Film director, producer, and screenwriter Bong Joon-Ho said it best, following his wins at the 2020 Academy Awards: “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” The same can be said for television shows, too.
From political dramas to horror, science-fiction to romance, great stories can come from absolutely anywhere, and part of the beauty of streaming services such as Netflix is how much more accessible they help these stories become. These are some stand-out foreign shows available on Netflix right now that are most definitely worth checking out (with IMDb singing their praises to prove it), bringing pieces of different parts of the world right to your TV screen.
Upon visiting his hometown, police detective Nikolai Andreassen (Tobias Santelmann) faces a moral crossroad as he decides to cover up a potential homicide case, believing that this will protect his brother, a local cop, from getting involved. His partner (Ellen Dorrit Petersen), however, suspects there is more to this death than what meets the eye.
Her pursuit of the truth urges Nikolai to spin a web of lies (Niko-lies, if you will) as he must now look out for himself, as well. This tense noir crime series has been praised for its performances, as Tobias Santelmann was nominated for Best Actor in Norway’s 2018 Gullruten (Golden Screen). The series is somewhat underrated, only having a 6.8/10 rating on IMDb.
It is the epicenter of countless political wins and losses. This drama explores the complexities of working in politics, as well as in media and journalism, as Sidse Babett Knudsen portrays a party leader who becomes Denmark’s first female prime minister.
Borgen, with its strong cast of (particularly, female) characters and its unanticipated predictions regarding the future of actual Danish politics, has won a total of eight awards. Perhaps even cooler, Stephen King listed the series within his top ten favorite television shows of 2012, and it has an 8.5/10 rating on IMDb.
How can you help solve a mystery when you can’t even remember why you are considered a suspect, yourself? Tabula Rasa is a psychological thriller about a woman, an amnesiac, named Mie (Veerle Baetens). She finds herself tangled up in a mystery as she was supposedly the last person to be seen with a now-missing man. As Detective Inspector Wolkers (Gene Bervoets) works on the case, hospital-bound Mie must piece together what little she can remember and rediscover what may have become of the man.
As Norway is devastated both physically and economically due to the effects of climate change, the Norwegian government puts an abrupt end to oil and gas production, negatively impacting other countries. With support from the European Union, Russia steps in to seize oil supplies.
This drama, set in the near future, paints a picture of Europe struggling to handle an energy crisis. Despite it depicting an improbable scenario, the show has still received praise nonetheless for its execution and innovation. The series was a winner at the New Creators Award Mannheim-Heidelberg. On IMDb, the series has a 7.7/10 rating.
Elijah Canlas Cairo Lazaro (Elijah Canlas) is a live-stream gamer being romantically pursued by a fan, Angel2000, also known as Gavreel Mendoza Alarcon (Kokoy de Santos). In this romantic drama, also categorized as yaoi (translation: boys’ love), the two meet online while quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
While one is eager for a rematch after being defeated in a mobile game, the other is seeking something more. Gameboys is praised for its performances, timeliness, and depiction of Filipino culture. The series has been declared by Indie Shorts Awards Seoul (2020) as Best Web Series and holds over an 8.7/10 rating on IMDb.
A bit of science-fiction, a bit of mystery, and a bit of tragedy, this series is entirely thrilling. Situated in the present day (at first, anyway), Dark is a German production about a town shrouded in mystery and follows four of the families living there. Their lives begin to unravel following the disappearances of several children, and these events eerily connect back to strange occurrences within that very same town decades, and even whole generations, earlier.
Described by fans as a “Lynchian” Stephen King-kind of story, the series garnered eight awards and 21 nominations, and some of its top-rated episodes on IMDb are within its third and final season: the series is rated 8.8/10.
‘O Mecanismo’ (‘The Mechanism’)
Loosely inspired by actual events, Narcos creator Jose Padilha brings audiences The Mechanism, a series following a Brazilian Federal Police delegate (Selton Mello) and his partner (Caroline Abras) as they uncover and investigate a life-changing money laundering scheme. They find themselves immersed in corrupt government exploits involving oil and construction companies.
This 2018 political drama was nominated for the Associação Brasileira de Cinematografia Cinematography Award as well as the Golden Trailer Awards the previous year, recognizing the very best TV spots, trailers, and teasers for a foreign series. Subsequently, the series has a rating of 8.4/10 on IMDb.
‘Alhambeura Goongjeonui Chooeok’ (‘Memories of the Alhambra’)
Sometimes you just need an augmented reality check. Hyun Bin stars as Yoo Jin-woo, the CEO of an investment company called J One Holdings. He travels to Spain, planning to meet with the seemingly elusive creator of a new AR game centered around battles in the Alhambra, a palace and fortress found in the city of Granada. Yoo Jin-woo winds up meeting the creator’s sister, Jung Hee-joo (Park Shin-hye), instead.
Real-life becomes indistinguishable from the hyperrealistic game as the two find themselves navigating strange circumstances together. Described by many critics as a “cleverly crafted story,” this science fantasy-action-romance has been a hit. Not to mention, the visual effects look incredible. On IMDb, the series has a 7.9/10 rating.
Not unlike Mesopotamia’s infamous city of sin, Germany’s capital also underwent a tumultuous time period (in this case, post-World War I). With depravity, oppression, and political corruption running rampant, Berlin could have been described as Germany’s Babylon.
Taking inspiration from historical fiction novels written by Volker Kutscher, this period drama follows a police inspector (Volker Bruch) and a flapper aspiring to become a police inspector (Liv Lisa Fries) investigating some of the city’s biggest conspiracies. The series took off, easily becoming the most-watched drama on German television in 2018. It has received many accolades that year, as well, including four awards at the Deutscher Fernsehpreis. The series has an 8.4/10 rating on IMDb.
Bearing the namesake of a popular children’s game from the 1970s, this Korean drama has taken Netflix by storm as its popularity skyrocketed across 94 different countries within one month. Squid Game follows people down on their luck and in dire need of money.
After being sent mysterious invitations to compete in seemingly innocent children’s games for a cash prize, things take a dark turn. In order to win the more than 45 billion won reward, you have to be the last one standing. Make just one wrong move, and there will be deadly consequences, taking Survivor to a whole new level. This series has been thrilling audiences everywhere, as it has an 8.1/10 rating on IMDb.
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The whip-cracking adventurer is set to return to our screens in 2023.
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