Screengrab via Movieclips Trailers/YouTube (Licensed)
Movies transport us to another world—but you’re limiting yourself just by sticking to Hollywood.
For Americans, the rest of the world of film might be contained into a single category at the Academy Awards—best foreign film—but they offer a wealth of unique and compelling stories. There is tons out there at your fingertips.
We’ve got a short list of films (all of which include English subtitles to follow along with) to help get you started and expand your cinematic tastes via Netflix.
By the time the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was released into theaters in 2011, Sweden had already adapted the entire Millennium trilogy to film (which is also streaming as a six-episode season). The original is the superior as Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace portray a suspenseful and thrilling ride that’s every bit as dark as the book itself.
Additional Audio: Ip Man 3 also available in English and Spanish
Subtitles: None for Ip Man and Ip Man 2; English and Spanish for Ip Man 3
Donnie Yen (who audiences will recognize as the blind warrior Chirrut Imwe in Rogue One) stars in the trilogy of biographical martial arts films as real-life Wing Chun master Ip Man, who eventually became Bruce Lee’s teacher. The first film focuses on events that occurred during the Sino-Japanese War, the second film follows Ip after he opened a Wing Chun school in Hong Kong, while the third featured a young Bruce Lee (played by Danny Chan) going to Ip’s Wing Chun school to learn martial arts. While the fights are excellently choreographed and executed, it’s the emotional story that brings it home.
Two teenage boys (Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal) convince an older woman to go on a cross-country road trip with them in 1999 Mexico as they both try to impress and seduce her. It’s Alfonso Cuarón’s spin on the American road movie, and the three of them explore and discover new things about each other and themselves.
Original Language: French
Additional Audio: Spanish
Subtitles: English, SpanishAfter learning about the news of Princess Diana’s death, a shy waitress discovers a metal box belonging to a boy who used to live in her apartment. Upon returning it to him she strives to better the lives of people around her in a series of elaborate schemes, and in the process, she ends up procuring some happiness in her own life in true romantic comedy fashion.
Original Language: Swedish
In the aftermath of an avalanche, a wife accuses her husband of trying to save himself over his own family as the audience gets a raw and sometimes uncomfortable look at a marriage on the brink of falling apart. It’s a gripping character drama, and there’s even a familiar face in Game of Thrones’s Kristofer Hivju.
Some viewers may have been introduced to the horror of teenagers being forced to kill one another by the government in The Hunger Games, but Battle Royale covered that territory more than a decade prior. Here, a classroom of students are gassed and transported to a remote island and told that only one of them will live at the end of the third day in a fight to the death that makes Panem’s violence look tame. Some of them kill—gladly even—but some of them are putting up a fight of their own to get off the island alive.
7) OldboyOriginal Language: Korean
Based on the Japanese manga, conspiracy and violence are close to the surface as a man is released from a prison cell 15 years after being kidnapped. He’s given money, clothes, a phone, and has a thirst for revenge against the person who kept him captive all those years.
Blue is the Warmest Color explores the highs and lows of a relationship between the two women at the center of the film. It’s a familiar story, for sure, but it’s a raw and personal look into their lives, which is worth its nearly three-hour run time.
9) The HuntOriginal Language: Danish
Mads Mikkelsen plays a kindergarten teacher who is falsely accused of sexually abusing one of his students, which escalates as the town turns against him and ostracizes his family. Even though the charges against him are dropped, he still faces the wrath of people around him who still think him to be a pedophile.
10) TrollhunterOriginal Language: Norwegian
The Norwegian dark fantasy thriller is presented as a “found footage mockumentary” made by college students attempting to make a documentary about someone who’s suspected of bear poaching. Naturally, they get in over their heads as they stumble upon a bunch of mountain trolls instead.
Original Language: German / N/ASubtitles: English
We’re technically cheating by including Metropolis, a silent German film, on the list, but it’s essential viewing for science fiction fans. The futuristic utopia that Freder, the son of the city’s master, lives in is heavenly until he learns about the workers who operate the machines vital to the city’s existence and strives to help them.
12) TheebOriginal Language: Arabic
Subtitles: English, Spanish
The World War I-era drama follows the young son of a sheik who tags along with his brother brother across the Wadi Rum desert in order to help a British soldier reach his destination. He’s soon separated from the group and has to get himself and an injured man out of the desert—the same man who killed his brother.