World Cinema: From England to Japan, the 10 best international films ever made
One of the greatest moments of being a movie buff is discovering that so many great movies have been made outside of Hollywood, movies with as many unusual flavors as there are food from all over the world.
And it’s worth talking about some of the best films each country has to offer the world, especially when those films encapsulate their country’s values ââand way of life.
Brazil – âCity of Godâ (2002) – I’ve only ever seen one film from Brazil, and it’s an experience I’ll always cherish. “City of God” tells the story of a group of children who grow up in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro where organized crime is the only life they know. Told over a 20-year span, the film has an intoxicating energy as it portrays life in the slums and what that depravity can do to a man’s soul.
China – âIn the Mood for Loveâ (2000) – Although mainly known for its kung fu films like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, China has produced a lot of deep and honest portrayals of love. And no one does it better than Wong Kar-wai with his unrequited love affair between two neighbors whose respective spouses are having an affair. The film relishes its quietest moments, almost in a poetic way, giving moments of reflection and loss.
France – “Beauty and the Beast” (1946) – If only one film version of “Beauty and the Beast” could survive, I would choose this French version from 1946. In a way, the visual style is even more appealing than the animated film made 45 years later. But the most impressive fact about this version is that it was created entirely during the Nazi occupation, in a tale of the beauty and wonders of the world.
Germany – “Metropolis” (1927) – While Germany has given us many great directors, none of them captured their country like Fritz Lang. I was tempted to go with another of Lang’s masterpieces – âMâ – but realized that âMetropolisâ is the quintessential sci-fi movie. Almost every popular science fiction story, like “Star Wars,” “Superman,” and “Blade Runner,” owes it all to the greatest silent movie ever made.
India – “Pather Panchali” (1955) – Much like “City of God”, there is a quiet honesty in “Pather Panchali” that you don’t get in other forms of cinema. Even today’s Bollywood movies rarely have the same sense of realism as Satyajit Ray’s brutal but heartwarming story of a poor family struggling to create a life for their children with all the ups and downs that come with it. .
Italy – “8 Â½” (1963) – Italian films are generally excellent for two things – honesty and surrealism. And, one way or another, Federico Fellini captures these two aspects brilliantly and often at the same time. And his best work is “8 Â½”, a film about nothing and yet everything. The story follows a renowned film director, built around the personality of Fellini, suffering from a creativity block in the midst of his biggest film to date.
Iran – âA Separationâ (2011) – In the past decade, no other foreign film has hit as hard as Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation”. This is even more impressive given the Iranian government censorship that rarely allows filmmakers to express themselves in any meaningful way. And yet, the history of Farhadi’s family is both complex and honest in its depiction of life in Iran.
Japan – “Throne of Blood” (1957) – When it comes to the greatest filmmakers outside of Hollywood, two names usually come to mind. The first is Japan’s greatest cinematic mind, Akira Kurosawa. I could have filled this whole list with his films and left out many great ones. But “Throne of Blood” is Kurosawa at its most authentic, a reimagining of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” set in feudal Japan, and most delightfully thrilling.
Sweden – “The Seventh Seal” (1957) – The other foreign filmmaker to give Kurosawa a run for his money would be the Swede Ingmar Bergman, a master of thought and closest to cinematic poetry. At the same time as Kurosawa was making “The Blood Throne”, Bergman was making his masterpiece, namely the story of a knight defying death herself in a game of chess. It is one of the few movies that you can watch without subtitles while still understanding every moment of the movie simply through acting and cinematography.
United Kingdom – “The Third Man” (1949) – Often considered the greatest British film ever made, this post-WWII film noir is dripping with atmosphere as we discover an underworld of deception and characters who live in a world of grays. Carol Reed’s take on a mystery is both subtle and ingenious, rivaling any Alfred Hitchcock thriller. While having brilliant camera work and a one-of-a-kind score.