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12 Must Watch Foreign Films On Amazon Prime, Netflix, Mubi

12 Must Watch Foreign Films On Amazon Prime, Netflix, Mubi

Best foreign movies on Amazon Netflix

(Updated: January 4, 2021) Streaming devices have made it easier than ever to access cinema, rare and esoteric, across countries and languages. Here are some of the best foreign films on Amazon Prime, Netflix and Mubi that probably haven’t caught your attention:

 

1. Parasite (2019, Korean)

Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning social satire highlights the irreconcilable societal gap between the haves and the have nots. But the brilliance lies in the layers of fascinating details that offer a unique viewing experience. The story revolves around two nuclear families in Seoul, one poor and the other rich. The lesser privileged Kim family cons their way to work for the wealthy Park family. The horrors of economic disparity between the two wreak havoc on both. Parasite largely unfolds in grey zones without assigning blame to a particular class. It shows how antipathy is rooted in both sides and the villain here is the stratified system.

Watch Parasite on Amazon Prime

 

2. The Lighthouse (2006, Russian)

This 2006 feature is a first directed by an Armenian woman and what a promising talent Maria Saakyan was. It was her debut film. She tragically died in 2018 at the age of 37 but leaves behind a classic tale of war, its depredations and deprivations, and eventual reconciliation with one’s roots. Shot and designed with a cinematic composition evocative of Tarkovsky, it’s a brilliant study of still time and how it continues to flow despite all odds. The film is slow by design and hence can be taxing, but provokes you to think and question your assumptions.

Where to Watch: Mubi

 

3. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019, French)

Best foreign films on Amazon Prime Netflix
Image Source: empireonline.com

A young female painter is commissioned by a lady to sketch her daughter’s portrait for a suitor in Milan. Set in the 18th century, the film follows the romantic relationship between the reluctant bride and her painter. With an all woman cast, director Celine Sciamma handles a nuanced enigmatic drama with her signature minimalism, and won the best screenplay at the Cannes. If you liked Girlhood by the same director, you’ll love this one.

Where to Watch: Mubi

 

4. Roma (2018, Spanish)

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Image Source: Netflix.com

This is the story of Mexico City in the 1970s, of Cuaron’s childhood and the maid that brought him up, and the sisterhood of two women, even with the attendant hierarchy of class, who realise that they are ultimately alone in this world. One of the best Spanish movies on NetflixRoma is an absolute classic that will grow on you. Like vine and slow time. Initially I was unnerved by its tepid pace and ultra-realistic unfolding but once you get the design, you begin to appreciate the subtle and sublime touches that draw you in. At once mellow, at once intense, it feels like real life and is languorously and aesthetically shot.

Where to Watch: Netflix

 

5. Shoplifters (2018, Japanese)

Best foreign films on amazon prime Netflix
Image Source: The Atlantic

One of the best movies of 2018, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters is yet another sharply focused family drama imbued with gentle observations. This time he focuses on a family of small-time thieves who take in a child they come across on the street. Similar to the filmmaker’s 2004 devastating drama Nobody Knows, Shoplifters is inspired by a news story. Once again, the captivating artistry and deep-seated compassion of the director brings out the cold realities of the Japanese society.

Where to Watch: Netflix

 

6. Capernaum (2018, Lebanese)

Best foreign movies Amazon Prime Netflix
Image Source: 11polaroids.com

Nadine Labaki’s deeply empathetic Lebanese drama follows a 12-year-old undocumented boy named Zain wanting to sue his parents. The reason is for giving him life. The storyline may seem farcical but Labaki employs heart-rending realism to gaze into the slums of Beirut. Non-professional actor Al Rafeea’s (as Zain) magnetic performance imparts an undeniable emotional pull.

Where to Watch: Netflix

 

7. Ema (2019, Spanish)

Ema premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2019. Sans the conventional need for narrative unity, this Pablo Larrain directorial ventures into the human psyche time and again, attempting to explore the meanings behind the simplistic term ‘family’. Dealing with the underlying complexities of the themes of motherhood, this film will compel you to engage with it. A riveting experience, all in all, it will make you pose questions on the nature, need, and aftermath of motherhood. With absolutely stunning visuals to go with a script that is hard-hitting, the film succeeds on several technical fronts too.

