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Set in the small town of Åmål, western Sweden, the debut feature by Lukas Moodysson (We Are the Best), is itself a metonymy for the bigger questions of life. It's playful and dead serious at the same time, in the way it portrays teenager Agnes, who, after two years of living in Åmål, still hasn't made any friends that would attend her birthday party. Instead, she spends her time typing away on her computer, poetic diaries and love confessions to a girl from school named Elin. She's the popular one and therefore, out of reach. The amount of tension and escalating ambivalence the film conjures with just a simple narrative decision—a bet, a kiss, an apology—is palpable throughout the 86 minutes of its runtime. A perfect capsule of lesbian desire and first love, Show Me Love is a gem of a movie; one that would make you think Close was a tad overrated. Oh, and don't forget to add the titular song by Swedish pop star Robyn to your Spotify favorites.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alexandra Dahlström, Bo Lyckman, Erica Carlson, Jill Ung, Josefine Nyberg, Maria Hedborg, Mathias Rust, Ralph Carlsson, Rebecka Liljeberg, Stefan Horberg

Director: Lukas Moodysson

Rating: Not Rated

Audition is not for the faint of heart. It's shockingly violent and deeply unsettling, filled with sights and sounds that will haunt you for days on end. But there is grace to its terror; it's profound and artistic in ways that elevate it from generic horror fare.

On a deeper level, Audition is about the destructive power of abuse, trauma, and loneliness, about how a society that neglects to recognize this eventually suffers from it. The revenge plot isn't merely individual, as well, but a representation of the female subconscious: tired of objectification, eager for redress. And everything about the way the film is made, from the shaky camera and titled frames to the dramatic shadows and eerie lighting, reflects that imbalance. 

Audition may be chilling and gruesome, but it's also smart and important, a psychosexual thriller that captures female anger well before it became the rage. 

Genre: Drama, Horror

Actor: Eihi Shiina, Fumiyo Kohinata, Jun Kunimura, Kanji Tsuda, Ken Mitsuishi, Kimiko Tachibana, Miyuki Matsuda, Ren Osugi, Renji Ishibashi, Ryo Ishibashi, Shigeru Saiki, Tatsuo Endō, Tetsu Sawaki, Toshie Negishi, Yuriko Hirooka

Director: Takashi Miike

Rating: R

, 1998

Despite being remade, parodied, and absorbed into pop culture over the years, the original Ring defiantly marches to the beat of its own drum. Focused entirely on building a slow-burn mystery instead of dispensing scares, the film provides ample space for a number of interpretations: on the spread of technology, the erasure of traditional beliefs, or even motherhood. It's all relentlessly quiet and extremely creepy, the tension building with the same energy as ghost stories told around a campfire. And while famous for its eerie images and the rules surrounding its cursed videotape, Ringu also serves as a reminder that great horror should compel the audience to keep on watching, even if they already know exactly what awaits them if they do.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Daisuke Ban, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Hitomi Satô, Katsumi Muramatsu, Kiriko Shimizu, Masako, Miki Nakatani, Miwako Kaji, Nanako Matsushima, Rie Ino'o, Rikiya Ôtaka, Yôichi Numata, Yôko Ôshima, Yûko Takeuchi, Yûrei Yanagi, Yutaka Matsushige

Director: Hideo Nakata

, 1987

While marked as a comedy, Zegen isn’t the kind of film that would make you laugh freely– it is, after all, a film that mocks the real-life sex trafficking of impoverished Japanese women during both world wars. This makes it a challenging film to watch, especially to viewers outside the country. But to Shohei Imamura’s credit, the butt of the joke isn’t on the women being sold, but rather, on the titular pimp Iheiji Muraoka, the delusions and lies he told himself and others, and the twisted nationalism he uses to exploit his ladies. Zegen is based on Muraoka’s supposedly true autobiography, but Imamura uses the text to mirror the follies (and consequences) of imperialism.

Genre: Comedy, History

Actor: Hiroyuki Konishi, Ken Ogata, Ko Chun-Hsiung, Mitsuko Baisho, Norihei Miki, Sanshô Shinsui, Shino Ikenami, Taiji Tonoyama, Tetta Sugimoto

Director: Shōhei Imamura

Not for the faint of heart, this Russian-language Swedish film doesn't actually display anything graphic on screen, but it still makes for a difficult and distressing viewing experience. Many films similar in spirit and subject matter have been released in the decades since Lilya 4-ever's own take on human trafficking and child sexual exploitation, which might make it less effective for new viewers. But its tone is still unique enough to set it apart—all thumping electronic/rock music blocking out the pain, and naturalistic direction that allows the film's young stars to be as authentically awkward and naively hopeful as possible.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Aleksandr Okunev, Artyom Bogucharsky, Bo Christer Hjelte, Elina Benenson, Herardo Contreras, Jeff Norman, Johan Åkerblom, Liliya Shinkaryova, Lyubov Agapova, Madis Kalmet, Nikolai Bentsler, Oksana Akinshina, Oleg Rogatchov, Pavel Ponomaryov, Sten Erici, Tomasz Neuman, Tõnu Kark

Director: Lukas Moodysson