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  • James Reid

A Look At Modern Foreign Cinema Streaming Now

Noemie Merlant and Adele Haenel in a still from Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Foreign Cinema is slept on in America. We export all these massive hits to foreign markets then turn around and ignore their most heartfelt works when asked to give them a shot. Foreign cinema can be as good anything we release in a year as made evident by Parasite winning both Cannes' Palme D'or and Best Picture from the Academy.

I'd like to do a deep dive across streaming and find some of the best movies for you to watch as people inevitably begin to start staying home more because of Covid spiking. It must be noted that these films could range anywhere from true arthouse fare to populist movie going with subtitles. The variety truly is out there to be discovered

Portrait of a Lady On Fire

Stream on Hulu

This is a romantic and beautiful tale about love that was not meant to be. Utilizing the skills of a woman on her way to be one of the best in the world in her craft and juxtaposing it with well established photography the film looks and feels like a painting. The performances are as good, if not better. What surprisingly works for this film is that it only feels like what you'd expect it to be if you let it. My personal grade: 5/5


Stream on Hulu

This is the Oscar winning film your foreign cinema loving friends couldn't stop talking about last year. Taking the Oscar away from 1917 and Joker gave it an unfair and undeserved image of being the cinematic bad guy of 2020. This is all because subtitles don't mean much to people who just want to enjoy a movie. Parasite is equal parts a harrowing yet subtle commentary on class structure as well as a comedy thriller. According to Boxofficemojo, it is one of the most successful foreign films of all time behind only Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. My grade: 5/5


Streaming on HBOMax

A charming French film, this is perhaps the least demanding of the more artful picks on this list. The titular character is charming and played perfectly by Audrey Tatou. The cinematography is wonderful and the who aesthetic makes you feel like you're in Paris. This was perhaps one of the best films of the year it came out and I believe a lot of people would get something out of giving it a chance. My grade: 4.5/5

Holy Motors

This is a French film that is almost too weird for some people to like. If you sit down with an open mind and give it a shot you might enjoy it. Set against a backdrop in Paris it features a series of vignettes about a man who is paid to do stuff. Dennis Levant gives an excellent performance and the directing by Leos Carax is on point. My grade: 4.5/5

IP Man

Stream on Netflix

A film about a master of martial arts who trained Bruce Lee this has a more subtle and quiet nature to it that toes the line between being a knockoff Asian martial arts art house film and a straight action packed story. Donnie Yen has gone on to do a lot more since then but this is his most notable role. My grade: 4/5

The Raid

Stream on Tubi

This is that action film that I mentioned before. It is a brutal set piece filled fight film that almost transcends what these movies could be. Iko Uwais is outstanding and the shift from police invasion film to martial arts epic is handled in such a way that one won't feel the whiplash. My grade: 4.5/5

The Night Comes For Us

Stream on Netflix

This is another fighting film that covers a lot of ground or the hardcore fighting and bloody scenery front. The film moves at a pace that fits its frantic direction and writing and never aspires to be something more than another martial arts classic. The movie does do good service when focusing on the morality of the main character. My grade 4.5/5

Raid 2

Streaming on Tubi

Not being on the same level as the first film, it does involve a much more expansive setting and supporting character set. It also takes place right after the first one so there is no need for exposition and the action could keep on rolling. The movie is worth the price of admission for a brutal kitchen fight scene that takes place near the end. My grade: 4/5


Streaming on Criterion

An infuriating yet beautiful film to watch about what life is like four five orphaned sisters under the strict systemic rule enforced by their caregivers. The film feels like a breakdown of what the weight of what culture does to women and especially girls. The performances, writing and directing are all top notch and the emotional weight gets to you. My grade: 4.5/5

Pan's Labyrinth

Streaming on Netflix

A coming of age story that focuses on a young girl who stumbles upon a labyrinth and most do three terrifying tasks. The film is a beautiful work of art that also focuses on domestic issues. The drama is deep and well established, the feeling of external threats of the real world felt against the fantastical nature of the labyrinth's internal ones. Also the costumes and set decoration are wonderful. Note, this might be the only foreign film in my personal top 25. My grade: 5/5

While there are plenty of foreign films I've yet to discover these are some of those mostly-easily accessible to a U.S. Audience. I hope everyone else enjoys discovering these films as much as I did.

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