greatest foreign films

Over the past few years, the BBC has conducted polls to discover the 100 greatest American films, 100 greatest comedies, and 100 greatest films of the 21st century. Now they’re at it again, but this time they’ve kicked Hollywood to the curb and instead focused on films that are made in a language other than English.

Where will classics like 8 1/2, Rashomon, Breathless, and Le Jour et la Nuit fall on the list? Read on to find out.

If you read that previous sentence closely and couldn’t quite put your finger on that final title, that’s because Le Jour et la Nuit is not a classic at all. I just slipped it in there to see if you were paying attention! That film not only isn’t on this list, but it’s considered by some to be one of the worst foreign language movies ever made. Okay, with my silly little ruse concluded, let’s get to the actual list.

BBC Culture polled over 200 critics from 43 different countries who speak a total of 41 languages to arrive at these entries, which feature 27 movies French, followed by 12 in Mandarin, and 11 each in Italian and Japanese. There were a handful of other languages mixed in as well, including Wolof, which I’d never heard of and had to look up (for the curious among you, it’s the native language of the Wolof people living in Senegal and Gambia).

BBC’s 100 Greatest Foreign Films

100. Landscape in the Mist (Theo Angelopoulos, 1988)
99. Ashes and Diamonds (Andrzej Wajda, 1958)
98. In the Heat of the Sun (Jiang Wen, 1994)
97. Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami, 1997)
96. Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985)
95. Floating Clouds (Mikio Naruse, 1955)
94. Where Is the Friend’s Home? (Abbas Kiarostami, 1987)
93. Raise the Red Lantern (Zhang Yimou, 1991)
92. Scenes from a Marriage (Ingmar Bergman, 1973)
91. Rififi (Jules Dassin, 1955)
90. Hiroshima Mon Amour (Alain Resnais, 1959)
89. Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
88. The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1939)
87. The Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini, 1957)
86. La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962)
85. Umberto D (Vittorio de Sica, 1952)
84. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Buñuel, 1972)
83. La Strada (Federico Fellini, 1954)
82. Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
81. Celine and Julie go Boating (Jacques Rivette, 1974)
80. The Young and the Damned (Luis Buñuel, 1950)
79. Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)
78. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000)
77. The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970)
76. Y Tu Mamá También (Alfonso Cuarón, 2001)
75. Belle de Jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967)
74. Pierrot Le Fou (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)
73. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
72. Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 1952)
71. Happy Together (Wong Kar-wai, 1997)
70. L’Eclisse (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1962)
69. Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)
68. Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)
67. The Exterminating Angel (Luis Buñuel, 1962)
66. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1973)
65. Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1955)
64. Three Colours: Blue (Krzysztof Kie?lowski, 1993)
63. Spring in a Small Town (Fei Mu, 1948)
62. Touki Bouki (Djibril Diop Mambéty, 1973)
61. Sansho the Bailiff (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1954)
60. Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
59. Come and See (Elem Klimov, 1985)
58. The Earrings of Madame de… (Max Ophüls, 1953)
57. Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972)
56. Chungking Express (Wong Kar-wai, 1994)
55. Jules and Jim (François Truffaut, 1962)
54. Eat Drink Man Woman (Ang Lee, 1994)
53. Late Spring (Yasujirô Ozu, 1949)
52. Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966)
51. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964)
50. L’Atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934)
49. Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)
48. Viridiana (Luis Buñuel, 1961)
47. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
46. Children of Paradise (Marcel Carné, 1945)
45. L’Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)
44. Cleo from 5 to 7 (Agnès Varda, 1962)
43. Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)
42. City of God (Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund, 2002)
41. To Live (Zhang Yimou, 1994)
40. Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966)
39.  Close-Up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990)
38. A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang, 1991)
37. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
36. La Grande Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937)
35. The Leopard (Luchino Visconti, 1963)
34. Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, 1987)
33. Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)
32. All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, 1999)
31. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
30. The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
29. Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003)
28. Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)
27. The Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973)
26. Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988)
25. Yi Yi (Edward Yang, 2000)
24. Battleship Potemkin (Sergei M Eisenstein, 1925)
23. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928)
22. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
21. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)
20. The Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974)
19. The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
18. A City of Sadness (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1989)
17. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972)
16. Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)
15. Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955)
14. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels (Chantal Akerman, 1975)
13. M (Fritz Lang, 1931)
12. Farewell My Concubine (Chen Kaige, 1993)
11. Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
10. La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
9. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
8. The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959)
7. 8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, 1963)
6. Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
5. The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939)
4. Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
3. Tokyo Story (Yasujirô Ozu, 1953)
2. Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio de Sica, 1948)
1. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)

Poring over these titles, there’s a significant percentage that I haven’t seen – but rather than be disappointed or embarrassed, I’m excited to add these titles to my queue and check them out. (Hey, everyone has blind spots.)

The only unfortunate thing about a list like this coming out now is that it could have been the type of thing to spur people to subscribe to FilmStruck, the classic movie streaming service that just announced it’s no longer accepting new subscribers and will be shuttering next month. Still, there are plenty of other ways to get your hands on many of these titles, whether it’s through Turner Classic Movies, buying DVDs or Blu-rays, or old-fashioned disk rentals. (Yes, that’s still a thing!)

In 2018, when the state of the world looks pretty bleak and rhetoric about nationalism is popping up in multiple countries around the globe, it’s more important than ever to open ourselves up to different perspectives in our entertainment. This list is a great place to start.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: