2014 Best Foreign Language Film

The 14 Best Foreign Language Films of 2014

2014review_importsWe made a point with this year’s “Best of” lists to only include titles that received a U.S. release in 2014, but I’m not going to stick with that here. Foreign language films in particular can be difficult to highlight and give attention to if forced to wait for a proper American release — 2000’s Battle Royale, for example, took over a decade before getting a U.S. release — and many titles only see festival screenings before leaving our shores for good.

So while the majority of the films below have been released in some form or other here in the States five of them remain outside the system. The odds are that some of them will debut here in 2015, and we’ll spread the word if and when that happens.

14. The Raid 2

Rama has just finished the fight of his life — well, fights of his life anyway — but the case is far from closed. He’s convinced to go undercover in the hopes of getting close to a major criminal family, but the assignment takes a larger and longer toll than he ever could have imagined. Gareth Evans‘ sequel to his own action classic raises the bar even higher with an incredible selection of characters and set-pieces designed to leave your jaw permanently dropped. [Currently available on Blu-ray/DVD]

13. The Attorney

On the surface, this is a David & Goliath-type tale about a lone lawyer (Song Kang-ho) standing up for what’s right against the power and threats of a corrupt police department and legal system. It works well to satisfy viewers looking for a dramatically thrilling story, but the film earns extra power by being based on a true story.The Raid 2 knife fight It’s both an entertaining courtroom drama and a fascinating glimpse into the life of Roh Moo-hyun, the lawyer the film is based on and who would eventually go on to become president of South Korea. [Currently available on DVD]

12. A Coffee In Berlin

Niko is a bit lost. He’s dropped out of college, something destined to upset his father who’s still been paying for it, and is looking for meaning. Unfortunately, that meaning has been as elusive as finding a good cup of coffee. There are heavy themes at play here, but writer/director Jan Ole Gerster keeps things somewhat comedic as Niko’s quest grows more and more fruitless throughout his day. He’s having something of a quarter-life crisis, and while it’s sad for him it’s entertaining for us. [Currently available on Blu-ray/DVD]

11. No Man’s Land

Pan just wants to go home. After a hard stretch of sleazy lawyer-ing in a podunk town in rural China he sets out for home across the Gobi desert and finds a life or death adventure along the way. Director Ning Hao‘s latest is an exciting and energetic romp across a gorgeous yet deadly landscape that manages both surface-level thrills and a deeper, more vicious commentary on modern-day China. It’s almost a desert-set After Hours with vehicular mayhem replacing Cheech and Chong, and it’s as good as that sounds. [Currently unavailable in the U.S.]

10. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

A young woman drifts through the nighttime streets of Bad City, and while she’s a girl of very few words she’s not shy about making her intentions known. Sometimes it’s feasting on the blood of the town heavy, other times it’s dancing alone to American pop music, but the one constant in Ana Lily Amirpour‘s debut is that it’s a gorgeously-photographed and highly unconventional vampire tale about the willful ignorance sometimes required to see the best in the people we suck on and sometimes even love. [Currently in theaters]

9. Han Gong-ju

A high-school girl is moved to a new town and school for an undisclosed reason, but as she works to start a new life events from her past catch up to her threatening tragic results. Chun Woo-hee gives a devastatingly raw and heartfelt performance that turns what could easily have gone the melodramatic route into something immensely affecting. It’s not an easy watch — and like 12 Years a Slave it’s something I will probably never watch again — but it’s an important one. [Currently unavailable in the U.S.]

8. Stranger By the Lake

Franck spends his days cruising for sex along the shore of a small lake, but when he sees his latest crush murder a man he discovers that his desire for affection might be stronger than his will to survive. This French thriller (of sorts) takes place at a single location and — fair warning — is filled with numerous male sex organs, but it makes its mark as a passionate slow-burn about the power of lust and loneliness. It graphically reveals these men’s exteriors while slowly doling out the conflicted feelings within. [Currently available on Blu-ray/DVD]

China Film Group Third Window Films
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