35 Best Netflix Foreign Original Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors

When reminiscing about the film industry, most period films focus on the big names – the stars, the directors, and the producers that back them – as they’re more likely to have plenty of source material. Once Upon a Star is interested in the little people, the small town distributors that bring the movie magic to the locals. Centered on a cinema projection troupe, the film celebrates the old way of distribution, who, unlike today’s streaming, travel from place to place to set up outdoor cinemas with live dubbing. And through each projection of classic Thai masterpieces, the connection they have with each other, between both the troupe and the audience, recalls the intimate nostalgia of watching a movie together. It’s a unique take from director Nonzee Nimibutr, one that’s a stunning love letter to the film industry he hails from.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Jirayu La-ongmani, Kongkiat Khomsiri, Nat Sakdatorn, Nuengthida Sophon, Samart Payakaroon, Sornchai Chatwiriyachai, Sukollawat Kanarot, Waratta Watcharatorn, Yothin Mapobphun

Director: Nonzee Nimibutr

While not its only cause, the increase of conflict and civil wars has spurred a global refugee crisis. Millions of refugees have been displaced from their homes, taking dangerous journeys to a hopefully safer place. Nowhere, now on Netflix, showcases one possible journey. Escaping a future totalitarian Spain, the film is centered on leading lady Anna Castillo, whose excellent performance pulls most of the tears here. With her character Mia’s ingenuity, she maximizes her shipping container’s resources and takes steps to ensure her survival. While some of the backstory can feel thin, after all, for most of the runtime Mia has only herself to talk to, this new one-location survival film is a thrilling addition to the genre. It’s a chilling reminder of what could be happening to the millions of refugees seeking safe haven around the globe.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Anna Castillo, Antonio Buíl, Emma Sánchez, Irina Bravo, Kaabil Sekali, Lucia Soria, Mariam Torres, Said El Mouden, Tamar Novas, Tony Corvillo, Victoria Teijeiro

Director: Albert Pintó

Rating: R

Stoic, unflinching, and almost near silent, Ballerina takes a fitting approach to enact its protagonist’s revenge. Within its lean 90 minute runtime, ex-bodyguard Ok-ju single-mindedly searches for answers, through following the lead from her friend’s suicide note. The film shares nothing personal, no doubts, worries, or fears from Ok-ju – except for her affection for best friend Min-hee. Instead of capitalizing on Ok-ju’s tears, or on the violence inflicted on Min-hee, writer-director Lee Chung-hyun relies on action, on stunning cinematography, and on Jeon Jong-seo’s performance to create a spectacle that doesn’t hold back from the gruesomeness, but somehow still incredibly restrained. Jeon Jong-seo delivers Ok-ju’s bloody revenge, a fitting retribution to all perpetrators of sexual violence.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Thriller

Actor: Jang Yoon-ju, Joo Hyun, Jun Jong-seo, Kim Ji-hun, Kim Moo-yul, Kim Yeong-ok, Kim Young-ok, Kwak Jae-min, Lee Jae-joon, Park Hyeong-su, Park Hyoung-soo, Park Yu-rim, Shin Se-hwi

Director: Lee Chung-hyun

Rating: R

Given a budget from Netflix to make a documentary on Korean film, some would have chosen instead to make one for big Korean filmmaking personalities like Academy Award winner Bong Joon-ho, who is featured here. However, director Lee Hyuk-rae instead creates Yellow Door, a love letter to the ‘90s film club that inspired a generation. The warm way each member tries to remember the club made decades ago, and the handy, almost cheeky, animations makes it feel like we’re there in the club with them, just listening to friends reminisce about the way they obsessed about film, even if it wasn’t the major they were studying in. It’s so nostalgic and sentimental, and in shifting its focus, it celebrates the lovely experience of finding a community of like-minded people that’s just obsessed with film as you are.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Ahn Nae-sang, Bong Joon-ho, Choi Jong-tae, Ju Sung-chul, Kim Hye-ja, Kim Hyung-oak, Lee Hyuk-rae, Woo Hyeon

