10 Best Foreign Films of All-Time

In America, the idea of subtitles is enough to scare off some of the most avid cinephiles; however, if one can break out of their comfort zone, they can find some gems made from around the globe.  

Here is a countdown of 10 of the best foreign films:

10.  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000); Tawain 


Directed by Academy-Award winning director Ang Lee, this action movie was the most commercially successful foreign film of all time, raking in more than $100 million at the box office.  The film won the 2000 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and its thrilling action sequences make the viewer forget that the film is not in English.

9.  Akira (1988); Japan


This late-80s Japanese film is widely considered the hallmark of Japanese anime film. Since its release, the film has garnered something of a cult-status, and has been shown numerous times with a live score accompanying it. 

8.  Wrath of God (1972); Germany


This West German film from influential director Warner Herzog is one of the most imagery rich and important films ever created. This near perfect combination of sights and sounds, as the soundtrack and score to the film create a world for which the viewer can step into that is unparalleled to this date. Directors such as Coppola and Malick have viewed Herzog, and this film in particular, as extremely influential in their own work.

7.  Battleship Potemkin (1925); Soviet Union


This silent film by Sergei Eisenstein is a masterpiece of drama and film making prowess. Look no further than the "Odessa Steps" sequence for the textbook example of "Soviet Montage," and arguably the most dramatic silent sequence ever. One could also watch The Untouchables for an homage to that same scene. This film class staple still lives on today in classrooms in the United States.

6.  Rashomon (1950); Japan


This 1950 Japanese film was one of, if not the first film to use a nonlinear story line in which multiple eyewitnesses each recount their version of the story. This film gave birth to the "Rashomon Effect" which is used in countless TV shows to this day.

5.  Bicycle Thieves (1948); Italy


This 1948 film by Vittorio De Sica is potentially one of the sappiest, yet most heartwarming films ever made. The tale of a boy who just wants his bicycle back can move even those who cannot speak a word of Italian. To this day, stands as one of the best foreign films ever made.

4.  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920); Germany


This masterpiece of German expressionism in the Weimar period between World War I and II is a gem of surrealism and intrigue. This horror movie, made in 1920, stands up to this day as one of the best horror films of all time. The film is director Robert Wiene's finest work in what amounted to a fantastic, albeit short career.

3.  Pan's Labyrinth (2006); Mexico


Guillermo del Toro does it again in this 21st century masterpiece of special effects and bone tingling horror. It is a textbook example of making the audience scared without them understanding a lick of what is being said. The art direction of this film is second-to-none and the Academy awarded its brilliance.

2.  An Andalusian Dog (originally Un Chien Andalou) (1929); France



This surrealist film created by Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel in 1929 stands as one of the most disturbing films ever created. This film has neither a  plot, nor a real setting, nor a discernible time span

1.  Breathless (1960);


Parisian cool, plus the French version of Humphrey Bogart (a fantastic Jean-Paul Belmondo), and a dash of American chic with Jean Seberg come together to create the preeminent film of the "nouvelle vague," which means new wave, of cinema. Director Jean-Luc Godard masterfully pieces together all of his influences which he studied as a film critic and created a movie which feels both effortless and well thought-out at the same time. Any film that combines all of these elements is certainly worthy of the top spot.

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Brian Weidy

A Sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Aspiring writer from New York City with a love of Sports, Films, Music, and Politics.

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