Films

From playful modern Bollywood films to Italian cinematic classics, we’ve put together a list of the best foreign films to watch now, in honor of the 2016 Oscars just around the corner. Bonus: Aside from this year’s nominees, many of the films on our list are available on Netflix instant-play, so you can start your international cinema binge watching as fast as you can hit play! 

Let’s start with the 2016 Oscar Nominees for Best Foreign Language Film. 

A War (2015)

This Danish film directed by Tobias Lindholm recounts the story of a military company stationed in Afghanistan that is captured by the Taliban and their commander accused of war crimes. The movie focusses on Claus, while he is away at war, and his wife, Maria, back home in Denmark caring for their three children and holding everyday life together.  

Embrace the Serpent (2015)

Colombian writer-director Ciro Guerra spent two years on and off living in the Amazon to research his latest adventure drama starring Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman, and the last survivor of his people. Karamakate works with two scientists, Theodor Koch-Grunberg from Germany, and an American, Richard Evans Schultes, over the course of 40 years, searching the Amazon for a sacred healing plant.  

Mustang (2015)

Set in a the village of Inebolu, in Turkey’s Kastamonu province, the French film chronicles the story of five orphaned sisters and their lives in a restrictive and conservative society. But one day, when the sisters’ innocent play with the opposite sex sets off a local scandal, their already restrictive lifestyle becomes even more controlled. 

Son of Saul (2015)

Laszlo Nemes’s first feature, and this year’s “Best Foreign Language Film” Golden Globe winner, which Variety calls a “grim, unyielding Holocaust drama,”is set in 1944 as World War II is coming to an end. Centering on a Hungarian prisoner in Auschwitz, Saul Ausländer, numb to hope, fear, and everything in between, he becomes determined to carry out one last desperate act of moral survival.

Theeb (2014)

Set in the Ottoman province of Hijaz during World War I, this film focuses on the coming of age of a Bedouin boy, Theeb, as he guides a British officer through the desert. The film employed non-professional actors from the Bedouin community in southern Jordan, and can be considered a “Bedouin Western.” 

Honorable Mention Category: While these 11 films may not be part of this year’s batch of Oscar nominees, we think they deserve a closer look.  

Beasts of No Nation (2015)

While not technically a foreign film, Beasts of No Nation was shot on location in Ghana and offers some epic cinematography. The story, based on the novel of the same name by Uzodinma Iweala, stars Agu, a young boy who lives in a West African village with his family when civil war breaks out and is captured as a child soldier. Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and starring Idris Elba, this film is not to be missed. 

Watch on Netflix now!  

Force Majeure (2014)

Swedish director Ruben Ostlund’s dramatic comedy throws into question one family’s relationship dynamic after an avalanche occurs during their ski holiday in the French Alps.

Watch on Netflix now!  

Ram Leela (2013)

Featuring two of the biggest Bollywood stars of today, Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, star in this contemporary Bollywood take on the centuries old “Romeo and Juliet” love story (as well as the even older story of Layla and Majnun originating from ancient Persian poetry).  

Holy Motors (2012)

A Franco-German Fantasy drama following the life of a mysterious man, Monsieur Oscar. With a shifting story line and a cast ranging from Eva Mendes to Kylie Minogue, this film is a 116 minutes of “trippy” cinema.

Watch on Netflix now!  

Rab Ne Bana di Jodi (2008)

An unrequited love story has all the trappings of a classic Bollywood film—plenty of music, dancing, disguises, and of course, Shah Rukh Khan. After getting married, Surinder would do anything to make Taani, his wife, happy and hopes for her to one day care for him as much as he does her. Warning, watch this cute romance and get ready for “Haule Haule” to be stuck in your head for days.

Watch on Netflix now!  

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

From director Guillermo del Toro, this Spanish-language fantasy drama is set in 1944 Spain, five years after the Spanish Civil War. Fantasy, specifically a mysterious labyrinth and the faun creature that occupies it, and real life intertwine, following the main character Ofelia. Winner of three Academy Awards in 2007 including “Best Achievement in Cinematography,” “Best Achievement in Art Direction,” and “Best Achievement in Makeup.”  

Kamikaze Girls (2004)

Originally a novel written by  Novala Takemoto, the story has been adapted into manga and film. The film is set in a rural Japanese town and centers on the friendship between a Lolita girl and a Yamki biker and the events in their intermingled lives. 

In The Mood For Love (2001)

This film is set in 1962 Hong Kong documents the encounters between Chow Mo-wan, a journalist, and Su Li-zhen, a secretary from a shipping company who both rent a room in the same apartment building on the same day. They form a bond when they suspect both their spouses are engaging in extramarital affairs, but they vow to keep their own relationship platonic. 

Like Water For Chocolate (1992)

A movie based on the novel by Mexican writer, Laura Esquivel. This film centers on the life of Tita, a girl who pines to marry the love of her life but cannot due to restrictions dictated by tradition. Cooking becomes a powerful outlet of expression for Tita, who is strictly confined in other aspects of her life. Delicious.

Watch on Netflix now!  

Breathless (1960)

A French New Wave film about a small-time thief and his girlfriend. The thief impulsively steals a car and murders a policemen, and tries desperately to convince the American student (Jean Seberg) to hide him, and run away with him to Italy.  

La Dolce Vita (1960)

A classic comedy-drama film directed by Federico Fellini composed of a series of stories. The film follows a gossip journalist over seven days and nights in Rome as he searches for love and happiness.  

Bicycle Thieves (1948)

In post-WWII Rome, Antonio Ricci seeks work to support his family. When he is offered a job that requires a bicycle, the family pawns their possessions in order to afford the bicycle, which is stolen on his first day on the job. The story follows him and his son as they search for the stolen bike vital to their survival.