Director: Lee Hyuk-rae

Rating: PG-13

After two adaptations, with the 1982 version considered a Christmastime classic for Polish families, Forgotten Love can seem like a redundant take on the iconic Polish novel. With twenty more minutes, it seems like the new Netflix adaptation could only improve its take through better production design, and sure, it certainly delivers that pre-war aesthetic through period-accurate costumes, props, and sets. However, Forgotten Love takes a more streamlined approach to the novel’s plot, through changing certain character choices. Without spoiling too much, some choices paint certain characters in a better light, while other changes prove to add an entertaining twist, such as the humorous way the villagers defend Kosiba. Znachor takes the 1937 story into the present, bringing a new generation through the emotional journey of the cherished Polish tale.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adam Nawojczyk, Agata Łabno, Alicja Jachiewicz, Anna Szymańczyk, Artur Barciś, Dawid Ściupidro, Ewa Kolasińska-Szramel, Ewa Szykulska, Henryk Niebudek, Ignacy Liss, Izabela Kuna, Jarosław Gruda, Joachim Lamża, Kamil Pardo, Karolina Piechota, Krzysztof Dracz, Leszek Lichota, Maciej Damięcki, Małgorzata Mikołajczak, Maria Kowalska, Mikołaj Grabowski, Mirosław Haniszewski, Patryk Szwichtenberg, Paweł Janyst, Paweł Tomaszewski, Piotr Rogucki, Robert Gonera, Sławomir Holland, Stanisław Brudny, Waleria Gorobets

Director: Michał Gazda

Rating: PG-13

After Jackie and Spencer, the dark satire El Conde is a surprise new entry in Pablo Larraín’s stacked filmography. Already, the film has prominent differences– it’s shot in black and white, starting with narration from an unseen and posh Englishwoman that makes the film’s events feel like entries in Bridgerton’s scandalous newsletter. The subject is far from the beloved wives of presidents and princes– it’s centered around a notorious Chilean dictator who remains unpunished for his crimes. However, as his fictional vampire version deals with his rightfully ruined legacy, El Conde proves to be a witty satiric twist to Larraín’s usual themes. Through familial squabbles over ill-gotten wealth, confessions and exorcism conducted by a nun, and certain foreign interventions, El Conde paints an everlasting greed that continues to haunt Larraín’s homeland.

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

Actor: Aldo Parodi, Alessandra Guerzoni, Alfredo Castro, Amparo Noguera, Antonia Zegers, Catalina Guerra, Diego Muñoz, Dindi Jane, Eyal Meyer, Francisca Walker, Gloria Münchmeyer, Jaime McManus, Jaime Vadell, Marcelo Alonso, Marcial Tagle, Mateo Iribarren, Patricia Rivadeneira, Paula Luchsinger, Stella Gonet

Director: Pablo Larraín

Rating: R

Inspired by the Spiniak case, Blanquita reimagines the infamous scandal through mirrored interrogations and disorienting viewpoints. Blanquita rewrites the original witness, whose fictional variant, in turn, rewrites the abuse faced by victims as her own. She is transformed from a clueless liar, into someone still a liar, but one that did so when every other possible witness has been discarded for being unreliable, for being too traumatized to go through the judicial process unflinchingly. The film takes on a provocative subject matter, at a time when real life sexual abuse allegations are treated with the same scrutiny Blanca faces. However, Blanquita does so in a way that gives its complexities the weight it deserves. It’s a fascinating thriller, a quandary that tests the idea of ends justifying the means… But it’s one that’s disturbing, given the consequences to each crime.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alejandro Goic, Alex Quevedo, Amparo Noguera, Claudio Troncoso, Daniela Ramírez, Hernán Lacalle, Jaime Vadell, José Luis Aguilera, Karen Bejarano, Laura López Campbell, Marcelo Alonso, Nelson Polanco, Nicolás Durán, Roberto Farías

Director: Fernando Guzzoni

Jaane Jaan is one of those thrillers where you hope that the main characters would get away with murder. Based on the 2005 Japanese novel, the Hindi adaptation still has the cat-and-mouse dynamic between the relentless detective and math genius protecting the suspect, along with their elaborate chess-like mind games. However, the film changes a major plot point from the novel, and without spoiling too much, it turns the math teacher, now named Naren, into a less sympathetic character. Given today’s sensibilities, it’s easy to understand why the change was made. After all, just because someone’s a genius, it doesn’t mean that they’re someone to be admired. Jaane Jaan still keeps up the exciting thrills and suspense of the original novel, but in making its changes, it becomes unclear who the film is rooting for.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Jaideep Ahlawat, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Karma Takapa, Lin Laishram, Naisha Khanna, Saurabh Sachdeva, Suhita Thatte, Ujjwal Chopra, Vijay Varma

Director: Sujoy Ghosh

Rating: R

Remember the creepy blind nun from the Spanish horror film Veronica? While many nun-related horror films have nuns as its horror element, this time it’s the nun that gets spooked in Sister Death. The new release expands on her backstory, taking the story back in history, in her start as a novitiate in the former convent, a location that’s been changed after the terrors inflicted towards the nuns during the Spanish Civil War. While the film doesn’t delve that deeply, focusing instead on the slowly building up the film’s terror, there is something here about the hidden violence and covered-up trauma that still haunt the Catholic church in Spain, especially to those that have taken vows. Director Paco Plaza meticulously frames each terrific sequence with the isolating doubt in one’s faith that Narcisa experiences.

