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7 foreign films you need to watch at least once

A poster of the cast of "Parasite."
CJ Entertainment / CJ Entertainment

Beyond the glittering world of Hollywood, countless foreign films have made a significany impact on the cinema industry. Many international pictures have inspired audiences around the globe, and their influence can be found in many of Hollywood’s greatest hits.

They may not appeal to typical moviegoers in the U.S., but cinephiles continue to be drawn to the classics that were shot overseas. There are many foreign films that should be experienced at least once. But for now, audiences should start with these seven masterpieces, which include one of the best Oscar winners for Best Picture ever.

The 400 Blows (1959)

Antoine on the beach in "The 400 Blows."
Cocinor / Cocinor

A classic from French New Wave director François Truffaut, The 400 Blows follows the life of a rebellious youth misunderstood by his family and teachers and sent to a juvenile detention center. Several famous directors have understandably listed this among their favorite films, as it is a realistic and heartbreaking depiction of adolescence in a society that lets down its troubled children.

The final scene of Antoine on the beach is hands down one of the most beautiful moments in cinema history, and it only gets more touching as audiences grow older and more nostalgic.

Stream The 400 Blows on Max, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, Apple TV+, or Vudu

M (1931)

A man's shadow in "M."
Nero Film A.G. / Nero Film A.G.

Created by the legendary Fritz Lang, this film depicts the people of Berlin as they hunt for a serial child murderer (Peter Lorre). Thrilling and suspenseful, M has been a template for the many serial killer movies that followed it.

However, it isn’t just a warning about stranger danger and not watching your kids. This movie raises questions about morality as it explores evil and its many forms within society, from an impulsive and pathetic child murderer to the “honorable” members of organized crime.

Stream M on Max, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Vudu, YouTube, or Plex

Oldboy (2003)

Choi Min-sik wielding a hammer in "Oldboy."
Show East / Show East

Oldboy follows businessman Choi Min-sik, who is imprisoned for 15 years by an unknown captor, who’s later revealed to be Lee Woo-jin. After being released, he seeks vengeance on the man who wronged him. This film is most famous for featuring one of cinema history’s greatest one-shot action sequences, a brutal hallway fight that involves a whole lot of people and a durable hammer.

However, Oldboy is a masterpiece not just as an action flick, but also as a psychological thriller. It upends the classic revenge action film as the protagonist finds himself in a disturbing and mind-shattering plot straight out of a Greek tragedy, one that makes audiences see how far some will go for love and vengeance.

Stream Oldboy on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Vudu, YouTube, or Google Play

Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Salvatore in a movie theater in "Cinema Paradiso."
Titanus / Titanus

Cinema Paradiso focuses on the lifelong relationship between a young boy and the projectionist at the titular movie theater. Exploring love and youth through a nostalgic, but realistic lens, writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore’s masterwork is a sincere coming-of-age story that celebrates the universal power of cinema.

Like The 400 Blows, this film also features one of the most beautiful and tear-jerking conclusions ever, as well as Ennio Morricone’s unforgettable score.

Stream Cinema Paradiso on MGM+, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, The Roku Channel, Paramount+, Philo, Apple TV+, Google Play, or Vudu

The Seventh Seal (1957)

Max von Sydow and Bengt Ekerot looking at each other with a chess board between them in "The Seventh Seal" (1957).
AB Svensk Filmindustri / AB Svensk Filmindustri

Set just after the medieval Crusades, The Seventh Seal centers around a knight (Max von Sydow) who plays Death (Bengt Ekerot) in a game of chess for his life. Visually breathtaking and darkly satirical, The Seventh Seal questions the meaning of life in the face of widespread death and despair as the plague ravages Europe.

Despite the story’s frightening tone, director Ingrid Bergman’s magnum opus presents a hopeful and comforting message about death and the meaning people can find in the face of the inevitable. Thus, The Seventh Seal has remained a timeless classic that appeals to audiences even today.

Stream The Seventh Seal on Max, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, or Apple TV+

Seven Samurai (1954)

Seven ronin in "Seven Samurai."
Toho / Toho

Directed by Akira Kurosawa, this Japanese epic, one of the nation’s best ever, depicts a group of villagers who seek the help of seven ronin to defend their home from bandits planning to steal their harvest. Even if you’ve never seen Seven Samurai before, chances are that you’ve seen it manifested through a movie or TV series that it inspired.

Numerous filmmakers have used this tale to craft similar team-up movies across different genres, creating some of history’s most popular films and shows. The movie’s filmmaking and storytelling may not seem like much today, but it is a must-see for aspiring writers and filmmakers.

Stream Seven Samurai on Max, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, or Apple TV+  

Parasite (2019)

Mrs. Park covering her mouth with her hand in "Parasite."
CJ Entertainment / CJ Entertainment

From South Korean writer/director Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite follows an impoverished family as they lie and scam their way to getting jobs for a wealthy family with a shocking secret. This black comedy skillfully defies expectations and subverts genres with its narrative, which goes off the rails several times to deliver a surprising and thought-provoking story about greed and the division of social class.

The film has already made itself well-known outside of South Korea, breaking box-office records and winning the Palme d’Or and the Oscar for Best Picture. Parasite shows how cinema can reach a mass audience wherever it may come from.

Stream Parasite on Hulu, Max, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, Apple TV, or Vudu

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Anthony Orlando
Anthony Orlando is a writer/director from Oradell, NJ. He spent four years at Lafayette College, graduating CUM LAUDE with a…
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