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Top 5 Foreign Films To See Before You Die

Updated on October 19, 2014

Which Foreign Film Should You Choose?

Foreign films can be incredible experiences but (like all films) not every one of them is created equally. To save you time, here are just five of the best in foreign films. All of them should be watched in their native language with accompanying subtitles for translation. Dubbed versions often do not come close to capturing the words said in the film and the necessary voices of the people. Please enjoy your squidoo experience into the world of foreign films!

Departures - A Mistaken Name Changes a Young Man's Destiny

Film: Departures

Year: 2008

Director: Yojiro Takita

Language: Japanese (English Subtitle option)

Awards: Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Japan Academy Prize for Picture of the Year


After the sudden end of his orchestra, Daigo Kobayash realizes his cello dreams have ended and returns to his hometown. With a wife and no job, he answers an ad for a place called Departures. Instead of a travel agency, he begins to secretly work as a Nokanshi, a professional who readies the dead for burial and prepares them for entering the next life. The families of the departed bring new life to Daigo and open up a personal journey of change and forgiveness.

One of the best films I have ever seen. The movie gives an insight into the unusual side of Japanese culture. Daigo's loss of a dream as a cello player turns into his greatest gain. His experience becomes your own as you see him finding a place for himself. The music is beautiful all throughout the whole film and the acting is wonderful. Humor and drama are merged together making a masterpiece of a film. Once you see it, you will want to watch it all over again.


Soundtrack from Departures

Departures (OST)
Departures (OST)

The soundtrack to the foreign film Departures


Departures Theatrical Trailer


Film: Amélie

Year: 2001

Language: French (English Subtitles)

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Awards: Best film at European Film Awards; Nominated for 5 Academy Awards; 4 Cesar Awards; 2 Best Original Screenplay Awards


Amélie is a movie about a very unique girl whose life is suddenly changed by discovering a box of childhood treasures in her apartment wall. She makes a decision to find the owner and become a regular do-good. While she is doing good to others, who will be there for her? A split-second encounter with a young man who leaves behind a unique photo album may change everything. Intrigued by the book, she looks to return it to him and finds herself falling in love. Unknown to Amélie, he to is beginning to feel the same for her.

Amélie is one of those rare movies which can never be watched enough. The tale is unusual compared to the usual cut-and-dry romantic love stories. Amélie is such an unusual person in the subtle ways she tries to help those around her. The beautiful language and the brilliant colors of the film make watching it a completely enjoyable experience. Most of my friends own this film because it is so moving and fun. I cannot even find the words to describe the wonders of Amélie. You need to see it to experience it.


Amelie: The Soundtrack

Amelie (Music From the Motion Picture)
Amelie (Music From the Motion Picture)

Soundtrack to the foreign film Amelie


Maundy Thursday - The First Film Beautiful Enough to Bring Me to Tears

Film: Maundy Thursday

Year: 2006

Director: Song Hae-seong

Language: Korean (English subtitles)

Awards: 7th most popular film in Korea for 2006

Maundy Thursday (known also as Our Happy Time) Theatrical Trailer

RUN LOLA RUN - A Heart-Racing Crime Thriller


Year: 1998

Language: German (has english subtitles)

Writer & Director: Tom Tykwer Cast

Awards: Nominated for 41 awards (won 26)

Run Lola Run
Run Lola Run

RUN LOLA RUN is a German crime thriller race against the clock. A young woman, named Lola, receives an urgent call from her boyfriend. He has lost a very large amount of money and is in serious trouble if he does not recover it in the next 20 minutes. Lola must rush against the clock to find him a solution. The movie plays out in three different scenario where a single second may mean the different between life and death.

I grew up watching this movie. The film is very fast-paced and puts you on the edge of your seat. Every part of the story depends on the timing, a few seconds to early or to late means Lola might find her boyfriend in serious trouble. You are kept guessing as to how the story will play out each time. I highly recommend seeing this movie if you love any type of suspense or thriller type films. Even if you are not a huge fan of them (like I typically am), I still recommend seeing RUN LOLA RUN. The movie is a must-see film for a reason.


