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Have you always wanted to give foreign films a try but don’t know where to start?

There’s something for everyone in the ‘world cinema’ section of any shop – you just need to know what to look for. Foreign films aren’t all 4 hour-long arthouse softcore snooze-fests; although there are some… The only advice I would give to first-timers is to avoid dub-tracks at all costs and go straight for the subtitles (voice acting is generally stale, lips are out of sync, you lose the performance, and famous voices can distract you)

Below is a list of ‘Entry Level’ movies to get you started. There’s nothing too heavy on dialogue or ideas. These are ‘gateway’ movies to show that there’s an alternative to Hollywood’s churn-and-burn franchises. Some of the choices may seem obvious, but this list is aimed at absolute beginners. Most similar lists I’ve seen seem to stop at around 1970 listing ‘classic after ‘classic’; which aren’t necessarily the most accessible movies for novices.

THE RAID REDEMPTION gareth evans iko Uwais Joe Taslim Donny Alamsyah Yayan Ruhian Pierre Gruno Tegar Setrya Ray Sahetapy kick ass action film fighting scene machete watch streamThe Raid (‘Serbuan Maut‘ – Indonesia): imagine an action film where pretty much the entire runtime is nothing but bone-breaking, innovative, and mesmerising fight sequences! An action film that delivers on real, physical stunts and traditional fighting & filming techniques! An action film that says no to overblown and unnecessarily cheap-looking CGI, and gratuitous back story of 1D characters. The Raid (and The Raid 2) are movies that don’t disappoint. TRAILER

Run Lola Run Lola Rennt Tom Tykwer Moritz Bleibtreu Franka PotenteRun Lola, Run (‘Lola Rennt‘ – Germany): A simple concept played out three times, in a variety of frenetic, stylish, and a adrenaline-pumping ways. The plot follows a girlfriend’s attempts to bail out her debt-ridden boyfriend before his lenders send him to sleep with the fishes. You could watch this and think about free will, chance, the butterfly effect etc – or you can sit back, switch off, and let it hypnotise you. Bright, poppy, and with a pounding dance soundtrack, this plays out like an elongated music video. TRAILER

Hard Boiled 1992 John Woo, Yun-Fat Chow, Tony Chiu Wai Leung, Teresa Mo, Philip ChanHard Boiled (‘辣手神探‘ – Hong Kong): So you love the iconic gun fights from films like Face/Off, The Matrix, and Shoot ‘Em Up – awww, that’s cute. How about some genre-defining gunplay complete with doves, explosions-ahoy, and slow-motion bodies flying in all directions – delivered by the master of infinite-ammo action, John Woo. This is the peak of the ‘Heroic Bloodshed’ genre of action; basically kung fu but with guns. The final hospital shootout is among the best action scenes ever filmed. TRAILER

Love me if you dare Guillaume Canet, Marion Cotillard Yann Samuell La Vie En Rose Jeux d'enfantsLove me if You Dare (‘Jeux d’enfants‘ – France): Love stories, meh, I’m not usually a fan – but here’s one that’s quirky, cool and doesn’t star Zooey Deschenel (WTF, France?!?). It follows two best friends from children to pensioners as they struggle to be in the right place at the right time for their life-long love to truly work out. Any film this poetic, stylish and charming – to the point of warming your heart – could only be French! TRAILER

The Good Bad Weird Korean Blockbuster Dream CastThe Good, The Bad, The Weird (좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈Korea):  one of Korea’s best directors, and a handful of the country’s biggest stars in a story about three outlaws trying to find ancient treasure before the Japanese Army and other bandits. This is a fun historical romp that entertains for the duration, like an Indiana Jones film. It’s an Italian-style spaghetti western, with Hollywood sensibilities, but still remains a very ‘Korean’ feeling movie; combining some of the best aspects of 50 years of ‘world cinema’ together perfectly. TRAILER

