Foreign films aren’t for everyone, and I get that. After a long day it’s hard to justify coming home and relaxing with a movie that makes you read to keep up with it. If time and your attention span permits though, there are many films that are well worth the extra brainpower, and can provide a nice palette cleanser to whatever Hollywood can offer.
City of God
A Brazilian drug/gangster film that spans multiple decades, City of God is epic in both scale and content. The movie follows a group of children growing up in a favela where crime is a way of life. They go from boys admiring the older criminals in town, almost in the same vein as Robin Hood, to young men whose lives are entrenched in drugs and violence. The film is a gripping and heart-wrenching masterpiece. Not for the faint of heart, but don’t be surprised if ends up ranking near the top of best films you’ve ever seen.
Based on a Japanese manga series, 2003’s Oldboy from South Korea is impossible to predict. The film’s story about a man kidnapped and kept in a room for years before being set free, all without explanation to him or the audience, will leave you clueless as to where the plot is going to go. Almost as impressive is the direction by director Park Chan-wook. Whether you end up liking it or not, the visuals and haunting story will stick with you long after it’s over.
Set in Spain during the 1940’s after the Spanish civil war, Pan’s Labyrinth resembles more of a dark fairy tale than a period piece. The movie thrust director Guillermo del Toro to a new level of fame and was met with critical acclaim and deservedly so. The fantastical world he’s able to build helps the protagonist Ofelia immerse herself and the audience into a place of fairies, fawns and other amazing creatures. This isn’t your average fairy tale, but it’s one that is essential viewing.
The Raid 1 and 2
Little bit of cheating here, but The Raid films are so good they both belong on the list. Whether you’re a fan of martial arts movies or not, the combat in these films will keep your pulse pounding and heart racing. Writer/director Gareth Evans and his star Iko Uwais are a match made in action film heaven as each bring remarkable talent to the films. You don’t need to worry about subtitles for these movies, just keep your eyes open for the glorious fight scenes.
The original Hunger Games. Released in 2000, 8 years before the first Hunger Games book was written, Battle Royale is a Japanese film about children forced to fight each other to the death in a yearly tournament. Much more gritty and brutal than the American remake, and with a better told story, this film isn’t for a Young Adult audience, but it is for anyone who enjoys tense action thrillers.