With Netflix Instant, you can get a healthy culture fix from the comfort of your couch. Whether you're trying to brush up on your French listening-comprehension skills or looking for a fresh new perspective, with titles ranging from comedy to drama to documentary, you won't need a plane ticket to get a closer look at a far-off land.
While some of these movies are in English, or made by American filmmakers, each one offers a glimpse at a culture and world very different from our own here in America. So sit back, relax, and plan the cheapest weekend getaway ever.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet's quirky French flick can be easy to make fun of, perhaps because it's what everyone immediately thinks of when they hear the words "foreign film." But don't let haters dissuade you from this critically acclaimed rom-com, which was rightfully a major box-office success and awards contender. The story follows its titular heroine (Audrey Tautou) through Paris as she sheds her sense of isolation, opens herself up to others, and discovers love. (Also, yeah, garden gnome alert.)
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
While best remembered for its stamina-filled, seven-minute sex scene, this French movie features Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos figuring stuff out (about their bodies, about themselves) in the most exciting, French way possible. It does a pretty good job of destroying you with its love story, too. If you're unaware of the seedy logistics of how these scenes were produced, stay innocent and watch with fresh eyes.
Brahman Naman (2016)
Truly, nothing can spice up a school quiz tournament like the quest to lose your virginity. This Netflix original set in India in the 1980s sends a Bangalore trio of teenage horndogs to Calcutta to win on both counts. What results is a charming, colorful, surprisingly raunchy portrait of the universal teenage experience.
The Ip Man movies
There aren't many biopics that also pass for decent action movies. Somehow, Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen and director Wilson Yip have made three separate movies based on the life of Chinese martial arts master Yip Kai-man, who famously trained Bruce Lee. What's their trick to keeping this series fresh? Play fast and loose with the facts, up the melodrama with each film, and when in doubt, cast Mike Tyson as an evil property developer. The third movie in the series isn't necessarily the best -- that's probably still the first film -- but the fights are incredible, and Yen's portrayal of the aging master still has the power to draw a few tears from even the most grizzled tough guy.
Park Chan-wook's South Korean mystery-thriller still plays as a gut punch of beauty, intrigue, and WTF-ness. Essentially: A man (Choi Min-sik) gets imprisoned for 15 years, then tracks down his captor, and then can't believe his life after a mindfuck of a twist. Make sure you don't watch this with someone who's seen it before; chances are they'll ruin it for you. And then you'll hate them forever.
Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (2013)
The members of this radical feminist punk band were imprisoned in their native Russia after doing guerrilla performances in Moscow churches and beyond to voice their opposition of Vladimir Putin's conservative regime. A Punk Prayer walks us through Pussy Riot's quest to stir up their community through their music -- heavy chords, imprisonment, worldwide media coverage, and all.
Sing Street (2016)
John Carney (Once) follows a band of Irish high schoolers who emerge into the world through '80s pop-rock. Sing Street joins High Fidelity, Almost Famous, We Are the Best!, and The Commitments as one of the deepest looks at rock 'n' roll as religion, making the sweet, spirited coming-of-age comedy one of our favorite movies this year. You'll want to watch it a second time just to listen to the soundtrack.
Tokyo Tribe (2015)
This crazed action movie stages the rap battle to end all rap battles. If Anchorman's anchor brawl took place in a futuristic Japan, doubled down on the weapons and kung-fu moves, and relied on percussive rhymes to do the talking, it would look a little like Sion Sono's gluttonous epic. Tokyo Tribe is all about the obscene, commenting on class issues and penis length all in one breath. The action is dazzling and the left turns, constant and outrageous, wring your brain for every ounce of logical juice. One does not watch Tokyo Tribe so much as submit to it.
Under the Sun (2016)
Documentarian Vitaly Mansky was permitted to shoot a feature in North Korea about a young girl and her family as she prepares to join the Young Pioneer Corps of the Korean Children's Union. However, the state insisted on approving everything he did, and wound up casting and staging the whole thing, with multiple takes for every shot. Mansky managed to record each setup and scene on two memory cards, so one would be turned over and censored while the other was smuggled out and employed for his feature. The result is a close observation of the propagandic process, as well as a spotlight on the Communist country's indoctrination practices.
The Wave (2016)
While still an epic disaster movie, The Wave pits a small Norwegian village against a fjord-enabled tidal wave. Roar Uthaug -- great action director name or best action director name? -- takes the time to embolden his main characters, a loving family of four, and capture Norway's rolling beauty. Then the mayhem starts. When the townsfolk realize they only have 10 minutes to evacuate, The Wave capsizes tranquility with 100 tons of liquid devastation. Not since Titanic has underwater photography looked so terrifying. Like its actors, we are in the tank for The Wave.
Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
Before he becomes the internet's new boyfriend with Rogue One, check out Diego Luna in a very sexy three-way. Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) is always batting a thousand, and this coming-of-age tale is no exception. Come for a young Gael García Bernal, stay for one of the sultriest kisses you'll ever experience.
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