Are you the kind whose idea of a perfect Saturday evening is Netflix and chill? Have you binged on Netflix TV shows to the point of exhaustion but still think that the catalogue of films is predictable and boring? Maybe you should try some international films. These are works of art devoid of mainstream predictability and cliched plots. And there is no better way to learn about different cultures than the great art form of cinema.
In today’s digital world of entertainment, one has so many choices of streaming music, TV shows and films that it is almost overwhelming. To make it easier for you, here’s a list of 14 top music and move streaming apps. But for now, let’s flip over to Netflix to watch the best of the international film world.
Ever since the South Korean film Parasite bagged the Oscar, Bong Joon Ho has become a household name and his earlier works have also gathered interest. One such film streaming on Netfilx is Okja. This almost fairy tale like story is about a gigantic pig-like animal that lives with its friend-owner Mija in a South Korean countryside. The animal, originally bred for consumption, has the corporate honchos set their eyes on it. The ensuing story is about the relationship between Mija and Okja and their plan to escape the big bad corporate world. Watch out for the inimitable Tilda Swinton. She also stars in Snowpiercer – another must-watch film by Bong Joon Ho available on Netflix.
This Spanish psychological thriller almost dabbles in the same theme as Snowpiercer – the inequalities of modern-day society and the pyramid structure of consumption. In a mult-storied establishment called Vertical Self-Management Center, inmates live on separate floors and feed on the same food. The only twist is that the ones living on the top floor get first dibs. As the platform of food descends through the building, each floor gets to decide how much to leave for those below them. This is a brutal social experiment and reveals the failure of capitalism’s trickle down effect. Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia pulls all plugs to make you question your position in the hierarchy of society making it a great political allegory of our time. Do not miss.
Train to Busan
Imagine you are on a train with your daughter and there’s a zombie outbreak. Probably the worst time for that to happen but that’s pretty much the premise of this 2016 Korean smash hit. Directed by Yeon Sang-ho, this zombie flick is a social satire roller-coaster ride that takes frequent digs at authority. Special mention to Jang Young-gyu for his incredible music that is almost a parallel narrative to the gore unfolding on the screen.
With the entirety of Studio Gibli’s acclaimed output of anime films now available on Netflix, it’s a perfect time to rewatch this surreal, haunting masterpiece about a young girl struggling to get herself and her parents out of a spirit world that they happened to have stumbled upon. It may not be the most accessible of Miyazaki’s films but it is probably his definitive work. As the most successful film ever in Japan, it’s certainly his most widely seen.
Alfonso Cuarón’s autobiographical drama is a critical darling and Netflix’s true breakthrough into the competitive awards season of a couple of years ago. Shot in stark black and white by Cuarón himself (for which he won the Oscar), this Spanish and Mixtec-language smash hit tells the moving story of the trials and tribulations of a simple maid and the family she works for in the upheavals of 1970s Mexico. It’s slow, quiet and intimately personal with an astonishing, Academy Award-nominated central performance by newcomer Yalitza Aparicio.
Not all critically acclaimed international films are serious dramas, though. Irish director Gareth Evans’s Indonesian based action film is a brutal, bloody affair that happens to feature some of the most stunning action sequences ever set to film. Working off the most stripped down premsie imaginable, the entire plot of the film boils down to a crack SWAT team takes on an entire building of enforcers for a vicious drug lord. It may not amount to much on paper but this intense, intricately choreographed action thriller takes the genre to greater and more artistic heights than ever before.
A British, English-language film this time but Disobedience’s examination of forbidden love, responsibility and religious conviction, tells the story of a rabbi’s daughter who returns to her community in London after being driven out in her youth when she was discovered to be having an affair with her female best friend. Both respectful of the religious Jewish community it depicts and of the hard decisions made by the two women at its centre, brilliantly played by Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz, it’s a complex, absorbing drama that eschews easy answers for something much deeper and more gratifying.
The above listed films should be a good start delving into international cinema. Once you learn to overcome the barrier of subtitles, there’s a whole new world waiting for you out there.