21 Best Movies to Watch In Indonesian

Staff & contributors

Find the best Indonesian-language movies to watch. These movies in Indonesian are: highly-rated by critics, highly-rated by viewers, and handpicked by our staff.

A follow-up/companion piece to the award-winning The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence is another compelling documentary from Director Joshua Oppenheimer. Both films aim attention at the Indonesian Genocide of 1965-66, when the military government systematically purged up to one million communists. While the first film's focus was on the culprits and on providing facts, the second one lets us meet the victims. One victim in particular: a soft-spoken optician named Adi Rukun, who meets with various members of the death squad who murdered his elder brother Ramli, under the guise of giving them an eye test. As he questions them about the killings, the murderers, again, show little remorse and eagerly provide the lurid details to the many executions. It's a stunning and provocative look at the legacy of historical mass killings, along with the insidious propaganda that provokes them, and continues to justify them to younger generations. A testament to the power of cinema to remember the forgotten.

Genre: Documentary, History

Actor: Adi Rukun, Amir Hasan, Amir Siahaan, Inong, Joshua Oppenheimer, M.Y. Basrun

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer

Rating: PG-13

Joshua Oppenheimer's daring feat is a documentary unlike anything ever done. Despite it being one of the most difficult things to watch for any human being (or because of it), The Act of Killing received praise across the board, including an Academy Award nomination. Without Oppenheimer's efforts, you might have never heard of the unspeakable events that happened when, in 1965-66, Suharto overthrew the then-president of Indonesia and a gangster-led death squad killed almost a million people. Did they pay for their crimes? Quite the contrary: said gangsters went on becoming political mainstays in modern-day Indonesia, are still now heralded as heroes, and admit to all these crimes with a smile and not a hint of regret. The gruesome twist of this documentary is that Oppenheimer asks them to re-enact the killings in surreal, sadistic snuff movies inspired by the murderer's favorite action movies. You are forced to stand idly by as they re-create brutal mass murder and joke about raping a 14-year-old. However, somewhere amidst this terrifying farce, the killers, too, have fleeting moments of realization that what they're doing is wrong. If you make it through this in one piece, try watching its more victim-focused follow-up The Look of Silence. Bone-chilling but very powerful stuff.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Adi Zulkadry, Anwar Congo, Haji Anif, Herman Koto, Ibrahim Sinik, Safit Pardede, Syamsul Arifin

Director: Christine Cynn, Joshua Oppenheimer

Rating: Not Rated

In Drive My Car, a widowed artist travels to Hiroshima for his latest production. There he meets a young woman enlisted to drive him around the area. They forge an unexpected bond and soon share pithy observations and long-buried secrets, which culminate in a touching scene of catharsis and forgiveness.

Not a lot is said in this three-hour film, but when words (and signals) are shared, they are always underlaid with simple but transcendent truths. Drive My Car is a gripping film that explores love and loss in its own quiet way, at once intense and intimate.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ahn Hwi-tae, Ahn Hwitae, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Hiroko Matsuda, Jin Dae-yeon, Masaki Okada, Park Yu-rim, Perry Dizon, Reika Kirishima, Ryo Iwase, Satoko Abe, Shoichiro Tanigawa, Sonia Yuan, Toko Miura, Toshiaki Inomata

Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Rating: Unrated

Given the title, it isn’t surprising that Falling in Love Like in Movies would be a metanarrative with the main romance mirroring the filmmaking and the filmmaking reflecting the main romance. It’s a familiar approach, and at first, Falling seems to follow the inevitable ending where the couple falls in love, but right on time, in around Sequence Four, writer-director Yandy Laurens chooses a more honest, less chosen path– a path that plenty of previous romance films hasn’t examined– that still falls within the eight sequence screenplay structure Bagus talks about. While Bagus is pitching his film to Hana, and to his producer, Jatuh Cinta Seperti di Film-Film pitches a new way of thinking about love, grief, and of course, filmmaking.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Abdurrahman Arif, Alex Abbad, Dion Wiyoko, Ernest Prakasa, Julie Estelle, Nirina Zubir, Ringgo Agus Rahman, Sheila Dara Aisha

