Foreign Films for Families
December 31, 2008 12:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for good foreign films which are also suitable for family viewing (anything below or barely R-rated). Serious or troubling subject matter is quite fine, but not excessive violence or nudity.
posted by keith0718 to Media & Arts (74 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Look into Akira Kurosawa (imdb) and Hayao Miyazaki (imdb), both Japanese. The former has made some of the best films in any language, and the latter is making the kind of animated films that Disney used to make and ought to be making. You won't find anything objectionable in Miyazaki at all, and though Kurosawa does have plenty of violence--how are you supposed to do re-tellings of Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear without killing a few people?--it's usually very tastefully done. Slasher films these are not, even if they do leave a lot of bodies on the floor.

I can't recommend these directors highly enough.
posted by valkyryn at 12:57 PM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Au Revoir, Les Enfants
Babette's Feast
the animated films of Hayao Miyazaki
posted by spec80 at 12:57 PM on December 31, 2008

Best answer: Cinema Paradiso.
posted by sweetkid at 12:59 PM on December 31, 2008

La Faute à Fidel
Monsieur Ibrahim
Seconding Cinema Paradiso!
posted by raztaj at 1:05 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Have you seen Ma Vie En Rose? Beautiful film. Could be somewhat sad for a child in places. For some of the film, the parents almost reject their own child, athough it all works out in the end. Highly recommended.
posted by marsha56 at 1:09 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by Alison at 1:10 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Duck Season is a really fun, light Mexican movie.
posted by vacapinta at 1:14 PM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]

les choristes
posted by taff at 1:20 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion is pretty good. May have that "old movie" patina for some viewers.

Just saw Melville's Le Samourai. An intellectual crime drama, late 1960s, but didn't really have that much serious violence. Did have ladies in underwear, etc. Nothing more shocking than a typical Bond film.

Also just saw Cocalero, made just a couple of years ago, documentary about Bolivian president Evo Morales. Really, really interesting.

Downfall, the movie about Hitler in the bunker, is very good. Some intense, hard to watch scenes (Frau Goebbels killing her children--shudder) but not excessively violent.

Fellini's La Strada is great. Actually, although a lot of Fellini's work was adult-ish in his day, it's not nearly as shocking to modern audiences. You might even be able to get away with 8 1/2 or La Dolce Vita.

Goodbye Lenin is a movie I enjoyed a lot. There's one definite "cover your eyes" (but hilarious) scene where East Berliners wander into a sex shop for the first time, but it's otherwise quite friendly.

It's been a while since I've seen Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451, but I don't recall any nudity or anything.

The Triplets of Belleville--just looked it up, it was officially PG-13.

Jacques Tati was a funny, funny guy; anything with him in it is probably worthwhile.
posted by gimonca at 1:24 PM on December 31, 2008

I guess my assumption is that your 'family' wouldn't include very young children, or else you wouldn't want 'troubling' subject matter. If I'm wrong, feel free to adjust or disregard accordingly.
posted by gimonca at 1:27 PM on December 31, 2008

Run Lola Run is great, but...
There is a graphic, slow-motion gunshot. More stylized than disturbing. And... well... without spoiling, I'll just say it's necessary to the surprise in the structure. Someone also gets hit by a vehicle. The victim ends up with just a trickle of blood on their mouth, so it's not very graphic. Again, the payoff is worth it.

There are also some very, very, fast scenes, literally a split-second each, of drug use (including a man dead with a needle in his arm), and a couple in sex play in bondage gear (which usually elicits laughter more than shock). These scenes may be so fast than any younger viewers may not even absorb them. For what it's worth, I let my daughter see this film when she was about 10. She's now 18 and it remains one of her favorite movies.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 1:29 PM on December 31, 2008

Lola Rennt.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 1:29 PM on December 31, 2008

Oh, and L'Auberge espagnole is fantastic. Might be a little sex in there and Idunno what it's rated, but it's a great flick.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 1:32 PM on December 31, 2008

If you haven't yet seen them, In the Mood for Love (PG) and Chunking Express (PG-13) should be at the top of your list - they are both directed by Wong Kar Wai and are both absolutely beautiful films.

Some of the rest of these are all too old to be rated, but I'll try to describe them a bit.

The 400 Blows has troubling subjects (and some "bad language"), but little violence and no nudity. There are scenes where a kid is bullied and a fight breaks out, and I believe there is some corporal punishment (but I may be wrong about that).

The Third Man is in English with some American actors, but I would consider it a foreign-style film. It's a thriller and noir, so it has action and some people are shot but it's not any more violent than a standard cop drama.

The Bicycle Thief is incredibly sad and troubling, but there's no violence or nudity, just some shouting and crying.

