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The Best Non-English Language Films of 2019

Not a single one of the year’s best non-English films comes from the US. Do better Hollywood.
Rewind Best Non English Films
By  · Published on December 28th, 2019

5. The Platform (Spain)

The Platform

It’s the future, and the latest in prison reform involves an enormous tower with a hole running through each floor from top to bottom and each floor holding two prisoners. Elaborate meals are prepared at the top and then lowered down allowing the occupants of each cell the chance to eat before it movies down to the next. Is it boldly on the nose in its social commentary on everything from class warfare to trickle-down economics? Sure, but it’s also a thrilling, disturbing, exciting, horrifying, and fascinating dissection of humanity with just a sliver of cautious optimism. This is science fiction at its best. (Rob Hunter)

4. Too Late to Die Young (Chile)

Too Late To Die Young

Once or twice a week, I drift into a daydream strong enough to eliminate my own reality — people, sounds, sidewalks, space, time, etc. What takes over is another reality that I haven’t been able to shake, usually because of a film that’s recently invaded me. But it’s been over a year since I saw Dominga Sotomayor Castillo’s entrancing Too Late to Die Young, and it keeps coming back. I can’t manage to get its world out of my head. It’s a hidden, wooded world of political refuge in the Chilean country not too far from civilization, a world flooded with grey, hazy light that pierces the constant influx of smoke, which hangs in the air after it seeps from the tips of the cigarettes puffed by all, kids and parents alike. It’s a place and time of infinite potential and languorous ambience, a fitting stage for its coming-of-age narrative sound-tracked by the likes of Mazzy Star’s languid vocals. Do yourself a favor and bask in the cinematography of Inti Briones. Run with the rebels and mourn the loss of first love. You won’t forget the experience anytime soon. (Luke Hicks)

3. Aniara (Sweden)


What I said above about The Platform being science fiction at its best? Yeah, it applies here too with this endlessly cynical and relentlessly hopeful tale about humanity’s place in the universe. When a routine journey through space meant to take a few days is instead knocked off course, thousands of travelers see their lives challenged and upended as their trip stretches out to weeks, months, and even years. The ship becomes a microcosm of society complete with all the dangers that entails, and directors Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja capture it all with drama, suspense, horror, humor, and the realization of a slow-motion disaster movie that’s at times harrowing, beautiful, intense, thought-provoking, and unrelentingly honest about humanity. (Rob Hunter)

2. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (France)

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire

It’s hard to know where to begin with Céline Sciamma’s lesbian period romance Portrait of a Lady on Fire — a story of an artist (Noémie Merlant) who’s tasked with secretly painting the portrait of a young woman (Adèle Haenel) protesting her arranged marriage to a Milanese man by refusing to be painted — because every aspect of it deserves immense praise. Sciamma’s Cannes-wining screenplay is full of fettered attraction and sensual restraint, Merlant and Haenel embodying a tender, passionate chemistry that’s so visceral, it’s almost as if we’re a part of it. The aforementioned Claire Mathon’s cinematography is rich, dense, and unbelievably textural, like you could reach out and touch the screen, and it would feel like the object you’re looking at. The colors of everything pop with an unparalleled vivacity. The costumes beam with enough magnetic energy to corral Reynolds Woodcock’s attention. The music is scarce but powerful (only two moments employ it, but they might be the two most memorable moments of the film, which is saying a lot). Sciamma focuses much of her thematic work on memory and its romantic capacity, leaving viewers with thoughts, images, and emotions that cling as tightly and as any lover possibly could. This is the kind of movie that changes you a little inside if it hits you right. (Luke Hicks)

1. Parasite (South Korea)


Surprise! Bong Joon-ho’s latest film, possibly his greatest (although my personal favorite remains 2003’s Memories of Murder), will be topping quite a few “best of” lists for 2019 both here and elsewhere on the interwebs, and it’s a well-deserved honor. The film is much-heralded for its stinging commentary on class, but every bit as important is its focus on family. There are two at the heart of the film, and while the Kims hold our heart the Parks are no less captivating in their relationships, interactions, and revelations. The film is so effortless in its shifts that laughter can come mere moments after tears and shock immediately following a calm, and while it’s clearly under Bong’s meticulous control it never feels rigid. This is a movie that pulls you in, invites you to join the dance with and between these two families, and then leaves you feeling absolutely everything. Parasite is the best film of 2019. (Rob Hunter)

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.