The Handbook
The Handbook

When Bong Joon-ho won the Golden Globe for Parasite, he looked directly into the camera and in Korean told the audience, “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

In this spirit, we wanted to share with you some of our personal favourite, introductory foreign films incase you were ever put off by the prospect of subtitled movies.

Attenberg, 2010

In short, Attenberg is a Greek art film about two female best friends and one of their father’s who is terminally ill, interwoven with themes of exploring sexual identity, the strangeness of human life and national identity during the Greek recession.

It might possibly be one of the strangest film experiences you’ll find yourself experiencing, but Athina Rachel Tsangari’s work is cast under the ‘Greek weird wave’ and this wave of film certainly didn’t get its name for sticking to the norms.

Populaire, 2012

If you’re a sucker for a classic romance story but you’ve rewatched them all a thousand times this lockdown, then here’s one you might not have seen that’ll quench your romantic thirst.

Régis Roinsard’s Populaire follows a young aspiring secretary Rose Pamphyle but she’s disastrously clumsy when put in the situation, except when it comes to typing. Her new employer Louis Échard captures this talent and enters Rose into a typewriting contest.

It’s a really sweet film bubbling with romance, comedy and beautifully curated cinematography, which alone deserves recognition. You won’t find a film quite as ornate as Populaire. 

Parasite, 2019

Of course this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the film that helped define movie history for the better. This year we saw Parasite taking centre stage as the first foreign film to bag itself an Academy Award for the Best Picture, and rightly so. It’s untouchable in every sense.

Bong Joon-ho’s masterpiece follows the poverty stricken Kim family and their fight against the inevitable class discrimination forced upon them up society. When the son is offered a tutoring job, he takes it and finds himself working for a wealthy family. It’s from here we begin to see a very dark comedy, showcasing the class struggles between the rich and poor. However, we don’t want to give away too much because this film will constantly surprise and shock you, so get ready for a bumpy ride.

Available 1st June on Google play and Sky Store

The 400 Blows, 1959

Another French number here but this time we’re venturing back to the 50s French New Wave and the film that helped empower this new wave of cinema, François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows.

Truffaut’s narrative centres around a 13 year-old boy who is inspired by Truffaut’s own childhood, and is wholeheartedly a coming-of-age narrative driven by his life filled with petty crimes.

You’ll find yourselves surprised at the fact this gem was made in 1959 because it still feels so current 60+ years later.

A Separation, 2011

A powerful narrative centred around an Iranian couple and their different desires around leaving the country. The wife, Simin, strives to leave Iran for a better life elsewhere with her daughter, meanwhile her husband, Nader, is adamant to stay put and look after his ill father.

Asghar Farhadi’s narrative interestingly portrays the confrontation between the couple as well as outlining the divisions of marriage in an Iranian community.

Amores Perros, 2000

If you’re a fan of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s exceptional directorial work in Birdman and The Revenant, see where he started out in his 2000 film, Amores Perros. 

Set in Mexico City, Amores Perros cleverly uses the triptych structure, centring around three different characters, one celebrity, one working class and one homeless, who are all linked to the same car accident. Each character is heavily influenced by different dogs too, and these animals almost become as prominent as the three protagonists. Expect recurring references to disloyalty, violence and emotion.

In The Mood For Love, 2000

Finding out your partner is sleeping with another person is always going to be heartbreaking, but it helps when you know someone else is going through the same situation. That’s exactly what happened to journalist Chow Mo-wan and Su Li-zhen who both find themselves renting a room in a communal apartment, despite being married, but that’s what draws the pair together. As the plot thickens they soon realise their relationship is formed on its own affair and that their spouses are lovers.

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, 2020

The best film I’ve seen this year, Céline Sciamma’s Portrait Of A Lady On Fire is a must-see for fans of period dramas with a twist.

A narrative that’s riddled with longing, female desire and feminism in 1770s France, Portrait of a Lady on Fire follows a painter, Marianne, who has been commissioned  to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman, Héloïse, who has just returned from a convent, without her portrait subject finding out. Instructed by Héloïse’s mother, Marianne becomes her companion on seaside strolls, and the result? An undeniable bond and intimacy between the two young lovers.

You will not be able to take your eyes off the beautiful scenery of the cliffs, the gentle calming shots of painting and the kinetic chemistry the two leads have with one another. Sit back and fall in love with the characters and wish that you could quarantine with them.

Roma, 2018

Look, we understand the gut reaction everyone has when they look at a runtime for a film and it says: 2h 15m. It is daunting! Sometimes we just want a quick hour and a half gentle movie that we can watch before bed. However, nothing can quite prepare you for how deeply personal, beautiful and vast this picture is. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Harry Potter Prisoner of Askaban & Children of Men), this is a masterclass in capturing a story that seems so real you might catch yourself wondering if its a documentary. Don’t let the black and white, subtitles or long runtime deter you from seeing one of the most unique films of our generation.

All About My Mother, 1999

Everyone should experience a Pedro Almodóvar movie. One of Europe’s most decorated directors; his movies are always full of colour, drama, sex and life. There are so many gems to pick from but we decided that this was as good a place as any. Winner of the 2000 foreign language film oscar, All About My Mother follows Manuela, whose son has been hit by a car and is in need of a transplant so she goes in search of her son’s father, a trans woman who Manuela has tried to conceal from her son’s life.

La Haine, 1995

If you’ve ever studied film or media studies at school, college or university, you’ll know this film like the back of your hand. If you haven’t, you’ll find joy in its gritty depictions of poverty, conflict and violence amongst a group of youths in France.

Famed for the iconic black and white aesthetic, use of innovate camera techniques and political motifs – La Haine is a film that stays with you and informs your conception of Paris and reminds you how visceral, important and exhilarating films can be. La Haine doesn’t need an abundance of special effects or groundbreaking stunt work; yet it will still leave you on the edge of your seat and hungry for more.


Looking for more films to binge on? Check out our guide to the 11 must-see classic films