At the Golden Globes this week, the South Korean thriller Parasite was awarded best foreign language film, and as director Bong Joon-ho made his speech via translator to his peers, he threw a glorious line of shade: “Once you overcome the one inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” It’s a very poetic way of saying “LEARN TO READ,” and speaks to the large number of anglophones who have shut themselves off from a whole world of art because of unfamiliar language.
For those looking to venture beyond the glut of English-language titles and old favorites, there are plenty of international options available just waiting to be devoured. Cultural globetrotting isn’t limited to the arthouse, either; Netflix has a varied slate of international programming (though you probably didn’t notice that, since the algorithm works in mysterious ways). The streamer’s foreign language slate is expansive, diverse and worthy of your time—these are the best international shows on Netflix right now.
It says it right there in the name (it’s the titular darkness!): Dark is bleak, brutal and unforgiving. Part small town drama, part supernatural thriller, critics have called it Germany’s answer to Stranger Things, but that comparison seems reductive. Sure, there are kids riding bikes and the story kickstarts when a young boy goes missing, but Dark is smarter and more mature than the stateside Spielbergian homage—a more apt description might be Twin Peaks by way of the Brothers Grimm.
Terrace House is ostensibly very boring, but that kind of stress-free viewing is why it’s essential. In true fly-on-the-wall fashion, the Japanese reality show follows three men and three women who move into a luxurious house and live their lives free of drama apart from the occasional meat incident or slow-burn romance. It’s basically about nothing, and yet somehow it works. That doesn’t exactly sell it very well, but it's not only one of the best international shows on Netflix, because we also named it one of the best shows of the last decade so just take our word on it.
Sex! Drugs! Murder! And that’s just the first episode! Netflix’s Spanish-language hit takes the risky excess of Riverdale and Euphoria to a decadent private school, where three working class students struggle to assimilate with their much richer classmates. It’s as thrillingly gaudy and trashy as Gossip Girl—or maybe Glee, because their uniforms give me Warbler vibes.
You would think that every possible angle on zombies has been exhausted, but then along comes Kingdom to prove you wrong. The South Korean period drama re-imagines the aftermath of the Japanese invasion of Korea, as a long-reigning dynasty is threatened when the king succumbs to a monstrous illness. As stunning to look at as it is gruesome, you’ll marvel at its lush production design while cowering at the bloody carnage.
Speaking of deadly viruses: the post-apocalyptic threat in this Danish series is—you guessed it—rain. (Think The Happening, but... good.) A lethal downpour infects all of Scandinavia and wipes out the population, save for a pair of siblings who have locked themselves in a bunker. Fun fact: the thumbnail on my feed for this is a naked man dying on a table: 1) I’m curious about why Netflix thought this would encourage people to watch it and 2) I don’t know what this says about my viewing habits but it isn’t very promising.
The Scandis are certified masters of the crime drama, so it’s no surprise that the streamer has dipped its toe into the genre’s murky waters. The Norwegian mini-series has flown under the radar in favor of flashier offerings from its neighbours (see: The Rain), but it’s the kind of icy and atmospheric noir you’ve come to expect (and obsess over) from the Nordics. Someone does say “Mister Police” at one point, so I apologize to everyone who has tried to forget The Snowman ever existed.
Carole and Tuesday
If you’ve been meaning to get into anime but the sheer amount of shows out there overwhelms you (I’m looking at you, One Piece, and your 900 episodes), Carole and Tuesday is a fitting place to start. From Shinichirō Watanabe, creator of the seminal Cowboy Bebop, this anime follows two unlikely friends, living on a colonized Mars, who start a band and enter a singing competition. It’s the (welcome) antithesis to Wantanabe’s genre-bending masterpiece—when the world feels like hell, why not watch something uncynical and genuinely sincere?
It’s time to accept that dystopian YA will never die. Hailing from Brazil and helmed by Oscar-winning cinematographer César Charlone, 3% sees a bunch of hot 20-year-olds compete in a series of tests to win a place at an affluent paradise known as the “Offshore”. (The title comes from the percentage of people who are successful.) It makes zero sense, but The Hunger Games doesn’t either.
From Ocean’s Eleven to… Ocean’s 8, everyone loves a good heist. Even when trickery and deception are at the heart of the genre, this Spanish thriller is more ambitious than its contemporaries, with its narrative complexity and non-linear timeline, all set around a billion Euro robbery at the Royal Mint of Spain. It’s propelled by a frenetic energy, larger-than-life characters and an unreliable voice-over to rival Penn Badgley’s in You.
For the February 2020 issue we spent time with Larry David, who has some opinions about bad things.
Originally Appeared on GQ