Whether you want to learn a new language or can’t afford to book a flight, watching foreign films can ease various longings. With so many to choose from, we sorted out some classics to indulge in as a foreign film newbie.
Gomorrah may be based on the book written by Robert Saviano, but grapples with real life depictions of lives of those who battle with drugs, gangs, and poverty. This graphic film circles around five separate stories of everyday people living in Caserta – a small town in the southern Italian region of Campania. Their similarity is their encounters and entanglements with the Casalesi clan, a syndicate of the Comorra, a real life organized crime group based in Naples. What makes this film a must-see is the dynamic characters, like Totó and friends Marco and Ciro – three boys lured by what seems to be glamorous gang life, but each finding out how gruel and unforgiving it can be.
Un Prophete (2009)
This French crime-drama film received critical acclaim and accolades on its premiere and with good reason. Un Prophete, translated A Prophet, tells the story of young 19-year-old Malik El Djebena, a petty criminal of Algerian-French descent who is sent to prison for six years after attacking police officers. Malik is alone and illiterate upon his arrival and as most prison stories go – is in need of some sort of protection and eventually is lured into joining the Corsican gang and eventually moves up the ranks. This film not only shows the transition of Malik as a young boy into a young man, but also delves into the themes of French identity, with the prison being divided between Muslims and Corsicans.
City Of God (2002)
If you haven’t seen this movie, we are pretty sure you’ve seen this picture around social media for those lusting after an aesthetic based romance. City of God loosely depicts real life events about the creation and growth of a youth gang in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There’s friendships, romance, rivalry, and even some laughter between the gruesome bloodshed.
Directed by veteran Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembéne, this film goes after the controversial topic of female genital mutilation. Based in a small village in Burkina Faso, one woman decides to stand up to the men and women of her village who believe such practices are purification rights. This film speaks of true defiance and courage, and looks at various themes on what it means to be a woman and those ascribed duties and characteristics that society places on her. Spoiler Alert: our main character defies them all!
Seven Samurai (1954)
If you want to start with any samurai movie, then this is where you begin. Inspiring recent films like The Magnificent Seven, Akira Kurosawa’s classic film is the telling age story of how the underdog can become victorious. An older samurai is asked by a village to protect them from a group of bandits who plan to steal their crops nex. To do so, the sole samurai enlists six others who, in exchange for food and shelter, teach the villagers how to defend themselves. In the end, watch seven skilled men take down the masses and save the day.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
This charming documentary chronicles the career of 91 year-old master sushi chef Jiro Ono. Jiro is the owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro – a ten-seat, 3 star Michelin, sushi only restaurant in a Tokyo train station. This candid film intricately portrays what it means to follow and live out your passions. Jiro skillfully prepares his meals and is credited as being one of the best sushi craftsman there is.
This British drama features hip-hop dance, teenage angst, and a young and dreamy Michael Fassbender. Mia is a 15-year old girl is doesn’t necessarily fit in and doesn’t necessarily want to. She fights with her mom, is intrigued by her mom’s new boyfriend, and finds a shared commonality with a horse that is left tied up in a junkyard. Her escape from her own madness is dance – hip-hop dance to be specific. This film is filled with all the heartbreak and confusion that comes with being a teen and trying to figure it all out.
Maria, Full of Grace (2004)
Maria, Full of Grace is another powerful film that shows the relentless strength and courage that ordinary everyday teenage girls can carry. After quitting her demanding job and finding out that she is pregnant, Maria hitches a ride to Bogotá and finds out she can make a lot more money as a Columbian drug mule. All she has to do is carry pellets of cocaine in her stomach from Bogotá to New York – no big deal. This move delightfully show how one girl chooses to survive when their aren’t so many options.
Omar hides real life conflict in between a luring love story. Omar is a Palestinian man who climbs the West Bank barrier in order to see his high school sweetheart who he intends to marry. But as in reality, Omar’s life is not easy due to the on-going conflict with Israel. Attacked by a group of Israeli soldiers, Omar plans his retaliation. His plan however, does not go so smoothly and opens a Pandora’s box of secrecy, betrayal, and hope.
Imagine being imprisoned for 15 years without knowing why or who captured you. Not to mention your captivity room resembles that of a hotel room? Then when you are released, going on a full fledged hunt of vengeance. There’s a lot of kick-ass fighting, hypnosis, and plot twists to this South Korean neo-noir thriller, making Oldboy a must-see.