Couple browsing options on laptop

For most of us, English is our first language. It’s easiest for us to speak in English read in English, and watch movies in English. So why would any of us want to watch a movie in any other language?

The answer is that foreign language movies are made by people from foreign countries and a lot of the time, those movie makers have different perspectives and alternate ideas about life and what’s wrong and right than the ones we’re used to. Sometimes, it’s interesting for us English-speaking, Hollywood-fed, predictable-plot-conditioned, happy-ending-loving viewers to see things from a multicultural point of view.

Of course, sometimes, foreign films fail disastrously, (see Invasion of the Neptune Men for reference), but when they triumph, they triumph spectacularly. Here is a list of some of the best foreign films you can watch on Netflix, to save yourself that trip to Cannes.

He Even Has Your Eyes

What do you get when a black couple from France decide to adopt a completely white blond and blue-eyed baby?  The film’s premise is delivered like a joke. “He Even Has Your Eyes” maintains its comedic feel throughout, yet somewhere in there, it manages to approach the very serious topic of racism.

“He Even Has Your Eyes” takes place in 2016. Transracial adoption is almost more of the rule than the exception. So why is it that when a black couple chooses to adopt a white child, the rules have a strange way of bending?

When French African couple Paul Aoka and his wife Salima pick a blue-eyed white-skinned baby boy as their new arrival,  they find themselves dealing more with the challenges of a meddling adoption agent and their own family members than with the challenges of the new baby. While the film deals with an ugly issue, the baby and the character of Sali’s mom manage to deliver the right balance of comic relief to keep the audience entertained throughout. This is no lesson with a moral to be learned, it’s an absolute delight. Be sure to add it to your cue!

Blue Is the Warmest Color

In relationships, sometimes its “us against the world,” and other times, its simply me against you. In “Blue is the Warmest Color”, it’s a little bit of both. “Blue is the Warmest Color” is a film about a coming of age story about a (blue haired) French teenager named Adele who gets swept off her feet by an older aspiring painter (Emma) whom she meets in a lesbian bar. 

At first,  Emma appears to be Adele’s dream role model and staunch protector, fearlessly guiding Adele through her experimentation with lesbianism and fending off the occasional low mindedness of outsiders. However, as  Adele’s grows and she gains independence, she begins to find that society has more ways of separating people than by sexuality.  In the end,  it may just be okay that  Emma does not have Adele’s back as much anymore;   Adele may just have her own.


When a filmmaker wants to let an audience know about a certain person, he can accomplish it in of two, ways:

  1. He can tell the person’s story, or
  2. he can tell a story about the person.

In “Neruda” Pablo Larrain does the latter. Not so much of a biopic as a biography based on facts, Neruda centers around a bumbling Clousseau like investigator, Peluchanneu played by Gael Garcia Bernal who is searching for the great politician, poet, and diplomat, greatest hero and darkest nemesis, Neruda. 

The film takes place in 1948 when the political climate of Chile drive Neruda and his aristocratic Argentine wife, Delia, into hiding. Peluchanneau is hot on Neruda’s trail, driven by visions of self-grandeur, wanting to destroy Neruda just as much as he wants to emulate him. 

Neruda’s character is revealed through the volumes of poetry and the glimpses of his life he leaves behind for the investigator to discover on their cat and mouse chase. He appears as more of a pleasure seeker than a fugitive, sharing a quiet, yet loving relationship with his wife, his writing on others being his most dangerous weapon.  It quickly becomes evident which man is superior when Peluchanneau’s mission becomes a failure and his ego is easily shot down by Neruda’s wife.  While Neruda’s political commitment and poetry will endure, Peluchanneau will remain fiction.

I Am Love


When Tilda Swinton got “married to the mob” in this tale, she may not have known what she was getting in to. What could it mean for

a Russian immigrant to learn that her husband and son are about to be put in charge of the family textile business owned by a rich Italian family? And moreover, what was she doing in this family in the first place?  At the beginning of “I Am Love” there are a lot more questions than answers.

To say that the  Recchi family have become accustomed to a certain style of living may be an understatement. They’re surrounded by wealth, are well educated and highly respected in the business they run. Emma is quiet, her actions speak for her. It is a tribute to Tilda Swinton as an actress that she is able to communicate such deep feeling with so few words. She speaks Italian fluently, yet with a Russian accent, a constant reminder that she is an outsider in this family.