I don't think Band of Outsiders has any violence or nudity. Oh, there might be a shootout and a death scene at the end :( I would recommend all of Godard's movies.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (PG) has some sexual situations, but I don't recall any nudity. There is some drug use, though! On second thought probably not suitable for all families but something I would have watched with my parents.
posted by muddgirl at 1:34 PM on December 31, 2008

The City of Lost Children is a good one. Very odd (think Tim Burton) with an amazing woman-child actress Judith Vittet and Ron Perlman as a circus strongman. English and French with as I recall.

Seconding The Triplets of Belleville. A real gem.

For foreignesque films how about the magnificent The Man Who Planted Trees. Canadian, takes place in France (from a French book). English. Quite simply one of the finest animated films ever made. Won the 1987 Oscar.
posted by elendil71 at 1:34 PM on December 31, 2008

A couple of questions....Why foreign films? Is it that you're trying to introduce younger members (or any members) of the family to the idea of reading subtitles? How young are the youngest audience members?

I ask because if I'm on the right track, "movies to introduce people to subtitles" (which, don't get me wrong, is an idea I fully support) is a very different question from "great foreign movies", which is a pretty broad category.

and to contribute something more concrete, seconding pretty much anything by Kurosawa (but especially Hidden Fortress if what I wrote above has any relevance...most especially if there are Star Wars fans in the audience). Or if a movie about a young girl dealing with the death of her mother isn't too depressing, "La Ponette".

My favorite foreign movie from the past couple of years is from Korea: "Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter....and Spring". Exquisitely beautiful.
posted by the bricabrac man at 1:35 PM on December 31, 2008

Response by poster: OP HERE: Great suggestions so far. Yes, we're big fans of Kurosawa and Miyazaki. We have purchased many of their films and now we're wanting to look for foreign films outside of Japan.
posted by keith0718 at 1:37 PM on December 31, 2008

Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources are compelling French films which are suitable for younger viewers.

Also, since nobody's mentioned it, Princess Mononoke may not meet your criteria, but it's a fantastic film for all ages.
posted by workerant at 1:38 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Entre les murs (The Class) nominated for best foreign language film.. I haven't seen so maybe worth double checking about parental advisories, though I don't think there is anything objectionable..

There is a documentary film by Agnès Varda called The Gleaners and I (and an updated second film revisiting some of the subjects) that I completely adore and AFAIK should be suitable for all ages - it's about all sorts of people who collect and in some cases live off what has been passed over or discarded by others, such as those who collect wheat from a field after the machine farming has passed by, who pick the leftover vegetables from the market stalls after it's closed down for the day, that kind of thing.

Hero is a sweeping, gorgeous, beautifully filmed Chinese epic.. there is a lot of fighting but it is stylized martial arts and not bloody violence, YMMV (anyone else seen it lately? I watched it four or five years ago).

Le temps retrouvé aka Time Regained is a film of the last book in Proust In Search of Lost Time.. I recall it was pretty well received and is certainly gorgeous - I am not sure what your family's patience level may be with a film that is a bit slow moving and not clear in narrative structure, though. (I personally think Chantal Ackermann La captive is a much better film of Proust but not exactly family-friendly.)
posted by citron at 1:44 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: re: the bricabrac man. My kids (ages 0, 5, 9, 12) aren't troubled by subtitles. Sometimes a the younger ones will groan at the beginning of the movie; but halfway through, with Mom or me paraphrasing the subtitles, they are usually enthralled. Your recommendation of Hidden Fortress is right on. It marks the beginning of our enjoyment of subtitled films as a family. I asked about foreign films in general because my kids are capable of enjoying them (subtitled or no), but we haven't moved much beyond Kurosawa and Miyazaki.

Also, I don't mind more adult, mature themes no matter how sad or depressing as long as there isn't excessive violence or nudity. I'd like to have a list of films to watch with my kids as they get older.
posted by keith0718 at 1:53 PM on December 31, 2008

I liked Swades a lot, and it can inspire discussion about the "third world" and how we might define success. Another film set in India, Outsourced, comes from a more Western perspective and has a bit of sex talk but is still entertaining and thought-provoking.
posted by PatoPata at 2:02 PM on December 31, 2008

When you say the words 'foreign films' and 'family' in the same sentence, the mind immediately springs to the great Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu. He might be my favorite director; his films are remarkably pure. I mean 'pure' in the sense that he was in pursuit of something singular: the decline of the Japanese family. His films, all 33 of them, were nearly always the same, variations on the same four or five plots; he always filmed with the same camera, at the same angle (the perspective of someone sitting on the floor) with almost no moving shots; he even used the exact same lens. Heck, even the characters' names are usually pretty similar - and there was always at least one shot of a train. His movies are always quiet, gentle, and sparse, and there's little that's unexpected.

