3 Reasons Why Watching Foreign Films is Important

Photo via Flickr

Many times we tend to have preconceived notions about foreign films. We think their lack of mainstream appeal means they aren’t good. We worry that reading subtitles will be tedious and tiring. We fret about not understanding the context, setting, or message of the film itself. Growing up in Mexico, I spent a significant amount of time watching films in Spanish. Sometimes they were dubbed, sometimes they were locally made films, and in both cases I went into watching these movies with the idea in mind that they simply wouldn’t be as good as a run-of-the-mill Hollywood English film. Now that I’m older (and have quite a few more foreign language films under my belt), I have to say that watching movies in different languages and from different parts of the world has been an enriching experience. Here are 3 reasons why it’s so important to watch foreign films:

It pushes you out of your comfort zone

You probably won’t be able to sit down and eat dinner while watching a movie, say, in French. There’s a lot of different aspects you have to pay attention to, including storyline, cinematography, and subtitles which can make it difficult to do anything else but watch the film. From my perspective, this is a great thing. When I watch TV shows or movies in English I tend to whip out my phone and browse the internet (or do something else) whenever the storyline feels like it’s slowing down too much. What I love about foreign movies is that you are forced to focus and as a result become more invested in the work. This isn’t easy and you’ll definitely feel like you’re stretching outside the realms of your comfort zone, but you’ll also be more likely to remember details and nuances in the film that you might otherwise miss if it were in English!


Learning a new language? Take a free placement test to give your language skills a boost!

It shows you a different view of the world

When I watched my first Bollywood movie in university, I was not impressed. The film was ‘My Name is Khan’ and I couldn’t understand the range of emotions the film awakened in me. At one point I found myself laughing at the sheer dramatic nature of the film while crying at the same time because of the poignant message. It took me a little while longer to process the film but when I did, wow. I started to seriously think about the experiences of marginalized or disenfranchised people in America, something which, as a white woman, I had never really thought much about. This is what I truly love about foreign films; that they give you more of a glimpse into the human experience than your average Hollywood blockbuster. They make you think. They force you to reflect on your own place in the world and often bring to light uncomfortable truths (the way ‘My Name is Khan’ forced me to reflect on my own white privilege). This often rings more true for foreign films than for English movies because they are likely to be made for the sheer sake of the art instead of with the goal of breaking box office records.  Don’t miss out on enjoying these wonderful works of art that open your eyes to new cultures and forms of thought!

It awakens your imagination

A lot of times it feels like Hollywood has a formula titled ‘Elements of a Best-seller Blockbuster’ and they churn out movies that interchange characters but have roughly the same storylines, jokes, and style. Now, this isn’t to say that there are no imaginative Hollywood movies—that’s simply not true—BUT when I make a mental list of the films that most awakened my imagination the majority of them are foreign! ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, ‘Hero’, ‘My Neighbour Totoro’, are just a few examples that come to mind, and there are scores more that are so creative and compelling watching them has forever changed how I approach cinema. When a film captures my imagination and teaches me about another culture at the same time, I call that one a real winner.

Before you jump the gun and say that people like me who enjoy foreign films are pretentious, give it a try! Get a list of the top 5 best foreign films from Rotten Tomatoes and watch just one. Once you immerse yourself in the world of foreign movies, I honestly believe you won’t want to turn back!