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The 25 Best Foreign Films On Netflix Right Now

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Netflix

Care to insert a little culture into your next binge-watching sesh? Well, if you’re not afraid of a few subtitles, you can open yourself up to a whole new world of cinema without having to leave your couch - or, for that matter, your Netflix account. Everyone’s favorite streaming service is full of hidden gems of the international variety, hosting an impressive selection of celebrated flicks from around the globe. Whether you’re in the mood for haunting fantasy, dark comedy, or some straight-up action, check out our genre-spanning list of the best foreign films on Netflix right now.

And you thought you’d run out of great movies to watch...

1. 'Pan’s Labyrinth' (2006)

Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish-language masterpiece is hailed as a dark fairy tale that illustrates the real-life horrors of war and political strife. The film, which won three Academy Awards, centers around 10-year-old Ofelia, who has moved to a remote forest compound along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a brutal military captain who has been assigned to flush out rebels after the Spanish Civil War. After discovering an ancient stone labyrinth, Ofelia encounters mythical beings and is tasked with three quests to determine if she’s the reincarnation of Princess Moana of the underworld. The visual effects alone are worth watching for, as del Toro is famous for creating fantastical creatures.

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2. 'Okja' (2017)

Written and directed by Bong Joon-ho (the cult-favorite director behind 2019’s Parasite), the film is a heartwarming action-adventure tale about a young South Korean girl who fights to protect her best friend, a genetically-modified super pig named Okja, from an evil corporation. It features a star-studded ensemble cast, which includes Hollywood celebs Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, and Lily Collins, with South Korean child actress Ahn Seo-hyun in the starring role.

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3. 'Snowpiercer' (2013)

Another must-watch by Bong Joon-ho (and his English-language debut), Snowpiercer is a gnarly exploration of class divide, depicting a post-apocalyptic future where survivors of the new ice age ride around endlessly on a train. While the upper classes are treated to luxury living in the front cars, the poor inhabitants reside in filth and squalor. Then they decide to rebel. The action-packed sci-fi flick stars Hollywood A-listers Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton in some very memorable performances.

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4. 'The Platform' (2019)

A nightmarish social and class commentary whose real horror is found in its exploration of human nature forced to its limits, The Platform is a Spanish film that takes place in a towering futuristic prison where prisoners are fed via a descending platform. The prisoners at the top are provided with a feast too big to finish themselves, but selfishness and desperation ensure that the bounty never reaches the people at the bottom, leading to stomach-churning results. In a few words, its premise could be described as, quite literally, the cannibalism bred by capitalism.

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5. 'I Lost My Body' (2019)

While the concept of a severed hand searching for its body may sound more macabre than moving, this profoundly unique French animated film manages to interweave its strange premise with a dreamlike meditation on love, fate, and the human condition. Of course, there’s also the stunning artistry of the animation to take in. Consider it a highbrow cartoon movie for grownups.

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6. 'Kung Fu Hustle' (2004)

Now considered a modern classic of the martial arts genre, this 2004 action-comedy hailing from China is jam-packed with epic fight scenes and fun special effects. Set in 1940s Shanghai, it stars Stephen Chow (also the film’s writer and director) as a petty crook who dreams of joining the notorious Axe Gang… until he accidentally pisses them off and finds himself in the midst of an explosive battle between secret Kung Fu masters.

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7. 'Roma' (2018)

Praised by critics and viewers alike, and earning Alfonso Cuarón the Oscars for both Best Director and Best Cinematography, Roma is an intimate, semi-autobiographical drama depicting the life of a middle-class family living in Mexico City in the early 1970s. It presents a moving portrait of characters including Cleo, an Indigenous live-in maid, and Sofía, the matriarch of the family Cleo works for, who learns of her husband’s infidelity. Between its artistry and plotlines, it’s a film that stays with you.

