Martin Scorsese's list of essential foreign films -- And your favorites

DaveyMacDaveyMac Tokyo
edited March 2016 in Movies
This list popped up in my facebook feed a couple days ago and it got me thinking about my favorite foreign foreign films and I just thought it'd be interesting to see what foreign films people in the Bald Move community enjoy. Apologies if a thread like this already exists.

A few of my favorites are: 

A Separation (Iran, 2011, Asghar Farhadi) I'd actually commission this one if I had the money. 

High and Low (Japan, 1963, Akira Kurosawa) 

Y Tu Mama Tambien (Mexico, 2001, Alfonso Cuaron)

Memories of Murder (South Korea, 2003, Bong Joon Ho) 

Pan's Labyrinth (Spain, 2006, Guillermo Del Toro)

There's so many other amazing films to choose from, but I figured I'd keep it at five. And I wanted to include five different countries.



  • FreddyFreddy Denton, Texas
    El Infierno (Mexico, 2010,
    Luis Estrada) - A black comedy about an illegal immigrant who gets deported back to his hometown in Mexico and falls in with a local drug cartel. Hilarious, morbid, and yet still manages to be sweet at times. Don't know if it should ever be commissioned, but I'd definitely recommend it.
  • Le Samourai (France, directed by Melville)--I'd love to commission a podcast comparing this film with its homage by Jim Jarmusch, Ghost Dog

    Burned by the Sun (Russia)

    The Color of Paradise (Iran)

    Samurai Trilogy (Japan, starring Mifune about the life of Musashi)

    The Best of Youth (Italy)
  • Thanks @Freddy for the El Infierno recommendation. I've never heard of it and added it to my watchlist. 

    @kojiattwood I totally forgot about Le Samourai! Great film. I also love a couple of Melville's other films ("Le Circle Rouge" and "Army of Shadows") And yeah a commission on that would be cool.

    I have not heard of "Burned by the Sun", "The Color of Paradise", or "The Best of Youth", so thanks for those recommendations! 

    The Samurai Trilogy is one that I've meaning to catch up with for a while. I think I've only actually seen Mifune's work in Kurosawa films.

  • pavlovsbellpavlovsbell Brooklyn, NY
    edited March 2016
    I'm bad at lists, and I don't have the energy at the moment to include the pertinent information like dates and synopses.  Some of my favorites that are not on Scorsese's list are:

    Bergman:  Persona, The Seventh Seal

    Fellini:  La Strada, La Dolce Vita

    Kurosawa:  Rashomon

    Park Chan-wook:  Oldboy

    Andrew Lau and Alan Mak:  Infernal Affairs (I prefer it to Scorsese's adaptation, The Departed) 

    Claude Berri:  Manon des Sources  (this is usually cited with Jean de Florette because this is a sequel, but I love Manon so much more)

    Buñuel:  Belle de Jour

    Wong Kar-wai:  Chungking Express, In the Mood for Love (similar to Ikuru and the Seven Samurai, these two could not be more different, but they complement each other.)  In the Mood for Love is near the tippy-top of my all-time favorite films.

  • Yep, Infernal Affairs was a thousand times better than The Departed.  Infernal Affairs 3 was pretty amazing, too--
  • pavlovsbellpavlovsbell Brooklyn, NY
    Infernal Affairs is a leaner, more claustrophobic film that focuses more on the psychology of the characters (better performances, too); whereas The Departed is bloated (epic, if you're feeling generous) and has that awful ending with the rat.
  • DaveyMacDaveyMac Tokyo
    edited March 2016
    Great pics @pavlovsbell ;

    I absolutely love "In the Mood for Love". It's so beautifully shot and the score is fantastic. I still have yet to see "Chungking Express", though. 

    Fellini is a blindspot for me and I've only seen a couple Bergman films ("Seventh Seal" and "Wild Strawberries"). I love "Rashomon". I've only seen "Old Boy" once years ago, but I remember liking it quite a bit. 

