You don’t need huge budgets or a major film studio system in place to create a timeless film. While you may be familiar with some well-known American independent films, there are many foreign indie movies that may have flown under your radar. Here’s just a sample of some foreign independent films that should be on everyone’s watchlist:
Amélie (2001), France
Amélie is a 2001 romantic comedy directed by famed French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet. In the film, a shy waitress named Amélie tries to have a positive impact on those around her despite struggling herself to survive in modern-day Paris. Amélie‘s numerous accolades include Best Film at the European Film Awards, four César Awards, two BAFTA Awards, and five Academy Award nominations.
Cronos (1993), Mexico
The first feature film of master director Guillermo del Toro, this horror drama about an ancient artifact is considered one of the best independent Mexican films of all time. Cronos received an overwhelmingly positive critical response from international film critics. Accolades include winning several international film festival competitions and being chosen as the Mexican entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 66th Academy Awards.
Dreamchild (1985), United Kingdom
Nominated for 1985’s Independent Spirit Award for Best International Film, Dreamchild is a British drama about Alice Liddell, the famous young girl said to have inspired Lewis Carroll’s classic novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. While traveling from England to the United States to receive an honorary degree celebrating what would have been Lewis Carroll’s 100th birthday, an elderly Alice begins suffering flashbacks and hallucinations involving characters from the novel that made Carroll famous.
Breathless (1960), France
À bout de souffle, which directly translated to “out of breath”, is a 1960 French crime drama written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard, perhaps the most prominent figure in the French New Wave movement. In the film, a young thief named Michel comes to depend on an aspiring American journalist while on the run after killing a policeman. Breathless is considered an early pioneer of French New Wave cinema and helped bring international attention to the fresh, unique style of filmmaking.
Ran (1985), Japan
Ran is an epic period drama edited, directed, and co-written by legendary Japanese director and screenwriter Akira Kurosawa. Set in Medieval Japan, the story follows a retired warlord who hands his empire to his three sons, only to see them grow corrupt and violent towards each other. Receiving critical acclaim across the globe, Ran was the first Japanese film to earn an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best International Film.
Wings of Desire (1987), Germany
Known as Der Himmel über Berlin (The Heaven Over Berlin) in Germany, this romantic fantasy film directed by Wim Wenders is about angels that dwell in the city of Berlin while listening to the thoughts of its human residents. One angel eventually falls in love with a woman and sacrifices his immortality to be with her. Wings of Desire earned numerous awards and nominations, including winning Best Foreign Film at the 1988 Independent Spirit Awards. It was remade as the American film City of Angels, starring Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage, in 1998.
Before the Rain (1994), Macedonia
Helmed by Macedonian film director Milcho Manchevski, Before the Rain garnered worldwide acclaim, earning an Academy Award nomination, a Silver Condor, Golden Bug, and the Golden Lion at the 51st Venice International Film Festival. In the film, three love stories unravel as civil war begins spreading throughout Macedonia.
Bad Taste (1987), New Zealand
This sci-fi comedy horror splatter film served as iconic New Zealand film director Peter Jackson‘s first feature film. Made with a budget of $25,000, Bad Taste went on to become a cult film despite being banned in Australia for its high levels of gore. Its plot revolves around aliens that arrive in New Zealand in order to harvest humans for their intergalactic fast food franchise, a far cry from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies Jackson would later helm.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), China
Selected in 2010 as one of the 30 Most Significant Independent Films of the last 30 years by the Independent Film & Television Alliance, this acclaimed wuxia film by Ang Lee revolves around skilled Chinese warriors fighting for a powerful sword called Green Destiny. The film is based on a Chinese novel written by Wang Dulu and featured a strong cast of actors, including Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen. Winner of more than 40 awards, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s top wins include Best Picture at the Academy Awards, four BAFTAs, and two Golden Globes. It is considered one of the most influential martial arts films of all time.