As we’re getting close to the end of 2022, I want to share the best foreign films I have watched this year.
Mainstream movies aren’t just Hollywood blockbusters or the occasional British comedy anymore. With the rise of mass home cinema in the last ten years and the fact that you can get almost anything on DVD, Blu-ray, or streaming services like Netflix, world cinema has finally moved past the point where it was only for experts or something you might find on TV late at night.
In the past few years, more and more foreign films have become popular in the United States. Roma, by Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, is a great example. These fantastic stories are just waiting to be seen.
So, I’ve put together a list to help you discover more great foreign films from around the world.
Here are 10 foreign films I watched last year and where to look for them. I guarantee you will not be disappointed!
- Release date: November 27, 2017 (Germany)
- Countries of origin: Germany, United Kingdom, Spain
- Language: Spanish
- Genre: Documentary, Fiction
- Length: 1h26m
Donkeyote is a heartwarming documentary about an old Andalucian farmer who wants to travel to the United States with his dog and donkey. There is no definite line between what is “staged” and what is real in Donkeyote, a movie inspired by the classic comic-heroic Don Quijote by Cervantes.
The main character is a natural performer: his rough voice emerges from the shadow of his wide-brimmed cowboy hat. We see him telling stories to his daughter, reciting poems in a bar, and making up songs on the spot. Manolo’s journeys are filmed by Pereira and the talented cameraman Julian Schwanitz in wide, long shots reminding us of old American Westerns.
This movie shows the beautiful scenery of the south of Spain, the strange things the man does to get ready for his trip, and how he gets along with his human and animal family. The long-shot scenes alternate with close-up moments of Manolo singing and talking to his dog and donkey. The documentary story is also surprisingly funny because the main character is naive and has an odd plan for how to travel.
You can rent the movie for $3.99 on Amazon.
- Release date: September 1987
- Country of origin: Japan
- Language: Japanese
- Genre: Comedy
- Length: 1h54m
Tampopo is a story about a truck driver who gets into a fight with a gang in a noodle restaurant. When the movie starts, it looks like a Japanese take on Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti Westerns. Goro, played by Tsutomu Yamazaki, is the hero. He is a lone rider who rides a truck instead of a horse. He and some friends go looking for the best noodle restaurant, but they need help finding it. Then he meets Tampopo, played by Nobuko Miyamoto, a sweet young woman with a good heart but bad noodles.
He is knocked unconscious and wakes up in the owner’s house the next day. She asks him his honest opinion about her ramen. He answers that it lacks character and offers to help her out. Tampopo is often dubbed a “ramen western” (a reference to the American spaghetti western) and offers action, romance, and comedy.
Moreover, this Japanese movie that does not seem to reach out to other cultures is almost all the funnier because of that. Who cannot relate to the quest for the best noodles? In previous years, Netflix has been flooded with street food series, bake-offs, and cooking competitions. Maybe Tampopo saw this coming long ago.
The Washington Post called Tampopo the funniest movie about the connection between food and sex.”
You can stream Tampopo on Amazon Prime.
Everything Everywhere All At Once (Chinese-American)
- Release date March 25, 2022 (United States)
- Country of origin: United States
- Languages: English, Mandarin, Cantonese
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
- Length: 2h19m
The New York Times called it Messy and Glorious, and with an 8.2 on IMDB, the movie is one of this year’s highflyers.
So, what makes “Everything Everywhere All at Once” an unforgettable experience? Evelyn, our main character, is the head of a family of Chinese immigrants and does not like her life. Her husband wants a divorce, and her daughter’s family has trouble accepting that she is a lesbian.
Evelyn Wang’s laundromat is on the verge of closing, and her marriage to her weak-willed husband, Waymond, is in trouble. She is also overworked and has difficulty getting along with her judgmental father, Gong Gong, and her daughter, Joy. Furthermore, as if going through a sad midlife crisis was not bad enough, Evelyn has to prepare for a stormy meeting with Deirdre, an IRS auditor who dresses shabbily.
