from Seoul to Busan attempt to survive a zombie virus that’s rapidly engulfing the country. It’s a high-energy zombie flick, and it’s one of the best out there.


Far from a joyful outing, Downfall depicts the last few days of Adolf Hitler towards the end of WWII. Bruno Ganz gives an outstanding performance as the Nazi dictator in a powerful film that manages to somewhat humanise one of history’s most despicable monsters, but to never excuse him. It’s more than just Hitler, though, as we also follow those that seem set to go down with the Führer. And yes, this is the film that spawned a huge number of angry Hitler viral videos – just don’t let that ruin the very serious moments on offer here. It’s a very strong, moving, layered war film, one that was rightly nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2005 Academy Awards.


Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou had seen critical success with touching films such as The Road Home and Not One Less, but it was the historical action-drama Hero that really pushed him into the spotlight. Quentin Tarantino helped the big-budget film (the most expensive Chinese film ever made at the time) to get distribution in the US, where it opened at number 1. The film was a critical and box office smash, which won’t come as much of a surprise when you see it. It’s visually glorious, with absolutely luscious cinematography, sets and costumes, plus it also features some truly epic action sequences. Some of the wired aerobatics may be a touch dated nowadays, but that’s a minute qualm when you have a film with an absorbing narrative, Asia superstars Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, and Zhang Ziyi, among others, and grand, operatic style in every frame. It’s great cinema.


There you have it, five great films that will hopefully drive you/your buddy to search out more movies from other countries and cultures. There’s a big world of cinema out there; experience as much of it as you can.