best foreign movies and tv streaming

(Welcome to Pop Culture Imports, a column that compiles the best foreign movies and TV streaming right now.)

As we head into May, we should try to resist the calls of the warm weather and stay safe inside. And what better way to distract yourself from the cheery birds signaling the start of spring than with some international movies? And we’ve got the full spectrum in this week’s Pop Culture Imports: from the hotly debated awards favorite Slumdog Millionaire, to sweeping Brazilian melodrama Invisible Life, to the crime drama that beat out Portrait of a Lady on Fire for the French pick for the international Oscar, Les Misérables.

Fire up those subtitles and let’s get streaming.

Best Foreign Movies and TV Streaming Now

Slumdog Millionaire – HBO Go

Country: United Kingdom, India

Genre: Crime drama

Director: Danny Boyle

Cast: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan.

For some reason, the prestige of Danny Boyle‘s Slumdog Millionaire has become hotly debated since it became an awards darling in 2008. Is it sentimental schmaltz that glorifies poverty? Or is it simply an uplifting rags-to-riches crime drama? The answer is, it’s both those things — and it’s still good. Slumdog Millionaire was an unfortunate victim of the Oscars discourse that plagues many frontrunners, which overshadowed this vibrant, utterly romantic story of a tea server from the slums of Mumbai who lands a place on India’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire to find his long-lost childhood love. Boyle’s electric direction and the performances of lead Dev Patel, in his breakout role, along with recently passed Bollywood icon Irrfan Khan and an incredible group of talented child actors all make Slumdog Millionaire a classic.

Watch This If You Like: Forrest Gump, My Name is Khan, One Day, game shows that end in a Bollywood dance number.

Invisible Life – Amazon Prime

Country: Brazil

Genre: Period drama

Director: Karim Aïnouz

Cast: Carol Duarte, Julia Stockler, Gregorio Duvivier, Bárbara Santos, Flávia Gusmão, Maria Manoella, Antônio Fonseca, Cristina Pereira, Gillray Coutinho, Fernanda Montenegro.

A gorgeous, sweeping melodrama in true Douglas Sirk tradition, Invisible Life is the rare romance about the vast love between two sisters. Set in 1950s Rio, Invisible Life follows two very different sisters — one who dreams of being a world-class pianist, one who dreams of boys — who love each other deeply. But when the boy-crazy sister, Guida, elopes with a Greek sailor, she leaves her sister Eurídice feeling abandoned. Eurídice is pressured by her father into marry a family friend to stay in Rio, and is uniformed when Guida returns home pregnant. Their father disowns Guida and lies to both sisters, making each other think the other is living on the other side of the world. Lush, rich, and immensely heartbreaking, Invisible Life follows the sisters as they struggle against repression and bigotry, all the while yearning to reunite with the one person who understands them most.

Watch This If You Like: The Notebook, Amour, Cold War, missed encounters.

Unorthodox – Netflix Original

Country: U.S., Germany

Genre: Drama miniseries

Director: Maria Schrader

Cast: Shira Haas, Amit Rahav, Jeff Wilbusch.

Loosely based on Deborah Feldman’s 2012 autobiography Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, Unorthodox follows unhappily married Esty who escapes her ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn to start a new life in Berlin. Miraculously, she finds herself immediately accepted by a group of good-looking musicians who introduce her to the life she was missing out on. But in the meanwhile, she must evade her husband and cousin who have been sent to bring her back. Unorthodox is a remarkable story about a remarkable character — lead Shira Haas gives a wonderfully vulnerable and plucky performance as Esty, who embarks on this journey with a wide-eyed awe. Well-written and compelling, Unorthodoxis a hidden gem to watch on Netflix (and which has already earned a passionate fan in Moonlight director Barry Jenkins).

Watch This If You Like: Disobedience, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, wigs.

Les Misérables – Amazon Prime

Country: France

Genre: Crime drama

Director: Ladj Ly

Cast: Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, Djebril Zonga, Issa Percia, Al-Hassan Ly, Steve Tientcheu, Almany Kanoute, Nizar Ben Fatma.

So what’s the deal with the movie that took the spot for France’s best international film Oscar pick over Portrait of a Lady on Fire? There was plenty of outrage over the nomination of Ladj Ly’s Les Misérables, but was the outrage warranted? Not at all. Set in modern-day Montfermeil, the setting of Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Les Misérables is an incendiary portrait of class and race tensions centered around an Anti-Crime unit whose abuses against the impoverished immigrant communities of the neighborhood escalate into an explosive crisis. Les Misérables is not inspired by Hugo’s novel by the same name, but by a real-life incident of police violence observed by director Ladj Ly. And Ly has a lot to say in this enthralling, somewhat unwieldy crime drama. Les Misérables threatens to buckle under its many messages — about racial tension, about police abuses, about the uncertain relationship between the gangs and cops who keep the wheels greased — but Ly’s impassioned approach to the subject keeps you hooked.

Watch This If You Like: La Haine, Blindspotting, Detroit, bulletproof vests.

Time to Hunt – Netflix

Country: South Korea

Genre: Crime thriller

Director: Yoon Sung-Hyun

Cast: Lee Je-hoon, Ahn Jae-hong, Choi Woo-shik, Park Jung-min.

There’s not much that distinguishes Yoon Sung-Hyun‘s Time to Hunt from any other B-movie heist thriller at first. There’s its vaguely futuristic dystopian setting, but Time to Hunt does precious little to build out its world, other than using the genre’s gritty urban aesthetic as a moody backdrop to the story of four petty criminals who decide to rob an underground gambling den. But after the heist is pulled off, Time to Hunt‘s nature suddenly shifts and it transforms into a riveting, white-knuckle horror film, as the thieves find themselves chased by a ruthless killer hired by the mob that run the den. Parasite‘s Choi Woo-shik is one of the young robbers who find themselves hopelessly out of their element, hunted by Park Hae Soo’s dead-eyed assassin, a dirty cop who gleefully toys with his prey. Time to Hunt is best when it stops going through the motions of what’s expected in a standard heist movie and embraces the thrilling horror movie that it becomes in the end.

Watch This If You Like: Inside Man, The Town, being addicted to heists.

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