RUN LOLA RUN Soundtrack

Run Lola Run: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Run Lola Run: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Soundtrack to the foreign film, RUN LOLA RUN


RUN LOLA RUN Theatrical Trailer

Taiyou no Uta (A Song of the Sun)

Film: Taiyou no Uta (A Song of the Sun; Midnight Sun; Song to the Sun)

Year: 2006

Director: Norihiro Koizumi

Language: Japanese (English Subtitles)

A Song To The Sun / Ima, Ai Ni Yukimasu Japanese Drama Dvd NTSC Region 3 English Sub
A Song To The Sun / Ima, Ai Ni Yukimasu Japanese Drama Dvd NTSC Region 3 English Sub

Kaoru Amane is a 16-year old girl suffering from xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), an allergy to the sun's UV rays. Famous singer and songwriter, Yui, plays Kaoru who only leaves the house at night to write and sing her songs. From her window she has watched the rising sun and a young man who waits at the bus stop near her home. They finally meet one night while she is out playing her guitar. He begins to fall for her even after discovering her worsening condition.

I didn't know what to expect the first time I saw this movie. The storyline is so different and yet I absolutely loved it. Yui has an amazing voice and her songs are the heart of the movie. This movie is filled with love, friendship, courage, passion, and so much else. The ending is a contrast of strong emotions that fits perfectly inside the story. A Song of the Sun is one of the best foreign films I will ever see.


Taiyou no Uta...Moments from the Movie

Personal favorites? Loved it? Hated it? - Share it and Let the World Know!

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    • asereht1970 profile image


      4 years ago

      I'll be sure to watch Maundy Thursday when I have the time. I also recommend Like Stars on Earth (India) and 3 Idiots (also from India).

    • SimonJay profile image


      5 years ago

      Maundy Thursday and RUN LOLA RUN and two films id like to watch.

    • ismeedee profile image


      6 years ago

      Great guide! Amelie is the only one on this list I've seen, so I will definitely be checking out the others!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I recommend also Il Cumpleanno, and My Beautiful Laundrette

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      6 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I've never really watched foreign films, but now I am intrigued and even entranced by these choices and your reviews. I guess it's time to branch out and enjoy some international adventure from my own living room!

    • eightieschild profile image


      6 years ago

      Just read this again after your comment on my own foreign language lens, and want to see Taiyo no Uta now!

      I looked on Netflix (UK) and Lovefilm though and it's not on either, and I don't really want to fork out $40 to buy it on Amazon. If anyone knows of a good place to rent/stream/buy it quite cheaply, please let me know by either replying here, or using my Contact button on my profile to email me directly. Much appreciated! :)

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 

      6 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      I adore foreign films. One of the best things about learning French is that I can now watch French films in their original language. It makes the experience even better.

    • Kalafina profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @ChuckDickens: Mostly Martha is amazing. I'm so happy someone else is a fan too!

    • ChuckDickens profile image


      6 years ago

      Came here expecting to see Departures.

      Left satisfied. Departures, Mostly Martha, and Hero are just about the best foreign language films ever made.

    • eightieschild profile image


      6 years ago

      Only one I've seen on the list so far is Run Lola Run. I have seen a lot of foreign films, including a lot of Japanese movies, mostly either old Kurosawa films or Sonny Chiba. A lot of Japanese stuff is too violent for my taste though.

      My favourite foreign movie has to be Cinema Paradiso though - would recommend it to everyone! :)

    • randomthings lm profile image

      randomthings lm 

      6 years ago

      So far...I've only seen Amelie. It was great!

    • Paul Ward profile image


      6 years ago from Liverpool, England

      The only one of the five that I've seen is Run, Lola, Run so a few to add to the list - well described, thanks..

    • ryokomayuka profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      I have seen a few foreign film. Mostly Japanese. I love most studio Ghibi movies. I have not heard of most of these. The first one looks interesting.

    • Kalafina profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @ryokomayuka: The first one is actually internationally famous and an amazing movie. I keep returning to watching it because it is so wonderful.

    • Kalafina profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @anonymous: Yes but then it would be the top 6 and that doesn't jive as well as top 5 :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      The lives of others should also be on the list as well.


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