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10 Movies You Need to See in Their Original Languages

Picturehouse / Palisades Tartan / Anchor Bay

We know that sometimes you put that artsy foreign film in your Netflix, but you keep skipping over it to watch the newest action movie starring some dude and some chick and some bad guy. We do it too. Action movies kick ass — the bigger and explosionier, the better. But sometimes you need something different but equally, if not exceedingly, excellent. When that time comes, we’d like to urge you to avoid taking the lazy way out with a dubbed version. Reading subtitles, while requiring more effort to watch than the latest Transformers movie, is usually worth the trouble. Often, the original actors crafted amazing performances that make the movie that much better. Sometimes a dubbed version just isn’t available, so the subtitled version is all you’ve got. Either way, we’ve got some suggestions to help out.


'Oldboy' (2003)

Original County: South Korea
 
 

Spike Lee's remake of this classic 2003 revenge flick isn't all bad, but it isn't all good either. If you haven't seen this brutal South Korean thriller, you should check it out. Be warned, though -- it is gruesome. And gory. And amazing.

 

'Pan's Labyrnth' (2006)

Original Country: Spain
 
 

Guillermo Del Toro is one of the best filmmakers of our time. He's directed some pretty fantastic films here in the U.S., including both 'Hellboy' movies and 'Pacific Rim.' But his best movies are probably his Spanish films, and 'Pan's Labyrinth' is a great place to start. The director worked personally to make sure the subtitles truly reflect what he wanted the characters to say. This fairy tale set against the Spanish Civil War is dark and scary, and one of the best modern foreign films ever.

 

'Let the Right One In' (2003)

Original Country; Sweden
 
 

Here's another foreign film that received an English-language remake -- a dark and disturbing tale of young love. Preadolescent, neglected and abused Oskar forms a tight bond with Eli, who happens to be a vampire. The sweetness of this would be heartwarming, except for the murder and blood feasts.

 

'Princess Mononoke' (1997)

Original Country: Japan
 
 

This anime got special treatment when it was dubbed in English. Miramax enlisted a veritable army of Hollywood A-listers, including Billy Crudup, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver, Claire Daines and a bunch of others. Even with all that talent, the dubbed version doesn't compare with the original.

 

'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' (2000)

Original Country: Taiwan
 
 

'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' is considered to be one of director Ang Lee's cinematic masterpieces. Like 'Pan's Labyrinth,' 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' perfectly conveys an amazing fantasy story using strong, developed characters. You lose much of that quality in the English-dubbed version. The actors in this film do an amazing job, and half of that job is contained in their vocal performances.

 

'Downfall' (2004)

Original Country: Germany
 
 

There's a good chance you've seen one or two of those short videos where Adolf Hitler reacts to various bits of news, like this one, where he discovers he won't be going to Burning Man. But the reason this trend worked so well is because of the compelling performance of Bruno Ganz, who played Hitler. This film shows the final days before Germany's defeat during World War II. 'Downfall' is definitely a must-watch.

 

'Ip Man' (2008)

Original Country: Hong Kong
 
 

This movie combines some the best kung fu scenes ever performed with a compelling personal story. Martial arts movie legend Donnie Yen plays Ip Man, the guy who trained Bruce Lee.  This film tells the story of Ip Man's attempt to survive and to protect his community from the occupying Japanese.

 

'Battle Royale' (2000)

Original Country: Japan
 
 

This ultra-violent Japanese features a group of preteen students pitted against each other in a battle to the death. Sound familiar? Many people cried foul when 'The Hunger Games' came out, saying it was a ripoff of 'Battle Royale.' But in essence, the two films are worlds apart. 'Battle Royale' couches saccharin-sweet adolescent melodrama within 'Lord of the Flies'-level brutality. Death scenes are equal parts 'Rambo' and 'DeGrassi High,' making this a unique film (until you get to the sequel).

 

'Man Bites Dog' (1999)

Original Country: Belgium
 
 

The fake documentary thing has been popular ever since 'This Is Spinal Tap' exploded. Many of these movies are comedies, but adventurous filmmakers have been using this approach to break ground in other genres. 'Man Bites Dog' finds a French documentary crew capturing the day-to-day life of a deranged murderer. Some of the scenes are savage, while others are mundane. Before long, the film crew finds itself lending the occasional hand in some of its subject's ruthless activities.

 

'TrollHunter' (2010)

Original Country: Norway
 
 

The second fake documentary on our list, 'TrollHunter' is about a group of students in Norway who look into some mysterious "bear killings," only to discover the frozen forests hold things much more dangerous than bears. They team up with a grizzled old man who hunts trolls. This film delves deeply into Norwegian folklore, featuring a wide variety of troll species. 'TrollHunter' makes the unbelievable seem possible.

 

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