Fans of American filmmaking tend to enjoy a lot of the same kinds of things. Lately it seems if the lead in a film is not dressed in all spandex with a chip on their shoulder or the ability to wisecrack, the film doesn't make money. Though fans of comic films can rejoice as the genre is finally getting the attention it deserves, what about smaller films? What about the films that get no hype here, yet are fantastic none the less?
This is what leads us to the subject of foreign films. Oft underappreciated by the masses often due solely to lack of exposure, we thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to introduce you all to some truly powerful foreign films you may have missed, as most flew under the radar over here.
10. Timecrimes (Spanish)
Yes, that may be the dumbest/best name for a time travel movie ever. It is okay to be on the fence about it, but do not let that scare you off. Though you will need to take notes during this movie (like a more exciting version of Primer), Timecrimes opens up in a way that will intrigue you immediately, and if you make it to the end without a bloody nose and some cognitive understanding of how they got there, it is nothing short of genius. No, but seriously, take notes. The movie ducks and weaves more than Mike Tyson in his prime.
9. Mother (South Korean)
Mother is a lot of things, and you need to know that going in. Like most foreign films, it will not hold your hand. It will not drown you in exposition. The character arcs will be reflected in the characters and not monologues about them. Mother is a challenging watch, as it deals with some very heavy stuff, like most South Korean films. Basically, we could tell you this is a revenge film, but that would be underselling it. It is actually a deeply rooted story that spans many years and shows you what constant abuse and cruelty can do to someone's psyche. A dark glimpse into just how intense motherhood can truly be.
8. Redline (Japanese)
Head's up, we will start this with two points. One, yes, this is an anime movie. But wait, before you come to our offices and throw stones with the word weeaboos written on it through our windows, we will follow this up with a bold assertion: Redline is one of the best car racing movies ever made. It is also one of the "coolest" movies ever made, only still slightly out-cooled by Blade Runner (both of them). The movie is what pouring liquid LSD into your eyes while riding a bull bareback through a fire tornado must be like. It is a relentless movie that assaults with stunning visuals and a phenomenal score.
7. Headhunters (Norwegian)
There have been some remake rumors for this Norwegian thriller foa whilele, but it is a film that is perfect in acting and execution and doesn't need one (which is, sadly, a trend with most Americanized remakes). Headhunters is a deft thriller that is chock full of twist and turns the viewer won't see coming.
The film is about one man, who is a part time art thief, and gets called in for that "one big job" only to get snared in a web of deceit and corruption that he was in no way prepared for. Plus it stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from Game of Thrones.
6. Save The Green Planet (South Korean)
Take heed, this movie is very strange. But it is in that complex weaving of humor and horror and drama that makes Save The Green Planet so, well, unforgettable. The story revolves around one conspiracy theorist who thinks that aliens have landed and are among us, and in an attempt to reveal that, he kidnaps someone and hi-jinx ensue. Well, hi-jinx is putting it mildly. Bats**t insanity unfolds.
At moments there will be hard-to-swallow violence, and in the next scene, you will find yourself laughing out loud. A very tough balance for filmmakers to achieve, but somehow, that balance is nailed here. And the final payoff in the film makes the ride well worth it.
5. The Hunt (Danish)
Can we take a quick moment to thank the celluloid Gods for Mads Mikkelsen? From Valhalla Rising to his role as the titular character on the brilliant Hannibal TV series, the man is just a commanding presence in every way. And though we normally see him as bad guys and Vikings, The Hunt sees hims as a teacher whose life becomes ruined by a false accusation of child molestation.
It is an angle we rarely get to see in film. The bad guys are usually bad and the good guys usually good, but The Hunt shows you that sometimes the roles get reversed and it can truly turn someone's life upside down. Watch The Hunt. Just don't expect to come out of it in the best mood.
4. Fat Girl (French)
This is a fiercely uncomfortable movie to watch, as if the name didn't warn you of that already. Movies from other countries tend to address subjects that are wickedly taboo, and the way they present those subjects (especially in French films) is unflinching to say the least. This movie is no exception.
Fat Girl is a movie about sisters. About the relationship between kin and how tough and troubling those relationships can be. To tell you too much more will both scare you away from the film and take away from its impact, so brace yourself and sit down to watch it. It captures the pathos of youthful angst and ennui in an eerily raw fashion we don't often see.
3. Perfect Blue (Japanese)
Perfect Blue was the inspiration for the movie Black Swan, so much so that Darren Aronofsky actually owns the rights to it. So if you've seen Black Swan you will understand Perfect Blue even if they are different movies in the end. The movie focuses on a young woman who leaves a Japanese pop band to start acting, takes some dark roles, and lands an obsessive fan who seems hell-bent on ending her life to "protect her." Thing is, it is the myriad of twists and turns to get you to the final act that will leave your jaw hanging open. And that final reveal is up there with some of the best twist endings in movies, period, animated or otherwise.
2. Kidnapped (Spanish)
I will warn you all now about this Spanish "home invasion" film, it is nihilistic at best. With stiff competition from Funny Games, you would think the home invasion movie couldn't get much worse, but Kidnapped does. Much worse.
Based on a true story (a.k.a. all home invasions, which usually end terribly for all involved), the movie features a family getting their home taken over by some very bad men. But what is incredibly unique about Kidnapped is the fact that you will find yourself getting more upset at the family and some of the choices they make then the invaders. But if you imagine yourself and your own family in the same situation, you realize, many of us would probably make some AWFUL decisions too from the stress and fear and here, well, you get some insight into how that plays out in real life.
1. Troll Hunter (Norwegian)
Easily the most recognizable title on the list, we still couldn't leave it off as it is one of the more "fun" times to be had with foreign films. Another movie they have been talking about ruining in an American remake, but thankfully, nothing to show for that as of now. Troll Hunter is about, well, a troll hunter. That may sound funny to us, but in Norway there are some insane rock formations that genuinely do look like Trolls, and in Norway legend and lore, they are believed to be trolls who turn to stone when revealed to daylight.
And Troll Hunter is about just that. A man who hunts trolls at night using a giant UV light, and a camera crew who follow him, initially doubting him but realizing pretty quickly there is truth to the legends. We would also say one of the best uses of the "found footage" genre, hands down. Presenting it like a documentary works so well here.
And honestly, after a list full of bleak, nihilist foreign films like these, this one will leave you far less emotionally shattered at the end.