The 30 Greatest Foreign-Language Films

THE TOP 30...

So here are the top 30, and what better way to spend the coming weeks than working your way through this list of incredible films from around the world, many of which are available on the major streaming platforms or DVD.

Over the years we’ve screened many of them at Phoenix, and when we reopen we’re sure to screen many more.

  1. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
  2. Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio de Sica, 1948)
  3. Tokyo Story (Yasujirô Ozu, 1953)
  4. Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
  5. The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939)
  6. Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
  7. (Federico Fellini, 1963)
  8. The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959)
  9. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
  10.  La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
  11. Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
  12. Farewell My Concubine (Chen Kaige, 1993)
  13. M (Fritz Lang, 1931)
  14. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels (Chantal Akerman, 1975)
  15. Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955)
  16. Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)
  17. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972)
  18. A City of Sadness (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1989)
  19. The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
  20. The Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974)
  21. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)
  22. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
  23. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928)
  24. Battleship Potemkin (Sergei M Eisenstein, 1925)
  25. Yi Yi (Edward Yang, 2000)
  26. Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988)
  27. The Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973)
  28. Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)
  29. Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003)
  30. The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)


The 100 Greatest Foreign Language Films
BBC Culture, 30 October 2018

Three years ago, BBC Culture ran its first major critics’ poll, to find the 100 greatest American films. Two further polls looked for the best films of the 21st Century and the greatest comedies ever made – and those also ended up with films from the US in the top spot. This year, we felt it was time to direct the spotlight away from Hollywood and celebrate the best cinema from around the world…

Why is Seven Samurai so good?
Anne Billson, BBC Culture, 30 October 2018

Akira Kurosawa’s epic topped BBC Culture’s poll to find the 100 greatest foreign-language films. But the influential Japanese director’s international success wasn’t mirrored at home…

Bicycle Thieves review
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, 19 December 2008

Neorealism never got more real than in Vittorio de Sica’s 1948 classic Ladri di Biciclette, or Bicycle Thieves – occasionally mistranslated as “The Bicycle Thief”, though the plural is surely crucial…

Tokyo Story: No 4 best arthouse film of all time
David Thomson, The Guardian, 20 October 2010

It’s dangerous to start watching Japanese cinema, because the world is so extensive and dazzling you may quickly develop a taste for nothing but Japanese films…

Film Studies: Before Kurosawa Came Along, Foreign-ness Was Never So Exhilarating
David Thomson, The Independent, 2 January 2002

There are moments in the history of film when the world suddenly grows larger. It is hard to think of one more dramatic than the Venice Film Festival of 1951 when Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon took the top prize…

The Rules of the Game: Everyone Has Their Reasons
Alexander Sesonske,, On Film / Essays, 16 November 2011

By February 1939, it no longer seemed evident that the surrender of Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler at Munich had “saved the peace.” A sense of doom was beginning to hang over Europe. In this atmosphere, Jean Renoir, anticipating war and deeply troubled by the mood he felt around him, thought he might best interpret that state of mind by creating a story in the spirit of French comic theatre…

Persona review – Ingmar Bergman’s Enigmatic Masterpiece Still Captivates
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, 29 December 2017

Here, for the centenary of Ingmar Bergman’s birth, is a rerelease of one of his fiercest, strangest, most sensually brilliant and unclassifiable pictures: Persona, from 1966…

Fellini’s 8½ – A Masterpiece By Cinema’s Ultimate Dreamer
Michael Newton, The Guardian, 15 May 2015

Federico Fellini never stuck to the facts. At his best, his films strike a perfect balance between fantasy and reality – and nowhere is this more evident than in his autobiographical classic,

Ask The Professor: Is “400 Blows” a Semi-Autobiography of Francois Truffaut?
Susannah Bragg McCullough,, 9 September 2016

There is a famous story about why this particular actor, Jean-Pierre Léaud, got the part. His parents were both in the film industry, so he was familiar with the business, but Truffaut saw in him a kindred spirit…

My Favourite Film: In The Mood For Love
Peter Walker, The Guardian, 19 December 2011

In the Mood for Love was released when I was living in Hong Kong, albeit a very different city to that of the film’s 1962 setting. Like Tony Leung’s Chow Mo-wan, I was also working there as a journalist. Sadly, that’s where my resemblance to his almost absurdly handsome, mournfully dapper character begins and ends…

La Dolce Vita (1960)

I have heard theories that Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita catalogs the seven deadly sins, takes place on the seven hills of Rome, and involves seven nights and seven dawns, but I have never looked into them, because that would reduce the movie to a crossword puzzle…