Los Cronocrímenes Timecrimes Karra Elejalde, Candela Fernandez, Barbara Goenaga, Nacho Vigalondo, Juan InciarteTimecrimes (Spain): Whilst on vacation with his wife everyman Hector sees a lady undressing at the edge of his property, which sets off an elaborate chain of events. Here’s to the highconcept, low-budget timetravel film with no SFX! It’s hard to say more without ruining the film, but this one stands out for being completely rooted in the real world; the characters feel human, the baddie fumbles around, the settings are banal but creepy. Simple, clever, and effective. TRAILER (contains spoilers)

01 - The Streetfighter Street Fighter 1974 Sonny Chiba, Shinichi Chiba, Yutaka Nakajima, Goichi Yamada, Masashi Ishibashi, Jirō Chiba, Etsuko Shihomi, Masafumi Suzuki, Nobuo Kawai, Ken Kazama, Fumio WatanabeThe Street Fighter (激突!殺人拳 – Japan): when he refuses to kidnap a billionaire heir for the Yakuza, they try to kill the street fighter – which turns out to be a terrible decision for all involved. This is the first movie to get an R rating for violence alone, a major influence of a Mr Tarantino, and while it’s not as shocking as it would have been 40 years ago, it’s still a brilliant Martial Arts movie. It’s also been deemed important enough to be made available for free on the public domain (LINK) TRAILER

Troll Hunter Norway Film Review Movie Pics Screenshots Screencaps Otto Jespersen Glenn Erland Tosterud Johanna Mørck Tomas Alf Larsen Urmila Berg-Domaas Hans Morten Hansen Robert Stoltenberg Knut Nærum Eirik Bech André ØvredalTrollhunter (‘Trolljegeren‘ – Norway): mockdocumentary following an old school troll-hunter (mythical ones, not internet trolls) as he helps keep these magnificent beasts hidden from the unsuspecting public. This one’s a dead-pan slow-burner that packed with loads of tiny details about trolls and their mythology. The central character is played superbly, taking his job very seriously, which engages the viewer. Great black comedy / fantasy satire. TRAILER

Ring Ringu Nanako Matsushima Hiroyuki Sanada Rikiya Ōtaka Yoichi Numata Hideo NakataRing (Ringu – Japan): You know the drill; after watching a cursed VHS you get a phone call saying “you gonna die lol”, and you spend your last week in a pants-shittingly terrifying nightmare scenario. A victim of its own success, having being parodied everywhere, it’s easy to forget how scary this film is; it’s broody, atmospheric, restrained, and genuinely terrifying. The haunted mother of the J-Horror genre, which kick-started the trend of (usually botched) Asian horror remakes. TRAILER

Micmacs à tire-larigot Jean-Pierre Jeunet Non-stop shenanigans Dany Boon Yolande Moreau Dominique Pinon André Dussollier Jean-Pierre MarielleMicMacs (‘MicMacs à tire-larigot‘ – France): after losing his dad to a landmine, and being hit by a stray bullet  Brazil sets out to take his revenge on the two weapons manufacturers responsible. Despite being a sharp commentary on the arms industry the title translates as “non-stop shenanigans”, and that exactly what this is. A fun take on the classic ‘revenge’ story, this is from French visionary Jean-Pierre Jeunet; who somehow manages to capture surreal and dream-like worlds perfectly – and manages to make this modern film look and feel like a Golden Age classic. TRAILER

Which foreign film would you recommend for a beginner and why?

Please leave your film suggestions and reasons in the comments.
I’ll hopefully have enough to create a follow-up post – which would credit your entry and link back to your website.
Remember though, these are NOT the best foreign films per se, but the best ones for introducing people to world cinema.

Shamelessly stolen from Michael over at It Rains… You Get Wet.

Oldboy Korean Movie1 – A movie you love with a passion

Oldboy: saw it in a tiny – practically empty – 50-seater screen [Aberdeen, Belmont Cinema] and just fell in love right there. It’s got plot, style, direction, acting, editing, originality, and groundbreaking themes that the re-make probably hasn’t touched with a bargepole: I’m not rushing to watch it! Such a fine example of original, bold, and brave film-making.

