To coincide with our month of non-English language films over on the reviews page, here’s a rundown of the best world cinema currently streaming on Netflix.
Note: Some of the selections may not be available in your country! For all movies and shows on Netflix in your region please see the following links:
New on Netflix UK | New on Netflix USA | New on Netflix Canada | New on Netflix Australia
Aquarius (Brazil and France)
“Aquarius” is a quiet film led by an incredible performance from Brazilian actor Sônia Braga. Director Kleber Mendonça Filho uses a quiet character study to tell a fiercely political story about a retired widow who refuses to move out of her old apartment, to the chagrin of a looming construction firm.
Baahubali: The Beginning (India)
Netflix’s collection of Indian films has greatly expanded over the past year or two and “Baahubali” is one of the best and most accessible. It was the most expensive Indian film ever, at the time, and every rupee is on the screen in the form of spectacular stunts and visuals. It went on to become the highest grossing film of all time in India, too. The current record holder? The second, and final, part of the Baahubali saga, “The Conclusion,” which is also available on Netflix.
Blue is the Warmest Colour (France, Belgium and Spain)
This three-hour emotional epic is an intoxicatingly intimate drama about a French teenager’s life-changing love affair with an older art student. Stars Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux suffered through the behaviour of an abusive director but succeeded in delivering two stunning performances in the lead roles.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan, Hong Kong and China)
This breathtaking wuxia (historical martial arts film) made waves across the world back in 2001. On its way to an incredible ten Oscar nominations, Ang Lee’s masterpiece became the highest-grossing foreign-language film ever in both in the UK and the US. Nuanced performances and rich drama ground the majestic high-flying action.
Das Boot (Germany)
The only film on this list to keep its original title, Oscar-nominated “Das Boot” (The Boat) is set inside a German U-boat submarine during World War II. Across the two-and-a-half-hour running time, there are thrilling battle sequences, but also long stretches of claustrophobic inaction. By trapping the viewer inside the iron-fisted walls of the sub, director Wolfgang Petersen gets deep inside the heads of everyday soldiers during wartime.
Divines (France and Qatar)
“Divines” lit up the international film festival circuit with its energetic leads and exhilarating coming-of-age crime drama, but Netflix didn’t match that with a deserving marketing campaign. The silver lining is that the film’s still easily accessible for people to catch up on best friends Dounia and Maimouna as they climb the criminal hierarchy of a Parisian ghetto.
Downfall (Germany, Austria and Italy)
“Downfall” navigates a confrontational subject matter to assemble a historically detailed account of the final ten days of Adolf Hitler’s rule leading up to his suicide. Oliver Hirschbiegel’s film grapples with the unconscionable evil of Nazism and offers a haunting insight into a despicable man whose Third Reich changed the world as we know it.
Ip Man (Hong Kong and China)
Wing Chun Grandmaster, Ip Man is a figure of fascination for Chinese audiences, partly because he famously taught martial arts film legend Bruce Lee. As a result, there are countless films based on his life, but this Donnie Yen-led series provides the definitive cinematic Ip Man. Wilson Yip’s film perfectly combines an enlightening historical biopic, a rousing sports film and a thrilling martial arts movie. Both sequels are also on Netflix, and they maintain the quality to create a standout trilogy.
The Great Beauty (Italy and France)
Paolo Sorrentino makes beautiful films, and this dazzling journey through Rome is no exception. Socialite journalist, Jep, has an existential crisis about the superficiality of his first sixty-five years of life. After his suitably lavish birthday party, he begins a search for the real beauty of the Italian capital. The film won Best Foreign Language Film at the 2013 Oscars.
The Square (Egypt)
Netflix has had great success with their Original documentaries. They’ve received seven Best Documentary Feature nominations at the Oscars in just the past five years. Their first nod went to “The Square,” which depicts the Arab Spring revolutions in Egypt that began in Downtown Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Jehane Noujaim’s film looks beyond the headlines to the moving personal stories that fuelled this uprising.
The Wailing (South Korea)
Don’t be put off by the two-and-a-half-hour running time. This heart-pounding “Twin Peaks”-like supernatural thriller will burrow deep under your skin. When a quiet village is struck by a murderous sickness, one of the victim’s fathers, a police officer, calls on a shaman to help him solve the mystery.
The Way He Looks (Brazil)
“The Way He Looks” is a delightful São Paolo-set coming-of-age drama about a blind teenager, Leonardo, who starts to fall for the angelic new boy in town, Gabriel. Director Daniel Ribiero impresses in his debut feature, especially regarding his work with the young cast. Ghilherme Lobo is worth singling out for playing Leonardo with such exquisite sensitivity and compassion.
Director Paco Plaza is well known amongst horror fans for co-creating the terrifying “REC” franchise, and he brings his superlative scares to this classic séance-gone-wrong story. Scarier still is the fact that the story is based on a chilling unsolved case in Madrid in the early 90s.
German thriller “Victoria” is famous for being shot in a single, unbroken take (unlike something like “Birdman”, which consists of a series of long takes digitally stitched together to make it seem like one continuous shot). It took the cast and crew three attempts to get the perfect run. But Sebastian Schipper’s film is more than a technical marvel; it’s also a gripping thriller in its own right, with outstanding, and largely improvised, performances from the young leads.