Years ago, if you had asked me to watch a foreign film with subtitles, I would've said "You're kidding, right?! Not on your life! Well…somewhere along the way, my taste in films changed and fortunately for me, I began to realize that there were a lot of great films out there that were NEVER made "in English."
Just as I never thought I could eat broccoli, brussel sprouts, or hummus, I can NOW watch a film with subtitles. I actually enjoy hearing the original language being spoken along with the subtitles below. At first, I would ONLY watch a foreign film if it was "dubbed" in English, but now, I prefer subtitles every time. Watch the movie trailer below for "Winter in Wartime," a Dutch film, and read the subtitles--you'll find that it's not really cumbersome and doesn't take away from your enjoyment of the film.
Here are my favorite foreign films. This is not an exhaustive list and there are still many great films out there that I haven't yet seen. Also, I am doing this post in 2 parts because of the length. So the first 5 today and 4 days from now, the remaining 5. Also, check out the video trailers to learn more about each film. Enjoy!!
These films are available at your local library, or on Netflix, or iTunes.
This is a smart, clever film, set in Mumbai, India with the contrasts of poverty in an emerging world market. The film opens as a young Indian man competes on a television quiz show, the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?" Our hero is winning every single round and he is being tortured by the police because they think he is cheating since he has no education and is a child of the slums. His story is then told in flashbacks as the audience learns how he came to know the answers to each of the questions.
Of course there is also a romance between Freida Pinto and Dev Patel, a handsome couple that will keep you glued to the screen. Our hero, played by Dev Patel, is looking for the young woman he loves, a childhood companion through the horror, who is still being exploited by the Indian underworld, which now includes his brother.
This is a feel good film that will make you want to stand-up and cheer. Even the closing credits with a Bollywood dance routine to the song "Jai-Ho" will stay with you long after you leave the theatre. "Slumdog Millionaire" won the Oscar for the Best Picture of the Year. If you haven't seen this film, pleeeeezzz do yourself a favor and watch it. Then, I expect you to leave me a comment saying "Dale, thank-you so much because you were right…this is one of the best movies EVER!!
2. The Lives of Others (2006-German)
Nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, this is a first-rate thriller that opts for character development over car chases. Entertainment Weekly called a "nail-biter thriller!"
Before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, East Germany’s population was closely monitored by the State Secret Police (Stasi). Only a few citizens above suspicion, like renowned pro-Socialist playwright Georg Dreyman, were permitted to lead private lives. But when a corrupt government official falls for Georg’s stunning actress-girlfriend, Christa, an ambitious Stasi policeman is ordered to bug the writer’s apartment to gain incriminating evidence against the rival. Now, what the officer discovers is about to dramatically change their lives - as well as his - in this seductive political thriller Peter Travers (Rolling Stone) proclaims is "the best kind of movie: one you can’t get out of your head."
3. The Chorus (2004-French)
The Chorus is a French, postwar-version of Mr. Holland's Opus. I'm a sucker for feel-good European films, and this is one of the best. Think "Dangerous Minds meets "School of Rock."
It is a moving story of how troubled young boys react to harsh treatment and are changed by someone who sincerely cares about them. The tone is serious, but not without some humor, and the music is absolutely beautiful.
Great soundtrack. If you love music, you'll really enjoy this film.
4. Ha Hov (The Debt) (Israel-2007)
You've probably seen the ads for "The Debt" starring Helen Mirren, which is currently playing in theatres nationwide. Well, this is the original, made in Israel in German and Hebrew. From what I can tell, the American remake closely follows the original.
The year is 1965. Rachel Brener is one of 3 young Mossad agents who caught "The Surgeon of Treblinca" - a Nazi monster who was never brought to trial in Israel. The official reason was that he has committed suicide as a prisoner while being held by his Israeli captive (kiddenappers) in a safe house somewhere in Europe. Today, 35 years after the well communicated suicide story of the monster, a small article appears in a local unimportant paper in a small town in central Europe. Surprisingly the Surgeon is alive and is willing to admit his crimes against the human race and especially the Jews. The 3 older x Mossad agents became aware of this unfortunate threatening knowledge. The fact was that the "Surgeon" managed to escape from his guards and out 3 agents decide to complete their old assignment to eliminate "the Surgeon of Treblinka" before the big lie becomes public. They decide that Rachel is the one to carry out the mission. Rachel is a well-known writer publishing her new book, but she is not able to live with herself over the past 35 yrs of terrible lies. She sets out on one last mission as a cold-blooded hit woman to fulfill her mission to society, to kill the "Surgeon of Treblinka."
5. Winter in Wartime (Dutch-2008)
This beautifully photographed drama focuses on 14-year-old Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) as he wrestles with family loyalties, painful choices between safety and courage, and the harsh realities of war during the last, desperate winter of World War II. Michiel is forced onto the path of adulthood as he attempts to aid a wounded British pilot (Jamie Campbell Bower) in German-occupied Netherlands, despite his father's apparent cooperation with enemy soldiers. Michiel feels resentment towards his father, a mayor, seemingly only interested in maintaining the status quo between the town and the German Army. He worships his uncle Ben, an adventurer in contact with the local resistance. During the winter, Michiel's loyalties are tested.