10 Must-See Foreign Films: Eddie’s Take

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List compiled by Eddie on 31/10/2014

First and foremost, this list is not supposed to be in any way, shape or form the decisive collection of the all-time best foreign films, as there are far too many quality films the world over for one to partake in and appreciate. Rather, these below films are a representation of some outstanding films from all across the world, in particular ones released in the last decade.

It’s been a joy to watch lately the growth in from foreign film markets. Where once particular films would be for Hollywood only, we are now seeing an increasingly vast array of quality films that not only push story boundaries but technical ones also, making it an exciting time for us film lovers as we never know where our next favourite film might be coming from.

I fondly remember watching all these below films, and I hope you too may be inspired to take the plunge into a few of these tales as they’re all for various reasons well worth your time and just as good as anything Hollywood may have to offer.

As always happy reading and happy watching!

For Jordan’s take click here

Disclaimer – plot summaries from IMDB.com

10.  Cell 211 (2009)

Cell 211

Director: Daniel Monzon (El Nino)

Starring: Luis Tosar, Alberto Ammann

The story of two men on different sides of a prison riot — the inmate leading the rebellion and the young guard trapped in the revolt, who poses as a prisoner in a desperate attempt to survive the ordeal.

A brutal, fast paced and inventive thriller, Cell 211 starts with a bang and doesn’t stop for a single second. The story may seem simple and the set up basic but where this movie takes you is anything but generic. One for all fans of high calibre, well made movies.

Is it being remade? Yes

9. Gomorrah (2008)


Director: Matteo Garrone (Reality)

Starring: Gianfelice Imparato, Salvatore Abruzzese

An inside look at Italy’s modern crime families.

An epic crime story spanning multiple characters and storylines, Gomorrah is not always an easy watch but it’s a searing account on the crime families of Italy in the modern day and age and is not dissimilar to those Martin Scorsese gangster classics of the 90’s which goes a way to showcasing why Scorsese was a producer on this flick.

Is it being remade? No

8. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)


Director: Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy)

Starring: Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Sergi López

In the falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.

Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar winning beauty is arguably his most personal movie and without question his most accomplished. A haunting, touching and totally original tale that is whimsical, frighting and effective, Pan’s Labyrinth is a revered foreign film by many that absolutely deserves all its plaudits.

Is it being remade? No

7. City Of God (2002)

City of

Director: Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund (The Constant Gardner)

Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Matheus Nachtergaele

Two boys growing up in a violent neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro take different paths: one becomes a photographer, the other a drug dealer.

A frenetic gut punch of a film, City of God burst onto the screen in 2002 and took audiences the world over by storm. Filmed with a hot intensity and a with a unique eye, City of God is still as powerful today as it was on release and if by chance you’ve yet to see this masterpiece, you should rush out at the nearest chance to find yourself a copy.

Is it being remade? No

6. The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)

Broken circle

Director: Felix van Groeningen (Misfortunates)

Starring: Veerle Baetens, Johan Heldenbergh, Nell Cattrysse

Elise and Didier fall in love at first sight, in spite of their differences. He talks, she listens. He’s a romantic atheist, she’s a religious realist. When their daughter becomes seriously ill, their love is put on trial.

While a recent release, The Broken Circle Breakdown absolutely deserves its place on this list as a realistic and touching drama with a fantastic soundtrack to boot. Featuring some standout performances from its three leads and filmed in a unique way, this is relationship drama at it’s very best.

Is it being remade? No

5. The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)


Director: Juan José Campanella (Metegol)

Starring: Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Pablo Rago

 A retired legal counsellor writes a novel hoping to find closure for one of his past unresolved homicide cases and for his unreciprocated love with his superior – both of which still haunt him decades later.

Featuring a truly awe inspiring one take shot at a football stadium and more than its fair share of plot twists, there is little surprise that The Secret in Their Eyes was the Oscar winning success it was and was quickly commissioned for an American remake starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Gwynth Paltrow and Julia Roberts. Thriller/Mysteries don’t get much better than this.

Is it being remade? Yes

4. Waltz with Bashir (2008)


Director: Ari Folman (The Congress)

Starring: Ari Folman, Ron Ben-Yishai, Ronny Dayag

An Israeli film director interviews fellow veterans of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon to reconstruct his own memories of his term of service in that conflict.

While we’ve spoken about Waltz with Bashir previously in our documentary articles, it deserves to be mentioned once more as a must see film experience for those that may’ve missed it upon release. Filmed in a stunning animated palette and with a sensitivity from all involved, this is a truly moving war themed experience shinning a light on an oft forgotten time.

Is it being remade? No

3. Incendies (2010)


Director: Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners)

Starring: Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin

Twins journey to the Middle East to discover their family history, and fulfil their mother’s last wishes.

If the mainstream goodness of Prisoners or the high concept excellence of Enemy wasn’t enough to convince you of director Denis Villeneuve’s talents then you need but seek out this incredibly powerful gem. From the first frame till the last you’ll be hooked by this stunning drama and more than once you’ll find your jaw sitting somewhere on the floor. Amazing stuff.

