Ip 3

Screengrab via Movieclips Trailers/YouTube

Expand your horizons.

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 are tons of incredible movies 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.

The best foreign films on Netflix

1) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

best foreign language films on netflix : girl with the dragon tattoo Screengrab via Chandra Hewitt/YouTube

Original Language: Swedish
Subtitles: English

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.—Michelle Jaworski

2) Ip Man, Ip Man 2, and Ip Man 3

best foreign films on netflix : Ip 2 Screengrab via BestMoviesScenes/YouTube

Original Language: Cantonese
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.—M.J.

3) Y Tu Mamá También

best foreign films netflix : y tu mama tambien Screengrab via MovieClips/YouTube

Original Language: Spanish
Subtitles: English

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.—M.J.

4) Amélie

Best romantic comedies and foreign films on Netflix: Amélie Screengrab via Movieclips Trailer Vault/YouTube

Original Language: French
Additional Audio: Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish

After 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.—M.J.


5) Force Majeure

best foreign movies netflix : force majeure Screengrab via Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films/YouTube

Original Language: Swedish
Subtitles: English

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.—M.J.

6) Delicatessen

Foreign Language Netflix: Delicatessen Screengrab via YouTube Movies/Lionsgate

Original Language: French
Subtitles: English

This surrealist post-apocalyptic black comedy by future Amélie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is as playful as a film about cannibalism can be. Deeply influenced by the dark fairy tales of Terry Gilliam, Delicatessen never veers into horror territory, no matter how dark the story gets. Despite its low budget, Delicatessen still looks stunningly beautiful. J.M.B.

7) Oldboy

best foreign films on netflix : oldboy Screengrab via Bill Gnk/YouTube

Original Language: Korean
Subtitles: English

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.—M.J.

8) Blue is the Warmest Color

best foreign films netflix : blue is the warmest color Screengrab via Kris G/YouTube

Original Language: French
Subtitles: English

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.—M.J.

9) Victoria


best indie movies on netflix ; victoria Screengrab via Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films

Original Language: German/English/Spanish/Turkish
Subtitles: English

Shot entirely in one take, Victoria could be accused of being a gimmick movie. But when the so-called “gimmick” is executed this effectively and thrillingly, who cares? Taking place over a single night in Berlin, the film follows the titular Victoria (Laia Costa) as she falls in love, commits a crime, loses everything, and then gains it back. German filmmaker Sebastian Schipper crams a lot into two hours and 18 minutes, but one of the best things about Victoria is that it still pauses to take the occasional breath. These quiet moments are what makes the film so impressive and help it transcend whatever gimmicky expectations audiences might have. —C.O.

10) Trollhunter

best foreign films on netflix : trollhunter Screengrab via YouTube

Original Language: Norwegian
Subtitles: English

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.—M.J.

11) Metropolis

best foreign films netflix : metropolis Screengrab via vipmagazin/YouTube

Original Language: German
Subtitles: English

We’re technically cheating by adding Metropolis, a silent German film, to this 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.—M.J.

12) Phoenix


best indie foreign films on netflix : Phoenix Screengrab via Madman Films

Original Language: German
Subtitles: English

Phoenix follows disfigured Holocaust survivor Nelly, who returns home with a brand new face to live in a country she no longer recognizes. This may sound heavy, but the film is also quietly pulpy, wearing cinematic influences like Vertigo on its sleeve. As Nelly becomes entangled with the man she used to love—and who may have betrayed her—the movie weaves a tight web which eventually collapses in a devastating final scene. It may be the best foreign language noir in years. —C.O.

13) Jiro Dreams of Sushi


best documentaries on netflix : Jiro Dreams of Sushi Screengrab via Netflix US & Canada

Original Language: Japanese
Subtitles: English

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the kind of documentary that was meant to be on Netflix. Though it was well-received upon theatrical release, it often takes the accessibility of streaming services for stories with such specified subject matter to reach a wider audience. Sushi master Jiro and his relationship with son Yoshikazu (parodied on IFC’s Documentary Now) make for a fascinating portrait of the pursuit to do one thing really well. Caution to sushi fans, though: Your mouth will be watering through much of the 1:20 runtime. —C.O.


14) Beasts of No Nation


foreign film on netflix : Beasts of No Nation Screengrab via Netflix/YouTube

Original Language: Akan/English
Subtitles: English/French/Spanish/Simplified Chinese/Traditional Chinese

Netflix’s first foray into prestige cinema, at least in terms of narrative filmmaking, was this child soldier drama from 2015. Upon its release, Beasts of No Nation immediately declared that in addition to giving you daily doses of ‘90s nostalgia, the streaming giant was committed to socially engaged stories too. Directed by True Detective’s Cary Joji Fukunaga and starring Idris Elba in what should’ve been an Oscar-nominated performance, this is an intense watch but also a rewarding one. If nothing else, it’ll make you aware of how few depictions of Africa we really see onscreen, and how much that needs to be corrected. —C.O.