Yet no other director has moved me to tears more often. I've never seen movies by anybody else that express such longing, such yearning, and such love. It's not even describable in words, the thing that Ozu somehow expresses in those movies: something about the depth of the connection between human beings, the need we have for it, the inevitability of its loss in our time, and that connection's own ability to deal even with its own death.

I don't know. I can't say why all that is contained in a simple scene where an old man looks for his coat to finish packing so that he and his wife can visit their children, a scene where they hardly talk or move at all, but it's there.

Watch Tokyo Story, then Early Summer, then Early Spring.
posted by koeselitz at 2:07 PM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]

Thinking back to when I was 10, 11, 12 and first seeing these movies, definitely Cinema Paradiso. Also echoing the Marcel Pagnol (Jean de Florette, etc.): My Father's Glory and My Mother's Castle, both from his memoirs.

Others I saw and enjoyed with my family during that time: Au revoir les enfants, Europa Europa (I swear we weren't stuck on WWII stories...), My Life as a Dog.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was wonderful, but the kids behind me were too young (I'd say 6 or 7) to comfortably read the subtitles.

Johnny Stecchino is pretty benign (no pun intended :P) and very funny.

Also, I wouldn't call Delicatessen a family movie, but there's nothing really objectionable (aside from, you know, the cannibalism) and I loved it.
posted by Madamina at 2:08 PM on December 31, 2008

I always liked The Tin Drum, but given the (alleged) controversy around it, it might lean a little closer to the R rating than you like.
posted by timsteil at 2:11 PM on December 31, 2008

Also for French film, classic, brilliant thrillers by Jean-Pierre Melville starring the amazingly stylish and supercool Alain Delon. So I cosign Le Samourai, also see Le Cercle rouge (I see the IMDB has parental guide for that one)..

Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire is regarded as a classic, maybe you've seen that already (personally I do not like it but eh, doesn't matter).

I did like the Dardenne brothers Le Fils a whole lot, as well as Rosetta.

If you can find it, a neat Senegalese film I recommend is La petite vendeuse de soleil aka The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun , and another African film Heremakono (Waiting for Happiness), it's more poetic than plot-driven, but quite beautiful.
posted by citron at 2:12 PM on December 31, 2008

Être et Avoir. "A documentary portrait of a one-room school in rural France, where the students (ranging in age from 4 to 11) are educated by a single dedicated teacher"

Some of the children are very cute, and it's interesting to watch how the teacher deals with harder situations and in general teaching a range of children. Kids might get a kick out of comparing their educational experience to the one depicted in the film.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:16 PM on December 31, 2008

I loved Cinema Paradiso. I thought the Bicycle Thief was very boring. We watched Antonia's Line in class. I thought that was fantastic, but there are a couple of nude scenes, nothing exceedingly graphic that I can remember.
posted by Silvertree at 2:21 PM on December 31, 2008

Alright then -- your kids are lucky. Good job, dad.

I may have misrepresented La Ponette -- I don't think of it as a "depressing" film, despite the subject matter. I think it would be great for your kids, since the adults in the movie are very peripheral.

From Czechoslovakia -- the Shop On Main Street (1965). In short, the main character is forced to make impossible moral choices when the Nazis take over his town (not a lot of on screen violence, as you can guess lots of disturbing implied / offscreen stuff). Guaranteed to generate some good conversations with your kids.

And yeah, it's Japanese, but...if you haven't, get the release of the original version of Godzilla (Gojira). A Genuinely well-made movie, immeasurably better than the American edit.
posted by the bricabrac man at 2:24 PM on December 31, 2008

Good lord, under no circumstances should your 5 and 9 year old be watching the Tin Drum!
posted by the bricabrac man at 2:26 PM on December 31, 2008

Possible content issues:

To Live. Contains a morning-after battlefield scene with corpses, and three off-screen deaths: one in a medical emergency (blood is shown), one by traumatic accident (the body is carried in), and one executed (the gunshot is heard). But a gripping, and beautifully shot, history of an everyman in Communist China. I'd show it to a 17-year-old but not to a sensitive 12-year-old.

The Lives of Others. Different totalitarian regime, similar cinematic sublimity. I might show it to a 15-year-old, but still not to that sensitive 12-year-old. Content summary by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Life is Beautiful. I mean, yes, the second half of the movie is set in a concentration camp, with lots of horrifying forced labor and people who don't come back. But I don't think it passes the bounds of taste by any means.

Amelie. I'd guess you'd want to skip the montage right after she asks herself how many people in Paris are having orgasms right at that instant, and possibly the scene with the sex shop.

