Seven Must See Classic International Films

With Cannes Film Festival finally here, now is a great time to brush up on your knowledge of classic foreign films. With this in mind, we asked the experts at language learning app, Babbel (, to share a roundup of the seven most iconic international films that they feel everyone should watch.

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The Rules of the Game (France, 1939)

This French masterpiece was directed by Jean Renoir and is commonly interpreted as a scathing critique of French bourgeois society on the brink of the second World War. Written as a social satire, the film depicts a meeting of acquaintances and their servants at a marquis’ country château, where upon truths of infidelity, murder and philandering are unearthed. Such was the controversial nature of the film, it was initially banned a month after its release in 1939, as the French government feared it was bad for public war time morale. Frequently cited as one of the greatest films of all time, this is a classic international film whose plot influenced many later films, such as Gosford Park.

Bicycle Thieves (Italy, 1948)

Listed in the top ten of the British Film Institute’s list of films you should see by the age of 14, Bicycle Thieves is an Italian film which follows the story of a father and his son who set out to find the father’s stolen bicycle, without which he will lose his job, leading the family to sink into further hardship. The film depicts the poverty and unemployment of post-war Italy, and was heralded as one of the first films in the movement known as Italian neo-realism. This is a great film about ordinary people striving to survive and one which everyone should endeavour to watch.

The Hunt (Denmark, 2012)

The Hunt was the first Danish-language film to premiere since 1998 at Cannes Film Festival and later marked Denmark’s official submission to the Foreign Language Film category of the 2014 Academy Awards. The film follows the story of a child’s lie which spins out of control and destroys the life of an innocent schoolteacher, a role for which the actor Mads Mikkelsen, won Best Actor at Cannes Film Festival. 

Spirited Away (Japan, 2001)

The most successful Japanese film of all time, Spirited Away grossed over two hundred and eighty-nine million dollars worldwide, making it the highest grossing film in Japanese history. This was iconic director Hayao Miyazaki’s eighth feature length animated film. Made from mostly hand drawn animation, whether you like animated films or not, this is a must see. It was even awarded an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, making it the only hand drawn animated film and Japanese animated film to win this category.

The Emigrant (Sweden, 1971)

This Swedish film won great international acclaim when it was released. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film in 1971, it was nominated for a further four Oscars the following year. The film tells the story of a Swedish couple in the mid eighteenth century, who decide to emigrate to the U.S and their journey to get there. The film examines traditional themes such as friendship, poverty and family. If you enjoy ‘The Emigrant’, then there is a sequel entitled ‘The New Land’, which was also nominated for an Academy Award.

By Viktoriya Ilyukhina

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