Hollywood provides a great escape to those of us looking for a break from the monotony of everyday life. They take us to out-of-this-world and out-of-this-universe destinations, following the adventures of heroic souls, vulturous villains, and brilliant ancillary characters. Though we may find our comfort zone to be squarely in the hands of directors like Martin Scorsese and actors like Robert De Niro, icons of Hollywood, one need not limit themselves to a single “wood”. Foreign movies can also give us everything we need and more.
Actors, writers, producers, and directors are hard at work in studios and sets all across the world, determined to tell us some incredible stories. They may get your adrenaline pumping, make you hungry, or even touch your heart. It can be difficult to select a movie in a language you don’t understand. Luckily, awards are given to truly exceptional movies, and the Oscars appear to be the highest honor in the movie-making community. To make the choice easier for you and to ensure that you are totally up to date with your Oscars, we’ve gathered a chronological list of the past 10 Winners of the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film (formerly the Best Foreign Films).
1. 2010 – 2011
In a Better World (Danish: Hævnen, “The Revenge”)
This Danish drama-thriller, directed by Susanne Bier, was released in 2010 and submitted to the Oscars by Denmark. it follows the story of Anton, a Swedish doctor working at a Sudanese Refugee camp and his wife and children back home in Denmark. Anton and his wife Marianne struggle with the distance, their relationship, and infidelity, as his son Elias befriends a troubled young boy that has recently joined his school. While Anton does his best to teach his children valuable life lessons about strength and dignity, his own values are questioned by violent conflicts tearing apart the Sudanese village he works in. The series of events the film follows forces Elias, Anton, and Marianne to face some truly difficult decisions.
2. 2011- 2012
A Separation (Persian: Jodaí-e Nadér az Simín, “The Separation of Nader from Simin”)
A 2011 drama film from Iran, written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, this film focuses on the messiness of relationships as they dissolve and the destructive nature it has on the people caught in its wake. Simin and Nader are a middle-class couple, with a young daughter and his Alzheimer’s-ridden father in their care. The disputes between them become more and more volatile and hostile as time passes. When a poor young woman is hired by Nader to care for his father, the conflicts continue to escalate. As egos clash and rage builds, Nader finds himself facing judgment from himself, the world, and most importantly his daughter.
Amour (French: Amour, “Love”)
This French drama- tragedy film from Austria was first screened at the 65th Cannes Film Festival in 2012. The story introduces us to Anne and Georges, a sweet loving elderly couple, both of whom are retired music teachers. Their daughter Eva lives and works abroad. Georges and Anne find their world turned upside down when Anne suffers from an unexpected and serious stroke. As Anne’s condition improves and deteriorates seemingly at random, Georges is torn between wanting to respect his wife’s wishes and dignity and wanting to ensure she receives proper treatment and care for her ailments. The film follows the struggles of Georges and Anne as they attempt to hold on to their love and their life.
The Great Beauty (Italian: La grande bellezza)
The Great Beauty, directed by Paolo Sorrentino, is an Italian art-drama movie that premiered at the 66th Cannes Film Festival in 2013. The story revolves around Jep Gambardella, a renowned theater critic and costumed journalist in Rome, 65 years young and still ever-so fascinating. The author of only one novel and surrounded by a group of endearing but volatile friends, Jep begins a journey to work on his next book, but suffers from a severe case of writer’s block. As a series of shocking, tragic, and strange events begin to unravel and occur around him, Jep finds himself questioning the very faith in life that had fueled him for so long.
2013 Polish drama film by Pawe? Pawlikowski, Ida, has been described by critics as an “eerily beautiful road movie” and a “compact masterpiece”, known for its silent acknowledgment of major historical events. Anna, a young girl orphaned as an infant, is in preparation to be sworn in as a Catholic nun and goes to meet her aunt. Her aunt, her only living relative reveals that her true name is Ida and that she was born into a Jewish family during Germany’s occupation of Poland. As Ida questions her faith she and her aunt set out on a road trip across the countryside of Poland to determine the fate of her family.
Son of Saul (Hungarian: Saul fia)
This Hungarian drama directed by László Nemes made its debuted at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and was the first Hungarian film to win a Golden Globe. Set in the Auschwitz concentration camp in the 1940s, Saul Ausländer is a Jewish-Hungarian prisoner set to work as a corpse cleaner in the gas chambers. Numbed to the horrors surrounding him and the arising strife among the Sonderkommando, Saul finds himself shaken to the core and caught in a sudden and terrifying predicament. The movie follows 36 of the most important hours in this prisoner-of-war’s life and his desperation to hold on to his faith against all odds.
The Salesman (Persian: Forušande)
Premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Iranian drama film The Salesman follows the story of a happily married couple, Emad and Rana. Both are professional performers and work in theater, and currently engaged with their groups most recent production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Life changes drastically for them when Rana is attacked by an intruder in their new home and struggles to recover from the trauma of the incident. Emad becomes obsessed with finding the culprit or culprits responsible and exacting revenge. As the events that led to the attack unravel around them, Emad finds himself able to relate too well to his role on stage as the salesman Willy Loman.
A Fantastic Woman (Spanish: Una mujer fantástica)
Directed by Sebastián Lelio and submitted by Chile for the 90th Annual Academy Awards, this Spanish drama was premiered at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival in 2017. A young transgender woman in Santiago, Chile, has found happiness with her partner Orlando and their dog Diabla. One night, things take a dark turn and Orlando dies unexpectedly, leaving in his wake suspicious cops, an angry ex-wife, and an aggressive son. Marina struggles to cope with the loss of her partner and fight for what is hers while facing the reality of how she is viewed by the world.
Submitted for an Oscar by Mexico, this Spanish film, directed by Alfonso Cuarón is what is termed as a slice-of-life drama, an artistic interpretation of what is ordinary and mundane life and at the very core of naturalistic art. This semi-autobiographical take on growing up in the neighborhood of Colonia Roma, in Mexico City, follows a period in the life of Cleo, a live-in housekeeper to an affluent family. When she discovers that she is pregnant, the family she tends to do their best to support her despite struggling with their own difficulties and the violent conflict in the city escalating between demonstrators and the paramilitary.
Parasite (Korean: Gisaengchung)
This dark-comedy thriller was another to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, this one in 2019, and became the first South Korean film to win the Festival’s highest award, the Palme d’Or. It tracks the duplicitous nature of the members of a poor family living in squalor and dreaming of riches. Posing as highly qualified individuals with affluent backgrounds, they scheme to ensure they are employed by the wealthy and naive Park family. Seeking to soak in all the glories of money and status that had so long evaded them, the Kim family has no intention of stopping their infiltration of the Parks home, no matter the cost.