As the strict agent loses patience, a sudden unexplainable split into multiverses occurs, opening up parallel worlds. Will Evelyn travel to the other side(s)? And can the tired protagonist find a way to understand the unstoppable force of possibilities? The multiverse quickly battle tests her to use her newfound abilities to stop bad things from destroying the thin, many layers of the unseen world.
You can watch the movie in the theaters or rent it here for $5.99.
- Release date: September 12, 2015 (France)C
- Country of origin: France
- Languages: English, French, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Chinese, Russian, Greek, Hebrew, Sign Languages
- Genre: Documentary
- Length: 3h10m
What is it that makes us human?
Filmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand tries to answer this question in his documentary Human.
Human took three years to make. Over 2,000 people in 60 countries were interviewed by director Yann Arthus-Bertrand and a team of 20 people. The crew had five reporters and cameramen, a “fixer” in each place to organize things, and four people in charge of getting the material and sorting it. Arthus-Bertrand was one of the six people on the aircrew.
Each person was asked the same forty questions and shown on a black background without a musical score or any information about who they were or where they were from. Arthus-Bertrand hoped that removing personal details would bring attention to the things we have in common. He said they “…wanted to focus on what we all have in common. When you put a person’s name or where they are from; you do not feel that way as much “.
You can watch the 3-part documentary for free on Youtube. Here are the links to these foreign films 2022 [one] [two] [three].
The Worst Person In The World (Norway)
- Release date: October 13, 2021
- Countries of origin: Norway, France, Sweden, Denmark
- Language: Norwegian
- Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance
- Length: 2h 8m
How did the title “The Worst Person in the World” come about? What does it say about the protagonist Julie? Although she breaks up with two men, lies, and cheats, she doesn’t come across as evil. She’s simply another human with flaws. Like anyone in their 20s, she struggles with the fear of commitment and has issues making important decisions.
Because of this fear, she cannot commit to a single relationship and ends up dating one guy after the other without being willing to engage in the long term. Are her expectations too high, or is she not ready yet? An entertaining yet realistic movie about essential life choices with beautiful cinematography.
There are two exciting scenes: the first is when she finally gets the courage to tell Aksel she is leaving him, and the second is when she runs through the streets of Oslo to find Eivind and kiss him. The second one happens when she takes mushrooms with Eivind and his friends. It’s a scene-stealing drug-induced dream in which Julie finally confronts her deadbeat, estranged father.
This movie is sweet, gentle, and funny in both typical and natural ways. It’s the kind of movie we’ve all seen done so poorly that it’s a surprise to see it done well and realize that its themes are essential: whom do you fall in love with? Who’s “the one”? Does that person even exist?
The Worst Person in the World is one of the best foreign films in 2022 and can be watched here.
- Release date: February 2020 (Bhutan)
- Countries of origin: Bhutan, China
- Languages: Dzongkha, English
- Genres: Drama, Family
- Length: 1h 50m
Have you ever experienced a culture shock in your own country?
That happened to Ugyen, a young teacher from Bhutan’s capital Thimphu.
Ugyen, a young teacher in modern Bhutan, does not do his job because he wants to become a singer in Australia. As a punishment, his bosses send him to a village in the Himalayas called Lunana, which has the most remote school in the world. There, he has to do his service. He has to leave the comforts of his Western Life after an 8-day arduous journey to get there. There, he needs help finding a blackboard or electricity.
Even though the villagers are poor, they openly welcome their new teacher. However, he will have to teach the village’s children without supplies. Ugyen wants to quit and go home, but as he learns about the beautiful children he teaches and sees how hard their lives are, he starts to change. This is because of the incredible spiritual strength of the villagers.
Lunana gives a unique look at rural life in Bhutan by using real people who had never seen a camera before. This movie moves at a slow pace that goes well with its familiar fish-out-of-water story. As sad and heartwarming as all of this is, it is a simple ode to gross national happiness.
Lunana was nominated for an Oscar this year and can be watched here for $3.99.