    I've been meaning to catch up with "Infernal Affairs" for years, but just never have for whatever reason. 

    I've added the others to my watchlist. Thanks for those. 
  • pavlovsbellpavlovsbell Brooklyn, NY
    In the Mood for Love is perfection.  I'm wary of committing to anything as my favorite [insert category here], but that film is damn close.  I also love Happy Together, Fallen Angels, and Days of Being Wild.  Big Wong Kar-wai fan here.

    Persona is difficult to describe.  If you're heavy into visual imagery and experimental film, then you'd probably love it.  Also, if you've seen a lot of Woody Allen films, you've seen a lot of Bergman. ;)

    I haven't seen High and Low.  I just checked it out at Criterion, and it sounds interesting.  It's on my list, thanks.
  • Garthgou81Garthgou81 Placerville, CA
    edited March 2016
    Audition (not a particularly amazing movie, but incredibly disturbing and affected me)
    Battle Royale
    Cache (this is absolutely chilling--it may be too slow for some, but if you have patience and don't mind movies that aren't tied up in a neat, little bow--them give it a look)
    I Saw the Devil (an awesome Korean revenge flick)
    Let the Right One In (the American remake of this actually isn't horrible, but the original hits the mark closer to the story's intent I think, and while the remake is more stylized, there is something to be said for the original's stark ambiance)
    Old Boy (who doesn't love this one? Avoid the Spoke Lee joint at all costs and go for the original)
    Pan's Labyrinth (one of my favorite films of all-time. Just perfectly paced and a master-class in telling dual stories with multiple interpretations)
    Rec 1 & 2 (if you are a horror-junkie and haven't seen these--give it a shot. They are found footage flicks, but they are some of the best you can find)
    Tell No One (A really great thriller)
    Y Tu Mama Tambien

    I still need to see both City of God and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I hear both are fantastic. They've been sitting on my shelf, I've just never got around to them.
  • Frakkin TFrakkin T Currently Offline
    edited March 2016
    Solid choices @Garthgou81 looks like you and I have similar tastes. 

    I would add some Japanese camp to the mix, stuff like Helldriver and Tokyo Gore Police. There is some great French horror from the last 10 years or so, namely Frontier(s), Inside, and Martyrs; that last one is damned hard to watch but it's brilliant. 

    There's a little Irish comedy from 1998 called Waking Ned Devine, very funny, along with the only other Irish movie I know, Intermission. Recommend both for a good time.

     The world fell in love with Audrey Tautou in Amelie in 2001 but she and director Jean-Pierre Jeunet worked together a couple of years later on A Very Long Engagement, a melancholy WW1 period piece that remains, in one of my favorite phrases, criminally underrated. Also Jeunet did Delicatessen, which you should watch because it's a comedy about cannibalism that's also kinda sorta a musical at times. 

    Lastly, as a Bostonian I have to give some pushback about the Departed. It's stuffed to the gills with excellent performances, sharply written dialogue, and a story that keeps you guessing the first time and rewards multiple viewings. Not to mention it's probably in the top 3 Boston movies ever. (And Scorsese is a New Yorker!) 
  • pavlovsbellpavlovsbell Brooklyn, NY
    edited March 2016
    @Garthgou81 Great list.  Caché is fantastic (also Haneke's Amour).  I always associate Caché with The Lives of Others because they came out around the same time and have a commonality of surveillance.

    I know I saw Tell No One and liked it, but I don't remember it.  Good excuse to check it out again.  Audition is unforgettable.

    I'm not a horror junkie, but Suspiria is gorgeous and disturbing.  Luca Guadagnino is remaking it with Tilda Swinton.  I'm mildly curious.

