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Top 5 Foreign Films That Americans Would Love

As a movie buff, I absolutely love sharing a great movie with anyone. An excellent film isn’t just for the simple purpose of entertainment, it can also be an experience. One of the main problems is that American movie-goers aren’t very inclined to view a movie that they have to READ. Sure, there are many movies that are dubbed, but as “convenient” as dubbing is, all it really does is mask the actor’s true talents.

Hollywood has done nothing but perpetuate this horrible trend, but they are not entirely to blame. American audiences just don’t want to go into a movie theater and read subtitles. Perfectly understandable. However, if one limits his/her movie viewing experiences to Stateside releases; then that person is likely to miss out on some very memorable films. It does take some time to glance back and forth from the text to the on-screen action, but if you endure it you’ll end up with some very rewarding movie experiences OUTSIDE of Hollywood. So if you fall into the category of finding subtitled movies unbearable, these five titles will surely make you reconsider your movie-viewing habits.

#5  La Femme Nikita

Director Luc Besson is the man behind notable action movies such as Fifth Element and The Professional. Before he shot those iconic films for Hollywood, he directed a little known action flick called La Femme Nikita (no, not the silly television rehash). It is a French action film that stars Anne Parillaud as the title character. While Nikita is a dangerous assassin, she only became one to escape a life of destitute and drugs. Many American action flicks released at the time often portrayed a manly man taking on terrorist while spouting lame one-liners. Nikita on the other hand is a vulnerable woman who is not only forced to kill, but reluctant in doing so. Throughout the film she comes to terms with her past and strives for a life of normalcy amongst the bloodshed.

The entire movie is of course in French, but Luc Besson’s cinematography and Anne Parillaud’s performance keeps this film endlessly enthralling. If you have a Netflix account you can watch this action gem instantly. Plus, Jean Reno makes an appearance and everybody loves Jean Reno, even if you don’t know who he is.

#4  Lady Vengeance

Chan-wook Park is big on revenge dramas. Lady Vengeance is a film for those who really like to see the antagonist get what’s coming. Throughout this film, actress Yeong-ae Lee plays the role of a girl that is completely stripped of her innocence. She was constantly abused by her lover, framed for murder, and sent to jail. On top of that, while she was imprisoned her daughter was taken from her. She’s got plenty of reasons to be pissed. Did I mention that her lover was also her former high school teacher? Awkward. As you watch Lady Vengeance you really see Yeong-ae’s transformation from a sweet, kind-hearted school girl to a revenge-hungry woman in black garb.

Director Chan-wook Park’s work is often filled with symbolism and this film is no different. Lady Vengeance is just as thought provoking as it is gruesome. The film’s story builds up as Yeong-ae’s character plots for the perfect revenge on the man whose wronged her. If revenge is a dish best served cold, then Lady Vengeance’s plate is a sheet of ice. This guy really gets it.

#3 Rec

What happens when the Blair Witch Project makes love with Dawn of the Dead? Essentially you get Rec. This Spanish film takes the shaky cam concept and infuses it with elements from the zombie-horror sub-genre. While some people want to throw up when watching a movie made to look like it was shot on amateur video, Rec does a great job of preventing that. It never makes you feel sick, but at the same time it maintains a true to life grittiness that is often missing in horror movies.

Rec is all about in-your-face horror. Literally.

It has to be seen to be believed. There’s always a feeling of “being there” in the character’s shoes, and for good reason as this film is entirely first-person. You never once see the character’s face who is recording this zombie outbreak, which I think is a nice touch. It’s not too long of a movie as it only has an 80 minute run time. But those eighty minutes are filled with plenty of blood and clever scares. No other film had me clenching my fist in suspense quite like Rec. If you’re a fan of zombie movies and don’t mind the heavy Spanish definitely check this one out.

#2 Old Boy

Yup. It’s another revenge drama from Chan-wook Park, but this one is often considered his masterpiece. You wouldn’t know it just by watching it, but Old Boy is actually based on a Japanese manga. It tells the story of Oh Dae-su, a Korean salaryman who is one day kidnapped and imprisoned for reasons unbeknown to him. He finds himself locked up in a one bedroom apartment for 15 years but, unlike Lady Vengeance, Oh Dae-su doesn’t have a clue as to who destroyed his life. One day he finds himself mysteriously set free and thus begins his sweeping journey of revenge. This movie is not for the squeamish. It is unforgiving in it’s brutality and tone. It has certainly made me view a hammer differently for the rest of my life. It’s theme of all-consuming vengeance is prevalent throughout the film.

Old Boy isn’t just one of the best films to come out of Korea, it is also one of the best films across the globe. It has received nods from Quentin Tarantino himself and CNN has called Old Boy one of the 10 Best Asian films EVER made. Plus, it arguably has one of the best plot twists in any film, one that you won’t forget for the rest of your life.

#1  Hardboiled

Chow Yun-Fat has epitomized the image of a high-octane Asian action star. You might be thinking, “But what about Jackie Chan and Jet Li?!”. Sure they can fight, but they can’t handle a piece quite like Chow. Chow Yun-Fat is very much a part of the action movie thread as much as Bruce Willis was during his John McClane days. Hardboiled proves that. Hardboiled is easily the most action-packed film ever. John Woo’s beautiful cinematography shines through in this masterpiece of flying lead. Chow stars as Inspector Tequila, a cop bent on bringing down a gun smuggling syndicate. Yes, gun smuggling. So that concept alone warrants shootouts throughout the entire film. While the storyline may not be as cerebral as all the other ones on the list, it is a damn good action flick that Americans are sure to love. It is a beautifully shot movie with relentless non-stop action. It’s that simple.

Chow Yun-Fat. The only Asian member of the NRA.

This list isn’t about who’s getting the Emmy, it’s about foreign films that folks in the States would LOVE and Hardboiled gives them that. Literally, about 3/4 of the film is nothing but shootouts. Even the film’s trailer is roughly three minutes long with NO dialogue whatsoever and just full of gun fights. No story is explained AT ALL (not that there was one really). Forget about those “action” movies Hollywood cranks out that are loaded with CG effects and green screen acting. Here’s a heavily armed badass Asian guy surrounded by plenty of bad guys. Go. If you’ve never seen Hardboiled then you’ve never watched a real action movie. Period.

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