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8. '#Alive' (2020)

An almost too-relevant take on the “zombie” genre, this South Korean film portrays a young gamer who is forced to barricade himself in his apartment and communicate through social media as a virus spreads among the world outside, turning his fellow citizens into flesh-eating monsters (classic!). Although he struggles with isolation, he is determined to survive, especially after he connects with a female neighbor living across the way. While it may not be the most original story, it’s definitely a fun must-watch for fans of zombie flicks.

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9. 'Y Tu Mamá También' (2001)

Alfonso Cuarón’s clever coming-of-age film has been a fan-favorite for nearly two decades. It stars actors Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal as two teenage friends who embark on a saucy road trip with an older woman through the Mexican countryside, melding comedy, drama, and sexual themes. It reimagines the American “road movie,” setting it among the social, political, and natural landscape of Mexico.

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10. 'Happy As Lazzaro' (2018)

This Italian-language flick is a dreamy drama with a fairytale-like twist that traverses time while staying grounded in real issues like the class divide. It tells the story of Lazzaro, a good-hearted young peasant in rural Italy who lives and works on a farm run by a cruel landowner. When the landowner’s son, a rebellious nobleman, asks Lazzaro to help him stage his own kidnapping, the innocent worker experiences a freak accident that leads to him waking up in the future. The film was a hit at Cannes where it debuted in 2018 and where it won the prestigious title of Best Screenplay, so you know you’re in for a unique ride.

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11. 'The Night Comes For Us' (2018)

If you like your movies like you like your video games, and you like your video games action-packed and full of gory fight sequences, good news! The Night Comes For Us, an Indonesian gangland thriller, should check all of your boxes. Crime, violence, and masterfully choreographed martial-arts battles ensue after a Triad enforcer spares the life of a young girl and turns his back on the gang. Warning: the use of fake blood is gratuitous, but hey if you’re into that sorta thing…

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12. 'Verónica' (2017)

Horror fanatics, this one’s for you. The Spanish supernatural chiller, Verónica, involves many elements signature to the “teen possession” genre: an ouija board, a creepy nun, an attempted seance that goes horribly wrong. But when Paco Plaza’s terrifying take on the familiar theme hit Netflix back in 2018, it was described by many viewers as “the scariest movie ever.” The fact that it’s based on a true story only adds to the goosebumps. Watch at your own risk.

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13. 'Atlantics' (2019)

As for a supernatural drama that goes in the decidedly opposite direction, there’s Atlantics. A mesmerizing tale that takes place in the shadow of development and exploitation in a suburb of Dakar, Senegal, it combines serious political commentary with magical realism to culminate in a ghostly story of love and revenge. The director, Mati Diop, made history in 2019 when she became the first Black woman to direct a film in competition at Cannes.

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14. 'The Lobster' (2015)

An international co-production of Ireland, the United Kingdom, Greece, France, and the Netherlands, 2015’s The Lobster is the first English-language film by acclaimed Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. An instant art house hit, the “absurdist dystopian black comedy” stars Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz as characters who must navigate love in a world where single people are given a certain amount of time to find a partner before being forced by the state to turn into an animal. The deep-cutting (and disturbingly hilarious) satire plays on the commentary plenty of single people in the real world are probably used to hearing.

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15. 'I’m No Longer Here' (2019)

After a Mexican teenager named Ulises gets mixed up in local gang violence, he is forced to flee to Queens, New York, where he finds himself living an alienated and lonely life. The film uses flashbacks to tell the story of what happened to Ulises, a member of the Mexican youth subculture dubbed Cholombiano, which is marked by baggy clothes, eccentric hairstyles, and a love for dancing to manipulated cumbia music. While the story and social commentary paint somewhat of a dismal picture, the actual film work is breathtaking.

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16. 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople' (2016)

Coming out of New Zealand, Hunt for the Wilderpeople perfectly embodies writer/director Taika Waititi’s brand of quirky, semi-sweet comedy as it follows a troubled teen and his grouchy foster father through mishaps and adventure in the New Zealand wilderness. It’ll leave you with plenty of laughs and probably some inner warm-and-fuzzies.

