We’re in the heart of the summer movie season, and that means theaters are mostly catering to things with superheroes or orcs or angry birds or more superheroes or ninja turtles. And that’s all well and good, but it can leave a film fan with a broader, more varied appetite a little starved, particularly when it comes to foreign-language fare.

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While there’s plenty of great arthouse and indie films in release (go see “The Lobster” and “Love & Friendship,” people!), there are relatively few truly tantalizing subtitled films on offer. This week offers Venice winner “From Afar,” but otherwise things are surprisingly bereft on the foreign-language front until the fall.

But that means it might be a good time to catch up on some recent classics. And so with that in mind, and following our Best of the Century series over the last couple of years, we thought we’d turn our eye to the best of international cinema since the year 2000. And so below, we’ve picked our 50 favorite foreign-language films of the 21st century to date.

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To spread the love, we’ve stuck to one movie per director, and don’t take the absence of documentaries as anything but a promise that they’ll have their own Best of the Century list soon. Those are about the only rules we had, and other than that anything predominately in a language other than English qualified. Take a look, and let us know what you think in the comments, in a language of your choosing!

MonsoonWedding350. “Monsoon Wedding” (2001)
Indian helmer Mira Nair can be a little inconsistent — her work in the last decade has included the underrated “The Namesake” but also the terrible “Amelia” and “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” The highlight, however, was her 2001 film “Monsoon Wedding,” winner of Venice’s Golden Lion, a totally charming, visually lush Altman-esque tale of a massive wedding in Delhi. It’s a great state-of-the-nation look at a changing India, but also one full of warmth and humanity.

49. “Fat Girl” (2001)
Catherine Breillat is among the most ferocious chroniclers of female sexuality in all its variations, as she shows in practically all her titles up to her most recent, 2014’s Isabelle Huppert-starrer “Abuse Of Weakness.” But this tough watch, with its graphic teen sex, themes of sisterly envy (between the overweight Anaïs and her beautiful, desirable sister Elena) and shocking denouement involving murder and rape, is the marker for how uncompromising, ironic and complex her vision can be.

songs-from-the-second-floor48. “Songs From The Second Floor” (2000)
After a 25-year gap, Roy Andersson returned to cinema at the start of this century, and his Living trilogy is one of the major works of world cinema since. The best of them is still the first, 2000s “Songs From The Second Floor,” though it’s a close-run thing between the three. It’s made up of a series of beautifully shot deep-focus tableaux, only loosely connected, and as darkly, bleakly funny as they are existentially bleak, equal parts Python and Bergman.

47. “Incendies” (2010)
About to make the hotly anticipated “Blade Runner 2,” Denis Villeneuve made his international breakthrough with the powerful “Incendies.” An adaptation of the play by Lebanese-Canadian writer Wajdi Mouawad, it sees twins Jeanne and Simon (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette) investigate their late mother’s early life in the Middle East, uncovering a dark, long-buried secret as a result. It’s melodramatic stuff, but Villeneuve’s restraint (and a hell of a performance by Lubna Azabal) make it truly compelling and utterly wrenching despite the narrative contrivances.

Wadjda46. “Wadjda” (2012)
Haifaa Al-Mansour’s feature debut gained a lot of attention a few years back by being the first film made entirely in Saudi Arabia (a nation without cinemas), and being from a female director in a country where women aren’t allowed to drive. But none of this would mean anything if the film wasn’t good, and luckily it was wonderful. The simple story of a young girl (Waad Mohammed) who longs for a bicycle, it’s a deeply subversive neo-realist tale, beautifully shot and performed, and almost overwhelming in its compassion.

45. “Downfall” (2004)
Yes, the meme is still funny, but Oliver Hirschbiegel’s “Downfall” needs to be remembered for more than that: It’s a whip-smart, sober examination of madness and inhumanity, as well as a valuable piece of history (the film was praised for its accuracy). Told through the eyes of Hitler’s secretary (the excellent Alexandra Maria Lara), it follows the last 10 days of the Second World War with a scope that reaches far beyond the Führer, but that will be remembered as the most complex depiction of him ever on screen, with Bruno Ganz’s chilling performance showing the man behind the monster but never excusing him.

