ByTommy DePaoli, writer at
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Tommy DePaoli

At the end of a long day, when you finally settle down and want to pop in a movie, I bet you actively avoid anything with subtitles. I totally understand that. Who wants to add an extra layer of reading on top of a leisure activity? Answer: no one.

However, completely disregarding all international films at any time means that you're missing out an array of thought-provoking, original, and thoroughly entertaining content that will stay with you forever.

There's a whole world of movies. Don't just stick to the English-speaking ones. Here are nine phenomenal mindf*cks that are great entryways into foreign film.

1. Borgman (2013)

Language: Dutch

Overview: This overlooked gem plays out like a dark fairy tale with absolutely no respect for your expectations. When a peculiar vagabond makes his way to the home of an upscale family, their seemingly perfect domestic life is completely upended. Watch this philosophical thriller with friends, and you'll all come out with vastly different interpretations.

Mind-bending moments: Disturbing mind control, an intriguing allegorical narrative, and the general feeling of unpredictability

2. Dogtooth (2009)

Language: Greek

Overview: I'm going to avoid giving away anything about this plot because Dogtooth is best enjoyed with complete ignorance. Just know that you're going to be sufficiently confused throughout most of it, but you won't be able to take your eyes off the screen.

Mind-bending moments: Unconventional family dynamics, unpredicatable characters, and an entire premise built on a twist

3. Paprika (2006)

Language: Japanese

Overview: If you liked Inception, Paprika is absolutely necessary viewing. Set in the near future, the story follows Doctor Atsuko Chiba, who has helped create a revolutionary technology that allows psychotherapists to enter their patients' dreams. When this machine falls into the wrong hands, awakened people begin behaving like their in someone else's dream, and it's up to Chiba to track down the deranged culprit behind it.

Mind-bending moments: Immersive and stunning dreamscapes, shifting realities, and a central mystery

4. Wetlands (2013)

Language: German

Overview: Take a look inside the uncontrollable mind of a dirty teenager. Helen Memel spends her life reveling in provocative behaviors that would make most people sick, like avoiding good hygiene and seeking out the dirtiest toilets around. Surprisingly heartwarming and outrageously lewd, Wetlands has enough shock value to make a fascinating experience. Be warned: cringing is guaranteed.

Mind-bending moments: Fragmented memories, fantasies infiltrating reality, and the overwhelming disgust of "did they really go there?"

5. The Skin I Live In (2011)

Language: Spanish

Overview: A talented plastic surgeon imprisons a beautiful woman in his home for mysterious reasons that slowly become clear to the audience. Like many Almodóvar films, The Skin I Live In flashes back and forth across time, creating a suspenseful atmosphere and thrilling mystery. When the truth is finally revealed, your reading of the movie dramatically shifts.

Mind-bending moments: Shifting identities, medical procedures straight out of science fiction, and an unexpected reveal that still takes my breath away

6. Caché (2005)

Language: French

Overview: When an affluent suburban family in Paris begins receiving anonymous surveillance tapes that reveal they've been recorded, a firestorm of deception and secrets quickly follows. The tapes carry a special significance for Georges, the father, who has been concealing some murky details about his past. Haneke's tense, deliberate thriller is sure to keep your attention from start to finish.

Mind-bending moments: Surveillance footage calls into question who's behind the camera, past secrets unravel in twisted flashbacks, and one shocking moment that's the one everyone remembers from this movie

7. Persona (1966)

Language: Swedish

Overview: I had to put at least one older movie on this list, and not many can hold a candle to Ingmar Bergman's Persona. You probably recognize this stark black and white aesthetic that has since been parodied in everything from Family Guy to 500 Days of Summer. However, I promise that if you give this movie a chance, your mind will be pleasantly rattled. The early psychological drama follows an actress who refuses to speak and the nurse who takes care of her, while their identities begin to merge and spin out of control.

Mind-bending moments: Opening images straight out of a horror movie, constant "doubling" of characters and scenes, and the interaction between two overlapping characters

8. Run Lola Run (1998)

Language: German

Overview: Run Lola Run moves at such a breakneck pace that you'll have no time to lament the fact that you're reading subtitles. With an elliptical narrative that keeps returning to the start of her run, Lola has 20 minutes to get her boyfriend a huge amount of money or he will die. This phenomenal movie is perfect for when you want a sweat-inducing thriller that also doesn't spare any heavy themes or awesome visuals.

Mind-bending moments: Life after death, real-time racing against the clock, and stylized sequences with animation and abstract visuals

9. Oldboy (2003)

Language: Korean

Overview: Skip the Spike Lee remake and go right to Park Chan-wook's masterpiece about a man who is detained for 15 years and his subsequent hunt for his abductors. Oldboy really has something for everyone, and it's the type of movie that will stay with you long after the credits roll. This is a tightly written, action-packed, and totally engrossing experience that every movie fan should watch.

Mind-bending moments: Jaw-dropping fight scenes, piecemeal foreshadowing that hint at the finale, and one of the most alarming twists in movie history

In the comments, let me know which of these you have seen, and what other ones need to be added to the list!


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