Is it being remade? No

2. The Raid/The Raid 2 (2011 and 2014)


Director: Gareth Evans (Merantau)

Starring: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy

S.W.A.T  team member and one man wrecking machine Rama battles his way through a high-rise full of thugs and then in an undercover op. No stone is left un-turned and no chair left un-thrown in his fight to eradicate the baddies.

You can’t have one without the other here for director Gareth Evans butt kicking and brain blowing action films are all types of awesome for so many different reasons. Giving the action genre a massive wakeup call with the first Raid and showcasing himself as one of the most promising upcoming filmmakers around with the second, Evan’s films are for those that like their action ramped up to 11 and there movies accompanied by a stick of dynamite.

Is it being remade? Yes

1. A Prophet (2009)


Director: Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone)

Starring: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif

 A young Arab man is sent to a French prison where he becomes a mafia kingpin.

A prison drama that is also so much more, A Prophet is a awe inspiringly good film that features a career defining turn from lead Tahir Rahim and a blistering display behind camera from Jacques Audiard. This is crime drama at its very best and touching tale of one man’s rise from nothing into something quiet incredible. Read our classic review for a more in depth analysis.

Is it being remade? Yes

Honourable Mentions –

The Lives of Others, Nine Queens, No Man’s Land, Let the Right One In, The Act of Killing, Bus 174, Night Watch, Martyrs, The Host, Tell No One.

How does this list compare to some of your favourite foreign films? Where’s the Studio Ghibli you might say or the Akira Kurosawa? Let us know about some of your all time classic foreign films in the comments below!

31 responses to “10 Must-See Foreign Films: Eddie’s Take

  1. You have both Raid films and A Prophet on this list. You have my respect, my man 😀

    One nitpick, ” there (THEIR) movies accompanied by a stick of dynamite..”

    Also, including the “remake” option in this list was a smart movie 🙂

  2. Great list. I’ve seen 7 and Gomorrah, The Broken Circle Breakdown and Incendies are on my list to watch.

    My addition to this list (films I have seen this year anyways) would be:
    La Grande Belleza

    Nice work, boys.

  3. This is a good list, and good that most of these films won’t be remade. It will be interesting to see how A Prophet gets remade, French organized crime is neglected by Hollywood and I could see them changing the locale to the US and making it just another prison film.

  4. Some quality films there Eddie. Good to see some love for A Prophet at the top too, as well as The Secret In Their Eyes which includes one of my favourite scenes in recent years (the one at the football stadium). There are a couple there I haven’t seen there that sound good, like Incendies and The Broken Circle Breakdown, I will try and check them out.

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  6. Your a brave man to whittle it down to just 10!

    Though I am not sure how many would make my personal top 10 of the same criteria, I cannot disagree with the high quality of the films on this list. They are all essential viewing.

    Good to see Cell 211 on the list, a criminally underseen film and a truly gripping drama. Luis Tozar is always a majestic screen presence.

  7. I definitely agree with the person who said Wadjda, I also had a lot of love for Armour. Oh and yeah, total bias but my first thought was ‘let’s hope there is something Japanese on this list’ Guess I’ll need to rec you some then!

    • Jordan is a pretty big fan of some Japanese flavoured flicks so I should really be getting into a few mate. Armour is a pretty powerful film, deserving of it’s many plaudits.

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  9. Interesting that there’s no Asian films in your top 10 – I must confess to being rather partial in that area, and there are so many superb Asian films in all genres. I’ve noticed that the film industries of many countries have a distinct national flavour – f’rinstance, Japan has produced great creepy horror and really quirky stuff, Korea has made some stunning films that tear your entrails out, while Hong Kong has produced some exceptional cop/triad flicks. I’m not mentioning mainland China, since a lot of their stuff is overblown and over-long, and Taiwanese films are way too slow and tedious for me, but even the Philippines has done some really funny things on a shoestring budget.

    I used to write reviews for Heroic Cinema, a team which has been going for about 20 years now, so check out their reviews of Old Boy (superb film that won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2004), Sympathy For Mr Vengeance (the film that came before Old Boy), The Foul King (comedy), or The Quiet Family (the blackest of comedies) from Korea; Infernal Affairs and The Mission from Hong Kong; Lily Chou-Chou (if you like touching drama), Dolls (for lyrical beauty), Ichi (for extreme violence and bizarre humour), or Tetsuo (for sheer weirdness) from Japan; and Gagamboy from the Philippines. I’d stick at least 5 of these in my Top 10 list of world cinema, and there are plenty more.

    Sorry for wiffling on so much. Good work, guys, and keep it up. I must also say that I love the icon from Withnail And I – another fine British film. 🙂

    • Hi Alison.
      Thanks for sharing some fantastic film knowledge with us. I must admit that I really have not truely delved into the Asian cinema domain and it seems more and more evident that I really should 🙂 cheers for the thoughts.

      • Thanks, Eddie. There have been some excellent films from the various Asian countries, and I’d love more people to be exposed to them.

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