    @Frakkin T  Just curious, what are the other top 2 Boston films?  Good Will Hunting and... The Town?  Gone Baby Gone?  Spotlight?  My dad is from Boston, and I spent my childhood summers there and in Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and New Hampshire, so I have a soft spot for Boston and New England in general.
  • amyja89amyja89 Oxford, England
    A few of my foreign favourites are:

    La Haine (French - arguably one of the greatest movies of all time)
    Volver (Spanish)
    La Vie En Rose (French)
    City Of God (Brazilian)

  • Another vote for City of God--it's simultaneously tough to watch, and yet you can't take your eyes off it.
    Couple Boston-based films to recommend highly: Mystic River, The Verdict, and  The Friends of Eddie Coyle (starring Robert Mitchum)
  • Here's some of mine:

    1) Wings of Desire (Germany, Wim Wenders, 1986)

    2) 8 1/2 (Italy, Federico Fellini, 1963)

    3) A Pure Formality (France/Italy, Giuseppe Tornatore, 1994)

    4) NIghts of Cabiria (Italy, Federico Fellini, 1957)

    5) Wild Zero (Japan, Tetsuro Takeuchi, 1999)

  • MichelleMichelle California
    Cinema Paradiso should be on that list!
  • Frakkin TFrakkin T Currently Offline
    edited March 2016
    @pavlovsbell Suspiria is amazing! As far as Boston movies, GWH and Departed are 2 of the tops for me and I would probably add Mystic River or Shutter Island to round out the top 3. Spotlight was very good, and it was neat to see my own high school (BC High) featured so prominently in a movie. (It's right across the street from the Globe offices so of course they actually filmed there.) It hasn't even been out for a year, though, and it's nowhere near as exciting as the others we're talking about, so that limits rewatchability for me. Most disappointing Boston movie without a doubt is Black Mass. Johnny Depp's fake eyes in that movie killed it moreso than the fact that they took their time on the first hour then rushed through about 30 years of story in the second hour. 
  • Garthgou81Garthgou81 Placerville, CA
    @Frakkin T Well I am from Boston also--so that makes sense that our tastes align a bit. I agree with your Bostonian movie choices as well. Though I haven't seen Infernal Affairs, so i can't compare The Departed to it. (However the "Chinatown" scene in The Departed always came off as incredibly cartoonish. Had Scorsese ever actually been to Chinatown in looks absolutely nothing like that). I need to get around to Black Mass, but thats too bad to hear that it isn't so awesome.

    As for others you mentioned...Martyrs...god...that movie. I watched it from beginning to end and wish I hadn't. Actually--thats not true...the ending is pretty spectacularly disturbing. But everything leading up to that was pretty difficult to stomach.

    Inside & Frontier(s) were both bananas. I probably will never watch them again. But they were experiences.

    I watched Amelie years ago and I honestly don't understand the appeal. As a pessimistic, life-is-awful person, I really couldn't relate to manic-pixie-dream girl mindset of Amelie. But maybe I am remembering things wrong. I just don't recall liking much about it at all. 
    Frakkin T
  • For those fans of the Infernal Affairs trilogy, I HIGHLY recommend Triad Election I and II--very stylishly done, atmospheric with some great performances.
  • @pavlovsbell I really do need to check out more of Wong Kar Wai's stuff. I've only seen "In the Mood for Love", "2046", and "My Blueberry Nights". Re: "High and Low", that's one of those films, I really enjoyed on first watch, but each subsequent time it's only grown in my estimation to the point where it's probably in my top ten films. In a way it's kind of two films in one. The first half could really be stage play, while the second half really opens up. Some people seem to be less interested in the police procedural aspect that comes in in the second half, but I think it's really compelling, especially seeing a full-on police investigation without the benefits of modern technology. The Criterion release is really solid, too.
  • "High and Low" is one of my favourite films, if you haven't already, check out "The Bad Sleep Well", it's also terrific!
  • @Garthgou81 Great list here. I haven't seen some of the horror choices, but I do like "Audition" quite a bit. What I love most about that film is the way it slowly becomes crazy and hellish. For a long time it feels like a fairly standard Japanese drama.

    "Cache" is great too. Haneke is tough director to get into for a lot of people, but I like what I've seen of his quite a lot. Another one is "The White Ribbon".

