3 Non-English Films That Will Make You Forget You’re Reading Subs

It’s time to broaden your movie horizons.
September 8, 2017
7 mins read

Typically, if someone were to say something about movies, one of the things on your mind would be Hollywood; that is because since the 1910s, it has been hailed as “the movie capital of the world.” This is an idea that still remains, even though a study done in 2013 proved that to now be incorrect. True or not, the idea is so prominent and ingrained in our society that American movies are being subtitled in other languages, some even having minor details being changed for viewing in theaters overseas.

But what about the movies from other countries and in other languages? Why don’t we get those here? Stories are a constant in every culture, so how is it that we are only recognizing American films as worthy of international consumption? If you want to watch a foreign film in America, you generally have to wait a while and then do some digging online and it’s all because of a whole lot of laziness—along with the incredibly toxic mentality that English is the superior language.

I won’t delve into that last part, though, because this is meant to be a nice article with movie suggestions, not a social rant. The bottom line is, most English speakers can’t be bothered to watch a movie in another language because they have to read and I’m hoping to give a few suggestions that will change some minds.

1. “Death Note” (2006)

With the recent release of the white-washed Netflix adaption of the manga and anime, I’m extremely passionate in my advocation for this particular movie. (Seriously, Netflix? Light Turner?)

For those of you who don’t know by now, “Death Note” tells the story of Yagami Raito, a high school genius who stumbles upon a notebook dropped by a Death God, or Shinigami. The first page of the book reads “The human whose name is written in this note shall die” and Raito decides that he’ll use this seriously dangerous binding of otherworldly paper to create an ideal world.

In response to the sudden killings of criminals, the ICPO (International Criminal Police Organization) puts the world-renowned detective called “L” on the case; having solved numerous “unsolvable” cases, “L” is just what police need to close in on their mysterious serial killer. Of course, nothing is that easy as “L” and Raito are equally matched in wits and the future of Japan, and eventually mankind, is at the will of this fierce battle, spanning years, between the two brains.

While I do recommend watching the anime at some point, because you get more detail, the back and forth between who is currently “winning” and who is “losing” in both is so compelling that you’ll forget they aren’t in English.  Plus, if you find that you really enjoyed this one and you want more, it has some sequels, spinoffs and even two live-action series adaptations. (Seriously, Netflix, you were really beating a dead horse by trying this franchise.)

2. “Train to Busan” (2016)

“부산행” (Busan-haeng), or “Train to Busan,” is a South Korean zombie film, starring legendary actor Gong Yoo. Forgive me for sounding biased, but literally everything this man has acted in is a work of art, especially “The Crucible” and “Goblin,” and “Train to Busan” is no different.

Unlike your typical zombie flick that depicts the apocalypse occurring in an open setting, with hysteric people and zombies running around abandoned towns, struggling to survive the zombies and themselves, this movie takes place on a high-speed train. “Train to Busan” also separates itself a little from cookie-cutter zombie movies because the story doesn’t end with a miraculous cure brought on by doctors and Patient Zero’s immune blood since this fast-paced ordeal happens in less than a day.

Seok Woo, played by Gong, is a busy, detached father and when his daughter, Soo An, insists on being with her mother for her birthday, they board a KTX train and settle down for the journey. Unfortunately, this is the last place anyone would want to be when an infected person also boards and the zombie virus quickly spreads throughout the locomotive. Armed only with what is on the KTX, Seok Woo, Soo An and the other survivors have to stay alive in the time it takes to get from Seoul to Busan.

“Train to Busan” earned its spot on this list because of its concept, the anxiety-inducing idea of being caught in such a confined place during the zombocalypse, and the movie’s rapid pace and surprising ability to make me cry. (Don’t ask, spoilers!)

3. “The Amazing Catfish” (2013)

Departing from Asia and going all the way to Mexico, we have “The Amazing Catfish.” Known natively as “Los insólitos peces gato,” this is a movie that I stumbled upon one day while browsing my Roku library. The title is what intrigued me initially and then I figured, it would be a good, chill way to practice my Spanish. What I really was not expecting was the emotional turmoil that came from a movie that sounded like it was about a reject superhero.

“The Amazing Catfish” is about Claudia, a young woman working in a supermarket, with no friends or family. When she ends up hospitalized with severe appendicitis, she meets her roommate, Martha, an HIV-positive, single mother of four. After some time, Martha gains Claudia’s trust and even offers for Claudia to go home with her family when they both get discharged. Claudia is initially, and rightfully, reluctant. I mean, who would just go home with an almost perfect stranger?

Fortunately though, Claudia accepts the invitation and it proves to be the best decision of her life. With the family’s company, Claudia starts to feel like she actually belongs somewhere; her bond with the family grows stronger as Martha continues to get sicker.

Although it has some funny moments, “The Amazing Catfish” is also a contender on the list titled “Movies That Made Me Cry.” It is a slow-paced, yet beautifully executed example of the found families trope and it’s a film that I will always remember.

These, along with many other non-English language movies, definitely aren’t worth missing out on simply because you don’t like reading subtitles and hopefully I’ve convinced you of that. Crappy plot and actor portrayal should honestly be the only things that determine a movie’s watch ability.

Just like in the English-language film-industry, there’s hundreds of movies out there of every genre for every taste; if you get into the plot deep enough, it won’t matter that you don’t speak the language because you’ll forget you’re even reading.

Bria Jones, Georgia Southern University

Writer Profile

Bria Jones

Georgia Southern University
Writing & Linguistics

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