Menashe Noy in 'Big Bad Wolves'. Menashe Noy in 'Big Bad Wolves'. Menashe Noy in 'Big Bad Wolves'. (Photo: Magnet Releasing)

7 great foreign films you can stream on Netflix right now

Grab some popcorn and prepare for the ultimate foreign movie marathon.

American cinema is so full of films of all sizes and genres, it's sometimes difficult to remember that the rest of the world also releases some amazing movies. From all over the globe, you can find films that will make you laugh, cry and jump for joy. All you have to do is be willing to read a few subtitles while you're watching them, and you'll soon discover a whole new world of cinema that will change your perspective and, quite possibly, your life. Here are seven of the very best foreign films you can stream on Netflix right now.

1. "Amélie" (France)

Jean-Pierre Jeunet's 2001 romantic comedy is far from what you might typically think of when you think of the genre. Rather than a simple story of two people falling in love, the film's original French title is "Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain," which translates to "The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain." It's a fitting title for a film that's more about life, love, destiny and adventure than it is about finding the right man or woman.

Beautifully crafted by a master director with a bright, gorgeous color palette, "Amélie" is as uplifting a film as you'll ever find. It's simply joyous, and Audrey Tautou's performance as the titular character is infectious. Nominated for five Academy Awards, the film also won Best Film at the European Film Awards, two BAFTA Awards and four César Awards in France. If you ever need a good pick-me-up, "Amélie" is the perfect film to stream.

2. "Big Bad Wolves" (Israel)

A nail-biter of a crime thriller involving a suspected serial killer, a father set on revenge and a cop operating outside the law, "Big Bad Wolves" will have you questioning everyone until the very end. The story, by directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, is certainly not for the squeamish, with violent scenes akin to those of filmmakers Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino. For those who appreciate a well-spun story, unpredictable characters and haunting imagery, "Big Bad Wolves" is an original addition to the crime genre that's not to be missed. 

3. "City of God" (Brazil)

Director Fernando Meirelles' gripping 2002 Brazilian crime drama is widely considered one of the greatest movies ever made, with a 90 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and worldwide recognition (including four Academy Award nominations). 

Adapted from a 1997 novel of the same name, "City of God" follows the rise of organized crime in Rio de Janeiro from the late '60s to the early '80s. The film's richly developed characters (many of them played by rookie actors), as well as its powerful and sometimes ruthless imagery, leaves an impression that's hard to forget. 

4. "Chico & Rita" (Spain)

For something completely different, check out the gorgeously animated "Chico & Rita." Set in the late '40s to early '50s, the film follows two lovers as they win, lose and rediscover each other on the path to stardom. Set against beautifully recreated cityscapes like New York City, Havana and Paris, the film is often praised for its phenomenal soundtrack (with music by some of the greats like Thelonious Monk, Cole Porter and Dizzy Gillespie) as much as its story and visuals. 

In addition to being the first Spanish animated film nominated for an Academy Award, "Chico and Rita" also won "Best Animated Film" at both the European Film Awards and the Goya Awards. 

5. "The Bicycle Thief" (Italy)

Director Vittorio De Sica's 1948 classic about a poor father and his search for his stolen bicycle is revered in film circles as one of the greats. I could go on about how good it is, but the above trailer, for the 1972 re-release, has a brilliant melodramatic quote that perfectly sums it up:

"This picture above all others performs the central function of art, without warping the life it depicts. It discovers the meaning of that life. It is as though the soul of a man has been filmed."

Indeed, the Italian neorealism filmmaking of "The Bicycle Thief" made it stand apart from other productions, as no studio sets were used and only untrained non-actors were hired. For anyone interested in a touching story set against a post-World War II Rome, this film is not to be missed.  

6. "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (China)

Director Ang Lee's beautifully produced martial arts flick currently stands as the highest-grossing foreign language film in American history. Shot with a budget of only $17 million, the film went on to gross worldwide more than $213 million – scoring a slew of honors, including four Academy Awards. 

Such incredible success was never guaranteed. Production was so stressful that Ang Lee thought he might suffer a stroke. "I didn't take one break in eight months, not even for half a day," he told Time. "I was miserable – I just didn't have the extra energy to be happy. Near the end, I could hardly breathe."

If you've yet to see "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," you're missing out on one of China's great cinematic classics. This is definitely one to experience for its solid acting, beautiful soundtrack and gorgeously crafted martial arts sequences. 

7. "Oldboy" (South Korea)

Park Chan-wook's 2003 revenge thriller is unique because of the way it starts: with a businessman locked alone in a hotel room for 15 years. Naturally, we'd all go crazy – and when the main character Oh Dae-su is suddenly released one day, he begins a quest to track down his captors and seek revenge. 

The film has some powerful violent fight sequences, but as the late Roger Ebert wrote in his positive review, they all serve a purpose and are not for shock value alone. The film won numerous awards, including the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Purists should avoid its 2013 remake by director Spike Lee, which bombed at the box office and reportedly did not improve on the original. 


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7 great foreign films you can stream on Netflix right now
Grab some popcorn and prepare for the ultimate foreign movie marathon.