10. The Lives of Others (2006)
Prominent German filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck won the Oscar for Best International Film in 2006 with The Lives of Others. The film is a deeply realistic depiction of East Germany during the tail-end of the Cold War. Examining perspectives from multiple classes of East Germany’s society, the director explores his home country’s broken past. Over two hours long, The Lives of Others is a film that requires patience but builds into a rich story of Germany’s past.
9. Son of Saul (2015)
The first Hungarian film of the 21st century to win the Academy Award for Best International Film was Son of Saul in 2015, directed by László Nemes. A Holocaust film unlike any other, Son of Saul focuses on a day-in-the-life of a member of Auschwitz’s Sonderkommando, whose job is to dispose of dead bodies from the gas chambers. Son of Saul’s energetic camerawork stringently focuses on the face of its main character, offering an unexpected form for Holocaust film. Offering plenty of provocative perspectives on both life and death, Son of Saul is a film to be experienced and is a note-worthy winner of the Academy’s Best International Film.
8. Amour (2012)
France took home Best International Film honors at the 85th Oscars Ceremony when Amour won that award and was nominated for four others. Directed by iconic European filmmaker Michael Haneke, Amour focuses on an elderly Parisian couple after the wife suffers a debilitating stroke. A painfully humanistic examination of long-lasting love, Amour is a challenging and rewarding film from a director known for denouncing boundaries.
7. The Salesman (2016)
The Salesman directed by Asghar Faradi won the Oscar for Best International Film for Iran at the 89th Academy Awards. The only director with two wins on this list, Faradi again immerses The Salesman in his sense of intense realism. Framed as a story within a story mirroring the famous play Death of a Salesman, this is a film that is subtle but still capable of keeping viewers on the edge of their seats.
6. No Man’s Land (2001)
The 2001 recipient of the Academy Award for Best International film was No Man’s Land. Submitted by Bosnia and Herzegovina and directed by Danis Tanović, No Man’s Land revolves around three soldiers from opposing sides of the Bosnian War who find themselves stuck in the infamous zone of death between enemy lines. The director actually shot the film during wartimes, adding to the film’s sense of urgency and danger. A forceful film that is able to authentically portray combat of the Bosnian War, No Man’s Land is a gripping and down-to-earth war movie.
5. Ida (2014)
Directed by Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski, Ida was nominated for Best Cinematography and Best International Film at the 87th Academy Awards, winning the latter award. Shot in black and white, Ida is a restrained and haunting film about a Polish girl entering adulthood and learning of her past during the bleak years following World War II. With a crisp runtime under ninety minutes, Ida is an astute creation by a bona fide filmmaker, surely one of the 21st century’s greatest winners of the Academy’s Best International Film.
4. Roma (2019)
Submitted by the brilliant Mexican Director Alfonso Cuarón, Roma won Best International Film at the 91st Academy Awards. Widely known as a film of great technical accomplishment, Roma was nominated for ten Oscars, ultimately winning three. A poetic film shot in black and white that Cuarón loosely based upon his own experience growing up in 1970’s Mexico City, Roma is one of the director’s greatest achievements to-date. Roma is also importantly notable in being the first Mexican film to win the Oscar for Best International Film.
3. A Separation (2011)
Iran won its first Oscar for Best International Film at the 85th Academy Awards. Directed by the respected Asghar Farhadi, A Separation centers on a family in transition after the parents decide to separate, leaving their teenage daughter and ailing father caught in the crossfire of the chaotic separation. As with his other films, Farhadi layers A Separation with the harsh realities of life in the form of social, emotional, and economic woes that his characters experience. Surely a wonderful film that received the platform it deserved in the West by winning Best International Film, The Separation is one of the greatest winners on this list.
2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
The first Best International Film winner of the 21st century was submitted by Taiwan and directed by the now hugely successful Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Along with winning Best International Film at the Oscars, it won three other awards and was nominated for ten in total, including Best Picture. Well-known for its fresh and elegant interpretation of a martial arts film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a huge commercial success worldwide and is still beloved twenty years later.
1. Parasite (2019)
Fresh on everyone’s minds following the 92nd Academy Awards, the South Korean film Parasite has become arguably one of the most famous films of the 21st century. Beginning 2019 by winning the coveted Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival, Parasite finished the awards season by winning not only Best International Feature at the Oscars, but also Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture. Parasite’s one-of-a-kind storytelling, artistry, and ability to tap into contemporary social sensibilities make it not only the best International Film winner of the 21st century, but also one of the best films of recent years.