10 Incredible Foreign Films on Amazon Prime Video
Don’t you get bored of watching the same old action films or romantic comedies that don’t serve any purpose other than just wasting your time? If you can ravage around the trash that is constantly served to you on OTT platforms, you just might find some of the most brilliant films you will ever see. Re-quoting Bong Joon-ho here, if you can look past the 2-inch barrier of subtitles, foreign films from around the world have stories that are worth watching. In cohesion to that thought, Amazon Prime Video India has an interesting (though limited) slate of foreign films that are worth checking out. In the following list, I explore those foreign films that truly ring true to every person on this planet and are varied in the stories they tell.
1. Burning (2018)
Based on Haruki Murakami’s short story ‘Barn Burning’, Lee Chang-dong‘s South Korean adaption ‘Burning‘ was one of the best films of 2018. Winner of the FIPRESCI International Critics’ Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, the film chronicles the life of Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) who runs into his mysterious, enigmatic childhood friend Hae-mi (Jeon) and is instantly roped into her strange world when she asks him to take care of her cat while she is away on a trip to Africa.
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Returning to directing after an absence of 8 years, Lee Chang-dong’s film is one that keeps you in a puzzling milieu. A slow-burner on the surface, Burning emerges as a bewildering experience that triples up on its magnifying scope of desires and hunger about achieving things in challenging life situations. Featuring bleak metaphors about the factors that hold people back from growing out of their self-made bubbles; this intense drama takes you to evil standpoints that will make you gauge your eyes out.
Watch/Stream Burning Here
2. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
Numero uno on the 50 best films of 2019 list, ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire‘ is an enigma that can’t be put into words. Director Céline Sciamma talks about forbidden love between two beautiful women – one of whom is sanctioned to paint a portrait of the other so as to send it away to a groom who would wife and cage her. Winner of the Queer Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, Sciamma’s film is the first women directed film to win the prize.
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What makes the film an incredibly powerful romance is its subtle reversal of the male-gaze. In more ways than one, it looks at both the object of desire and the desiree with the same sight, making the image of the muse and the artist feel like interchangeable entities. In doing so, the film normalizes how desire works and how gender has nothing to do with it.
Watch/Stream Portrait of a Lady on Fire Here
3. Amour (2012)
Written and directed by Austrian legend Michael Haneke, ‘Amour‘ focuses on the life of two retired music teachers and how their life suddenly changes when Anne (the wife) suffers from a stroke that paralyzes the right side of her body. Winner of the prestige Palme d’Or as well as the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 85th Academy Awards, Amour shows love as a true co-existence of responsibility and perseverance.
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The film moves at a steady pace as it completely inhabits the space that the old couple share with each other. Something that modern-day love stories miss out on is the tough call of having to live and suffer along with the people we love. With Amour, Haneke gives us a story that knows that suffering can take a toll on a person just like love can take a toll on your heart.
Watch/Stream Amour Here
4. A Separation (2011)
Not only one of the best Iranian films ever made but also one of the most perfectly written and performed dramas of the previous decade, ‘A Separation’ works on a simplistic premise pristinely mounted to an extreme by the decisions that characters take during the course of the narrative. Following the life of a middle-class couple who are separating from each other, the film puts its magnifying gaze on how the life of their daughter suffers due to the ego issues that arise between her parents and how hiring a caregiver for the husband’s Alzheimer struck father further drowns on the conflicts.
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Winner of the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language film of 2012, A Separation created history by becoming the first Iranian film to do so. In addition to that, the film also won the Golden Bear for Best Film and Silver Bears for Best Actor and Actress at the Berlin Film Festival. Expertly written by Farhadi who gives a thriller like an edge to his drama, A Separation is a morally and psychologically complex drama that becomes a universal entity in spite of being grounded in Iranian society. It is among the most thought-provoking movies on Amazon Prime.
Watch/Stream A Seperation Here
5. Incendies (2010)
There is a shadow and influence of Oedipus that lurks around Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Incendies‘. An unmatched dramatic constellation of greek tragedy and a detective story, the film finds an engaging way to end the circle of violence and anger (referring to the title which translates to ‘destruction by fire’). On the surface, it might come out as an unusual family drama about the horrors of hidden truths but it’s more than that. It’s an astonishing; powerful and devastating take on the anger the boils inside the family and society. The anger that can’t be equated with anything and the anger that’s really hard to cancel out.
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Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad’s play of the same name, Incendies is the winner of eight Genie Awards (the Canadian equivalent of an Oscar). It is a tale that you take to your grave. The impact it has on an individuals is so disturbing that you will never forget the experience you have with it.