Things get shaken up when on a visit to her daughter, in San Remo she runs into Antonio, a friend of her son, Edo’s. Without dialogue, a chase begins. The more the camera follows them, the more apparent it becomes that the two are destined to meet. They end up making love, in one of Emma’s first deliberate act in the movie. The film goes on to examine how this new sexual liberation affects the rest of Emma’s life as he begins to reclaim her identity as mother and wife. 

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting Existence

When a movie title takes up a whole sentence, it might not be so likely to show up on any billboards of major movie houses in the United States, but it’s probably a shoo-in for a foreign language movie on Netflix. “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting Existence,” from here on to be referred to simply as “A Pigeon…..” begins with three short vignettes about death.

In the first, a man has died in the cafeteria of a cruise ship. While the officers and passengers express concern for the man, the steward of the ship has a cause greater concern: that is what is to be done with all the food and drink the customers have just ordered. When a stout older gentleman comes along and says’ “I guess I’ll take the beer,” we start to get a little taste of Roy Andersson’s somewhat twisted view of life.

There are several presiding themes in “A Pigeon…., the futility of life being the main one. There are opportunities for enjoyment that no one seems to enjoy (food and drink are often taken alone and without relish)  and exciting moments punctuated by reality bytes ( a monarch needs to take a bathroom on his way to fighting the Russians). However, it is a  very real sense of human depravity that blackens this comedy.  

Underlying all of Andersson’s vignettes are questions about why we take pleasure in the suffering of others and why we would use the distress of others to provoke feelings of humor. 

Be prepared, though if you’re going to add this one to your cue. Rumor has it that the ending scene will change the way you reflect on existence forever. 


When new girl in school Sarah chooses to share her Nigerian cigarettes with shy asthmatic Charlie, Charlie is thrilled. Sarah is vigorous and exciting, she can leap on to the balance beam in a single bound, all the while telling tales about her glamorous mother who does mysterious work for the NGO in Africa.

In contrast, Charlie’s home life is depressing. Her parents are on the verge of a breakup and seem to have no time to focus on anything more than their own on again off again drama, Charlie, included. Sarah and Charlie become involved in a relationship which revolves around one another almost obsessively. They spend hours on the phone, go out dancing, and can’t seem to get enough of those Nigerian cigarettes.

However, it turns out that Sarah is not as well-adjusted as she appeared. This first becomes apparent when Charlie’s childhood friend Victoire shows up and Sarah drives an ever so subtle yet effective wedge between the two. Things get more serious when on a ski trip with Charlie’s family Sarah pursues the guy interested in Charlie’s mom. 

Although Sarah’s actions are the most shocking in this film, it is her relationship with Charlie that is really most compelling. Sarah’s observations on Charlie’s behavior may be cutting, but she also offers Charlie something she wants, belonging. The film understands how new friendships can be powerfully addictive and equally dangerous. In the end, it’s almost scary.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

When Jean Dominique Bauby first hears that people are referring to him as a “vegetable,” his first response is, “What kind?” That gives you an idea of how lively his thoughts are.  

The “Diving Bell and the Butterfly” is based on the story of Jean Dominique Bauby, a French fashion magazine editor who suffered a stroke that left him with a rare affliction known as “locked-in syndrome.” While he maintains his hearing and vision, and his mind can function perfectly, his body is almost completely paralyzed.

Although his body remains confined, Jean Dominique shows his imaginative freedom in his narratives. With the help of a speech therapist, he learns to turn his facial gestures into communications. Eventually, he finds himself piecing words together and even reciting the alphabet. Often referred to as “a triumph of the human spirit,” The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ is a triumph over deprivation as well. In a tribute to determination, this movie turns pity into joy.

The Lobster

 The Lobster is an absurdist black comedy that takes place in a  hotel. David (Colin Farell) shows up there after his wife leaves him presumably looking for new love and adventure. However,  he soon finds this is not your run of the mill singles resort. The catch here is more than just about the lobster. David soon learns that single people at the hotel have  45 days to find a new partner, and if they can’t do so by that time, they will be transformed into an animal of their choosing, in this case, it’s – you guessed it -a lobster. ( We soon find that the dog following David around on his heels is his brother – guess the good ones were already taken.)

It also turns out the hotel has many bizarre rituals and regulations, largely related to the sexual conduct of the guests;  masturbation is banned, but stimulation by the hotel maid is a requirement. Guests are also treated to performances which extolling the advantages of romantic and sexual unions.

What follows is true depravity. Hotel visitors violate rules and are punished brutally for their deviant behaviors, let’s say you need a stomach of steel to tolerate a lot of the scenes in this movie (many involve mutilation – gasp!) However, the film does manage to deliver a clever message about how far people are willing to go for love.