The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far 944. “Let The Right One In” (2008)
Every so often, it seems like the vampire myth might be played out, and then every so often, a film like Tomas Alfredson’s “Let The Right One In” comes along. The breakthrough for the Swedish helmer, based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, follows a young Swedish boy in 1980s Stockholm who begins a friendship with the child who’s moved next door, one who turns out to be a creature of the night. Alfredson doesn’t stiff you on the gore, but it’s as much coming-of-age tale as horror, and one of atypical sensitivity and nuance, fantastically directed by its helmer.

43. “I Wish” (2011)
There are several Hirokazu Kore-eda titles that we could have chosen: the melancholic “Still Walking” or the downright tragic “Nobody Knows.” But we’ll go with “I Wish” because it’s exemplary of his unsentimental sincerity and his acute, beautiful way with child actors (here they’re real-life brothers playing the separated children of divorced parents). A sort of Japanese “Stand By Me,” this tale of two kids who believe if they long for reunion hard enough, a miracle will occur, is an exquisitely bittersweet delight.

crouching-tiger-hidden-dragon-2-trailer-042. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000)
Still the highest-grossing foreign-language title of all time domestically, Ang Lee‘s sweeping, swooping, soaring martial-arts love-story epic is as close to a blockbuster as this list gets. Featuring an all-star cast of Zhang Ziyi, Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh, it’s a thrilling romance featuring treetop battles, unspoken passions and ultimate sacrifices that introduced an entire generation of non-Chinese moviegoers to the wuxia genre and opened the floodgates for a torrent of others to come.

41. “The Lives Of Others” (2006)
The flouncy excesses of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck‘s “The Tourist” are all the more baffling because they followed his extraordinary, melancholically low-key foreign language Oscar winner. The story of a lonely Stasi agent (Ulrich Mühe) tasked with listening in on the liaisons between a well-known playwright (Sebastian Koch) and his actress lover (Martina Gedeck), it’s a beautiful, finely wrought film that’s both a heartbreaking portrayal of dehumanizing totalitarianism, and an uplifting homage to rebellion, no matter how tiny.

  • Daniel

    i like everything of this list except the number one. volver is not even top 10, I think that Like Someone In Love is the best movie of this century, and is not debatable. period.

    • Matt

      I’ll take Certified Copy over Like Someone In Love any day.

  • Jim

    Did I miss something? Is Almodovar’s ‘Talk To Her’ not on this list? You’re nuts.

    • Amateurcinephile

      Only one film per director, which winds up excluding a lot of great films. But I do appreciate that they spread the love and gave a lot of films and filmmakers some more exposure and recognition.

    • Katya Meyer

      Head On, Wild Tales, Talk to Her, Carlos, The Great Beauty, The Best of Youth.

    • D Isaacs

      Maybe it’s finally catching up to people that it’s a film about a guy who rapes a woman who’s in a coma/unconscious, one that never condemns the act, indeed one that suggests, in the end, it was all for the best–she comes out of her coma! gets a miracle rape baby to raise! This wouldn’t be a good week for that film to be on a list like this.

    • xxxgreta

      It’s not on the list when it’s much better than Volver (no. 1 on the list).

  • filmaboutlove

    Pleasently surprised to see “Volver” as the number one film on here but I’m kind of liking the idea. As one of my favorite directors ever, Pedro can do no wrong. Also as spanish being my first language “I’m So Excited” was absolutely hilarious. Maybe the subtitles didn’t translate well for you guys.

  • Mike Donnelly

    Did “Pheonix” not make it on there?

    • Levi

      Yes I agree that Phoenix should definitely be here, as should The Turin Horse, The Tribe, House of Tolerance, La Sapienza, Humanité (released here in 2000), Touch of Sin, Child’s Pose, Les chansons d’amour, Mysteries of Lisbon, The Milk of Sorrow, Crimson Gold, The Day He Arrives, Import/Export, Les amants réguliers,The Barbarian Invasions, Audition, Stray Dogs, Police Adjective, The Strange Little Cat, Post Tenebras Lux, Gomorrah, Eureka (Yurîka), etc. I also would switch out Volver for Talk to Her. In fact any of Almodovar’s films from this century (other than I’m So Excited, obviously), I find myself rewatching. Especially Talk to Her, The Skin I’m In and Bad Education. I have never returned to Volver. Maybe I will.

  • MAL

    I kept waiting for Werckmeister Harmonies to appear on the list. It is utterly mesmerizing (if you have the patience for it) and I would personally have it in the top 10. I think Cache is the perfect choice for a Haneke film and I might have put it in the number one spot. Also glad you recognized Kurasawa’s Pulse, a chilling and haunting film that doesn’t go away. Great list overall with excellent choices for any serious film-goer but a futile endeavour trying to rank them in any order.