Director: Yandy Laurens

A special forces team conducts a raid at a multi-story ghetto building where a criminal boss runs his business. Things quickly go wrong and chaos ensues. Full of pure action, with no overblown Hollywood-type CGI nonsense. It is made the way action movies should be made, full of realistic fight scenes. It is exciting, brutal and thrilling. The Raid: Redemption is definitely among the best action movies ever made.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Acip Sumardi, Alfridus Godfred, Ananda George, Bastian Riffanie, Donny Alamsyah, Eka 'Piranha' Rahmadia, Gareth Evans, Henky Solaiman, Iang Darmawan, Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Melkias Ronald Torobi, Pierre Gruno, Ray Sahetapy, Rully Santoso, Saad Afero, Tegar Satrya, Tuhen, Ubay Dillah, Umi Kulsum, Verdi Solaiman, Very Tri Yulisman, Yandi 'Piranha' Sutsina, Yayan Ruhian

Director: Gareth Evans

Rating: R

From countries like Finland to North Korea, this amazing documentary explores the most fascinating active volcanoes on our planet. But as it unfolds you realize that Into the Inferno is a movie as much about volcanoes as it is about the people obsessed with them. And who can be called obsessive more than the film’s own director, Werner Herzog, who, with such an explosive career had to eventually make a film about volcanos (bad pun intended). Beautiful scenery, interesting interviews, and Werner’s majestic delivery all make Into the Inferno both an interesting and satisfying documentary.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Clive Oppenheimer, Kampiro Kayrento, Katia Krafft, Mael Moses, Maurice Krafft, Werner Herzog

Director: Werner Herzog

Rating: N/A, Not Rated

, 2021

Education is a human right, but for many girls around the world, this isn’t necessarily guaranteed– especially if they want to learn past the required years of basic education. Yuni is a coming-of-age drama that depicts a girl in West Java, Indonesia who wants to go to university, but due to the marriage and virginity culture in the area, her main problem isn’t having to pass the entrance exams, or figuring out how to get financial aid. Instead, it’s having to fend off marriage proposals that clearly don’t come from a place of love. Writer-director Kamila Andini depicts the titular protagonist with the freedoms rarely granted to a girl like her, with the happiness and belonging all girls should be able to find solace in, but she also depicts the casual ways oppression lingers in the background, with society just waiting to kill women’s dreams, hopes, and personal goals. Yuni is an honest and powerful portrait of many women around the globe.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anne Yasmine, Arawinda Kirana, Asmara Abigail, Ayu Laksmi, Dimas Aditya, Kevin Ardilova, Marissa Anita, Mian Tiara, Muhammad Khan, Neneng Wulandari, Nova Eliza, Rukman Rosadi, Sekar Sari, Vania Aurellia

Director: Kamila Andini

There is a lot to admire about this revenge film from director Mouly Surya—the breathtaking shots of rural Indonesia, the grisly practicality of the titular Marlina, the relevant observations on gender politics, and the simple yet stylistic way all of this is revealed. Fans of Westerns and Spaghetti Westerns are also treated with an Eastern reimagining of tropes as the film exchanges long guns for Kabeala knives and sprawling deserts for tropical hills.

Packed with so many delights, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts is a near-impossible miss. But if you somehow find none of this gripping, you can always rely on the sure thrill of seeing scorned women bloodily and rightfully avenge themselves. 

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Western

Actor: Anggun Priambodo, Ayez Kassar, Dea Panendra, Egi Fedly, Egy Fedly, Haydar Salishz, Indra Birowo, Marsha Timothy, Norman R. Akyuwen, Ozzol Ramdan, Rita Matu Mona, Ruly Lubis, Safira Ahmad, Sapto Soetardjo, Tumpal Tampubolon, Yayu A.W. Unru, Yayu Unru, Yoga Pratama

Director: Mouly Surya

Rating: Unrated

Even with its morale apparent early in the film, Fireworks marries its mental health/loneliness discussion with a "locked room"-type mystery and the cosmic loop of a group suicide attempt gone wrong. It does take care not to glamourize suicide (or needlessly persevering through struggles), but it teeters between virtue signaling and the sincere reminder to reach out to others for help. With anxiety, hopelessness, grief, and redemption at its core, the film still tugs on the heart even though it pulls away from ruminating on the more intense emotions and thoughts that aren't easily dismissed in a single (even if endless) encounter. 

