European movies are a wonderful path to explore for those who feel like they’ve seen everything on Netflix. These under-watched titles need to be sought one by one because it seems like Netflix algorithms would almost never put them at the forefront.
I know what some of you might be thinking: “wait, subtitles, ew!” – not necessarily. Many European movies are in English, and not just the ones from the UK. Clouds of Sils Maria from this list, for example, is a French movie set in France, but its main language is English and it stars none other than Kristen Stewart.
Europe has a long history with film – the French New Wave, Italian Neorealism, and the great Swedish movies of Ingmar Bergman. And what’s happening in Europe today is equally as exciting: French thrillers, Scandinavian dramas, Irish comedies… there is just so much to discover.
This list has past Oscar winners like The Lives of Others, a past winner of the Berlin Film Festival (On Body and Soul), and other award-sweepers. But you might be asking yourself why you haven’t heard of some or all of them. The answer depends on each movie but it’s often either bad marketing or that fear of subtitles. Both have nothing to do with the quality of the movies themselves.
So, friends, let’s try something new. Below are the best European movies on Netflix right now.
This movie is like thriller-candy. It is full of twists, it is very atmospheric, and in nicely predictable fashion it will deliver that excitement rush we (most of us) love. Accused of murder, a wealthy entrepreneur hires the best witness preparation expert he can find. They have three hours before the trial to come up with the most solid, plausible defence. But ?, a new witness surfaces. Don’t expect anything overly original, but expect to be entertained.
Staff rating: %. In Spanish. On Netflix everywhere.
Set in 1970s Italian countryside, this is a quirky movie that’s full of plot twists.
Lazzaro is a dedicated worker at a tobacco estate. His village has been indebted to a marquise and like everyone else, he works without a wage and in arduous conditions.
Lazzaro strikes a friendship with the son of the marquise, who, in an act of rebellion against his mother, decides to fake his own kidnapping. The two form an unlikely friendship in a story that mixes magical realism with social commentary.
Staff rating: 80%. Rated PG-13. In Italian. On Netflix Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Mexico, and USA.
The Young Offenders is a comedy about two Irish teenagers who go on a 160km bicycle trip to salvage 7 million euros worth of lost cocaine. As they sit on a hill overlooking their city, they imagine what they would do with that money. The answer is building a house that has lava lamps, “big gold walls”, Spanish girls, and an English butler to wake them up every morning with the phrase “what’s happenin’?”. You get the vibe. It’s is a silly movie, although the premise is actually based on a real-life event where cocaine from a capsized smuggling boat washed up on the Irish coast. The Young Offenders wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s a sweet funny movie, half slapstick and half plot, which sports an infinity of highly quotable one-liners.
Two storylines take place in this Parisian animation: one of a Moroccan immigrant who works as a pizza delivery guy, and the other of his hand, somehow no longer part of his body, but also going on a trip around Paris.
The hand storyline is not gory by the way, except for one or two very quick scenes. Mostly, this is a film about loneliness and not being able to find your way back, both as an immigrant who misses how they were raised and as a hand who misses its body.
Sporting some of the most beautiful animation work this year, this movie premiered at Cannes where it became the first-ever animated film (and Netflix film) to win the Nespresso Grand Prize.
Staff rating: 80%. Rated TV-MA. In French. On Netflix everywhere.
A gritty and realistic thriller set in France’s notorious capital city of crime – Marseille.
Zachary is released from Juvenile prison to learn that his mother has abandoned him. He finds kinship in an underage sex worker by the name of Shéhérazade.
This seems like the set-up for a tough watch, but Shéhérazade plays like a romance when it’s slow, and a crime thriller when it’s fast (it’s mostly fast). Everything about the story and two leads’ relationship rings true. Added to the fact that it has no interest in emotionally manipulating you, the movie is more gripping and thought-provoking than sad.
A great story, fantastic acting from the cast of first-timers, and outstanding direction give the feeling that Shéhérazade is bound to become a modern classic. If you liked City of God, you will love this.
Staff rating: 82%. In French. On Netflix everywhere.
Emma, a free-spirited girl with blue hair, influences Adele’s life dramatically, teaching her how to be honest with herself and discover her true desires about love. The film beautifully and realistically portrays Adele’s evolution, from a high-school girl to a grown-up woman. The spirit Emma lights up in her never dies. Blue Is the Warmest Color or La Vie d’Adèle is an honest, intense, and charming picture, prepare not to blink and have your face glued to screen from start to finish.
Staff rating: 86%. Rated NC-17. In French. On Netflix France, Italy, Japan, and USA.
Deep in the suburbs of Paris, Divines follows the story of Dounia (played by Oulaya Amamra) and her best friend Maimouna (played by Déborah Lukumuena). Director Houda Benyamina serves a nest of social issues – welcoming the viewer into a world where poverty is pervasive and adults are haunted by their own ghosts, where there is a life vest only in the reliance on friendship. The nature of this bond between the two female characters is deep, playful, and backed by mesmerizing acting on behalf of Amamra and Lukumuena.
Just as prevailing throughout the film is the commentary on immigrant diasporas and the power of idealization. The girls fantasize about financial excess with guttural determination, guided only by the realization that their escape from their current lives has to come to fruition no matter what the cost. This film is entrancing and thought-provoking. You won’t be able to look away.
Staff rating: 90%. Rated Not Rated. In French. On Netflix everywhere.
This is one of the craziest, most high energy movies you’ll ever watch. It’s about a 9-year-old who is considered a case the healthcare system calls a “system crasher”: someone who has exhausted every option child protective services has and still failed to get better.
This girl, called Benni, wants to get out of the system and go back to live with her mom, but her mother is scared of her. She is introduced to a new shelter with a social worker who tries a different approach in one last attempt to reform her.
System Crasher is a wild ride, but it’s made with so much heart that the thrills never feel senseless: it’s a movie that will stay with you for a long time.
Staff rating: 90%. Rated 12. In German. On Netflix Canada, Germany, and USA.
On Body and Soul is the impeccably crafted winner of the 2017 Berlin Film Festival.
Two strangers have the same dream every night, they meet as deer in a forest and eventually fall in love. When they run into each other in real life, they search for the love they experience unconsciously. The reality of their introverted personalities and their surroundings make it hard to establish that same connection.
This unconventional love story is passionately told by Hungary’s best director, Ildikó Enyedi. Before it, she had taken an 18-year break from making movies, something that kind of makes sense when you watch On Body and Soul. That break was probably the only way to come up with something as thoughtful and creative as this.
Staff rating: 90%. Rated Not Rated. In Hungarian. On Netflix Argentina, Canada, India, Mexico, South Africa, and USA.
A Call me By Your Name without the privilege, pretentiousness or wealth, and it’s probably a better movie because of it. God’s Own Country tells the story of Johnny, a kid from the Yorkshire countryside and underclass. The family’s workload and responsibility fell on his shoulders after his father suffered from a stroke, which drove him further into loneliness and alienation. Upon meeting a Romanian farmer, his ideas of loneliness, sex, and intimacy are confronted with change. A beautiful and beautifully humane film, and an unbelievable debut by British director Francis Lee.
Staff rating: 91%. In English. On Netflix Australia, Canada, Germany, and USA.