- Release date: September 28, 2018
- Countries of origin: Greece, Poland
- Language: Greek
- Genre: Drama
- Length: 1h 37m
Pity tells the story of a man who is only happy when he is sad, a man who is so desperate for sympathy that he will do anything to get it from others. This is a man’s life in a world that is not hard enough for him.
With his unconscious and hospitalized wife’s condition worsening, this neat and sad lawyer is left to care for his teenage son. As the stone-faced lawyer tries to deal with a shocking new reality while hiding behind a thick veil of constant sadness, he realizes more and more that extreme pain and misery can bring about intense pleasure as the neighbors’ unwavering sympathy becomes increasingly addictive.
His wife is in a coma, and she may not wake up. His coworkers, friends, and family do not know how to react to the situation and constantly ask him how he is doing. When things start to look better, the main character, who has no name, struggles to adapt. He is used to all the attention and can’t let go of it anymore. His need for sympathy makes him do strange but funny things, which changes the movie from a tragicomedy to a black comedy.
An interesting theme that Babis Makridis’ slow-burning drama depicts is how pain and loss can repeatedly hurt in different forms. How can the main character – or any of us – deal with pain correctly?
You can rent the film here.
La Belle Epoque (France)
- Release date: November 6, 2019
- Countries of origin: France, Belgium
- Languages: French, English, German
- Genres: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance
- Length: 1h 55m
Imagine you can relive any moment you experienced in your life as accurately as possible. This is what Antoine’s business does.
Some people pay a lot of money to be a Nazi for a day, but the main character, Victor, wants to do something more personal: meet his wife for the first time.
His marriage is falling apart, and he wishes to return to happier times. He doesn’t know yet that the experience will significantly affect him more than he thought.
With the help of cigarettes, sideburns, flares, and other props, Antoine puts Victor in the bar in Lyon 1974, where Victor meets his wife for the first time. The young Marianne will be played by Antoine’s ex-wife, Margot (Doria Tillier). Will this crazy lie invigorate his marriage? Or will Victor start to like Margot?
You can find a beautiful and funny romantic comedy on Youtube for $3.99.
- Release date: March 29, 2019
- Countries of origin: China, Hong Kong
- Language: Mandarin
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, War
- Length: 1h 56m
Shadow was set during China’s Three Kingdoms era (AD 220-280). It’s the story of a potential war between kingdoms that have coexisted peacefully. The movie revolves around four main characters: a violent and ambitious king whose methods and goals are unclear; his general, a visionary who wants to win the final battle but needs to make his plans in secret; the women of the palace, who try to find redemption in a world where they have no place; and a commoner called “Lord of all the world.”
This unique martial arts production by famous Chinese director Yimou Zhang uses different shades of gray to give the movie a black-and-white look that has never been seen before. As the story gets more complicated and the tension rises, a splash of red appears and turns the movie into a modern Chinese painting. You can watch the movie and other foreign films of 2022 on Amazon Prime.
Oldboy (South Korea)
- Release date: November 21, 2003
- Country of origin: South Korea
- Language: Korean
- Genres: Action, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
- Length: 2h
Oldboy is a Korean classic from 2003. The film’s 8.4 rating on IMDb has kept it near the top of the charts since it was first released.
Oh Dae-Su (Choi Min-Sik), a drunk businessman, wakes up in 1988 in a locked hotel room, where he is being held by a person he does not know. He fights and hammers his way to find his kidnapper and slowly gets closer to revealing the mystery. After 15 long years, he is suddenly released from prison without knowing why. As he returns to society, he feels an unquenchable desire for revenge.
Oldboy is one of the most popular South Korean movies ever made and has become hugely popular worldwide. It is one foreign film inextricably linked to how the Korean movie sector is gradually taking over the world.
You can watch Oldboy here for $5.
Do You Want More Foreign Films?
How many of these foreign films have you watched in 2022?
If you’d love to watch more movies, check out some of my other lists:
- 10 Best International Movies of 2020
- Top 3 Colombian Movies | Beautiful Landscapes, Tension & Mysticism
- Best Argentinian Movies Of All Time | A Top 5
- The Best 10 Korean Movies of All Time
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