Foreign-language content on Netflix used to be few and far between, but nowadays things have changed. There are all kinds of great foreign movies on Netflix from all corners of the globe. To help you choose, we’ve made a list of the best foreign films on Netflix that you can dive into right away. It includes action, drama, and documentaries, so you’re sure to find something you’ll like!
Best foreign films on Netflix
Editor’s note: This list will be updated as movies leave and other foreign films make their debut on Netflix.
1. A Separation
A Separation is the story of a middle-class family in Tehran. When Simin wants to leave the country for a better life for their daughter, her husband decides to stay to take care of his father, who has Alzheimer’s disease. This prompts Simin to seek a divorce, which is exceedingly complicated in that part of the world.
The film is unique because it offers a glimpse of normal life in a part of the world that most never get to see. It won a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and was one of the few non-English language films to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, making this one of the best foreign films on Netflix.
Roma is one of the most critically acclaimed foreign films on Netflix, having won three Oscars, two Golden Globes, and three BAFTA awards. It takes place in the 1970s in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, following the life of an indigenous housekeeper (Cleo) of a middle-class family and its four children. As tragedy strikes both the family and Cleo herself, they have to pull together to make it through.
The film is a semi-autobiographical take on writer and director Alfonso Cuarón’s upbringing. It’s made even more authentic by the performance of lead actress Yalitza Aparicio, who was raised by a single mother working as a maid. Her first film netted her a Best Actress Oscar nomination, despite having no formal acting training.
3. Ip Man
Ip Man is the first in a series of movies about the famed martial artist and teacher of Bruce Lee. It takes place in a period when Japanese forces occupy the Chinese village of Foshan, and a Japanese army general is set on defeating the strongest fighters it has to offer. This leads him directly to master Ip Man, who wants to avoid fighting at all costs.
This makes our list of the best foreign films on Netflix because it’s not only one of the greatest martial arts movies of all time, it also has an exceptionally engaging story. The sequels don’t quite live up to the first, but you can watch the full trilogy on Netflix now.
4. Blue is the Warmest Color
Adele is just an average teenager until a chance encounter with a blue-haired woman puts her down a path of desire and self-discovery that her conservative friends and family would never approve of. The resulting film is a fascinating dive into love, life, and sexuality, and is certainly one of the best foreign films on Netflix.
This French film is honest and brutal, but it also features an extraordinarily graphic sex scene. It’s best to save this one until after the kids are in bed.
This South Korean hit from director Boon Joon-ho touches on an uncomfortable subject matter. It’s about a young girl named Mija and her larger-than-life pet Okja. When a multinational corporation wants to take Okja away to perform tests and develop a new breed of pig, Mija will do anything she can to save her.
The film manages to juggle satire, action, dark comedy, and political statements beautifully, making it one of the best foreign films on Netflix. Be warned that it might change the way you feel about the food industry.
6. Y Tu Mama Tambien
Y Tu Mama Tambien (And Your Mother, Too) is a coming-of-age story about two teenage boys in Mexico who embark on a road trip with an attractive woman in her 20s. As they travel through rural Mexico, they learn a thing or two about life, friendship, and lust.
It’s worth noting that the film’s excessive sex and drug use make it an inappropriate choice for youngsters. In fact, its graphic sexual content made it difficult to market the film outside of Mexico.
7. The Lives of Others
The Lives of Others takes us back to 1984 East Germany, years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. A secret agent is ordered to watch a playwright to make sure his pro-communist views are legitimate. As time goes on, the spy finds himself completely enveloped in his subject’s life — forgetting what his job was in the first place.
This international film took home an Oscar for best foreign language film when it was first released in 2006. It offers an authentic look into the lives of East Germans before the wall fell, making it one of the best foreign films on Netflix.
This Romanian drama is about a middle-aged father whose daughter is at risk to lose her scholarship to Cambridge University. After a terrible event makes her unable to finish her final exams, her father will need to decide how far he’s willing to compromise his morals to help her.
Romania isn’t a common setting for movies, and this film explores the everyday corruption in many former Communist countries. Don’t be put off by the two-hour runtime, because it’s more than worth it.
9. The Look of Silence
The Look of Silence is the only documentary featured on our list of the best foreign films on Netflix, but it tells a powerful story. Although not as well known as other mass killings like the Holocaust or the Soviet Great Purge, a failed coup d’etat in Indonesia sparked a massive purge that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people.
In this film, the brother of one of those killed visits the men on the death squads responsible for much of the killing under the guise of eye exams. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2015.
10. Train to Busan
Zombie movies have been done to undeath at this point, but this South Korean film provides a fresh take on the genre. A man and his young daughter are on a high-speed train from Seoul to Busan when a zombie outbreak strikes. When an infected girl gets on the train, it becomes a close-quarters fight for survival.
Zombie genre purists might disagree with the way zombies behave in Train to Busan, but it’s a unique take on a well-worn topic with some subtle commentary on South Korean culture. Director Yeon Sang-ho is working on a sequel, and there is an American remake in the works.
That’s it for our list of the best foreign films on Netflix! Did we miss any great international movies? Let us know in the comments below!