Welcome to my list of the best foreign films of the year! In case you’re wondering why certain films appear to be missing there are a few factors to take into account. First, films like Mother, A Prophet, The Good the Bad the Weird, and The Secret In Their Eyes are movies that made previous lists. Second, I haven’t seen everything that was released this year. And third, your favorite foreign release from 2010 may actually have been a piece of shit.
But seriously, these are my picks for the ten best foreign language movies of the year in alphabetical order. As a bonus I’ve added in the five best English language foreign films for you as well. I know. You’re welcome. (Full reviews for all of the titles below can be found via our Reviews database, and my weekly excursions into foreign films can be found here.)
About Elly (Iran)
A group of friends take a weekend trip, but when one of them goes missing the truth about who she was gets lost in a haze of suspicion, judgment, and fear. Writer/director Asghar Farhadi’s film offers a suspenseful and beautifully-acted look into a society most of us know only from the nightly news, and it is an enlightening experience.
Bedevilled (South Korea)
An ugly incident in the city sends a woman home to the rural island where she grew up, but she discovers life there has become a living hell for her childhood friend. Cheol-so Jang’s film builds toward an extremely violent (and cathartic) finale, but it has a surprising emotional depth beneath its revenge-tale trappings.
A family lives in seclusion on a walled-in estate where the father raises his three children through fear of punishment and a complete misdirection of reality. Giorgos Lanthimos’ allegorical tale may be methodically paced, but it’s also blackly comic and thought provoking.
Enter the Void (France)
A young American in Japan dies, but his spirit continues on as he once made a promise to never leave his sister again. Gasper Noe’s film is over indulgent and poorly acted, but the artistry, effort, and innovation on display here overcome the faults to make it a must-see film.
Exit Through the Gift Shop (UK)
A man changes careers midlife to make a documentary about street artists, but when his interest in the topic takes a more personal bent the most infamous man in the field takes control of the film. Banksy’s movie may or may not be true, but there’s no doubt about it being an incredibly funny, smart, and insightful peek into the insanity of the modern art world.
Four Lions (UK)
Four wannabe jihadists plan to blow themselves up along with as many innocent victims as possible, but they’re not the sharpest knives in the Muslim bakery. Chris Morris accomplishes the impossible here by creating an extremely funny film with empathetic terrorists as the protagonists.
Golden Slumber (Japan)
A man is framed for an assassination and must go on the run to find out why it happened and who’s behind it all. Yoshihiro Nakamura follows up last year’s brilliant Fish Story with a film that echoes Alfred Hitchcock with a heart.
The Housemaid (South Korea)
A young woman takes a job as live-in maid for a wealthy family and soon begins an affair with the man of the house that leads towards tragedy. Sang-soo Im’s darkly humorous and erotic remake of the 1960 classic is both a visual feast and a biting critique of class distinctions.
I Am Love (Italy)
The Russian immigrant matriarch of an Italian high society family discovers pleasures long forgotten when she meets and becomes enraptured by her son’s friend. Luca Guadagnino has crafted a sumptuous family drama anchored by a brave and stellar performance from Tilda Swinton.
I Saw the Devil (South Korea)
A federal agent’s wife is murdered and his grief leads to an elaborate, extremely painful, and ultimately misguided revenge. Ji-woon Kim continues to do no wrong as he shifts into the darkest territory of his career with this brutal, stylish, and over the top thriller.
The Loved Ones (Australia)
A high schooler still reeling from the death of his father is taken captive by a deranged teen who he spurned and her own equally effed up father. Sean Byrne’s feature debut is a wild and unpredictable ride that moves swiftly from teen drama to torture horror to something else all together.
Rubber (Canada France)
A sentient tire terrorizes a small town with its newly discovered telekinetic abilities and thirst for mayhem. Quentin Dupieux’s film is that extremely rare and elusive creation that constantly and effortlessly surprises the viewer from each minute to the next and rewards open-mindedness with pure delight and bloodshed.
A Serbian Film (Serbia)
A retired porn star is lured back with the promise of big bucks but soon discovers he’s in over his head in more ways than one. Director Srdjan Spasojevik’s film may be a thinly veiled political commentary, but it’s definitely a brutal black comedy complete with graphic sex and violence.
Sound Of Noise (Sweden)
A tone deaf detective who hates music is tasked with stopping a terrorist group that forces hostages to listen to their compositions played on anything but actual instruments. Directors Simonsson and Nilsson have delivered an oddly engaging film overflowing with humor, emotion, and extremely catchy tunes played with office supplies and other objects.
A group of teens take part in a talent show and discover the value of life, love, and death along the way. Yasmin Ahmad’s final film will have you smiling, crying, and cheering, and it shows her to be the Malaysian John Hughes we never knew we needed.
For more year-end goodness, check out the rest of our 2010 Year in Review.