I am not a film critic but my definition of a European movies is: Not shot in Hollywood, no familiar Hollywood faces and not in English language.
I am a big big fan of European movies. There is something captivating with the actors, the language, the culture, the landscape and the stories. Powerful, emotional and beautiful. Above all, they stir my emotions like no other.
I have seen many many European films and there are so many more on my list. Here are my favorite movies, filmmakers and why:
(WARNING: Very image heavy. Some images may be quite graphic)
Pedro Almodovar (Spain) is one of my favorite director of all time. He is known for his complex story-telling, melodrama and the use of strong colors. His theme revolves around families, relationships and Spanish identities. One thing that you have to remember about Almodovar’s movies is that you can’t never guess or expect what will happen to the rest of the movie.
Broken Embraces (2009) is my favorite movie from Almodovar starring his long-time muse, the inimitable Penelope Cruz, who shines like there is no tomorrow in this movie. It is a movie about a film director and his relationship with an aspiring actress.
Haneke’s works are beautiful, compelling, painful and bleak at the same time – but that is why I am a fan of him (Kim Ki Duk has similar style as well). One of my goal in life is to watch all of his movies.
The Piano Teacher (2001) is most the unforgettable – the story about a S&M relationship between the icy-cold Erika Kohut (played by the talented Isabelle Hupert) and the handsome Walter Klemmer (Benoît Magimel).
I also highly recommend The White Ribbons (2009). It is powerful, creepy and haunting even though there is no element of horror or gore.
Nicolas Winding Refn (Denmark)
I respect NWR not only for his movies but he also has an eye for very talented actors such as Mads Mikkelsen (he appeared in Pusher I and II), Tom Hardy in Bronson (2009) and Ryan Gosling in Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013)
Amélie (2001) – Who does not like this movie? Just perfect in every sense.
Don’t Move (2004) – This is the movie that officiated my love and respect for Penelope Cruz. A beautiful story about a love between a street prostitute and a married doctor. Her performance here is impeccable.
Biutiful (2010) is one of the most beautiful, bleak and heartbreaking story ever. I don’t usually shed tears I remember crying a lot and was actually sad for a few days just thinking about the movie. Javier Bardem deserved an Oscar for this. About a struggling single father who has been diagnosed by prostate cancer. A movie by the same director of Babel, Alejandro González Iñárritu.
The Sea Inside (2004) – An inspirational movie and a real-life story of Spaniard Ramon Sampedro’s tireless fight for euthanasia starring Javier Bardem and again, I cried. So, I have concluded that Mr Bardem is the only one actor that reduced me to tears.
The Door (2009) – A Danish thriller about the consequences of turning back the time. Starring another one of my favorite, Mr. Mads Mikkelsen.
Nobody Else But You (2011) – The french name for this thriller is absolutely adorable, “Poupoupidou”. A bit under the radar, this is a story about a murder of a small-town star. A lot of reference to Marilyn Monroe, beautifully shot, nostalgic but with a lot of humor at the same time.
Taxidermia (2006) – A Hungarian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for Academy Awards 2008. If you are into dark humor and grotesque, I recommend this.
A Christmas Tale (2008) is about a dysfunctional family that has a history of mental illness. Catherine Denevue is as beautiful as ever. But I think Mathieu Almaric stole the show, and I believe that he is one of the most talented French actor today.
MR 73 (2008) – I haven’t seen the prequel, but this one stays with me for a long time and actually made me depressed everytime I watched this. About a very tortured cop (played by Daniel Autiel) and his mission to solve a grisly crime. I enjoyed anything to do with cops, crime and serial killers so watch this if this is up your alley.
Maytyrs (2008) – I don’t remember having a nightmare after a movie for a long time, the last one was Freddy Kruger and Poltergeist (when I was 8 or 10) but Martyrs gives me the creeps for many many nights. There was a lot of publicity due to the nature of the movie but also a lot of mixed reviews. Worth watching if you can bear all the torture and violence.
Read about my Asian cinema picks here
(all images from Google)