The Best Non-English Language Films of 2022

From a stoic donkey to circus "freaks" battling the Nazis, here are best non-English language films of 2022.
Best Non-English Language Films of 2022

This article is part of our 2022 RewindFollow along as we explore the best and most interesting movies, shows, performances, and more from this very strange year. In this entry, Will DiGravio and Rob Hunter explore the best non-English language films of 2022.

The following list could be many lists. It could be longer. And, as is true with all of our “Best Of” lists, it remains incomplete and, at least in the minds of its authors — Rob Hunter and yours truly — ever-evolving. Of all the 2022 lists we have been discussing here at FSR, this one was the hardest to assemble. It represents a mix of the films that are personal favorites, “hidden gems,” and the usual collection of non-English-language movies that were commercial giants, captivating the primarily English-speaking countries from which we write.

One must also remember that many films do not gain the distribution necessary to screen around the world. Or, for whatever reason, were shown in a limited capacity. Consider this list less a “best of” and more a guide to movies you should watch in the years ahead and, as it is for us, a map to continue discovering films from these countries and creators, past and present. Here are fifteen films from 2022 that will stay with us in the years ahead.

15. EO (Polish)

Alien Films

A moviegoing highlight of the year for me was watching Jerzy Skolimowski’s latest film EO in a tiny, packed theater, where each one of us seemed utterly captivated by the harrowing journey taken by the eponymous donkey. We meet EO just as he is removed from his loving caretaker at a traveling circus and thrust into more violent captivity. He escapes, setting about Polish and Italian woods, cities, and countryside. Among the many joys of watching the film is EO does not “feel human.” Rather, we come awfully close to experiencing and feeling the world as he does, as a donkey. Good luck finding a more emotionally-packed 88 minutes this year. (Will DiGravio)

14. The Roundup (Korean)

Capelight Pictures

There’s an unwritten rule that genre films typically remain within the confines of their own respective lists. But rules are for nerds, so Lee Sang-young’s punch-happy gem’s presence on our Best Action Movie list doesn’t mean we can’t double dip. It’s a wildly entertaining action film with fight scenes and shootouts bringing both fun and thrills, but for the purpose of this list, we’re going to celebrate its crossover appeal as an action/comedy. Genre hybrids can be tough to nail just right, but The Roundup is as pitch-perfect and satisfying an action/comedy as anything Hollywood has delivered in the past couple of decades. The laughs are big and built off both characters and situations, and the action thrills with fun choreography and slick execution. (Rob Hunter)

13. Lingui, The Sacred Bonds (French)


Lingui, The Sacred Bonds follows a mother and daughter living on the outskirts of N’Djamena, the capital city of Chad. Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, the film features a pair of superb performances by Achouackh Abakar Souleymane, who plays the mother, Amina, and Rihane Khalil Alio, who plays her daughter, Maria. Amina, who gave birth to Marina out of wedlock, lives as a semi-outcast in society. When Maria becomes pregnant, Amina becomes determined that history will not repeat itself. The film follows the pair as they try to obtain an abortion for Maria, navigating all the cultural taboos, religious restrictions, and Chadian laws. The pair turn to a hidden network of women who support one another. With concise dialogue, sweeping wide shots of the city streets, and fine pacing, this is a film about community and how it would be that much more difficult to survive without it. (Will DiGravio)

12. Both Sides of the Blade (French)

IFC Films

French writer-director Claire Denis had quite a year. She ended 2022 with Stars at Noonan English-language film starring Margaret Qualley and Joe Alwyn that deserves recognition as one of the year’s best. But it is Both Sides of the Blade that appears on this list. The film is a love triangle drama starring Denis regulars Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon. Lindon plays Jean, a reformed convict who gets into business with François, Sara’s (Binoche) former lover. This prompts Sara and François to reignite their love. Jean, trying to restart his life, at first seems to turn a blind eye, but things eventually begin to fall apart. This is a film about paranoia and desire, about the nature of memory and the fact that the past and the present are far more connected than we sometimes lead ourselves to believe. (Will DiGravio)

11. Holy Spider (Persian)


Serial-killer thrillers are nothing new, but once in a while, a filmmaker finds a fresh angle or execution that leaves audiences sitting up and taking notice. Director/co-writer Ali Abbasi’s new feature does just that with a tale inspired by real events in an Iranian city. A predator nicknamed the Spider Killer has been murdering female prostitutes as punishment for their sins. A female journalist arrives, hoping to crack the case by going undercover. The two will meet, but their paths are set against a backdrop of a society divided on the issue of guilt — they’re a faithful bunch, and many aren’t so sure the killer is doing anything wrong. It all makes for a disturbing setting where morality is shaped by ignorance and misogyny. (Rob Hunter)

10. All that Breathes (Hindi)

HBO Documentary Films

In New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, birds often fall out of the sky. A small group of people gathers and care for these birds, nursing them back to health and releasing them back into the sky where they belong. Such is the story of All That Breathes, the documentary by Shaunak Sen. This is a film about climate change, about the damage we are inflicting on ourselves and the creatures with whom we share this planet. It is as a powerful meditation on how beauty, even in such situations, remains. The film follows a pair of brothers, Nadeem Shehzad and Mohammad Saud, who for years have cared for these birds. We witness their triumphs and hardships, the sacrifices they have made, and the opportunities that lay ahead. It is a remarkable film that captures a group of people who are bettering the world as you read this sentence. (Will DiGravio)