High School The Musical Logo2 – Movie you vow to never watch

Don’t think I would purposely decide to never watch a particular film on grounds that it’s potentially bad (I’ve sat though old propaganda films, terrible B-movies, outrageous exploitation films with no problems), but you’d be hard-pushed to convince me to watch the High School Musical movies, or any of those “he/she dies of cancer at the end” manipulative sob-fests.

Children of Men Clive Owen Michael Caine No more babes future london dystopia3 – Movie that literally left you speechless

Children of Men: My friend Spencer and I literally walked home slack-jawed, glancing at each other occasionally and muttering phrases like “No way”, “Holy shit” and “Fuck me” for 20 minutes after we left the cinema. Unbelievable, powerful film-making, paired with groundbreaking technical precision that should be watched big, loud and uninterrupted.

City Of God Brasil Brazil Lil Ze Rocket Drugs Crime Gangs4 – Movie you always recommend

City of God: usually to people that haven’t yet been swayed to world cinema yet. My DVD of this has been continuously whored out for the past 5 years. Actually, I don’t even know where it is any more… Poor Rocket! Take that acclaimed coming-of-age crime film Gomorrah, turn that son-bitch sideways, and stick it straight up your candy ass!

Barry Pepper Hollywood's unsung hero5 – Actor / Actress you always watch no matter how crappy the movie

I try to catch as many Barry Pepper films as I can. For me, he’s one of American cinema’s unsung heroes, never the leading man, but always putting in a top shift, and connects with the audience so effortlessly. Jackie Chan too, although he’s done so many movies that it’s hard to keep tabs – and had a few ropy hollywood outings.

Zooey Deschanel GROSS6 – Actor / Actress you don’t understand the appeal of

Zooey Deschanel: seems to have carved herself out as the go-to queen of the quirk. I cannot stand her cutesy, look at me, bug-eyed, big-fringed, dressed-like-a-tranny-from-the-1980s vibe. Arrested Development is Michael Cera’s get out of jail free card, or else he’d be cast off in the same boat.

Russell_Crowe7 – Actor / Actress, living or dead, you’d love to meet

See next question – LOL. Seriously, I’d love to sit down and have a few beers with Russell Crowe. Of all the egos, stars, and reported stories from behind the scenes, he’s been the most fun to follow through the years, and sounds like he’d be a great drinking buddy. It helps that he can act the pants off of most people too, at least when he puts his mind to it.

Gina Gershon OH MY GOD SHE IS SO DAMN HOT8 – Sexiest actor / actress you’ve ever seen

I have always exclusively reserved my Hollywood-wood for the lovely Gina Gershon (Those eyes! Those lips! That hair!) – she’s like an expensive whiskey that keeps getting better with age. Although recently I saw a few photos of Italian actress Sophia Loren and my life hasn’t been the same since. Too close to call. Maybe Lizzie Capplin, or Penelope Cruz. Toughest question on the list for sure.

The Good Bad Weird Korean Blockbuster Dream Cast9 – Dream Cast

The Good, The Bad & The Weird is as close to a ‘dream movie’ I’ve seen in real life. However, if I were a producer I would go for… Brian De Palma directing an international action-thriller with an ensemble including Javier Bardem, Jean Reno, Penelope Cruz, Barry Pepper, Moritz Bleibtreu, Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel – all in their prime.

Boyd Crowder Raylan Givens walton goggins timothy olyphant justified10 – Favourite actor pairing

When Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) are in the same scene my telly, brain, and Marshall stiffy pretty much explode simultaneously. The back-and-forth banter between those two is some of the best-written TV out there, and the actor’s chemistry is sublime.

BASEketball Court Matt Stone Trey Parker I hear your moms going out with SQUEAK]11 – Favourite movie setting

If I was living in a world where BASEketball or Death Race 2000 were actual sports I’d quit my job tomorrow. Being dropped into a Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, MicMacs, Delicatessen) or Luc Besson (Fifth Element, Adele Blanc Sec, Angel-A, Nikita, The Last Battle) would be wildly entertaining, although I know for a fact that this is going to change when Snow Crash is finally made – come on Hollywood, pull your finger out!

