Far less risk-averse than the standard Hollywood fare, history’s best foreign films offer a refreshing sense of artistic purity. To watch these enduring classics is to give up the need for rote formulas and happy endings, submitting yourself to a world of raw emotion and unpredictable outcomes. It’s then no surprise that some of the most groundbreaking American films were directly preceded by international movements like the French New Wave or Japan’s Golden Age. (Looking for more quality? These are the 55 best movies ever made).
Fluent cinephiles will recognize the names of Akira Kurosawa, Jean Renoir, Andrei Tarkovsky, and other well-known international directors. Not just masters of style, each one layered timeless themes into their most iconic output. Look beyond the engaging veneer of films such as “The Rules of the Game” and “Solaris” and one finds relevant examinations of mankind’s most pressing social or psychological dilemmas. (If you simply can’t tolerate subtitles, here are the 25 best movie remakes of all time).
Of course, viewers are also welcome or even encouraged to enjoy these films as mere vessels of entertainment. Take Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai,” for example, which established early benchmarks for the action genre. Then there’s the silent era masterpiece “Nosferatu,” which still manages to elicit scares nearly a century after its release.
You’ll find those titles and more on 24/7 Tempo’s list of the best foreign films of all time. We compiled the list by developing an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of November 2021. All ratings were weighted equally. Only films included in Movieline’s “100 Greatest Foreign Films” were considered. Data directorial credits and language also came from IMDb. English-language titles are given, except in cases where the film is best-known by its original name.
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