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Donny Damara, guzzu, Hanggini Purinda Retto, Imelda Therinne, Marsha Timothy, Vino G. Bastian

Director: Herwin Novianto

We would never know when we would die, but oftentimes, when faced with a deadline to one’s mortality, most would tie up loose ends, make the most of the time left, and reunite with their loved ones. 24 Hours with Gaspar is centered instead on the revenge of a grizzled, worn-out detective that only has one last regret: letting go of his childhood friend Kirana, not being able to find her. He hopes to enact his revenge by enlisting some friends and disgruntled victims of Wan Ali, who’s the most likely guy behind her disappearance. There are moments when the dialogue does falter, but Gaspar’s adventure is depicted in the most stylish way, complete with slick cinematography and a soundtrack that sets the mood for each turn in the mystery, even in a fairly depressing low tech dystopia. The film’s sci-fi might not be as hopeful as usual, and is mainly limited to Gaspar’s artificial heart, but 24 Hours with Gaspar is such a fun neo-noir mystery mash to watch, as long as you don't expect something akin to John Wick or Blade Runner.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Ali Fikry, Alleyra Fakhira Kurniawan, Dewi Irawan, Kristo Immanuel, Landung Simatupang, Laura Basuki, Reza Rahadian, Sal Priadi, Shenina Cinnamon, Shofia Shireen, Whani Darmawan

Director: Yosep Anggi Noen

Rating: R

The pulp and machismo that defined the ‘80s is very much present in Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash, but instead of glorifying the era, Indonesian auteur Edwin smartly flips the script and puts the headstrong Iteung (Ladya Cheryl) front and center in this subversive and heady action film. As the anti-damsel-in-distress, Iteung expertly wrestles her way through love, all while retaining an endearing cheekiness and independence about her. 

Excellently choreographed, impeccably detailed, and skewed with enough of a feminist bent to keep it fresh, Vengeance Is Mine fittingly won the top prize at the 74th Locarno International Film Festival.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Drama, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance

Actor: Arie Dagienkz, Ayu Laksmi, Brilliana Desy Dwinawati, Cecep Arif Rahman, Christine Hakim, Djenar Maesa Ayu, Eduwart Manalu, Elang El Gibran, Elly D. Luthan, Kevin Ardilova, Kiki Narendra, Ladya Cheryl, Lukman Sardi, Marthino Lio, Maryam Supraba, Max Yanto, Piet Pagau, Ratu Felisha, Reza Rahadian, Sal Priadi

Director: Edwin

Rating: TV-MA

Suzzanna: Kliwon Friday Night is the second part of a trilogy dedicated to Indonesia’s queen of horror, billed as Suzzanna New Generation. The trilogy recreates three of Suzzanna’s iconic films, and the second installment is based on the 1986 film Malam Jumat Kliwon. The supernatural horror isn’t exactly scary– the film takes a bit too long between the scares, and there are moments that are downright hilarious. However, fans of the original scream queen would appreciate Luna Maya’s take on her demonic role, shifting the sundel bolong into a woman rightfully out for revenge.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror

Actor: Achmad Megantara, Baron Hermanto, Clift Sangra, Egy Fedly, Ence Bagus, Luna Maya, Max Yanto, Sally Marcelina, Taskya Namya, Tio Pakusadewo, Yurike Prastica

Director: Guntur Soeharjanto

Fairly atmospheric, visually creepy, and with a unique premise, A Thousand Days had the potential to be a downright terrifying Indonesian horror film. There’s something here about how rich families are willing to sacrifice impoverished young women in order to save one of their own, especially with the way the Atmojo family hasn’t given the full job details to the three girls in this film. There’s something here as well about how various Indonesian ethnic groups treat each other. However, the way the film arranged its scenes, as well as the film’s casting, fails to match the terror of the original Twitter thread that inspired the film. These choices take away some of the scariness that would have made Sewu Dino totally terrifying.

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Agla Artalidia, Delia Husein, Gisellma Firmansyah, Givina Lukita, Karina Suwandi, Marthino Lio, Maryam Supraba, Mikha Tambayong, Pritt Timothy, Rio Dewanto

Director: Kimo Stamboel