When culture meets cinema, foreign films do their best to provide viewers different eye-opening insights on the world. Where a film comes from greatly affects the movie an audience ultimately sees because of regionality aspects such as culture, religion and government. From the ‘30s up until the 21st century, this list compiles must see films from across the globe.
“Life is Beautiful” – Italy – 1998
This movie takes place in the 1930s in Italy and stars a lovable Jewish book keeper, Guido. During the entirety of the film, Guido lives a carefree life with his son and wife, but things take a turn for the worse when German forces begin to occupy Italy. In attempt to protect his family’s sanity in the infamous concentration camps, he tricks his son into thinking of the Holocaust as a game and a tank as a grand-prize for winning. This film provides its audience a real feel for the tragic events that happened to the persecuted people in World War II and reminds viewers about the preciousness of life.
“Pan’s Labyrinth” – Spain – 2006
This film takes place during the Spanish Civil War in 1944 and stars a young girl named Pan, who obsesses over fairy tales. She lives with her pregnant mother and newfound step-father, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army, near a battlefront. While walking around one night, Pan stumbles across a mythical creature called a faun at the center of a labyrinth. The faun sends Pan on eerie supernatural adventures and she must survive three gruesome tasks. This film goes over the horrific events that happened during the Spanish Civil War and how a child uses her imagination as a coping method. Reminding the audience about the importance of innocence, this movie brings creative thinking into a new light.
“Leviathan” – Russia – 2014
Set in a fictional town in Russia, this film goes over love and tragedy experienced by ordinary people who deal with quirks of fate, the government’s corrupted power and financial disadvantages. With excellent cinematography, this film makes a barren town filled of animal corpses look remarkably beautiful. Taking a religious stance, the film clearly states to the audience good intentions do not excuse unruly sins.
“M” – Germany – 1931
A major turning point in thriller movies, “M” follows the story of Hans Beckert, a murderer of young girls. With striking imagery, this film goes over sociological and psychological issues within Beckert’s life and within Germany’s society. Taking place in the 1930s, this film displays the brutality of murder and changed audiences’ opinions of horror cinema for the better. This film later sparked inspiration for other classic horror movies such as “Saw.”
“Dogtooth” – Greece – 2010
In modern-day Greece, three teenaged siblings live in isolation due to their overprotective parents. Scared into subordinance, no family member can leave their house except the father, leaving the rest of the family in exile. Due to their lack of personal freedom, the siblings and mother make up their own code, assigning common words a whole new meaning. The only outsider allowed in the household is a woman named Christina, who later fights for the teenagers and their individuality. Covering the hazards of a utopian family, this film opens its audience’s eyes to repressive families and dysfunctional relationships. Through reflective movie making, this film goes over how children, more often than not, turn into what their parents make them.
“Bamako” – France – 2006
Set in Bamako, Mali, this film features a mock trial between representatives of African society and international financial institutions. Along with corrupted politics, this film displays an intimate view of everyday life in contemporary Africa. Highlighting social injustices, globalization, poverty and disease this drama intrigues the viewers and humbles the characters without coming across as melodramatic. The film broadens the audience’s perspective of African culture and how it plays a major role worldwide.
“Yi Yi” – Taiwan – 2001
This film follows a Taiwanese family, centralizing around the main character and father of the family, NJ. NJ and his family go through their life quickly and without a thought, not paying much attention to their happiness and health. Then one day, NJ meets a former lover of his, causing him to take a step back from his bustling world. Going through everyday life, NJ shows the audience how superficial ideals and romantic yearnings can not only ruin a love life, but family life as well. This film subtly goes over the choices that mold NJ’s life, and how if he had done things differently everything would have probably ended in up the same way.
“City of God” – Portugal – 2003
Introducing the audience to criminal life in Rio de Janeiro, this film follows Rocket as he has no other choice but to join a notorious gang. Telling his story through a series of flashbacks, this film uses unique cinematography to capture pivotal events in Rocket’s life. All too real topics that thrive in Rio, such as violence and drugs, open the audience’s eyes towards the actuality of it all that even Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former president of Brazil, promoted the film. The movie does not exaggerate or belittle these truths, but simply tries to tell the audience of the awful reality people in Rio de Janeiro have to endure.
“Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” – Sweden – 2010
As the title implies, this film follows a girl with a dragon tattoo named Lisbeth. Seen as Sweden’s best hacker, Lisbeth teams up with Mikael, an investigative journalist, over a case of a missing girl. With a thrilling adventure and enduring storyline, Mikael and Lisbeth throw themselves into a case bigger than they anticipated. The isolation in the setting, disturbing plot and suspicious characters give of intense amounts of suspense which every thriller needs.
“Seven Samurai” – Japan – 1954
This classic action film inspired countless others, such as “The Magnificent Seven”, due to its dynamic characters and influential plot. Centering around seven samurai who fight against traditional Japanese culture, this movie beautifully displays how tradition may not always have people’s best interest in mind. Rebelling against social tradition in 1600s Japan, different castes mix as they form against pillaging bandits.