    And right on on "Let The Right" one in. I loved it and really saw no reason to watch the re-make. 

    And I'll join some of the others in recommending "City of God". The subject matter is tough, but damn that film is really vibrant and alive. Really good.
  • @amyja89 , @AntManBee

    You've both listed films ("La Haine" and "8 1/2") that film buff friends of mine give me shit for all the time, not having seen. I really need to rectify that soon. They both been on my watchlist for ages.
  • @kojiattwood I haven't seen "The Bad Sleep Well", but I have heard of it. I really know nothing about it aside from clips here and there in Kurosawa docs. I'll definitely have to check it out.
  • Garthgou81Garthgou81 Placerville, CA
    DaveyMac said:

    @Garthgou81 Great list here. I haven't seen some of the horror choices, but I do like "Audition" quite a bit. What I love most about that film is the way it slowly becomes crazy and hellish. For a long time it feels like a fairly standard Japanese drama.

    Audition does some stellar stuff. You actually forget you are watching a horror movie until an absolutely bizarre part in the flick. If you didn't know better you would just think you are watching a movie about a guy trying to find a wife. And then shit gets very real.
  • DaveyMac said:

    @amyja89 , @AntManBee

    You've both listed films ("La Haine" and "8 1/2") that film buff friends of mine give me shit for all the time, not having seen. I really need to rectify that soon. They both been on my watchlist for ages.
    Yeah well, I'm a bit in the same boat considering I'm really lacking with my Kurosawa. A lot of his movies are on my list and I've only seen The Seven Samurai.
  • You're in for a treat!  Kagemusha next on the list?
  • aberry89aberry89 California
    edited March 2016

    Revanche - 2009 Austrian academy award nominee. A thriller in the way the Godfather is a thriller/crime story. Ill quote Roger Ebert in saying - "...rare is the thriller that is more about the reasons of people instead of the needs of the plot."

    Monsoon Wedding - 2002 Indian ilm. Gorgeous, extremely moving film about an Indian family amidst a marriage of their daughter. Similar to Japan's Crouching Tiger, this was a rare Indian movie that did pretty well in the US, probably because it is more western in it's filming style. I watch this one a lot, super enjoyable, outstanding performances. 

    Perfect Blue & Paprika -  Japanese films from director Satoshi Kon. Ummm, no way in hell i can even get into explaining these films, they simply must be watched, experienced. 

    Some better known ones that are my favorite - Wings of Desire (Germany, Wim Wenders)  In the Mood for Love (Chinese, Wong Kar-wai) Let the Right One In (Sweden,Tomas Alfredson) Seventh Seal (Sweden, Ingmar Bergman) Rashomon, Seven Samurai (Japan,  Akira Kurosawa) Spirited Away (Japan, Hayao Miyazaki) Beauty and the Best (France, Jean Cocteau)  and everything Gillo Del Toro has done because he is the shit.

    I know i am forgetting a lot... especially foreign horror films... do British films count?? It's foreign to me! Wicker Man (1973),  is probably my favorite British horror film - (although I see you Witch, and you got damn near close...)

  • Frakkin TFrakkin T Currently Offline
    If you're talking about British movies Monty Python & The Holy Grail is a must-see if you are at all a fan of comedy. 

    @Garthgou81 @DaveyMac I learned from the special features on the DVD of Audition that there is a certain genre of film native to Japan. I forget the name of it but it's a warm and fuzzy and golden family soap opera. (I swear, Japanese culture sometimes doesn't translate well.) Apparently the brilliance of the film lies in the fact that it successfully apes the style of that genre, lulling the unsuspecting viewer into expecting something very specific and very un-challenging. Then when they get hit with the bizarre moments it's terrifying. @DaveyMac you live over there--do you know about this family genre? 
  • @aberry89 Thanks for including Miyazaki--anime deserves its own category (Graveyard of the Fireflies is really something special)
  • You're in for a treat!  Kagemusha next on the list?

    Not sure yet, but it's definitely on the list!
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