Watch/Stream Incendies Here
6. Wild Tales (2014)
‘Wild Tales‘ (also known as Relatos salvajes) is one of the very few anthology films that end up having all its stand-alone shorts as true standouts. Written and directed by Damián Szifron, this Spanish black comedy ropes in an ensemble cast of notable Spanish actors who are more than game for these twisted tales of vengeance.
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Winner of the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English language in the UK, the Spanish film has more of a cult following in South America and Asia than anywhere else. The shorts that form the film are in one way or the other about the barbaric nature of human beings that can easily get on the edge when one’s temper gets out of their own clutches. In a way, Wild Tales is about that thin line between Wild animals and humans and how it blurs away when the only thing that separates the two (i.e the ability to restrain oneself) goes out of the window.
Watch/Stream Wild Tales Here
7. City of God (2002)
‘City of God‘ (also known as Cidade de Deus) gathered critical acclaim worldwide when it was finally unleashed into the world in 2003. Filmmakers such as Anurag Kashyap (among others) consider it to be the inspiration for one of his most renowned films to date. Co-directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, the film is loosely based on the growth of organized crime in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro between the 60s and the 80s.
A compelling yet shocking look at how the life of a slum in Rio de Janeiro turns into crime and how young people get entangled in a mess of gun violence and rage, City of God is often shocking in how it balances its tone with a sneering look at how minds often lose their humanity if there is nothing much to latch onto in life.
Watch/Stream City of God Here
8. A Fantastic Woman (2017)
Featuring one of the greatest central performances of 2017 by Daniela Vega, A Fantastic Woman is one of the most (if not the most) important films for the queer cinema canon. Disguised as a tender tale of seeking what is one’s own, Sebastian Lelio’s film is about the essential need of bringing the gap between ignorance and understanding a little closer. It’s essentially a film about the struggle that its heroine has to face when she’s grief-stricken. However, at the end of the day, it’s about the love that holds her together.
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Winner of the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards, A Fantastic Woman is a part of Lelio’s unofficial trilogy of women (which also includes Gloria and Disobedience). The fact that the film’s Oscar win was utilized by the Chilean LGBTQ activists which subsequently led to the approval of transgender citizen laws in Chile makes the film all the more urgent and profound.
Watch/Stream A Fantastic Woman Here
The 2018 Lebanese drama ‘Capernaum‘ is about a little boy lost in an unjust world. Directed by Nadine Labaki, the film is told in flashbacks and follows Zain’s life, his chance encounter with Rahil (an Ethiopian immigrant), and his innocent attempt to sue his parents for child neglect.
Winner of the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, the film received a warm reception at the premiere where it was lauded with a 15-minute long standing ovation. The reason why the film works wonders is its emotional core that is uplifted by the film’s overall documentary-like realism. Not just that, it is by far the highest-grossing Arabic film of all time as it became a sleeper hit when it hit international VOD platforms.
Watch/Stream Capernaum Here
Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar winner is an unsettling black comedy about class struggle. A twisted slyly plotted social satire that is clever enough to engage you in a battle of wits before pulling the rug from under your feet. Settling in for a narrative about a family trying to keep it together by overpowering the capitalistic battle, Bong Joon-ho has constructed a low-key tragic comedy that insists on being more than just that.
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Not only did the film make Oscar history by becoming the first Korean film to win Best International Feature Film but also took away the big 3 by winning for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. The reason why Parasite works for a wider audience is it’s truly entertaining core. In spite of numerous subtexts and metaphors, it works as an intelligently made and staged drama where winning over the riches becomes a dream that the audience wants it’s morally wrong protagonists to have.
Watch/Stream Parasite Here
Among the first of the honorable mentions is the Raid Duology – namely The Raid Redemption & The Raid 2: Berandal. These Indonesian action crime martial arts films are directed by Gareth Evans and have some of the slickest, most well-choreographed action sequences ever mounted in a film. While not too big on narrative strands and supposedly hollow in character development, these films are jam-packed with bone-crunching violence and actions set pieces that will leave you gasping for air to breathe.
The other honorable mention happens to be Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy drama that uses its fairy tale influences to address the themes of the Civil War within the context of a horror film.
Watch/Stream Pan’s Labyrinth Here
Also mentionable is The Wailing which has to one of the best movies currently streaming on Amazon Prime India. However, I haven’t included it in the list because it’s not streaming in its original Korean dialect.