One of the most wonderful aspects of traveling is the opportunity to experience cultures outside of your own. Seeing the ways of life in other countries is wondrous and gives us a better understanding of the world we live in. If you aren’t able to travel there yourself, you can still broaden your perspective through these foreign language films. They’re so good, you’ll forget you’re reading subtitles.
Take a tour through Paris as Amelie tries to improve the lives of those around her. A waitress in Montmartre, Amelie grew up in isolation and views the world in an imaginative way. She sets off to help others through small and personal steps, while we get to experience everyday life in Paris along the way. This French film will have you rooting for Amelie and planning your next trip to France.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan)
Based on a novel by Wang Dulu, this movie follows Li Mu Bai, a martial arts master during the Qing Dynasty in China. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is an action story of loyalty, told through beautiful shots and martial arts battles. The film is universally loved and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning four of them.
Il Postino (Italy)
Il Postino, or The Postman, tells the story of the relationship between a poet and a postman. Although the story is fictional, the main character is Pablo Neruda, a real Chilean poet and diplomat. In 1950, Neruda is exiled from Chile to a small Italian island and forms a friendship with a fisherman-turned-postman. Neruda teaches him about poetry, politics and women, all set in a stunning coastal Italian backdrop.
This Spanish mystery-thriller revolves around a young businessman trying to piece together his past. When he wakes up next to his dead lover in a hotel room, Adrian Doria becomes a main murder suspect. Doria hires a prestigious lawyer and together they try to figure out what exactly happened. The twists and turns will keep you on the edge of your seat right up until the shocking ending.
Written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, Roma is a semi-autobiographical depiction of Cuarón’s childhood in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. The film shows the lives of an affluent family and their in-house workers. It highlights the close relationships between the family and those who work for them, but also the differences in their experiences.
The Salesman (Iran/France)
After being forced to move apartments, a young Iranian couple encounter acts of violence because of the previous tenant of their apartment. This danger creates tension in their relationship. The Salesman takes place in Tehran and tackles gender roles and toxic masculinity. Known for the brilliant acting and emotional writing, this foreign-language film won’t disappoint.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Japan)
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary about Jiro Ono, an admired chef, and his son. Ono is widely considered to be the best sushi chef in the world. At 85, he still strives for perfection in his small Tokyo sushi restaurant. The documentary takes an in-depth look at Ono’s brilliant career and his complicated, but loving, relationship with his son.
Life is Beautiful (Italy)
Heart-warming and eye-opening, this film reminds us what truly matters. Life is Beautiful follows the lives of a Jewish family in Arezzo, Italy during the Holocaust. This comedy-drama displays the power of imagination and the depths of a parent’s love for their child, proving why it’s one of the most favored foreign language films of all time.
The Lives of Others (Germany)
Gerd Weisler, a member of East Germany’s secret police, is ordered to spy on a playwright in Berlin. The more he learns about the playwright, the more inclined he is to help him. The Lives of Others was praised for its accurate depiction of a split Germany, as the director was a teenager when the Berlin Wall fell. The Lives of Others delves into the realities of the East German socialist state and the complications of empathy. This story of altruism will leave you with hope for the future.
Parasite (South Korea)
While this movie isn’t necessarily about travel, it depicts different lives in South Korea and definitely deserves a mention. Parasite is a thriller that showcases the harsh reality of class systems in Korean culture. A low-income family creates a heist to trick a wealthy family into hiring all of them, but things don’t go as planned. Upon release, it won an array of awards and was the first non-English movie to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.