In the past twenty years or so, foreign language films have seen an explosion in popularity.

This is due to the availabilty of films you wouldn't normally see in your cinemas. With the help of video rentals and, later, streaming services, foreign language films are becoming increasingly popular with audiences.

So, with that in mind, here's 10 of the best foreign language films from the last twenty years...

10. RUN, LOLA, RUN (1998)

Tom Tykwer has moved on from his humble beginnings to work with Tom Hanks in this year's forgettable A Hologram For The King and the bold-but-bizarre Cloud Atlas, but Run Lola Run is the perfect introduction to his work. More than anything, it shows his ability to pace a scene and make it visually stunning. The Bourne Supremacy's Franka Potente is Lola, a young woman who's forced to come up with 100,000 Deutschmarks for her criminal boyfriend or he'll be killed. Like all great action films, it's a simple story told extremely well. Minimal dialogue and lots of setpieces makes for a pulsing, energetic experience.



Guillermo Del Toro's work can be described as imaginative, but none more so than Pan's Labyrinth. Set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, a young girl is sent to the rural wilderness to live with her oppressive, Fascist stepfather. Gifted with a vivid imagination and a love of fairytales, she soon discovers an ancient labyrinth on the grounds of the house she's been sent to. There, she discovers a giant faun who tells her that she's the reincarnated spirit of a princess. Parallel to this, however, is her father's attempts to control both her and her mother whilst rooting out Spanish rebels in the local village. Like all of Del Toro's films, such as The Devil's Backbone or Crimson Peak, it is dark and beautiful in equal measure.



Germany's relationship with politics have been the subject of many films, but none have really looked at the criminal element involved. In the 1970's, the Red Army Faction were a group of Communist "freedom fighters" based in Germany who acted more like a criminal gang than political militants. Between kidnapping businessmen and stealing sports cars, the group produced pamphlets and conducted bombings across West Germany in an attempt to topple the government. The film does a great job of showing their motives and the levels of popular support they had. At one point, one-in-three people in West Germany who have harboured them. However, it soon devolves into showing their truly anarchic and criminal side, all while keeping the film at a breakneck speed.



Romantic stories don't come more well-known than this. Gerard Depardieu - the father from My Father, The Hero and a few others - is a French adventurer who's been gifted with sharp wits, excellent fencing and a giant nose. Despite his best attempts at meeting the right woman, his nose seems to reach out before him. When a young, naive soldier comes under his care and is infatuated with a beautiful courtesan, Cyrano (Depardieu) resolves to help the young soldier by writing poems and communicating the right words to him. As the story progresses, Cyrano falls in love with the young woman who's falling in love with the solider, thanks to Cyrano's words and wit. Like Depardieu, it's big and full of bravura, but has a beautiful core to it.


6. AMELIE (2001)

It's been accused by some as portraying a totally unrealistic view of Paris, but it's hard not to be taken by Amelie's intense idealism and richness. Audrey Tautou does the Manic Pixie Dream Girl bit to perfection in the title role. After becoming intensely affected by the death of Princess Diana in Paris, Amelie sets herself to bring happiness and joy to everyone in life by whatever means she can. Whether it's escorting a blind man through a train station and describing everything in detail to stealing her father's garden gnome and taking in a worldwide tour, Amelie does what she can but neglects her own happiness. The film is full of light and whimsy and can be a little too cute in places, but it's a gorgeous looking film that anyone can enjoy.



Despite a successful English-language remake, Let The Right One In is still considered by many to be the better of two. A prepubescent vampire girl, Eli, and her "father" arrive in a suburb of Stockholm. There, she meets Oskar, a neglected and marginalised young boy who's desperate for a friend. Although it's not immediately clear to Oskar of what Eli is, in one scene it becomes apparent and shapes the rest of the film. Let The Right One In weaves horror and drama to create something totally unique and original that hasn't been effectively recreated since.


4. GOODBYE, LENIN! (2003)

For those of us under 30, it's difficult to imagine the sheer impact that fall of the Berlin Wall had on Europe and the world at large. Various films have been set on either side of the films, mostly spy thrillers or political dramas. However, only one film has managed to turn a seismic change in international politics into a screwball comedy. Daniel Bruhl is an East German teenager's whose mother has suffered a massive heart attack. Awaking from an eight-month coma, Bruhl is informed that his mother cannot have any excitement or anything that might upset her. However, in the eight months, the Berlin Wall has collapsed and East Germany is no more. What's more troubling for Bruhl is that his mother was an ardent Communist supporter. So, in order to protect his mother, he sets about keeping East Germany alive inside their small apartment. Bruhl is more known nowadays for dramatic roles, such as Rush, Captain America: Civil War and Inglorious Basterds. However, you can clearly see that he has the ability to be funny and the film itself has this in spades. As well as this, there's a real emotional undercurrent throughout the film that makes all the more endearing.



In the exact opposite direction, The Lives Of Others portrays East Germany perhaps as it really was - a desolate, isolated country where everyone was spying on everyone else. Part spy-thriller, part romance, The Lives Of Others focuses on one Stasi (German secret police) agent who is ordered to bug the apartment of a playwright and his actress girlfriend by a bureaucrat. As the film progresses, the playwright, who initially is supportive of East Germany, becomes more and more disillusioned and begins to write articles for Western newspapers on life behind the Wall. The film has been noted for its incredible realisim and very much showing the conditions in East Germany.


It can be said for a lot of people that Cinema Paradiso is the perfect expression of why they love films so much. Set in post-war Italy, Toto is a young boy who befriends a curmudgeonly projectionist at a local cinema. The two become friends as Toto sees the world through the cinema news-reels and learns the ropes of the film business. It follows him from a young child, through his teenage years and finally, to becoming a man who has left behind his previous life. Hugely emotional and genuinely heartwarming, the final scene could make even the most hardened of people well up with tears.


Kung-fu / martial arts films are often dismissed as simply being about the fight sequences and that the plot and the characters themselves are secondary. This, unfortunately, is the case for most martial arts films. However, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is unlike any other martial arts film ever made. Directed by two-time Oscar Winner Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the sweeping love story of Li Mu Bai, a veteran warrior who has renounced his former life and intends to rekindle his relationship with Yu Shu Lien. A fellow warrior, the two had strong feelings for one another but never acted upon them due to Yu Shu Lien's former marriage. Parallel to this story is one that involves Li Mu Bai's sword, the Green Destiny, which has been stolen by an impulsive artistocratic teenager, Jen Yu, who has been trained by Li Mu Bai's arch-nemesis, the Jade Fox. The film takes in martial arts, mysticism, court politics, feminism in Qing-era China and sweeping romance. More than anything else, it shows that a good film can transcend culture and language if the story is told well enough.