Where to Watch: Mubi

 

8. Under the Shadow (2016, Persian)

Best foreign films on Amazon Prime Netflix
Image Source: agoodmovietowatch.com

Faltering societal values and stressed psyche of female protagonist are the terrifying forces in Farsi language horror Under the Shadow. A folklore creature called ‘Djinn’ is also thrown into the mix. The story takes us to 1988 Iran, a volatile period in Khomeini’s Islamic revolution. Amidst the political upheaval, a mother and her little daughter are stuck in an apartment, plagued by an evil spirit. Babak Anvari elegantly balances political context with traditional scary stuff. The performances, particularly child actor Avin, are exceptionally good.

Where to Watch: Netflix

 

9. Train to Busan (2016, Korean)

Best foreign language movies Amazon Prime Netflix
Image Source: nytimes.com

Yeon Sang-ho’s highly entertaining action/horror thriller has some inventive set-pieces for zombie films. The protagonist is an apathetic fund manager taking his smart, little daughter to see her mom (his divorced wife) in Busan. They take a high-speed KTX train, unaware that the country is in the grip of a rapidly spreading zombie infection. One infected lady jumps into the train at the last minute of its departure, leading to a blood-curdling frenzy. Alongside the characters’ efforts to survive, the director makes an overt reference to indict the behaviour of those at the top rungs of class structure and socio-economic hierarchies. There are plenty of cliches in the narrative and the Korean brand of sentimentality gets a bit over the top. Nevertheless, the chillingly crafted ‘zombie chases create an immensely engaging experience.

Where to Watch: Mubi

 

10. Mustang (2015, Turkish)

best foreign movies on amazon
Image Source: The Atlantic

French/Turkish filmmaker Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s poignant début Mustang is an undeniably compelling take on the rampant sexualization of women in a culturally constricted society. The gorgeous visual design and pulsating performances offer an ultimate movie experience.

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The plot is familiar but the film is effective due to director Ergüven and co-writer Alice Wincour’s strong construction of characters. Mustang’s achievement lies in its nuanced criticism of a society that uses a sexualization filter to see everything women do. It also ironically looks at the sanctioned community ceremonies to celebrate female sexuality. The complicated themes explored could have easily veered into a heavy-handed territory. But it’s all executed in a way that looks genuine. It’s among the best foreign films on Amazon Prime streaming right now. (Read our full review of Mustang here)

Watch Mustang on Amazon Prime

 


11. The Sacrifice (1986, Swedish, French)

foreign movies on amazon prime, mubi
Image Source: screenmusings.org

This all-time classic from the master director Andrei Tarkovsky is currently available in the Mubi library, which was made public upon the onset of the pandemic. Widely known for his spiritually driven creations, the director’s final piece of work is also considered his best, and for good reason. Challenging and invigorating in equal rights, the film centers around a post-apocalyptic scenario and poses deeply philosophical questions around the human conscience and the ephemeral elements that constitute it. Having won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, the film has proved to be a timeless classic over the course of years.

Where to Watch: Mubi

 

12. Family Romance LLC (2019, Japanese)

Directed by the master filmmaker Werner Herzog, this film centers around a company that acts as a surrogate family member provider. The premise and the idea that went in the making of the film very clearly fascinated Herzog into creating a narrative that treads the sanctimonious borderlines of documentary and fiction. Describing this fake-family drama-documentary, one could fall short of hyphens for sure, given the fact that it plays on the dualities of the filmic medium to derive its flavor. The boundaries between the real and the constructed come to be blurred in the film, which is not just a narrative tool, but also the defining characteristic of the entire film at large. The film premiered at the Special Screenings section at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.

Where to Watch: Mubi

 

Notable mention: Strasbourg 1518 (2020)

This experimental ten-minute short by Jonathan Glazer is the perfect lockdown protest film. Inspired by the ‘dancing plague’ in Strasbourg in 1518 when people began to dance uncontrollably and danced till they dropped dead, this hauntingly intense short explores the spaces between the confines we are put in and uses dance as a volatile art form to break through. The tyranny of the mundane depletes us and yet we rise, we rise and we fall, and so the inexorable cycle continues, in essence epitomising the obsessive compulsive nature of the lockdown thought and action, a blackhole designed to suck us in. Shot on iPhones across countries, it is literally moving art, provocative and disturbing.

Where to Watch: Mubi

There we are! These are some of the best foreign films on Amazon Prime, Netflix and Mubi streaming right now. Catch them before they’re changed out.

 

By Arun Kumar, Sanjay Trehan, Sanghmitra Jethwani

 

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