My (and I can’t stress this enough) MY Top 10 International Films

ElorfanatoI got to thinking the other day about international movies.  Most of them never make it to an American movie theater, much less are American audiences made aware of them.  Most of the time it’s because there’s no budget for wide distribution or other times it’s simply because there isn’t a big enough demand for them.  I think this is a sad reality.  What a lot of people don’t know is that many of the American-made films are re-hashed (often worse adaptations) of its foreign, original counterpart.

imagesSome of these films you may have heard of.  I know I’ve mentioned them in previous posts to one capacity or another.  But this time around I’ll let you know if/when any of these films have American counterparts that have already been made or are in the works.  Again, if I don’t include any of your personal favorites on my list, I make no apologies.  However if you know of any international films you’d like to recommend, by all means let me know.

Rank: 10

Movie: “The Artist”

Country of Origin: France

Year of Release: 2011

Winner of 5 Oscars including Best Picture, “The Artist” magically takes you back in time to the silent movie era.  It’s the story of silent picture star George Valentin who reluctantly has to come to terms with how movie-making is changing with the introduction of “talkies.”  The film is entirely in Black & White and only has dialogue in the last ten seconds.  A great movie that would be a great introduction of classic filmmaking without actually watching a “classic.”  Fun Fact: The first “talkie” (movie with sound) was “The Jazz Singer” which released in 1927.

Rank: 9

Movie: “Juan de Los Muertos” (“Juan of The Dead”)

Country of Origin: Cuba

Year of Release: 2011

Not surprising that this film was a top headliner in the Miami International Film Festival back in 2011, “Juan de Los Muertos” is a satirical (if you can believe it) look at Communist Cuba and how the whole country becomes infected with a virus turning almost everyone into zombies.  This movie is originally inspired from George A. Romero’s 1978 masterpiece “Dawn of The Dead” and of course the British hilarious spoof “Sean of The Dead.”  Shot for a dirt cheap $3 Million, I was very blessed to have met the director, Argentinian-born Alejandro Brugués and a few of the actors were were actually present at the film festival.

Rank: 8

Movie: “El Orfanato” (“The Orphanage”)

Country of Origin: Spain

Year of Release: 2007

Executive Producer Guillermo del Toro presents this chilling suspense mystery about a young family desperately trying to find their adoptive son that goes missing.  This movie has twists you won’t see coming, moments that will make you jump, and would you believe it stars Geraldine Chaplin (daughter of Charlie Chaplin) as a spiritual medium?  Don’t watch this movie alone.

Rank: 7

Movie: “Der Untergang” (“Downfall”)

Country of Origin: Germany

Year of Release: 2004

Set in the final days of World War II, “Downfall” is the story of Hitler’s final days hidden in his bunker with his most loyal followers and top-ranking officers.  Bruno Ganz delivers the performance of a lifetime as the most evil man in human history.  This movie was nominated for best foreign film (but didn’t win.)  Many of you may not have heard of the “Downfall” officially, but I’m willing to bet you’ve seen countless parodies of falsely-translated German regarding any pop-culture disappointment under the sun.

Rank: 6

Movie: “Oldeuboi” (“Oldboy”)

Country of Origin: South Korea

Year of Release: 2003

Winner of 17 film festival awards but completely robbed by The Oscars by not receiving any nominations, “Oldboy” is an amazing thriller set in modern-day South Korea.  It’s the story of a man named Dae-su who is imprisoned for 15 years by an unknown kidnapper and without reason.  Then one day he is released and given only five days to discover who imprisoned him and why.  If Dae-su can’t figure out who it is, he’ll be imprisoned again for the rest of his life.  Min-sik Choi (who plays Dae-su) delivers a performance for the ages in this emotionally crippling story.  Currently, an American remake is to be released November 27th directed by Spike Lee and starring Josh Brolin.

Rank: 5

Movie: “The Legend of Drunken Master”

Country of Origin: China

Year of Release: 1994

A poor and predictable storyline but if you’re a martial arts fan like me, you can’t argue with these amazing and hilarious fight scenes and stunts.  A young Jackie Chan in his prime goes up against English soldiers conning the Chinese to steal their own priceless artifacts.

Rank: 4

Movie: “El Laberinto del Fauno” (Pan’s Labyrinth”)

Country of Origin: Spain

Year of Release: 2006

Winner of 3 Oscars, “Pan’s Labyrinth” is an adult fairy tale set in the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War.  Beautifully told with amazing characters and acting, this movie will surely give you chills and the sense of wonder at the same time.

Rank: 3

Movie: “District 9”

Country of Origin: South Africa

Year of Release: 2009

Nominated for 4 Oscars, “District 9” blurs the lines of immigration reform under the guise of “actual” aliens who crash land in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Interestingly, this movie is told in both feature and documentary style seamlessly and simultaneously.

Rank: 2

Movie: “Primos”

Country of Origin: Spain

Year of Release: 2011

The funniest movie on this list hands down.  Primos is essentially Spain’s version of “The Hangover.”  When Diego is left at the alter, he returns to his favorite vacation spot as a child in search of his first love.

Rank: 1

Movie: Amélie

Country of Origin: France

Year of Release: 2001

Absolutely beautifully shot, written, and directed.  Nominated for 5 Oscars, “Amélie” is about a young Parisian girl who gives those around her a taste of her own sense of moral justice.  Hard as I’ve tried, I can’t see Audrey Tautou in any other role besides this one.  It is her greatest performance and to this day, the only one of her films I have thoroughly and repeatedly enjoyed.

Honorable Mention: “REC” from Spain, “The Raid: Redemption” from Indonesia, and “Ju-On” from Japan.  (Original film that inspired “The Grudge.”)

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