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17. 'Swimming Pool' (2003)

This erotic French thriller makes psychological suspense rather sexy. A crime novelist experiencing writer’s block escapes to her publisher’s luxurious country house in the South of France for some peace and quiet to work on her next book. But then a mysterious young woman claiming to be his daughter suddenly arrives, and drama is soon to follow. The much-talked-about ending has spurred controversy thanks to its multitude of interpretations - and if that’s not reason enough to watch, we don’t know what is.

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18. 'Divines' (2016)

“Get rich or die trying” is the overarching theme of this fresh French drama about a scrappy teenage girl from the rough “banlieues” of Paris stumbling into a life of drug-dealing and street-hustling. It’s a raw illustration of urban youth and the tragic consequences of dabbling with crime to overcome one’s circumstances. As it was her first feature film, director Houda Benyamina won the Caméra d'Or prize for Divines when it debuted at Cannes in 2016.

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19. 'Everybody Knows' (2018)

Starring Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz, Spanish crime drama Everybody Knows takes place in a small town just outside Madrid, where a woman named Laura (Cruz) returns home for her sister’s wedding. When her daughter is kidnapped for ransom, the secret she’s kept for years begins to unravel and family tensions reach a boiling point. Juxtaposed with the mystery surrounding the kidnapping, the storyline makes for an intricate and interesting watch.

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20. 'On My Skin' (2018)

Based on the true story of a case that rocked Italy in 2009, this gritty Italian drama recalls the last days of Stefano Cucchi, a young Roman man who was arrested on drug possession charges and mysteriously died in police custody a week later. The powerful narrative explores the all-too-relevant (and universal) themes of police brutality and corruption within the criminal justice system.

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21. 'Burning' (2018)

The title of this South Korean psychological thriller makes sense for plenty of reasons related to the plot, but it is, as a whole, best described as a slow burn drama that intensifies until its shocking conclusion. After a young man, Jong-su, is tasked with taking care of a female friend’s cat while she’s away, he unwittingly gets pulled into a fiery love triangle with his friend and a mysterious, Porsche-driving Korean playboy. When it was released in 2018, the film was a hit on the festival circuit and made just about every Best Movie of The Year list, so both critics and viewers agree that it’s a must-see.

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22. 'Brahman Naman' (2016)

For some lighthearted, good ol’ fashioned sex comedy in the Western tradition of raunchy movies like American Pie and Superbad, there’s Brahman Naman. The commercially-angled Indian feature takes on the familiar, yet always-funny, plot of a group of nerdy college guys on a booze-soaked quest to lose their virginities. While there are some India-specific touchpoints related to classism and sexism, it’s definitely a pick that can be enjoyed by bros across the world. Trust, you won’t soon forget the ceiling fan scene.

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23. 'First They Killed My Father' (2017)

History buffs who can stomach the harsh realities of war and political strife won’t want to miss this harrowing true account of a child soldier in Cambodia, surviving the genocidal reign of the Khmer Rouge in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Based on the memoir of the same name by activist Loung Ung, the film was actually directed by Angelina Jolie, who also worked alongside Ung to write the script. It’s shot in the Khmer language of Cambodia and was made with the help of a completely Cambodian cast and crew.

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24. 'A Fortunate Man' (2018)

This Danish period piece, adapted from the famous novel Lucky Per by Nobel Prize-winning author Henrik Pontoppidan, follows the epic rise and fall of Peter, a poor but ambitious engineering student who has the chance to rise up in Copenhagen society thanks to his modern, grand-scale ideas. All signs point to the good life until the inner demons stemming from his past emerge. It’s a dramatic and complex character study that reinforces the detrimental effects of unresolved trauma.

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25. 'Wadjda' (2012)

The first-ever feature film by a female Saudi director (shout out to Haifaa al-Mansour!) and the first film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, Wadjda is an uplifting story centering on a rebellious, spirited young girl on a mission to buy her own bicycle - despite the fact that riding a bike is a frowned upon activity for girls. It’s been celebrated for its accurate depiction of the challenges faced by women in the region due to culture and religion while leaving enough room for the hopeful potential of progress.

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