10 Foreign-Language Films to Stream Right Now

We all know that some of cinema's most compelling films come from beyond our borders. To help navigate the Foreign Film section on your streaming service of choice, we have curated a list of some of the best films by international female filmmakers and where to watch them.

By Zohal Karimy

Looking to expand your cinematic repertoire? To paraphrase award-winning director Bong Joon-ho’s now-legendary Golden Globe acceptance speech—once you stop letting subtitles intimidate you, you will realize that there’s a world of incredible movies that are well-worthy of your time. Better yet, it turns out that our most-frequented streaming services also offer some of the best international and foreign language films made to date. From Celina Scimma’s latest French film chronicling the burgeoning love story between two unlikely lovers to an Austrian horror movie that will make it difficult to leave the room for all the wrong (yet equally right) reasons, we have curated a list of the must-see foreign films from international female filmmakers—all available to stream right now.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Set in France, 1760, this French historical drama film and winner of Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival tells the story of Marianne, an artist commissioned to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse. Héloïse is a reluctant bride-to-be and has previously refused to pose for portraits, so Marianne arrives under the guise of companionship and commits to memorizing Héloïse’s features by day—secretly painting her by firelight at night. As the two women orbit one another, their intimacy and attraction to each other grow. Céline Sciamma’s movie has received universal acclaim, particularly for its powerfully acted romance. We promise the final scene will leave your breathless.

hulu.com; Free with membership

On Body and Soul

On the outskirts of Budapest, Endre and Mária are two introverted people who meet each other at a small abattoir. Endre is a reclusive manager of a slaughterhouse and Mária is the newcomer at the office who is visiting as a quality-control inspector. By pure coincidence, the two discover they have the same dream every night, and through this seemingly spiritual bond, their lives become inextricably intertwined. Endre and Mária cautiously accept this unusual coincidence and attempt to recreate what happens in their dream during the day. An unlikely romance praised for its heartfelt performances and Ildikó Enyedi’s ability to create “an eccentric, dreamy portrait of love and loneliness.”

netflix.com; Free with membership

Goodnight Mommy

Goodnight Mommy, an Austrian film named one of the Top 5 Foreign Language Films by The National Board of Review, is the perfect film for horror movie enthusiasts. At the movie’s start, two young twin boys are living in a secluded countryside house awaiting their mother’s return from her cosmetic restructuring facial surgery. But when she arrives home, with her face completely covered in bandages, the children begin to notice her acting strangely and suspect that she is not their real mother. The trailer alone is hard to forget, and the film, which is co-written and co-directed by Veronika Franz, is guaranteed to keep you at the edge of your seat from start to finish.

amazon.com; Rent for $4

Dear Zindagi

This Hindi-language movie directed by Gauri Shinde is a lighthearted film that is full of wisdom shared in a breezy tale. It follows Kaira, a young up-and-coming cinematographer who grapples with feeling dissatisfied with her life. After a slew of bad news, she moves home to live near her estranged parents where she finds herself under a cloud of frustration and anger until a chance encounter with Dr. Jehangir, a free-spirited psychologist and unconventional thinker, leads to a discovery of new perspectives on her past.

netflix.com; Free with membership

Toni Erdmann

This Academy Award-nominated German-Austrian comedy-drama follows the complicated father-daughter relationship between Ines, a business consultant, and Winfried, a divorced piano teacher. Winfred loves to bug his daughter with corny pranks, and this time, as he tries to reenter her, he does so as “Toni Erdmann”a smooth-talking alter ego claiming to be Ines’ CEO’s life coach. Directed by Maren Ade, the film seamlessly maintains its humor throughout as we watch Ines’ steely white-collar persona try hard not to break every time her dowdy father invades her space in disguise. The more they push each other away, the closer they become, and eventually, Ines sweetly reckons with the idea that her father might have a place in her life after all.

amazon.com; Rent for $4

Raw

A French-language horror film that reportedly caused several people to vomit and pass out at early festival screenings, Raw follows Justine, a vegetarian college student who is forced to eat raw meat as a hazing ritual. Following the incident, Justine develops a rash and finds herself with an intense desire to not only eat meat, but specifically human flesh. In this artfully gory movie directed by Julia Ducournau, viewers witness its young female protagonist coming to terms with herself in all of her horrific beauty. Those who can stomach blood and gore will enjoy this beguiling teen drama-horror hybrid.

amazon.com; Rent for $4

City of God

Set in Rio de Janeiro, City of God details how decades of organized crime affects the city’s poorest population. The narrative oscillates in time initially following gang leader Cabeleira before it zeros in on a brutal gang war that erupts between dealers Lil’ Zé and Sandro Cenoura and the amateur photographer Buscape, who captures the war on film and makes the gangs’ story infamous. Kátia Lund’s film is loosely based on real events, and after originally screening at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, TIME Magazine named the movie one of the “All-Time 100 Greatest Films” made since 1923.

amazon.com; Rent for $4

Mustang

This Turkish-French film is set in a village near Northern Turkey and follows five free-spirited teenaged sisters. One day, the sisters decide to play on the beach with their male classmates and a neighbor mistakes their games for illicit behavior. A family backlash ensues where the girls are subjected to endless lessons in housework before being quickly married off. As the eldest sisters are wedded one by one, the younger two decide to rebel against their “sealed fate” and chase after a future where they can have the power to choose their own lives. Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang, which premiered in 2015, is a powerful debut that portrays a compelling portrait of female empowerment.

amazon.com; Buy for $13

Let The Sunshine In

This romantic drama-comedy opens with a confounding scene in which Isabelle, a middle-aged Parisian artist and divorced mother in search of love, is having sex with a man whilst in a heated argument. Isabelle breaks off this relationship and quickly becomes romantically involved with a slew of men including an unnamed actor, an ex, François Mandelbaum whom she can’t seem to get enough of, and a disheveled, unsophisticated man named Sylvain whom she meets at a nightclub. Isabelle’s life propels from one adventure to the next with ironic hastiness and as her relationships teeter between physical and emotional depth, the film balances on the fine line of humor and pain with exquisite hilarity. Altogether, the movie develops a larger dialogue about the power of love, which is the heart of this 2017 film directed by Claire Denis.

hulu.com; Free with membership

Happy as Lazzaro

Happy as Lazzaro is the tale of a union between two unlikely friends: Lazzaro, an ever-helpful yet simple-minded young peasant, and Tancredi, a selfish young man, driven by his personal desires. Their lives in the isolated and rugged village of Inviolata, Italy, is dominated by Marchesa, also known as the “tobacco queen,” who claims that those who harvest tobacco for her are indefinitely indebted, no matter their work. So when Tancredi asks Lazzaro to help him orchestrate his own kidnapping to escape serfdom, a strange and improbable alliance is sealed between the two. The movie has received universal acclaim for its depiction of friendship, awarding director and screenwriter Alice Rohrwacher the Best Screenplay at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

netflix.com; Free with membership


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