  • JJ

    Volver is deservedly number one.

  • Oscar Carlos Jalife

    And what about Okuribito (Departures)?

  • GilbranoS

    Loved the list. I screamed at my screen with the number 3 ’cause I thought you forgot that film. But no Entre Les Murs (The Class)? Wow, that’s heavy

  • Allan

    Honestly can’t really disagree with the list a lot of great films but I was a bit disappointed that “A Prophet” didn’t make the cut or wasn’t even included in the honorable mentions, it has to be considered one of the best crime films ever made

  • thenystateofmind

    Not sure if I missed it but Audiard’s “A Prophet” is without question one of the best. Very surprised to see this excluded. Even his newest Dheepan is worthy of a lower spot. Besides that, Certified Copy is Top 10 and Let The Right One In is much deserving of a higher spot on this list, IMO.

  • a_digital_index

    I would be tempted to rank Tabu by Gomes higher. I would have Castaing-Taylor’s and Paravel’s Leviathan somewhere high on this list. And perhaps Godard’s Adieu au Langage

  • ahnmin

    Love Exposure!

  • fable jay scorcher

    You had Edgo of Heaven in your also rans, but Head-On towers over most of this. Also sorry not to see any mention of The Best of Youth. Otherwise, you guys are pretty good with the subtitled stuff.

  • jammamon

    No Amelie (2001)???

  • Benutty

    is this list a joke

  • Amateurcinephile

    A Prophet (or Rust and Bone for director Jacques Audiard), The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Oslo August 31st, The Broken Circle Breakdown, & The Secret In Their Eyes were all films I was hoping to see on the list, also surprised to see Amelie missing. I would have had Amour on there too, but the “only one film per director” kept it from the list. Overall though, I tip my hat to the list, it’s a nice starting point for film fans looking to enter the world of international cinema.

  • Brett

    I would argue “A Prophet” definitely deserved to be on the list. So did “The White Ribbon”. Also think a case could be made for the original version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Secret in their Eyes.” “Persepolis” deserved to make the main list.

    I would have moved “Incendies” much higher on the list. I was blown away by that film.

  • Username too long

    Not bereft until the fall at all. Right Now, Wrong Then is released on the 24th of June.

  • Howard Carson

    Amélie should have been on there somewhere…

  • lauramoreaux

    Interesting list, really.

  • Jacob Gehman

    Not bad!
    I would have liked to see Martyrs make the cut, especially since the list doesn’t shy away from controversial films.

  • mike

    Tell no one? Or did I miss it. Brilliant film I though no?

  • James

    Great list, terribly our of order. I would have put Embrace Of The Serpent right near the top.

  • Sam Hamilton

    pls do a list of the best scores of the 21st century so far
    thank u very much, goodbye
    ly playlist xo

  • cababanga

    There should have been at least a movie from Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Winter Sleep, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Three Monkeys…

    • Guestbusters

      Distant is his masterpiece, with Once Upon a Time in Anatolia a close second–a virtual tie.

  • D Isaacs

    Post Tenebras Lux

  • A man with a knife

    Response to this list: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/a-response-to-the-50-best-foreign-language-movies-of-the-21st-century-so-far?intcid=mod-latest

    – Terrible list by NY-guy. Typical smug + self-indulgence; focus on ‘relevant mediocrity’ that no one will remember after three months. This list with all its faults is still incomparably better, most people will find something here that they like – films that inspire and films that will be remembered. But anyway, that kind of cultural racism is representative considering who published it.

  • Sophie

    I liked the list, especially to see Two Days One Night and Volver in it.

  • shashibiya

    A list that doesn’t include Jia Zhang Ke can’t be taken seriously.

  • newcolour

    A notable title missing form this: Spirited Away, by Hayao Miyazaki.

    • Paulo A. Bueno

      Agreed! It’s Top 10 and so many people agree with that!

  • JT

    Honestly can’t take this list seriously with no mention of Amelie or Departures. And no Intouchables either.

    • Levi

      Three of the most rubbish foreign films of the new century. Clearly, you like treacle.

      • JT

        Ok professor.

  • Amy Harris

    I love this list and agree wholeheartedly with pretty much all of it. If there was room for more I would add The Piano Teacher, Girlhood, Pure, A Wolf At The Door and Lust Caution.

