There’s nothing like a global pandemic to realize how interconnected we are, and how similar our trajectories are even across continents and oceans. There’s also nothing like a quarantine to make you long for the ability to travel to any place but your home. Obviously the first foreign film you should watch while we shelter at home is Parasite, if you haven’t already seen it. The fact that this South Korean thriller won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Director gives you a sense of what you are in for. The movie is perfect for this particular moment, with its look at societal norms through an anti-capitalist lens. After you finish the film and pick your jaw up off the floor, you may find your appetite has been whet for more foreign flicks. Here’s an extremely incomplete list of other great international films and television to help you escape to other worlds.
The Great Beauty (Le Grande Belleza), 2013, Amazon Prime
This director, Paolo Sorrentino, is often called the modern-day Fellini and this Italian movie about a man struggling to see the importance of his superficial life is a theme that most of us can relate to as we try to rip ourselves away from the grip of social media.—M.C.D.
Dogtooth (Kynodontas), 2009, Amazon Prime
You may have loved Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ cringe-y dating film, The Lobster (2015), starring Colin Farrell in probably his best role, or The Favourite (2018), about a royal love triangle. For your quarantine though, you may relate more to this film, about a family with four adult children who are not allowed to leave their compound until they lose their “dogtooth.” It’s a completely disturbing film, but so is our current reality.—M.C.D.
Toni Erdmann, 2016, Amazon Prime
If your boomer parents are driving you crazy by not paying attention to social distancing or otherwise, watch this German-Austiran movie about a father and daughter’s strained relationship. It is, at heart, about finding happiness and possibility within family units and the world. Tune in for the wigs, fake teeth, and a Whitney Houston cover. Parental humiliation has never been so fun.—M.C.D.
Pain and Glory (Dolor y Gloria), 2019, Amazon Prime
Pedro Almodóvar’s latest movie is about a director’s reflection upon his greatest loves: his mother, his first crush, his first relationship, his first film. These are interwoven throughout the protagonist’s current predicament of depression and physical ailments, and we see how the pain can be transformed into art. This is a beautiful film with an outstanding performance by Antonio Banderas that will make you more philosophical about our own current crisis.—M.C.D.
Battle Royale (バトル・ロワイアル / Batoru Rowaiaru), 2000, Amazon Prime
A dystopian thriller (for more of these see our previous round-up of pandemic-themed movies) about Japenese middle schoolers who have to fight to the death by their government. A mixture between a reality show and Hunger Games, it feels perfect for this time period.—M.C.D.
The End of the F***ing World, 2017, Season One, Neflix and Amazon
This British television show is based on a graphic novel about two tormented teens who find a connection with each other when James, a skateboarding psychopath, decides to kill Jessica. Instead, they steal James’ father’s car and run away together on a road trip, where they fall in love. It’s a wonderful reminder that as the world falls apart around us, we can still find love, even if it all ends in tragedy. Season one is a dark but funny masterpiece; but never ever watch season two.——M.C.D.
Catastrophe, Seasons One-Four, 2015-2019, Amazon Prime
This catastrophe isn’t a pandemic, but instead, it’s getting pregnant on a one night stand! Can you imagine? How quaint! This very funny show has four seasons, so there is more than enough relationship drama to withstand your next few weeks in isolation. The divorce rate in China has skyrocketed now that their quarantine is over, so take some love advice from this American meets British premise before throwing in the towel.—M.C.D.
Call Me by Your Name, 2017, Amazon Prime
There are so many things to admire in this film: its pastoral Northern Italian setting, the luscious cinematography, Armie Hammer in short shorts. He plays the American graduate student who arrives to assist his archeology professor over the summer and stumbles into a passionate affair with the professor’s son, played by Timothée Chalamet, whose sexual awakening is palpable. The heartbreaking end is bittersweet and beautiful and a welcome excuse to cry it out. Meredith ⬆️says the book by André Aciman is just as amazing.—N.D.
My Brilliant Friend, 2018 and 2020, HBO
Whether or not you have read Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels (I haven’t), don’t let it stop you from binging this brutal and beautiful adaptation. At its center are two girls, straight-laced Lenu and tough as dirt Lila, whose friendship carries them through the casual violence and misogynistic norms of their poor, Italian upbringing. The first season takes you through the point at which their childhood trajectories diverge; and Season Two, which just began, forays into their adult lives. Gaia Girace in the role of Lila is a heart-stopping force to be reckoned with and steals the show.—N.D.
The Durrells in Corfu, 2016-2019, Amazon Prime
A friend suggested this series as one for the entire family. This didn’t work for my home audience but the storyline is still entertaining. A British, widowed mother takes her three kids to the Greek island of Corfu in the 1930s, and with the help of a benevolent local, lands a crumbling estate overlooking the sea. Her kids often act like ungrateful beasts, even the youngest, Gerry, a budding zoologist whose childhood here became the basis of real-life British naturalist Gerald Durrell’s memoirs. In between their antics you’re treated to stunning vistas and cute animals to help take your mind off of reality.—N.D.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople, 2016, Amazon Prime
A foster parent and his “son” become a kind of Thelma-and-Louise sensation as they journey through the backcountry of New Zealand on the run from child services and the police. From Taika Waititi, director of The Mandalorian’s season finale and the outlandish Nazi comedy, Jojo Rabbit, also a terrific film, it’s a light-hearted on-the-lam story through a lush country. One very memorable line still makes me laugh just thinking about it.—N.D.