When I’m not travelling, I’m often watching films instead.
Call me a film connoisseur, as I’ve watched a lot of films, but foreign films always seem to have that one unexpected element because of the way a story is told, or how it looks visually.
I realize our oh-so-favourite V-Day is upon us and while holidays and annual celebrations seem to mean less and less to me every year, it’s kinda unavoidable thanks to the consumerist culture most of us are always surrounded by.
Anyways, I thought I’d put together a fantastic list of films to watch if you’re tired of the typical, slapstick rom-coms, or if you don’t fancy Mr. Darcy and Mr. Grey anymore.
No matter where you are or who you’re with, these films all have a hint of romance and a certain je ne sais quoi.
But they’re worth watching simply because they’ll transport you to another time, another place.
Something us travellers are always do anyways, right? 🙂
Sometimes foreign films are way more disturbing than what we’re used to seeing from the likes of Hollywood, but I think you get to know a country through its films just as much as you do through its sites, people, or food.
Hopefully you don’t recognize many of these titles, but if you do and you’ve seen them already, maybe it’s time for a re-watch.
Without further ado, here are some of the best foreign films to watch on Valentine’s Day or really whenever you feel like it (in no particular order):
1. Amélie (2001)
Why can’t all rom-coms be like Amélie? This is truly one of my favourite films of all time. The music alone will make you feel like you’re in the heart of Paris. If I never get the chance to visit Paris, I think I’ll be okay thanks to this film.
Visually-stunning and whimsical, this comedy follows Amélie (played by Audrey Tatou), a shy and lonely waitress in Montmarte, who changes the lives of those around her by orchestrating little, life-changing moments. You have to see it to understand why this film has a special place in people’s hearts.
Country: France and Germany
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Length: 122 minutes
2. Once (2007)
Ah, another film that’s easy to fall in love with. Once is an Irish musical but definitely not your average musical. The story follows Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (who actually make up the band called “The Swell Season” in real life).
In the film, Hansard is a busker who meets Irglová, a new immigrant. Together they end up creating and recording songs that reflect their love story. The music is really what makes this film amazing. Interestingly enough, Once has also been adapted into a Broadway musical in New York, which is equally as good as the film.
Director: John Carney
Length: 85 minutes
3. Amour (2012)
Best to have some tissues ready! I watched this on my flight to Japan and forced myself not to tear-up. Amour is one of those raw and heartfelt dramas that doesn’t come around very often. While there’s a lot out there on young love, it’s refreshing that this focuses on mature love.
The film follows Anne and Georges, an elderly retired couple who live together. Everything changes when Anne suffers a stroke that paralyzes the right side of her body.
Country: France, Germany and Austria
Director: Michael Haneke
Length: 127 minutes
4. Rust and Bone (2012)
How often are films based on short-stories? Well, this one is! Rust and Bone (love this title), is about Alain van Versch (Matthias Schoenaerts), an unemployed father who moves to southern France to support his young son.
He soon meets Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), a killer whale trainer that ends up in a tragic accident. The two end up bonding over the accident, but face some big challenges.
Country: France and Belgium
Director: Jacques Audiard
Length: 123 minutes
5. Let the Right One In (2008)
Vampires and romance with a splash of horror, this film follows the story of a bullied young boy, Oskar, (Kåre Hedebrant) who develops a friendship with his new neighbour, a vampire child named Eli (Lina Leandersson).
It really is a cute story as their friendship unfolds, even though Eli herself is mysterious and has her own dark secrets.
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Length: 114 minutes
6. A Very Long Engagement (2004)
Another film by the director of Amélie, this is one of those romantic war films that stars Audrey Tautou again as Mathilde, who is told that her fiancé has been killed in WWI.
She refuses to accept this though and instead hires a private investigator to find out what really happened on the battlefield. This isn’t the most uplifting of romance films, but it has an intriguing story and it’s based in France, see a theme yet with this list?
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Length: 133 minutes
7. A Royal Affair (2012)
This royal love story is steeped in drama, but the good kind. Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, The Danish Girl) stars as Caroline Matilda of Great Britain, the queen of a mentally-ill King, Christian VII of Denmark.
The queen ends up falling in love with her physician, Johann Friedrich Struensee (played by Mads Mikkelsen). Keeping their affair a secret of course, the two start a revolution that changes the nation forever… Warning: this may not exactly have a lovey-dovey ending.
Country: Denmark, Sweden and the Czech Republic
Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Length: 137 minutes
8. Children of Paradise (1945)
And finally, let’s go way back in time to the days of black and white film. Children of Paradise was made during WWII and has been called one of the greatest French films of all time.
The story follows a courtesan, Garance, and four men (a mime, actor, thief and an aristocrat) who fall in love with her in their own way.
Director: Marcel Carné
Length: 195 minutes
What’s your favourite romantic film? Let me know!