R2D2's Ultimate Top 10 Countdown Of The 2000s #6 - Foreign.

[For the last 10 days of the decade, I'm doing a Top 10 list a day, all culminating into an ultimate post of Top 10 lists. We have previously seen Top 10 Comedies, Dramas, Animation, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and Horror. Now we're moving on.]

Top 10 Foreign Films of the 2000s

As I've stated before, if any film was made in another country and speaks another language other than English (and thus has subtitles), it ended up here (with the exception of anime, which went under Animation). This is also the only Top 10 list that will have a tie. Luckily, it's the first on the list, so I can just get right to it. That being said...

10. Let The Right One In (2008) and Thirst (2009)

In an age where America's most known vampire story is Twilight, Sweden and South Korea give us two vampire films that show you how it should really be done. These films are absolutely nothing alike, but they both deserve to be on the list for, obviously, different reasons. I didn't want to leave off Let The Right One In from this particular list or face the wrath of, well, potentially everybody. Hence the tie. It's a quiet, emotional film about the friendship between a female (?) vampire and the boy who needs her (?). It's a total slow burn film, focusing on the boy's tortured school life and then his building relationship with the vampire. It all builds up to a stunning and violent (though not really shown) climax. While I really liked the film, I think I had taken in way too much of the hype by the time I had seen it, resulting in a bit of a let down.

This is why I think I enjoyed Thirst more. The first film on my list directed by Chan-wook Park, as well as the first film on my list starring Kang-ho Song, Thirst takes a much different approach to the vampire story. Though beginning a bit rocky, the film introduces us to a priest who catches a deadly virus and must obtain a blood transfusion to live (at least a little longer). But after the transfusion, he slowly begins to realize he's become a vampire, and he must drink blood frequently or else the deadly virus will return to finish him off. Of course, there is a female he gets involved with, as well. Anyway, what I loved about the movie is that, as with all Chan-wook Park films, there are multiple layers and heavy themes. This movie deals with the concept of sin and what is right and wrong. There is a good amount of eroticism in the film, but there's also a good amount of dark humor. Not to mention the film is visually stunning (as are all Park films) and has some good visual effects. And, as always with a Park film, there are many clues that help answer potentially unanswered questions at the end of the film... you just gotta look for them. But what I loved the most, I think, is how they dealt with learning and dealing with vampire abilities (and setbacks)... strength, speed, sunlight, etc. Very good stuff.

9. Wasabi (2001)

The first film on my list where Luc Besson was involved (in this case, as writer). The film stars Jean Reno as a cop who discovers he has a daughter from an old love who has just died. There's really not a lot to say, but I think the tagline really says it all: Quite Possibly The Greatest French-Language, English-Subtitled, Japanese Action-Comedy Of All Time.

8. The Host (2006)

This is the second film on my list with Kang-ho Song. It is essentially a horror/comedy/family drama version of Godzilla (but with a smaller monster). After toxic chemicals are dumped into a nearby river, a mutated monster emerges and wreaks havoc on the city. And when the creature takes away a young girl, her crazy family must try to find her and rescue her before it's too late. Like Cloverfield, this movie focuses more on the people than the monster (though I'd say that's one of the only comparisons). And what's really great is that the "kidnapped" girl isn't a total damsel in distress. She's actually smart, and you get to see moments where she attempts to escape or just stay alive. The movie also has some pretty good special effects (up until the end, when it becomes painfully obvious the creature is CGI). But it's all-around a great creature-feature.

7. Angel-A (2005)

After Leon, Angel-A has to be Luc Besson's best film (that he directed). It's basically It's A Wonderful Life, but a bit more... adult. It stars Jamel Debbouze (who is in another movie on this list, as well) as a down-and-out guy who owes a bit too much money to the wrong guys. In an attempt to kill himself to avoid getting killed by the bad guys (fate in his own hands and all that), he sees a beautiful young woman attempting the same. When he saves her life, she says she owes him a debt. So she attempts to help him as best she can (gambling, sex, etc.) to get him the money he owes. Oh, and there's another thing... she reveals herself to be an angel, actually sent down to help him out. It's an interesting take on an old story, but it's also a visually gorgeous film. It's in black and white, and I couldn't see it any other way.

6. Re-Cycle (2006)

It begins as a supernatural horror film, a really freaky one at that, but then turns itself into a dark fantasy instead. The change is a bit jarring at first, but you get used to it fast. It becomes a bit like MirrorMask--visually fantastic and a bit strange. But then there's also the bit of social (moral?) commentary that comes in around the third act. Some may like it. Some might be put off. For me, I didn't care. I thought the movie handled it well. Oh, and then there's the final twist ending that totally caught me off guard. Always love it when that happens.

5. The Orphanage (2007)

A couple years ago, we got a little Spanish film that redefined the ghost story. It's mostly a supernatural mystery/creepy thriller. But the acting is superb, and there's a nice twist that you don't see coming until right before it happens. Don't have a ton to say about it except that it is exceptionally good, and one of my favorites of its year.

4. I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK (2006)

Not many people have heard of this film, I'm sure. It's the second Chan-wook Park film on the list, and it stars South Korean pop star Rain (Ninja Assassin, Speed Racer). It's the tale of a young woman who checks herself into a mental institution because she believes she's a cyborg. There, she meets a young man (Rain) who may or may not be crazy, but who steals the "souls" of the other patients and allows them, at least until he returns their "souls," to not have whatever quirk it is they have. And while he has their confliction, he wears a mask that he'd made based on their own faces. It's brilliantly acted, visually stunning, and bizarrely quirky. And, again, as is the like with Mr. Park, the ending is ambiguously fantastic.

3. Amelie (2001)

Another quirky comedy, this time from France, and starring the beautiful Audrey Tautou (and co-starring aforementioned actor, Jamel Debbouze). It seems to do what in most films might not work... but somehow pulls it off magnificently. It's most likely due to the draw of its leading lady. It's hard not to enjoy this film, and I dare you not to smile or feel good at least once while watching it.

2. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

Had this been an American film, it would have run the gamut of the Academy Awards of its year. It's beautiful in more ways than one. It's deep in theme. It's heavy. It's sad, yet somehow uplifting in its fantasy aspects. And it simultaneously has a sad and happy (as well as clear yet ambiguous) ending. Amazing film.

1. Oldboy (2003)

The third and final Chan-wook Park film of the list (obviously). It has thrills, mystery, romance, action/violence, and anything else you'd want in a movie. Not to mention the incredibly hardcore, twisted, demented, and heartbreaking twist at the film's climax. I needn't mention the ending, as I've mentioned the endings twice already. It has a great concept, that of a guy getting kidnapped and held hostage for years before being suddenly released... and then given 3 days to figure out why he was kidnapped in the first place. It's a revenge tale to beat all revenge tales, and it is Chan-wook Park's masterpiece. And I didn't even mention the famous Hallway Fight done in one shot. Not only one of my favorite foreign films, but one of my overall favorite films of all time.


  1. I don't like the splitting out of foreign films into their own category. A genre is a genre, regardless of the language spoken.

    Nice to see Amelie so high, though, given your usual taste for horror/sci-fi/action films. :D

  2. Fletch: You'll like my final post on New Year's Day. I've decided to do quite a few Top 10 lists in that particular post, all made up from the films of this list... so, not all split up into different categories (nor lumped together in one series).


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