International cinema has always had a profound influence on American movies. At the same time, many of the great films in languages other than English retool the styles and genres of popular American movies. Have you ever forgotten you were reading subtitles as you were swept up in the action on screen? Westerns, film noirs, and even romances tap into universal visual languages of movement, action, and emotion that draw in worldwide audiences.
Stacker’s list of the 100 best international movies includes the science fiction masterpiece of German Expressionist style, “Metropolis,” with its epic, futuristic city and iconic robot gone bad. You’ll also find the smash hit “Parasite,” a taut thriller from South Korea that captured acclaim across the globe for its suspenseful, tragicomic look at two families from different classes.
We feature work from major auteurs of European cinema like Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut of the French New Wave, Vittorio De Sica of Italian neorealism, and Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel. Our list also includes major Japanese masterpieces from Akira Kurosawa, Masaki Kobayashi, and Hirokazu Koreeda, Hong Kong cinema’s Wong Kar-wai, Tawainese auteurs Ang Lee and Edward Yang, and contemporary films from South Korea’s Lee Chang-dong and Bong Joon-ho. International cinema often has a political or philosophical bent—a rebel core—as it frequently explores the human condition within histories of oppression. While African cinema and women directors are underrepresented on this list and across the international film festival circuit, Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” from France in 2019 masterfully reinvents ideas around gendered gaze. Get ready for films you’ve heard about and obscure gems that just may become your new cinematic obsession.
Stacker compiled data (from July 2020) on all international movies to come up with a Stacker score—a weighted index split evenly between IMDb and Metacritic scores. To qualify, the film had to be directed by a non-American, be primarily in a language other than English, have a Metascore, and have at least 5,000 votes. Ties were broken by Metascore, and further ties were broken by IMDb user rating. Stacker’s list combines the scores from critics and audiences to give you a sense of a movie’s greatness. Check out our list to see what you’ve already watched—and what great and underappreciated must-see to add to your watchlist.
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