Top 10 Most Popular Foreign Movies of All Time

Take a look at the below list of Top 10 Most Popular Foreign Movies of All Time until 2017. Contrary to common perception, not all foreign films are slow-paced or boring. In fact, most of the things Hollywood embraces nowadays such as intense action scenes, sex scenes and special visual effects can be traced to foreign land. Sure, having to read subtitles as you watch a movie isn’t always in most people’s best interest, but you may just be missing out on classics in the process. In order to truly embrace the different traditions, cultures and mysteries of mankind, it would certainly be in your best interest to consider watching foreign movies. But where do you start? As usual, we have you covered in our top ten lists.

List of The Top Ten Most Popular Foreign Movies of All Time until 2017:

Worth noting is, all the movies listed below aren’t from Hollywood or any other English-speaking country such as Britain, Canada or Australia. Rather, expect classics from European or Asian countries such as Italy and China just to name a few.

#10. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs – Japan


Released way back in 1960, this melodramatic classic by genius filmmaker Mikio Naruse will have you weeping from one scene to the next – yes, it’s that captivating. The movie basically revolves around the challenging life of a widow – working as a bar hostess in Tokyo’s infamous Ginza nightclub district – who perseveres through constant betrayal from the male figures around her. The lead character is played by one of Japan’s biggest stars – Hideko Takamine – meaning you can expect one heck of a film at the end of it all.

#9. The Lives of Others – Germany


This is a highly captivating piece that takes place in Post-World War II Germany, when it was still divided into East and West. It is about the life of a prominent artist who grabs the attention of the police, leading them to bug his house so as to gather information. Interesting enough, the officer tasked with tailing the artist is slowly drawn into his life and you just have to watch it to find out what happens next. It is a well-thought out script complete with suspense and drama, and the entire cast certainly performed to expectations. Lesson to learn here is that one man can change the world.

#8. The Killer – China


Ranked among the most influential foreign movies of all time, The Killer is a ubiquitous classic film and masterpiece for those that enjoy watching some intense action. Filmmaker John Woo ultimately redefined action movies with this one and in fact, set a standard still in use today – double pistol showdowns. This crazy cop thriller is nothing short of captivating and while it was released way back in 1989, it simply never gets old.

#7. Flowers of Shanghai – Taiwan

Flowers of Shanghai – Taiwan Top Most Popular Foreign Movies of All Time 2017

Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien went all out with this one, opening the doors for “hard-to-swallow”  films about the hard realities of life that most people intentionally choose to ignore. It is based in a brothel somewhere within Shanghai and basically revolves around drugs, money and sex – the day-to-day life in a brothel. The slow-paced movie is extremely touching and most may find it hard-hitting if not a little overwhelming – imagine the response back in 1998 when it was released. Hou (the creator), emerged as a champion for tough cinema following the success of “Flowers of Shanghai” and global icon considering it is one of the most popular foreign movies to date.

#6. Man on Wire – France

Man on Wire – France Top Most Foreign Movies of All Time 2018

The inspiring documentary revolves around the life of famous tightrope walker Phillip Petit. In a nutshell, the film focuses on the burning desire inside Phillip to tightrope walk between the tallest buildings then – the Twin Towers in New York. While it is somewhat illegal, the captivating documentary follows Phillip, his team and supporters in the 80’s as they strive to make his dream come true. Man on Wire makes our cut for its inspiring story that encourages the audience to never give up on their dreams regardless of how farfetched they may seem on surface. Grab a copy to find out whether Phillip ultimately accomplishes his goals amidst pressure and fear. This is one of the Top 10 Most Popular Foreign Movies of All Time until 2017.

#5. Delicatessen – France

Delicatessen – France Top 10 Most Popular Foreign Movies of All Time 2017

Delicatessen is a captivating tale that revolves around the dark times of post-apocalyptic France. It basically depicts a man-eat-man society where self interest is all that matters. In a country faced with endless challenges, food is extremely scarce and at some point has to be used as currency for payments. The unfortunate scenario leaves most people in the locality helpless, under the mercy of a selfish and twisted butcher who uses his position of power to oppress the poor. The film is yet another classic from celebrated French director Jean-Pierre Juenet – the filmmaker who gave us Amelie.

#4. The Decalogue – Poland

The Decalogue – Poland Top 10 Most Popular Foreign Movies of All Time


This film just goes to show how creative foreign movies can be and if you’ve watched it, you will admit that it is really nice – for lack of a better word. Generally speaking, the Decalogue is a film about the sophisticated, modern-age take on the Ten Commandments, by celebrated director Krzysztof Kieslowski – the same one who gave us Three Colors: Blue. Initially created for TV as a ten-series show, the short films were merged as one before finding global success as a stand-alone cinema. The Decalogue made stars out of amateur actors mainly Stanley Kubrick and for these reasons, it is one of the most popular foreign movies of all time.

#3. The Bicycle Thief – Italy

The Bicycle Thief – Italy Top Famous Foreign Movies of All Time 2019

Intellectual film enthusiasts should find The Bicycle Thief quite intriguing despite being released more than half a century ago. It is based on Post-World War II Italy where raising a family is a total nightmare. The film revolves around the tough life of father and son as their only means of transport is stolen. Unable to go to work following the unfortunate incident, the father seeks other means to make ends meet. The Bicycle Thief is indeed an interesting watch, encouraging the audience to be creative during tough times.

#2. Russian Ark – Russia

Russian Ark – Russia Top Popular Foreign Movies of All Time 2019


Filmmaker Alexander Sokurov proves that great filmmaking is not about location, but rather impeccable script writing and casting. It is in fact, extremely easy to get caught up in the unique technical feat that features a still steadicam shot running through the entire movie – ingenious, right? Yes, the scenes consist of a single shot weaving in and out of the ceilings of St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum. All in all, though, Russian Ark is a captivating story about Russia’s very own detachment from its rich history.

#1. Life is Beautiful – Italy

Life is Beautiful – Italy Top Most Famous Foreign Movies of All Time 2018

This inspiring story is about an Italian father and son living during the tough Holocaustic period. As any parent would, the caring father seeks to shield his young son against the glaring nightmares that define their lives. It is a truly inspiring and touching film based at a crucial time of the world’s history at large. Life is Beautiful is bound to get your eyes filled with tears, but more importantly, though, have you looking at the world from another perspective. For this reason, it ranks as the most popular foreign movie of all time.

These are the Top 10 Most Popular Foreign Movies of All Time until 2017. The movies above rank among the most popular for valid reasons. While some opened doors to modern-day film technicalities, others depict the hard realities of the life we live in. Grab copies of the movies above to see what we are talking about.