15) I Am Love

best indie movies on netflix : i am love Screengrab via Movieclips Trailer Vault


Original Language: Italian/Russian/English
Subtitles: English

Where do you even start with I Am Love? There’s director Luca Guadagnino’s luscious visual palette, obviously. There’s Tilda Swinton doing classic Tilda Swinton things (just before the chameleonic actor became a household name). But most importantly, there’s the overwhelming sense that camp has never been taken as seriously as it was in this 2010 Italian stunner. Receiving a well-deserved Oscar nod for Best Costume Design, everything about this movie is gorgeously over-the-top. Just like the clothes she wears, Swinton’s character, Emma Recchi, is fabulous, gorgeous, sumptuous, and completely unsubtle. The story follows Recchi as she experiences love and loss amidst Italy’s upper crust. This is a film that never blinks, and it’s that blind commitment to its own self-importance that makes I Am Love such a unique watch. —C.O.

16) Babel


best sad movies on netflix : babel Screengrab via YouTube Movies

Original Language: English/Arabic/Spanish/French/Russian/Japanese/Japanese Sign Language/Berber Languages
Subtitles: English

Alejandro González Iñárritu has never been a subtle director. Nowhere is this more evident than in Babel, his Best Picture nominee from 2006. Spanning multiple continents and languages, the sprawling drama connects the lives of a couple vacationing in Morocco (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett), with different sets of characters around the world. Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza both received Oscar nods for their supporting performances in this narrative of interlocking stories (think of a global Crash, with all the same loaded connotations). Iñárritu haters, beware: Babel is similar to many of his other films and just as polarizing. But perhaps even more than the rest of Iñárritu’s catalog, Babel is really trying to leave you emotionally wrecked. —C.O.


17) Okja

best foreign language films on netflix : Okja Photo via Netflix

Original Language: Korean/English
Subtitles: English

Bong Joon-ho’s Okja is an odd and oddly touching story about a girl, Mija, and her genetically enhanced superpig, Okja. Set in Korea and the U.S., Okja features a diverse cast, thrilling set pieces, and enough emotional moments to keep you engaged even when the film indulges its weirder aspects. Despite the film’s tonal shifts, Joon-ho’s agility and prowess as a filmmaker ties everything together and makes it feel if a piece. Okja is easily the best Netflix original movie to date. —Eddie Strait

18) Lucid Dream

best foreign language movies on netflix : lucid dream Screengrab via Movie Trailers/YouTube

A South Korean riff on Inception, Lucid Dream follows a journalist, Dae-ho, working to find his son, who was kidnapped three years earlier. The investigation has gone cold, but an experimental technique allows Dae-ho to relive the day his son was taken through lucid dreaming. For a premise as inherently grim as a parent searching for a lost child, Lucid Dream is surprisingly fun. The investigations taking place in dreamland and the real world intersect in interesting ways, and the story is constantly upping the stakes. —E.S.

Original Language: Korean/English
Subtitles: English

19) City of God

foreign film on netflix : City of God Photo via Gables Cinema

Original language: Portuguese
Subtitles: English

This 2002 Brazilian film about growing up under corruption, poverty, and violence in Rio de Janeiro moves as fast as a Martin Scorsese gangster movie despite containing enough tragedy for 10 depressing documentaries. Director Fernando Meirelles (with help from co-director Kátia Lund) imbues the film with such a sense of gritty realism, it could only be based on real-life experiences. At the same time, the film is so highly stylized, it’s also a cinematic experience, whether you watch it at home or in a theater. Instead of being buried under the weight of these contradictions, City of God thrives on them. For anyone interested in doing a deep dive, check out City of God: 10 Years Later, a documentary about the lives of the film’s young actors, which is also on Netflix. Beware though, the follow-up is almost as emotionally draining as the first go-around —C.O.

20) Mountains May Depart

Original language: Mandarin
Subtitles: English, Chinese, Cantonese

foreign language film on netflix: Mountains May Depart Photo via Bitters co

Tracking a woman over three distinct periods in her life, Mountains May Depart tells a story that feels deeply personal yet intrinsically related to socio-economic conditions in China as well as the Chinese immigrant and diasporic experiences. The third segment, which is set in a futuristic Australia and features many non-English speaking actors doing their best to master the language, is a little bit clunkier than the two that precede it. But in many ways, it’s also the best part of the movie, as director Zhangke Jia (always wrestling with ideas of national identity) makes a clear attempt at something bold and audacious. Fans of his previous feature, 2013’s A Touch of Sin, may be surprised at how comparatively tame this film is. Rest assured, though, while it’s not as violent, Mountains May Depart still hits you hard. —C.O.

Still not sure what to watch tonight? Here are our Netflix guides for the best war movies, documentaries, dramaanime, indie flicks, and movies based on true stories streaming right now. There are also sad movies guaranteed to make you cry, weird movies to melt your brain, and comedy specials when you really need to laugh.

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance. 

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