ByKatieMai Burnside, writer at
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KatieMai Burnside

Foreign films are something that should never be overlooked. They offer something different to Hollywood, yet some moviegoers can be put off by one thing: subtitles. By far the most common resistance to watching foreign language films for American audiences has been subtitles, with many saying that they don't like to read while watching a movie. However, this should not put anyone off because by refusing to read subtitles, you're missing out on some of cinema's most incredible experiences.

The more foreign films you watch, the more you will get used to subtitles. You can easily read and watch. Sometimes you don't even need to read to understand what is going on because the films explains things visually. Watching films of different nationalities can really broaden your perspective. As if that isn't enough, here are a few more reasons why you shouldn't be put off by subtitles!

How Foreign Films Perform Against Hollywood Films

When comparing foreign films to their Hollywood remakes, it's clear that people are wanting to watch certain stories in English. Take David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in comparison to the 2009 original, Män som hatar kvinnor.

Rooney Mara and Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth [Credit: Columbia / Nordisk Film]
Rooney Mara and Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth [Credit: Columbia / Nordisk Film]
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (US) — $232m
  • Män som hatar kvinnor (Swedish) — $104m

As someone who has seen both these films, I have to say I preferred the Swedish version because it feels real, while the Hollywood version feels vibrant. However, the box office numbers show that people would still rather watch films without subtitles. The Lake House, which is a Hollywood version of the South Korean film Il Mare, is another example. The American adaptation grossed $114m, a huge sum in comparison to the Korean version's $70,000.

Of course, not all high quality foreign films get a Hollywood remake. That being said, films that haven't been remade in Hollywood also get lower audiences. Here are a few examples:

  • The Chaser (Korean) — $35m
  • The Great Beauty (Italian) — $24m
  • The Lives Of Others (German) — $77M
'Amélie' [Credit: UGC-Fox Distribution]
'Amélie' [Credit: UGC-Fox Distribution]

Hollywood is smashing the billion-dollar mark with films these days, yet foreign films struggle to get over the $100m mark. It's sad really when you see that the quality in these films that aren't being appreciated worldwide. As well as the titles above, here are a few more foreign language movies that prove the power of subtitled movies.

Foreign Films You Should Watch

'City Of God' — Brazil

The film focuses on life inside the slums of Rio de Janeiro. It contains a lot of gang violence and is a thrilling experience.

'Oldboy' — South Korea

A man finds himself in-prisoned and has no idea who his capture is. The film is full of violence.

'Raw' — France

This is a film about cannibalism. Ambulances were called to screenings of this film because people were passing out and nearly trowing up. Test yourself and see if you can hack it. I found some parts in this film absolutely disgusting and I could never watch it again, but you definitely need to experience it at least once in your life. It's probably the hardest film I've sat through, which made it such a unique experience, one that I might not get again.

'Run Lola Run' — Germany

A man, desperate for money, calls his girlfriend for help and she races through the streets trying to save him. It's a really quirky and fun film that is fast paced.

'A Chinese Ghost Story' — China

This is a martial arts fantasy film about forbidden love. It's strange and odd, but some people love that.

'Alice' - Czech Republic

A new take on Alice In Wonderland, a young girl follows a White Rabbit, who takes her into a fantasy world. It is the most obscure and different film on my list.

'The Hunt' — Denmark

A young girl accuses her teacher of sexual abuse. This is my favorite film on the list because of how realistic it is. It's quite controversial as well. The young girl that accuses her teacher is very young, which may surprise you.

'The Idiots' — Denmark

I would also like to add this film to the list because it is a film from the movement Dogme 95 (an avant-garde filmmaking movement in the '90s), which meant it had to follow certain rules, thus making it a very different film. It's about a group of people who pretend to be disabled. It's shocking and offensive making it an experience to remember.

In short, do not restrict yourself — and encourage others to do the same. Many fans will be pleasantly surprised by how much they actually enjoy films from a different part of the world. I also used to be put off by subtitles, but after watching several foreign films I've since fallen in love with many different stories across the world. They tell some unique stories that should be consumed by as many people as possible. I know so much more about different countries now, and I'm willing to watch more foreign films. In fact, I'm now at the point now where the subtitles don't even bother me. Even if you try just one of these films, at least you gave it a go.

Have you watched any foreign films that aren't on my list? If so, leave a comment.


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