Genre: Drama, Horror

Actor: Almudena Amor, Antonio Duque, Arantza Vélez, Aria Bedmar, Chelo Vivares, Consuelo Trujillo, Luisa Merelas, Maru Valdivielso, Olimpia Roch, Sandra Escacena

Director: Paco Plaza

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam might not immediately make sense to audiences new to director Lijo Jose Pellissery, but it’s still an interesting film that depicts Tamil culture. Also known as Like an Afternoon Dream, the contemplative bilingual film is centered around a prejudiced Malayali tour guide who wakes up as another man, specifically someone fluent in Tamil, and walks into the nearby village. Through vignettes focused on the village inhabitants, the film slowly unravels the dynamics between each of the villagers, flitting back to the tour bus on occasion to see how they’re faring. While some of the comedy goes over viewer’s heads, especially for people unfamiliar with the state, the slow-paced film feels like a fond memory from Pellissery. The film doesn’t explain anything at all, in the same way strange dreams refuse to do.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: 'Poo' Ram, Ashokan, Ashwanth Ashokkumar, G. M. Kumar, Mammootty, Namo Narayanan, Rajesh Sharma, Ramachandran Durairaj, Ramya Pandian, Ramya Suvi, Thennavan

Director: Lijo Jose Pellissery

Friday Night Plan resembles many a classic teen film (most notably, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Booksmart), but it also doubles as a thoughtful inquiry into the delicate bond between siblings who could not be more different from one another. Sid and his younger brother Adi (Amrith Jayan) have different ideas of what matters most in life, ideas that get tested when their mother’s car gets towed away during their night of fun. Sid thinks it’s only right to come clean and retrieve the car no matter what, but Adi believes this can all wait until tomorrow morning: tonight is Sid’s night to celebrate and finally connect with peers he’s shut off all his life. This tension comes as a surprise in what otherwise looks like an ordinary teen movie, but it’s also a welcome addition that helps Friday Night Plan stand out from the rest. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family

Actor: Aadhya Anand, Amrith Jayan, Babil Khan, Juhi Chawla, Juhi Chawla Mehta, Ninad Kamat

Director: Vatsal Neelakantan

Rating: TV-14

, 2023

War makes animals of men, and Filip is no exception. The film portrays a lone Jewish survivor who walks the streets of Frankfurt as if he doesn’t have anything to lose. He’s able to get away with it, with his work at a luxury hotel, but he’s unable to escape his trauma. He relieves this through trysts with the local women, treating them cruelly, the same way they would treat his people. It’s a uniquely stunning take on the ugly side of war, with its country club glamor and Filip’s lust for life. But it’s also a grim character study of an unlikeable, yet understandable protagonist, whose moral ambiguity comes purely from his own survival.

Genre: Drama, History, War

Actor: Caroline Hartig, Eryk Kulm, Eryk Kulm jr, Gabriel Raab, Julian Świeżewski, Jürg Plüss, Karol Biskup, Kinga Jasik, Mateusz Rzeźniczak, Nicolas Przygoda, Nicolo Pasetti, Robert Więckiewicz, Sandra Drzymalska, Victor Meutelet, Zoë Straub

Director: Michał Kwieciński

Rating: R

Middle-aged romances aren't really a popular genre. After all, it tends to be predictable, problematic, and it can sometimes feel like seeing your parents have sex. Other films try to spice it up with a great looking location, pretty cinematography, and all the romance tropes, and Croatian-German film Faraway has plenty of that in store. However, it also happens to be a film where a middle-aged woman finds solace with her Croatian mom’s culture, after years of assimilating to the countries of her dad, and later, her husband. While not perfect, Faraway feels so charming and it has the rare sincerity missing from many middle-aged romcoms.

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Adnan Maral, Adriana Altaras, Artjom Gilz, Bahar Balci, Butz Ulrich Buse, Christian Schneller, Davor Tomić, Goran Bogdan, Mladen Vasary, Naomi Krauss, Paula Schramm, Vedat Erincin

Director: Vanessa Jopp