Amores Perros12 – Favourite decade for movies

I think the 2000s is a tough decade to beat, so much emerging talent and superb movies. Probably helps that I spent most of the decade in front of a cinema screen.

Oldboy, Amores Perros, Mystic River, A Bittersweet Life, Children of Men, Kill Bill Vol 1, Together, No Country For Old Men, 3:10 to Yuma, Battle Royale, Memento, The Fall, Intacto, Infernal Affairs, The Woodsman, Bourne Ultimatum, District 9, 3-Iron, Brick, Eternal Sunshine, Primer, Lilya-4-Ever, In Bruges, City of God, Love Me If You Dare

Commando John Matrix Rocket launcher four barrel carnage moustache guy multipl deaths13 – Chick flick or action movie

Action; every single time. I like the odd chick-flick now and again – Just Like Heaven, Princess Bride, SATC – but even the Mrs prefers a good old action-film over the chick-flicks.

James Bond 007 Everything or Nothing Sean Connery George Lazenby Roger Moore Timothy Dalton Pierce Brosnan Daniel Craig14 – Hero, villain or anti-hero

Two words – James. Bond. Total hero.

Survive Style 5+ Vinnie Jones 15 – Black and White or colour

Colour for the most part. I’m not particularly adverse to black and white – it has its merits – but I’ll take ‘modern cinema’ every time over the classics. Imagine watching films like Volver, Scott Pilgrim, The Fall, Lego Movie, Kill Bill and Survive Style 5+ in monochrome / B&W… no chance.

Far from a comprehensive list of last year, below are the Films I watched that are worth another mention.


The Best
:

Inception – Original, smart Sci-Fi Blockbuster… bliss.
Jackass 3D – The most I’ve ever laughed and gagged in the cinema
The Good, The Bad, The Weird – Fantastic modern western fun
MicMacs – Brilliant French vision
MacGruber – Slated by critics but was so, so funny
Toy Story 3 – Perfect ending to the best trilogy in cinema
Up In The Air – Clooney and Farmiga in a modern romance
Dragon Tattoo – Stunning whodunnit from Sweden
The Killer Inside Me – Shockingly realistic portrait of a serial killer
Spartacus (TV) – Fighting, sex and swearing; great trash telly
Luther (TV) – Brilliant UK detective show, a la HBO

Stinkers:

We are what we are – a boring horror film about cannibals!
Somewhere – utterly ridiculous non-film
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – But I almost did…
Warrior’s Way – Ninjas & Cowboys done so wrongly
Hornet’s Nest – Not a terrible film, but nothing on the first
Skyline – Derivative alien bore
Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus – so bad it’s bad!

Best of the rest:

Conversations with Other women – Split screen for the duration, and works well.
Hot Rod – Spot on comedy timing
Inglourious – Tarantino’s most mature work
Survive Style 5+ – Eye candy from Japan.
Drag Me To Hell – Throwback horror

Micmacs à tire-larigot: a very unlucky guy who has twice been the victim of arms manufacturing companies plots his revenge with lots of shenanigans. The main guy (Danny Boon) is absolutely fantastic at playing the slightly vacant but humble lionheart whose dedication – and comedic delivery – keeps the audience transfixed. The rest of the cast are also great; full of interesting characters, and with all the small details / close ups you instantly relate to them and know what makes everyone tick. The camerawork, detailed semi-steampunk objects and great 5.1 audio track whip you feet-first in to Jeunet’s unique, offbeat & bizarre world. My only complaint visually is the gold/amber tint throughout the film, which saps a bit of colour & life out of the picture. The themes and graphics throughout the film make a love letter to early cinema, and when the story, scenarios and visuals come together it’s an entertaining fairy tale for grown-ups. The ending is a completely different tone from the upbeat film as a whole, but it’s still smart and engaging. A great twist on the revenge genre, whilst spoofing the arms trade. It is a bit style-over-substance but for some reason – I blame French magic – Micmacs is far greater and more enjoyable than the sum of its parts. Would recommend this to world cinema n00bs and pros alike.

Score: 9/10