The 14 Best Foreign Language Films of 2014

By  · Published on December 18th, 2014

We made a point with this year’s “Best of” lists to only include titles that received a U.S. release in 2014, but I’m not going to stick with that here. Foreign language films in particular can be difficult to highlight and give attention to if forced to wait for a proper American release ‐ 2000’s Battle Royale, for example, took over a decade before getting a U.S. release ‐ and many titles only see festival screenings before leaving our shores for good.

So while the majority of the films below have been released in some form or other here in the States five of them remain outside the system. The odds are that some of them will debut here in 2015, and we’ll spread the word if and when that happens.

14. The Raid 2

Sony Pictures Classics

Rama has just finished the fight of his life ‐ well, fights of his life anyway ‐ but the case is far from closed. He’s convinced to go undercover in the hopes of getting close to a major criminal family, but the assignment takes a larger and longer toll than he ever could have imagined. Gareth Evans’ sequel to his own action classic raises the bar even higher with an incredible selection of characters and set-pieces designed to leave your jaw permanently dropped. [Currently available on Blu-ray/DVD]

13. The Attorney

Well Go USA

On the surface, this is a David & Goliath-type tale about a lone lawyer (Song Kang-ho) standing up for what’s right against the power and threats of a corrupt police department and legal system. It works well to satisfy viewers looking for a dramatically thrilling story, but the film earns extra power by being based on a true story. It’s both an entertaining courtroom drama and a fascinating glimpse into the life of Roh Moo-hyun, the lawyer the film is based on and who would eventually go on to become president of South Korea. [Currently available on DVD]

12. A Coffee In Berlin

Music Box Films

Niko is a bit lost. He’s dropped out of college, something destined to upset his father who’s still been paying for it, and is looking for meaning. Unfortunately, that meaning has been as elusive as finding a good cup of coffee. There are heavy themes at play here, but writer/director Jan Ole Gerster keeps things somewhat comedic as Niko’s quest grows more and more fruitless throughout his day. He’s having something of a quarter-life crisis, and while it’s sad for him it’s entertaining for us. [Currently available on Blu-ray/DVD]

11. No Man’s Land

China Film Group

Pan just wants to go home. After a hard stretch of sleazy lawyer-ing in a podunk town in rural China he sets out for home across the Gobi desert and finds a life or death adventure along the way. Director Ning Hao‘s latest is an exciting and energetic romp across a gorgeous yet deadly landscape that manages both surface-level thrills and a deeper, more vicious commentary on modern-day China. It’s almost a desert-set After Hours with vehicular mayhem replacing Cheech and Chong, and it’s as good as that sounds. [Currently unavailable in the U.S.]

10. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Kino Lorber

A young woman drifts through the nighttime streets of Bad City, and while she’s a girl of very few words she’s not shy about making her intentions known. Sometimes it’s feasting on the blood of the town heavy, other times it’s dancing alone to American pop music, but the one constant in Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut is that it’s a gorgeously-photographed and highly unconventional vampire tale about the willful ignorance sometimes required to see the best in the people we suck on and sometimes even love. [Currently in theaters]

9. Han Gong-ju

Third Window Films

A high-school girl is moved to a new town and school for an undisclosed reason, but as she works to start a new life events from her past catch up to her threatening tragic results. Chun Woo-hee gives a devastatingly raw and heartfelt performance that turns what could easily have gone the melodramatic route into something immensely affecting. It’s not an easy watch ‐ and like 12 Years a Slave it’s something I will probably never watch again ‐ but it’s an important one. [Currently unavailable in the U.S.]

8. Stranger By the Lake

Strand Releasing

Franck spends his days cruising for sex along the shore of a small lake, but when he sees his latest crush murder a man he discovers that his desire for affection might be stronger than his will to survive. This French thriller (of sorts) takes place at a single location and ‐ fair warning ‐ is filled with numerous male sex organs, but it makes its mark as a passionate slow-burn about the power of lust and loneliness. It graphically reveals these men’s exteriors while slowly doling out the conflicted feelings within. [Currently available on Blu-ray/DVD]

7. Like Father, Like Son

Wild Bunch

Ryota and his wife discover that their six year-old son was swapped at birth with another child, and the revelation puts them in contact with the family currently raising their actual child by blood. It’s a relief for Ryota as his son has yet to live up to his standards, but can he simply swap the boys back again? Hirokazu Koreeda’s film captures families at the best and worst, and in Ryota he shows a man detached from what it means to be a father. The result is as devastating as it is affirming. [Currently available on DVD]

6. Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart

Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory

Jack is born on the coldest day on record causing his heart to freeze in his chest before a quick-thinking midwife installs a cuckoo clock in its place. This timepiece heart comes with risks, one of which is the danger of falling in love, but it’s a risk Jack is willing to take. Wonderfully creative animation, incredibly catchy songs and an ending that surprises in its beauty and perfectness help make this an unforgettable piece not-just-for-kids cinema. [Currently available on Blu-ray/DVD]

5. Hwayi: A Monster Boy


A group of criminals botch a kidnapping and turn lemons into lemonade by raising the boy as their own, but when he discovers the truth years later he decides it’s time to stand up to his five fathers. Writer/director Jang Joon-hwan‘s long-awaited follow-up to 2003’s Save the Green Planet is a deft and bloody melange of action, suspense, comedy, heart, drama and humanity that refuses to let your attention wander. This is violent, sweet, cruel, joyous and remarkable entertainment that delights darkly with nearly every frame. [Currently unavailable in the U.S.]

4. Before Snowfall


Siyar is the man of the family now that his dad is dead, but when his sister abandons the clan-mandated arranged marriage in favor of her boyfriend Siyar sets out after her with the goal of committing an honor killing. It sounds ridiculously heavy and one-sided, but Hisham Zaman’s film finds unexpected warmth and perspective along Siyar’s journey. From the spectacular opening sequence to the haunting finale, the film engages through a combination of beautiful cinematography and dramatic suspense. [Currently unavailable in the U.S.]

3. Blind


Ingrid loses her sight and attempts to process this major life change by retreating into her home, but her imagination and fears soon get the best of her. Writer/director Eskil Vogt’s wrote the brilliant Oslo, August 31st and creates something entirely different but just as affecting here. The story moves in some highly unexpected directions and employs a visual style that brings it all to fascinating life. It’s an amorphous canvas showing us the real world through Ingrid’s fears, desires, sense of humor and sexuality, and it’s stunning. [Currently unavailable in the U.S.]

2. Force Majeure

Magnolia Pictures

Tomas and Ebba are happily married parents of two adorable children, but an incident that occurs while they’re vacationing at a ski resort leaves the couple fractured and at risk. That probably makes this sound like a somber affair, but while the issues being tackled are serious the tale’s execution is filtered through a blackly comic lens. Writer/director Ruben Östlund’s film is a painfully satirical look at gender stereotypes in relationships and offers honest observations couched in razor-sharp laughs. [Will be available on Blu-ray/DVD on February 10, 2015]

1. We Are the Best!

Magnolia Pictures

Three young girls in ’80s Sweden decide to make their mark in a punk band despite lacking everything they’d need to do so ‐ equipment, talent, etc ‐ aside from sheer determination and spirit. Lucas Moodysson’s film is pure joy captured at 24fps. It’s easy to see ourselves in the three girls regardless of where we fall on the xx/xy factor or whether or not we’ve ever held an instrument, and Moodysson’s magic act is in recreating that time capsule without artificiality, judgement or melodrama. [Currently available on Blu-ray/DVD]

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.