in article about foreign films, a screenshot from roma

6 Foreign Films That Will Let You Immerse Yourself in a Different Culture

Travel around the globe with this list of movies.
September 20, 2022
7 mins read

Experiencing other cultures is key to understanding your fellow Earthlings, and an affordable and entertaining way to travel around the world is through film. Many Americans find themselves in a film-watching vortex that includes only American productions, and it’s time to branch out and see the world. Here is a list of foreign films that are sure to entertain while deepening your understanding of other peoples.

1. “Amelie” (Romantic Comedy)

An oldie but a perfect way to see the sights of France while living through the eyes of quirky Amelie Poulain, a spritely waitress who bounces in and out of the romantic lives of the patrons at her diner. Amelie is sure to enchant viewers as she finds pleasure in life’s humble experiences. The movie had a rocky release but quickly gained something of a cult following and even made The New York Times “Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made” list. Amelie’s charm and quirkiness will enthrall any viewer looking for a pleasant watch.

2. “Parasite” (Horror)

Parasite” became the surprise winner for best picture at the 92nd Oscars, and the Korean horror film is still wildly popular today. The low-income Kim family poses as unrelated workers to gain access to the house of the mega-wealthy Park family so they can live in luxury in their empty house. Crazy breaks loose when they are caught and threatened with exposure. This movie has some dramatically bloody scenes (even for a horror film) but also delivers a message about social inequality. It became so popular that a spin-off series is now in the works. In the most capitalistic response to the movie, the city of Seoul even offers tours through the poverty-stricken filming sites where low-income residents still reside.

3. “Wild Tales” (Dark Comedy)

The countries of Spain and Argentina combined to make this Spanish-language anthology movie that centers around vengeance. There are six seemingly unconnected stories that weave a tale of revenge and catharsis as each “Wild Tale” unfolds with someone getting the ultimate revenge on perceived wrongdoers. Viewers will know in the first 15 minutes or so (through the opening segment “Pasternak”) if this movie is something they will enjoy.  Some of the stories will have movie watchers stunned but others will give them a sense of schadenfreude as they watch bad people get what they deserve. Most of the time, vengeance is not a reasonable response to feeling wronged, so the theme of catharsis will be sure to resonate with the darker parts of human nature.

4. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (Action/Martial Arts)

A 1940s novel was adapted into this action film that takes place in 19th century China during the Qing dynasty. In 2000, the movie stunned viewers with its action scenes and the film went on to become one of the most highly decorated during the awards season. Two warriors running a security company together while having deeply rooted feelings for each other chase Jade Fox, a murderer and thief. The movie features many prominent female warrior roles that are unburdened by gendered stereotypes. The movie was so popular in the West that a sequel was filmed in English and dubbed in Chinese.

5. “Roma” (Drama)

This Mexican drama is another award season darling that currently holds the record for the most-nominated foreign film at the Academy Awards. Even though it lost best picture, the movie made headlines for paving the way for new avenues of distributing world-class movies, as it was released by the movie-streaming app Netflix instead of receiving a traditional theater release. The movie centers around Cleo, an Indigenous maid in the capital of Mexico. Cleo and her fellow maid, Adela, switch between their Indigenous language of Mixtec when alone and Spanish when around their employers. Cleo ends up with an unplanned pregnancy and, ultimately, the movie is a winding drama through the character’s relationships. The dramatic ending will have viewers enthralled and leave them with the sense that everything will be okay even when it’s not.

6. “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” (Anime)

There were many amazing Japanese animated films up for consideration in this article and picking just one felt like a betrayal to all the other great ones like “Spirited Away” and “My Neighbor Totoro.” Some films have gained more popularity than others, and “Princess Kaguya” is often overlooked in the Western world. This uber-expensive project brings fairy tales to the screen as it was based on the Japanese fairy tale “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” and features a rapidly growing princess found in the Bamboo. The movie explores women’s role in society and is a coming-of-age story about a princess that hails from the Moon. It has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and contains some of the most beautiful scenes found in anime, featuring simple, watercolor backgrounds to fully immerse viewers. The movie even has its own documentary about its creation.

There are always hundreds of movies that get left off movie-list articles and this article is no exception. Hopefully, the movies that were listed will inspire readers to seek out more foreign films and immerse themselves in other cultures. In the absence of dialogue in familiar language, viewers will find themselves immersed in art and profound filmmaking. This movie list is the perfect springboard into more foreign film immersion, where unfamiliar themes will push viewers to engage with other cultures and might even spark the travel bug.

Megan Miller, Arizona State University

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Megan Miller

Arizona State University

Megan has lived her whole life in Southern California where she enjoys all the local attractions, especially the beaches. She enjoys reading, writing and cooking. She is obsessed with her dog, Moose.

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