9. Athena (French)


Some might think otherwise these days, but revolution is far from an American invention. Others have attempted it long before, and many will do the same long after. This imagined tale is built on very real, very angry bones as the marginalized youth and minorities of Paris rise up after an apparent killing by a cop of one of their own. The police swarm to contain the rage leading to a siege captured with adrenaline and beautiful imagery. The eleven-minute oner that opens the movie is the clear highlight, but what follows builds, stokes, and lets loose with similarly effective anger at the injustices we’ve all grown so numb to. Some viewers have criticized the ending, but that final shot is the fuel on the fire that is this film — unchecked anger is as dangerous a force as you’re likely to find. (Rob Hunter)

8. Hit the Road (Persian)

Kino Lorber

A couple and their two sons head out on a road trip, the purpose and destination are a bit unclear, but the journey is some kind of wonderful. There’s a simplicity to writer/director Panah Panahi’s beautiful, humorous, and touching road trip, but it never feels one-note or overly familiar. The couple is cute and loving, alternately frustrated and amused by the day’s events, but the two sons couldn’t be more different. The older one is key to the journey and the child? That little shit is the heart of the film. He is joy, childishness, purity, frustration, and love all combined into a child blissfully unaware of the drama and loss swirling around him. The film beats at his tempo, delivering a sweet, funny, and heartbreaking tale of family at its strongest. (Rob Hunter)

7. The Innocents (Norwegian)

IFC Midnight

Eskil Vogt is something of an unsung hero behind some of Norway’s most critically acclaimed films — he’s the writer of Joachim Trier’s Oslo August 31st, Thelma, The Worst Person in the World, and more. Vogt took the leap into directing with 2014’s underseen gem Blind, and now he’s back with a piece of pure magic. This time around, he’s exploring the idea of children gaining extrasensory powers, but rather than go the superhero route, Vogt’s film becomes a battle between good and evil where both sides are equally human, confused, and struggling at their coming-of-age crossroads. Chase it with the similarly themed Thelma for a great time with movies comfortable pairing genre thrills with heavier, more thought-provoking themes. (Rob Hunter)

6. R.M.N. (Romanian)

IFC Films

Romanian auteur Cristian Mungiu returned to the big screen this year with R.M.N., a meditation on xenophobia, class, and masculinity set in a Transylvanian village. The central conflict revolves around the local bread factory, which flies in immigrants to employ. The villagers don’t want to touch bread made by immigrants and thus begin boycotting one of their only reliable sources of food and industry. What unfolds is a drama centered on a small town that has universal ramifications, capturing so much of the hate prevalent in Europe, the United States, and beyond. (Will DiGravio)

5. Saint Omer (French)

Alice Diop’s Saint Omer is a courtroom drama bursting with formal innovation, compelling narrative, and empathetic characters. Kayije Kagame plays Rama, a professor and writer who travels from Paris to Saint-Omer, located near the Northern coast of France, to attend the trial of a woman named Laurence (Guslagie Malanga), who is accused of murdering her young child. The camera navigates the courtroom in ways that challenge the space, showing characters’ reactions to the trial and creating a heightened subjectivity. Newly pregnant, Rama begins to see herself in Laurence. She then comes to grapple with her own privilege and fears and the structural racism and sexism that pervades society and its microcosm, the very courtroom in which they sit. (Will DiGravio)

4. Playground (French)

My personal pick for the best movie of 2022. Belgian filmmaker Laura Wandel’s debut feature, Playground, captures the everyday cruelties of childhood and just how hard it is to exist as a kid in the world, especially on the playground. Low camera angles capture the world from the point of view of seven-year-old Nora (Maya Vanderbeque), who struggles to protect her older brother Abel (Günter Duret) from getting bullied and then later becoming one himself. Films featuring such strong performances from children don’t come around often. If you haven’t seen the film yet, make sure you add it to the top of your watchlist. (Will DiGravio)

3. Freaks Out (Italian)

Gabriele Mainetti’s beautiful and thrilling period adventure played festivals back in 2021 but still hasn’t landed a U.S. release. That’s incredibly disappointing as the film deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. It pits four “circus freaks” with special powers against Nazis during World War II, and the result is a funny, bloody, exciting, anachronistic, and affecting tale that entertains with action and heart. Think of a blackly comic X-Men adventure directed by Álex de la Iglesia, and you’ll be on the right track here. Deadly serious one moment, absurdly entertaining the next, this is a terrific film in need of more eyeballs. (Rob Hunter)

2. Decision to Leave (Korean)

Bong Joon-ho has stolen much of the international conversation around South Korean cinema in recent years thanks to his film Parasite winning at the Academy Awards, but he’s not the only heavy hitter in town. Far from it. Park Chan-wook has been wowing audiences for over two decades now, and his latest, Decision to Leave, is as dazzling a masterpiece as you could hope for. A playful, beautiful, tragic neo-noir about a widow and the cop investigating her husband’s death. It’s funny and gorgeous, and there’s a calm sensuality about it that takes you by the hand and seduces you one frame at a time. There’s a scene where Tang Wei — fantastically good here — goes through Park Hae-il’s pockets, sampling and exploring his various holdings, and it’s the most erotic exchange the cinema has seen in years. (Rob Hunter)

1. RRR (Telugu)

It’s the movie that has captivated the minds of audiences around the world. No single paragraph could sum up S. S. Rajamouli’s anti-colonialist epic. For me, the highlight of RRR is the performances, namely the two leads: N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan. The friends-turned-enemies-turned-friends light up the screen in moments of song, dance, combat, and love. Though fans have fallen in love with the film on Netflix, it is best served up on the big screen. If you have the chance to see it up there, take it.  (Will DiGravio)

Follow along with more of our 2022 Rewind!

Will DiGravio and Rob Hunter: Will DiGravio is a Brooklyn-based critic, researcher, and video essayist, who has been a contributor at Film School Rejects since 2018. Follow and/or unfollow him on Twitter @willdigravio.