Saturday, March 2, 2024

Featured: The Best Foreign Language Film Oscar Winners (And Losers)

We’re in the thick of it now. The Oscars. Nominees already announced. Mexico’s Roma is the obvious favorite, but it could be Poland’s Cold War in an upset; Germany’s Never Look Away, Japan’s Shoplifters  and Lebanon’s Capernaum fill in the rest of the nominees. The previous award shows adding onto the trail for every film to pick up a coveted golden man on a black base. While it is a global event, most of the winners and nominees tend to be from English-speaking countries. For non-English speaking films, they gun for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film.

Dozens of countries submit what they think is the best film they have to offer of that year. Italy holds the record for 14 wins while France has the most nominations at 37. Israel has the most nominations, 10, without having won, and Portugal has the most submissions, 34, without getting nominated. Federico Fellini and Vittorio De Seca, both Italian, have four wins each. They have been around since 1947 and sometimes, their nomination and win also spills over to the other major categories, including Best Picture.

Here is my personal best-of-winner list; don’t @ me if I omit a winner or the ranking seems under or overinflated, it just means it wasn’t that good or it is overrated. With that, here are my Top 25 of Best Foreign Language Film winners:

  1. 8 1/2 (1963, Italy, dir. Federico Fellini)
  2. The Virgin Spring (1960, Sweden, dir. Ingmar Bergman)
  3. Rashomon (1951, Japan, dir. Akira Kurosawa)
  4. Amour (2012, Austria, dir. Michael Haneke)
  5. Day for Night (1973, France, dir. Francois Truffaut)
  6. Mon Oncle (1958, France, dir. Jacques Tati)
  7. La Strada (1956, Italy, dir. Federico Fellini)
  8. Fanny And Alexander (1982, Sweden, dir. Ingmar Bergman)
  9. Son of Saul (2015, Hungary, dir. Laszlo Nemes)
  10. Z (1969, Algeria, dir. Costa Garvas)
  11. Bicycle Thieves (1949, Italy, dir. Vittorio de Seca)
  12. The Secret In Their Eyes (2009, Argentina, dir. Juan Jose Campanella)
  13. A Separation (2011, Iran, dir. Asghar Farhadi)
  14. Amarcord (1974, Italy, dir. Federico Fellini)
  15. Ida (2014, Poland, Pawel Pawlikowski)
  16. The Lives Of Others (2006, Germany, dir. F.H. von Donnersmarck)
  17. All About My Mother (1999, Spain, dir. Pedro Almodovar)
  18. Babette’s Feast (1987, Denmark, dir. Gabriel Axel)
  19. Black Orpheus (1959, France, dir. Marcel Camus)
  20. Indochine (1992, France, dir. Régis Wargnier)
  21. Tsotsi (2005, South Africa, dir. Gavin Hood)
  22. A Fantastic Woman (2017, Chile, dir. Sebastian Leilo)
  23. Nights Of Cabiria (1957, Italy, dir. Federico Fellini)
  24. Cinema Paradiso (1989, Italy, dir. Giuseppe Tornatore)
  25. A Man And A Woman (1966, France, dir. Claude Lelouch)

Honorable Mention: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, Taiwan, dir. Ang Lee)

Then, there are the losers and obviously, there are more of them than winners. Some you would wonder why it didn’t win, which will be listed; there were great foreign films that didn’t get this nomination (Talk To Her, Three Colors: Red, Ran) but were nominated in other categories. They will not qualify for this list, but the number of top nominees and their greatness from the past is undeniable and with high standing. Like a number of the winners, some are legends of the camera with a few making the jump to Hollywood later on.

  1. The Battle of Algiers (1966, Italy, dir. Gillo Pontecorvo)
  2. The Emigrants (1971, Sweden, dir. Jan Troell)
  3. Au Revoir, Les Enfants (1987, France, dir, Louis Malle)
  4. Amelie (2001, France, dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
  5. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, Mexico, dir. Guillermo del Toro)
  6. Loves Of A Blonde (1966, Czechoslovakia, dir. Milos Forman)
  7. The Last Metro (1989, France, dir. Francois Truffaut)
  8. Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown (1989, Spain, dir. Pedro Almodovar)
  9. Paradise Now (2005, Palestine, dir. Hany Abu-Assad)
  10. Seven Beauties (1975, Italy, Lina Wertmuller)
  11. The New Land (1972, Sweden, dir, Jan Troell)
  12. The Fireman’s Ball (1968, Czechoslovakia, dir. Milos Forman)
  13. Placido (1961, Spain, dir. Luis Garcia Berlanga)
  14. Before The Rain (1994, Macedonia, dir. Milcho Manchevski)
  15. Incendies (2010, Canada, dir. Denis Villeneuve)
  16. Central Station (1998, Brazil, dir. Walter Salles)
  17. The Bridge (1959, West Germany, dir. Bernhard Wicki)
  18. The Burmese Harp (1956, Japan, dir. Kon Ichikawa)
  19. Farewell My Concubine (1993, Hong Kong, dir. Chen Kaige)
  20. Downfall (2004, Germany, dir. Oliver Hirschbiegel)
  21. Amores Perros (2000, Mexico, dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
  22. Salaam Bombay! (1988, India, dir. Mira Nair)
  23. Strawberry And Chocolate (1994, Cuba, dir. Tomas Guiterrez Alea & Juan Carlos Tabio)
  24. Raise The Red Lantern (1991, Hong Kong, dir. Zhang Yihou)
  25. Cyrano de Bergerac (1990, France, Jean-Paul Rappeneau)

Honorable Mention: Waltz With Bashir (2008, Israel, dir. Ari Folman)

Sometimes, it is good to lose because you don’t get picked apart as time goes by. A number of the winners listed have stood the test of time while plenty of the losers seem to age well. Foreign cinema should not be looked upon as just a film, not in the English language, but a film that should be held to the same standard as an American film. Many complain that they don’t want to read subtitles; I have an announcement: you watch the action while reading the subtitles at the same time. Even Academy members can’t stand foreign films, but here is the bitter truth: they tend to be better than American and British ones. The Academy definitely looks beyond for worthy nominees and even winners in their leading competitive categories, but with Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, no film has yet to break the barrier and win the big one.

Follow me on Twitter: @BrianSusbielles (Cine-A-Man)

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