Top 10 Foreign Films Of 2012

This week the World Movies channel did the big count and the results are in: from Indonesia to Iran, France to Turkey, below are the ten best foreign films of 2012 as voted by Australians.

10. A Royal Affair (Denmark)

Sex and the costume drama go together exceptionally well – and this film did it the best. Nikolaj Arcel’s compelling story of a young Danish queen, wife of the insane King Christian VII, who falls for her physician won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and received praise from critics around the globe.

9. Holy Motors (France)

“Nothing makes us feel so alive as to see others die.” A film that gets weirder and more surreal with every turn, Holy Motors left critics and audiences alike pretty speechless, suffice to say it is visually mesmerising and Kylie Minogue wrote a song for it…wait…? Yep, she did. She features in the film alongside Denis Lavant as Oscar, who travels in the back of a limousine in Paris, changing costumes and lives – it really is “wonderfully insane”.

8. Amour (Belgium)

When elderly Anne has a stroke and becomes completely dependent on her husband George, their relationship undergoes a radical transformation. Based on Austrian director Michael Haneke’s real life family experience, Amour is a heartwrenching drama about mortality and, of course, love. With the revered Palme d’Or at Cannes and a swag of 2012 European Film Awards to its name, this film has made a big impact. Pack your tissues.

7. Elena (Russia)

A simple idea – a bold businessman, Vladimir, bequeaths all of his money to his daughter after a heart attack, and his gypped wife Elena and her son plan a desperate scheme for money with disastrous results – is given a breathtaking run by director Andrey Zyvagintsev. Adding to the tension is the soundtrack by renowned composer Phillip Glass.

6. Beasts of the Southern Wild (US)

A US film – foreign? This one makes it to the list because, well, it ain’t no Hollywood blockbuster. Hushpuppy and her father struggle for survival in The Bathtub – a bizarre community cut off from the rest of New Orleans by a huge dam. Six-year-old star Quvenzhane Wallis has been dubbed “a force of nature” – an appropriate expression for this rollercoaster of a movie which critics and audiences have been raving about. If you haven’t seen it, where have you been?

5. Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (Turkey)

This is not your average police procedural. As a group of men search for a body on the Anatolian steppe they philosophise about everything from suicide to yoghurt,  weaving together a powerfully insightful film with brilliant performances. It won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes and clearly, many voters’ hearts.

4. Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)

When a teacher at a French Canadian school kills herself, Bashir Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant, is hired to replace her. He soon builds a bond with the children as though they are his own, but meanwhile, struggles to recover from his own recent tragedy. The interactions between teacher and students are as powerful as the themes of mourning and grief and earned Lazhar an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

3. The Raid (Indonesia)

Twenty elite cops, one ruthless crime lord, thirty floors of chaos: the police are the “visitors” and shit is about to go down. If the words Pencak Silat don’t mean anything to you, you’ll finish The Raid with a thorough schooling in the Indonesian martial art. When police undertake a violent raid of a building manned by drug lords and gangs and plenty of ass gets kicked in the process, earning it the status of the best foreign action film of 2012 – and watch out because Hollywood is already planning a remake.

2. The Intouchables (France)

Massive in France and abroad, The Intouchables was arguably one of the greatest releases of the year, anywhere. The story of a white billionaire quadriplegic (Francois Cluzet) and his black, ghetto-born live-in carer (Omar Sy) covers some big themes: race, class and disability, with big laughs as well as some poignant moments. The transition from carer-charge relationship to full-time bromance is one you have to see.

1. A Separation (Iran)

If one film this year transcended cultural and language barriers, it’s A Separation. The drama explores the modern universal topic of divorce, in a society where – as anywhere – it’s not so black and white; and the events that surround it complicate and dramatise it even further. A thrilling and brutally honest masterpiece that claimed the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film, justified even further by being voted number one: The Best Foreign Film for 2012.

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