best foreign movies and tv streaming

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

October has arrived and with it, the spooky season. So it’s time to turn to horror, and if not that, the horror within humanity with our latest batch of the best foreign movies and TV streaming now. First there are two hidden martial arts gems streaming on Netflix, including a gripping Vietnamese action flick starring Veronica Ngo from Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Wong Kar-wai‘s Ip Man biographical drama not starring Donnie Yen. Also on our list is J.A. Bayona‘s Spanish-language directorial debut, as well as an ambitious Swedish sci-fi movie and a fascinating Netflix crime procedural experiment.

Let’s fire up those subtitles and let’s get streaming.

Best Foreign Movies and TV Streaming Now

Furie – Netflix

Country: Vietnam

Genre: Martial arts action

Director: Le-Van Kiet

Cast: Veronica Ngo, Cát Vy, Phan Thanh Nhiên, Pham Anh Khoa, Tran Thanh Hoa.

Easily one of the best martial arts movies of the year, the Vietnamese action film Furie signaled the emergence of a new country in the genre of sleek Asian action cinema. Directed by Le-Van KietFurie is melodrama meets bone-crunching action in a breathless revenge movie that feels big and grand-scale despite being made on a shoestring budget. Veronica Ngo (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) stars as Hai Phuong, a former gangster living in the countryside whose young daughter is kidnapped by an criminal network using children as illegal organ donors. Hai Phuong cuts a bloody streak through the countryside until she makes her way to Ho Chi Minh City, where she tries to enlist the help of her old criminal connections and teams up with the police detective on the case of missing children. Ngo is a force of nature, bringing that raw emotional vulnerability that helped her steal the show in her 5-minute Last Jedi appearance as Rose Tico’s doomed sister, and a razor-sharp ruthlessness that elevates Hai Phuong to one of the all-time great movie moms.

Watch This If You LikeJohn Wick, Taken, The Villainess, good moms!

The Orphanage – Hulu

Country: Spain

Genre: Supernatural horror

Director: J. A. Bayona

Cast: Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep.

Gothic mansions, creepy children, way too many weird masks, J.A. Bayona‘s feature debut has it all! The Orphanage is a Guillermo del Toro-produced supernatural horror movie that put the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director on the map. The film follows Laura (Belén Rueda), a happily married woman who returns to her childhood orphanage to convert it into a home for sick children. But soon her own adopted son Simón (Roger Príncep) begins to behave strangely, consorting with imaginary friends and drawing disturbing pictures of a boy in a sack mask. When he disappears, Laura becomes convinced that the spirits of the former orphans haunting the house can lead her to him. Moody and atmospheric The Orphanage may be a tad on the schmaltzy side, but its depiction of parental grief and old-fashioned ghost story make it worth a watch.

Watch This If You LikeHaunting of Hill HouseThe Innocents, Poltergeist, lots of very creepy sack masks.

The Grandmaster – Netflix

Country: China

Genre: Martial arts/biographical drama

Director: Wong Kar-wai

Cast: Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Zhao Benshan, Song Hye-kyo, Wang Qingxiang.

Only Wong Kar-wai can make a sumptuous martial arts movie about Ip Man and not really make it about Ip Man. Instead, The Grandmaster is something more of an epic romance meets revenge flick with some half-hearted biographical moments sprinkled in between. Thanks to the martial arts action series starring Donnie Yen as the Wing Chun master, Ip Man has become something of a national icon crossed with a superhero. But The Grandmaster isn’t that interested in Ip Man (a stoic Tony Leung) as it is Zhang Ziyi‘s Gong Er, a daughter of a grandmaster who seeks to regains her family’s honor and crosses paths with Ip Man several times across the decades. The film’s weird plot structure can be forgiven on account of Wong’s magnificently staged fight scenes. Operatic, fantastical, and downright sensual, The Grandmaster is a martial arts movie as made by the director of such prestige films like In the Mood for Love and Chungking Express. You’ve got to hand it to Wong for not sacrificing his arthouse aesthetic for even a second — plus it makes for some breathtaking sequences like an opening martial arts battle in the rain that is as transcendent as a scene in any of Wong’s most acclaimed films.

Watch This If You LikeHero, House of Flying Daggers, Ip Man, lovingly examining every crevice in Tony Leung’s face.

Aniara – Hulu

Country: Sweden

Genre: Science-fiction drama

Director: Pella Kagerman, Hugo Lilja

Cast: Emelie Jonsson, Bianca Cruzeiro, Arvin Kananian, Anneli Martini.

Aniara is a lesson in how to do ambitious sci-fi concept on a low budget. Based on a 1956 Swedish poem of the same name that comes from the Greek phrase for “sad, despairing,” Aniara is a bleak and nihilistic film that is undeniably impressive in its scope. Aniara follows the passengers of a glamorous spaceship taking a routine three-week trip from Earth to Mars. But when a collision with space debris throws the ship off course and forces it to abandon its fuel, that three-week vacation cruise turns into a decades-long nightmare. The film centers around woman (Emelie Jonsson) who works a machine designed to allow viewers to relive their personal memories of Earth — a trivial luxury that turns into an addictive necessity once the ship’s stranding causes its passengers to slowly go insane. Cold, cruel, and relentlessly grim, Aniara is nonetheless a compelling character study that telegraphs how quickly society can descend into a dystopian purgatory.

Watch This If You LikeMoon, Ex Machina, Passengers, staring into the vast abyss of space.

Criminal – Netflix

Country: U.K., Spain, France, Germany

Genre: Procedural crime series

Creator: George Kay, Jim Field Smith

Cast: David Tennant, Hayley Atwell, Nathalie Baye, Jérémie Renier, Sara Giraudeau, Eduard Fernández

Netflix is running an interesting experiment with Criminal. A 12-episode, 4-country crime procedural that takes place exclusively in an interrogation room, Criminal is an ambitious spin on the crime procedural, taking the same template of a detective team interrogating a suspected criminal and applying it across four countries — United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Germany — with each country getting three episodes. The series (which cynically, feels like Netflix’s latest stab at making easy content out of as minimalist a structure as they can) works in fits and spurts. When it has a particularly talented guest star — as in the case of David Tennant as a chillingly calm doctor accused of abusing his step-daughter in the U.K. version, Sara Giraudeau as an unreliable survivor of the Bataclan bombing in the France version, and Eduard Fernández as a charismatic criminal who has long evaded capture in the Spain version — it’s riveting TV. But the investigative teams are often the least interesting parts of the episodes, despite attempts to bring some personal dramas among them. That being said, Criminal is a fantastic showcase for its performers — if they’re up to the task.

Watch This If You LikeLaw and Order, Criminal Minds, watching David Tennant and Hayley Atwell act circles around everyone.

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