    • buddy

      Girlhood is #33.

  • sotiris

    Though ‘White Material’ seems to perfectly suit the ‘characteristic post-colonial film’ identity, M Haneke’s ‘Cache’ still is the most typical example of the burden, a post-colonial democracy bears.

  • sotiris

    Moreover, Srdan Golubovic ‘Klopka’ is a very clear film about the prospects in a post-communist serbian society, for the likes of Cristi Puiu and Cristian Mungiu.

  • No list of 21st century foreign language films is complete without the Tabárez classic, Merchants of the Undead Sea. Or how about Cogan’s Arugula? This list is gibberish.

  • ladyday

    The man without the past by Aki Kaurismäki

  • Richard Feilden

    I’d love to see at least an ‘also ran’ for Or: My Treasure. Hard to watch, but wonderful central performances.

  • Cristina

    I want to add two Hungarian movies, Taxidermia (2006) and Kontroll (2003), and a French one Une nouvelle amie (2014)

  • Mark Sartor

    I found it laughable that ‘Like someone In Love” was the 3rd best film on the list. I just watched it, and it’s at best Average.. wow.. what a let down..

    • xxxgreta

      Are you referring to this list? No. 3 on this list is a Korean film.

  • THX11384EB

    Laughable having ‘Volver’ at number 1. Around 25 films on this list are better than it.

  • Philip Heard

    No anime? That’s a problem.

  • vladdy

    Being a person who doesn’t expect (or even really want) someone else’s list to look exactly like mine, I absolutely loved this list. It led me to a few things I wasn’t familiar with, doubled my desire to see quite a few I haven’t gotten to yet, and reminded me of the pleasure I found when watching the ones I had already seen. What else could you want from a list like this? I love Volver at number one. I’ve been expecting this film to eventually receive the acclaim it deserves–nice way to start! I also loved the one director-one film rule, since it allowed you to spread the wealth a little more. It seems silly to complain that A Prophet and Lust, Caution are not on here (although I would have put them both) when their directors are mentioned for other films and those films are at least considered. All in all, thanks for a great afternoon’s activity!

  • Mr. Project

    Too many notable missing pieces to be taken 100% serious:

    – Rust and Bone
    – A Prophet
    – Amelie
    – The Intouchables
    – A Secret in Their Eyes
    – Battle Royale

    …..but with that being said, I appreciate having some unseen foreign films to add to the list.

  • JackN

    La Haine (1995)
    Home (2008)
    The great beauty (2013)
    A prophet (2009)

    My fav foreign films.

  • daniel23

    Yeah, as many have mentioned here, `A Prophet’ is the most baffling omission – it’s probably my favorite foreign language film of this new century. (Rust & Bone, Read my Lips, also great). It seems animation didn’t make the cut, but `Spirited Away’ feels like it should be here. And `Hero’ – for all the debate on its politics – is one of the most visually beautiful films in existence. I also think more recent films `Embrace of the Serpent’, `Theeb’, `Force Majeure’ are worthy, but maybe they need more time to sink in. Fantastic list overall, love the article.

  • jintsyboy

    Any Top 50 list that does not include “Secret In Their Eyes”, “Mustang” or “Lady Vengeance” (or fails to even mention “The Club” as an Honorable Mention), but puts “Dogtooth” in the top ten, is someone’s idea of a joke.

  • xxxgreta

    Tangerines (aka Mandariniid).
    I don’t agree with Volver being number 1; Talk To Her is much better.
    And yes, Spirited Away is much better than half of the films on the list.
    Farhadi’s About Elly is also deserving.

  • Dying_in_this_Crap_World

    Only 1 scifi fantasty or horror? WHAT THE FUCK!@!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Po Tater

    No mention anywhere of Gegen die Wand (Head-On) from Fatih Akin. Birol Unel’s performance is amazing.

  • Phil Surtees

    Ah … contrary to your claim, the Second World War did NOT end when Hitler died. Remember those pesky Japanese? You know … those guys who kept fighting even after copping the first atomic bomb? Yeah … them…

  • Obedaea

    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
    Headhunters,
    Departures.

  • Erick Aguilar

    After the Wedding (2006)

  • Derek

    This writer got “The Lives of Others” wrong. Sebastian Koch plays a well-known PLAYWRIGHT. He does not play a composer in the film.

  • yeildoo .

    El Orfanato…. Great movie, scary but not a slasher movie at all. Love it.