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Do You Dare Rank Your Top Movies by Language?

View Chris Kavan's Profile

By Chris Kavan - 09/10/11 at 02:10 PM CT

I admit, my own top movie list looks a bit bland when it comes to languages. Out of my top 20 films, only three are not in English, and two of those are anime films.

Yet I think I have a pretty broad range when it comes to foreign films - at least compared to the typical American. Thanks to anime and horror - not to mention my respect of Akira Kurosawa, I have a healthy selection of Japanese films. Thanks to Chan-wook Park and his ability to craft a revenge film like no other (and horror again), I have some Korean films. Pascal Laugier and Alexandre Aja proved to me that the French can come up with some twisted horror of their own. Ingmar Bergman and Niels Arden Oplev showcase two very different sides of Swedish cinema.

That's just the a sample of some of the films I've seen or own. But when it comes down to it, I think one of the main reasons people are adverse to foreign films can come down to one word: subtitles. For whatever reason, people have a hard time with words on screen. If you have a medical or mental condition that prevents you, that is a valid excuse. If you're reason is that you don't like reading or find it hard to read and pay attention to the film, that's just another way of saying "I like my films in English, the rest of you can take a flying leap." Granted, the U.S., U.K. and Australia have some fine films, but you're truly missing out on many fantastic films.

And watching dubbed movies does not count. Aside from some animated films, I can't say I've ever seen a dub that can match the original. That doesn't mean that some subtitles films can't suffer the same fate (the original sub of Let the Right One In was slammed for that reason) but overall, I don't count it as a foreign film unless you watch it in the original language. A lot of mine come from The Criterion Collection, which takes painstaking effort to produce quality, but you don't have to spend a fortune to find great foreign films either. Look at Amelie or Run, Lola, Run for two examples.

I don't want to come across as some snob that looks down upon anyone who hasn't experienced the oeuvre of François Truffaut or Federico Fellini. You don't have to be an expert in French New Wave or German Expressionism to impress me. I just want you to step outside your comfort zone and try something new.

How much of your top movie list contains foreign films? Is it 50% or above or more in the range of 5% or lower. Do you have none at all? All I'm saying is it pays to try something new now and then. If I hadn't seen Seven Samurai in collect, I might never have discovered Kurosawa. If you haven't tried searching for new top movies by language yet, give it a try. See what other people think and expand your horizons. I promise, it won't hurt and you'll find a new appreciation for film.


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