8 Must-See Foreign Films Of The 21st Century

What’s your favorite foreign-language film?
March 31, 2020
8 Must-See Foreign Films Of The 21st Century

If you’re looking for a fun way to brush up on your language skills, watching a movie in the language you’re learning can help you practice your comprehension and pronunciation — not to mention the cultural knowledge you can gain. But there are so many great foreign films out there, how do you choose which one to watch? We in Babbel’s U.S. office picked our favorite foreign films from the 21st century and told us what they love about them.

1. Pan’s Labyrinth (Spanish)

Where to stream: Netflix

“Set in post-war Spain, Ofelia is a young girl with an active imagination who is struggling to adapt to life with her new stepfather. Part fantasy, part realism, Pan’s Labyrinth is not what you expect. You’re transported with Ofelia to a mythical land of her own making that is magical, terrifying, poignant, and unforgettable. This movie will stay with you for weeks after you watch it.”

—Veronica

2. Parasite (Korean)

Where to stream: Amazon

“This 2019 thriller was the first foreign-language film to ever win an Oscar for Best Picture. Directed and co-written by acclaimed South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho, this deeply unsettling and darkly funny movie tells the story of a lower-class boy who gets a job as a tutor for a wealthy family. The plot eventually takes a dark turn and becomes a tale of entrenched class differences and the power of the promise of wealth. The cinematography, acting and writing in this film are stunning, and combine to form a cinematic masterpiece.”

—Dylan

3. City of God (Portuguese)

Where to stream: Netflix

“This movie gained international attention for its beautiful cinematography and striking scenes of violence. Set in the 1970s in Rio de Janeiro’s most notorious favela, it portrays the day-to-day life of two friends, Buscapé and Zé Pequeno, whose lives take very different paths. The film is also a beautiful coming-of-age story that explores sexuality and inequality, and reveals many aspects of Brazilian culture.”

—Michael

4. Roma (Spanish)

Where to stream: Netflix

“Roma is an intimate, beautifully shot film that focuses on Mexican society from a female perspective. It tells the story of a young domestic worker that used to work for the family of the film’s director [Alfonso Cuarón] when he was a child. It’s a very personal story that has a hint of melancholy about the past, but at the same time is very current, as it explores the relationship between the lower and upper classes in Latin America, which has remained the same for a really long time.”

—Diana

5. La Graine et le Mulet (French)

Where to stream: Amazon

The Secret of the Grain, directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, follows a shipyard worker from an immigrant Arab community in the French Mediterranean port of Sète. After being laid off, he decides to revitalize his career and open a couscous restaurant. There is an unexpected level of complexity to the film as it delivers unsentimental commentary on the politics of family and food.”

—Lindsey

6. Three Idiots (Hindi)

Where to stream: Netflix

Three Idiots is a satire of the Indian education system and society’s attitude toward learning versus vocation. The movie is a total laugh riot, but packed with so much punch and meaning that each time you watch it (I’ve seen it four times), you walk away inspired to be an instrument of change in India’s education system.”

—Deepa

7. Head-On (German and Turkish)

Where to stream: Amazon

“The German title is Gegen die Wand what means something like ‘Hitting the Wall’. It is an intense, raw and disturbing movie about a German-Turkish couple whose deteriorating lives collide. I believe this film has changed the course of German cinema by showing its characters in a more brutally honest way than ever before.”

—Achim

8. Y Tu Mamá También (Spanish)

Where to stream: Netflix

“This is such an irresistible coming-of-age story that explores the depths of friendship, sexuality, and the political/socioeconomic divide of Mexico in 1999. It’s beautiful, raw, and complex, and the on-screen chemistry is undeniable.”

—Drew

Header image: NEON + CJ Entertainment

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Author Headshot
Dylan Lyons
Dylan is a senior content producer, overseeing video and podcast projects for the U.S. team. He studied journalism at Ithaca College and previously managed social media for CBS News. He’s currently pursuing his MBA part-time at NYU Stern. His interests include podcasts, puppies, politics, alliteration, reading, writing, and dessert. Dylan lives in New York City.
Dylan is a senior content producer, overseeing video and podcast projects for the U.S. team. He studied journalism at Ithaca College and previously managed social media for CBS News. He’s currently pursuing his MBA part-time at NYU Stern. His interests include podcasts, puppies, politics, alliteration, reading, writing, and dessert. Dylan lives in New York City.

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