Probably no content issues, i.e., I don't remember any and/or you'll have to make your own call:

Mostly Martha, the German original of No Reservations, is wonderful and funny, and meets your content specs. There's a kid who's survived a car crash, a scene where the female lead has just woken up and is in tank top and briefs, and a man who apparently has spent the night at a woman's house.

Autumn Spring. Well, the lead character is an inveterate fraud, but no sex, no violence.

El Amor Brujo. Gypsies, a ghost to be laid, and lots of flamenco.

Big Shot's Funeral. Faced with putting on an impossibly big funeral, a stuck filmmaker turns to corporate sponsorship.

No content issues whatsoever:

Joyeux Noël. Fantastic film. And it's seasonal.

Buena Vista Social Club is a total delight. Technically a U.S. film, but it's a documentary on Cuban musicians, with very little intrusion of U.S. culture. The music and the cinematography are captivating.

I feel like I'm writing one of those Screenit reviews. It's a weird sensation.
posted by eritain at 2:34 PM on December 31, 2008

The Gods Must Be Crazy is in English, has slapstick humor, is very sweet-natured, and teaches Values. Ideal for kids, I should think.

Wings of Desire and Babette's Feast are masterpieces - but it would take an unusually sophisticated child to stay focused on them all the way through.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:35 PM on December 31, 2008

My Life as A Dog. I haven't seen it in years, but I think I am going to put it in my Netflix queue -- really remember loving that movie.
posted by nnk at 2:49 PM on December 31, 2008

Good lord, under no circumstances should your 5 and 9 year old be watching the Tin Drum!

Didn't realize they were that young. Sorry.

How about the original French/Jean Cocteau version of Beauty and the Beast? Lovely b/w film.
posted by timsteil at 2:51 PM on December 31, 2008

For extra credit, compare Le Samourai with one of the Japanese samurai films you've already seen...
posted by gimonca at 3:01 PM on December 31, 2008

Some of my favourite ones that would probably fit your criteria:

Show Me Love / Fucking Åmål (don't be fooled by the title, but it's still not really the kind of movie for conservative parents - it's almost kind of a teen movie, Swedish style)

Kærlighed ved første hik (same as above, but Danish)


The Motorcycle Diaries

Run Lola Run
posted by ryanbryan at 3:02 PM on December 31, 2008

Perhaps the Brazilian film Central Station?
posted by umbú at 3:03 PM on December 31, 2008

Local Hero
Danny Deckchair
posted by halcyon_daze at 3:14 PM on December 31, 2008

Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas It's about a girl who comes back from a foreign exchange trip and finds out her brother ran away (or did he?). There is a sex scene in it, but I'm unsure as to the extent of it, as I watched it in French class and it was quickly fast forwarded through. It was an excellent movie though!
posted by majikstreet at 3:15 PM on December 31, 2008

I just love this movie for some reason and its a new years movie too
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 3:27 PM on December 31, 2008

Mostly Martha is a very charming German film about a very uptight chef who gets custody of her sister's daughter and has to learn to raise's sad in places but very well done.
posted by fantine at 3:42 PM on December 31, 2008

Persepolis (wiki, IMDP) is a story that follows a young girl as she comes of age against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution. It is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including violent images, sexual references, language and brief drug content. It's animated (black and white, adapted from a graphic novel) and dubbed in English and, according to Amazon viewable with subtitles. It's awesome but might go over the heads of younger viewers. I don't remember any graphic violence.
posted by K.P. at 3:46 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon
The village belle goes to Mumbai to become a movie star (like her idol, Madhuri Dixit). It's like a singing, dancing, subtitled version of Enchanted: our heroine is as country as a cornflake, has no idea what is going on, but is so damn adorable that she wins people over and they help her.

Here she is, saving the day when the village projector breaks down in the middle of a showing of Devdas.

Like virtually every Bollywood movie made before, say, 2004, this movie is truly G-rated.
posted by Methylviolet at 3:53 PM on December 31, 2008

How about the original French/Jean Cocteau version of Beauty and the Beast? Lovely b/w film.

I came into this thread specifically to mention this. Great film.
posted by brundlefly at 4:42 PM on December 31, 2008

Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love, and 2046. They're a sort of loose trilogy of films by Wong Kar Wai. Tons of atmosphere, great characters and acting, and beautiful to watch. As I recall, there's not too much objectionable stuff in them - occasional dysfunctional families aside, I recall some implied nudity in 2046 and perhaps some drug references, as well as a gunshot here and there. Perhaps somebody who has seen them more recently than I could verify that; it's been a couple of years since I last watched them and I haven't got the DVDs handy.
posted by sinfony at 5:01 PM on December 31, 2008

Nobody Knows

Small Change

Thirding, My Life as a Dog
posted by cazoo at 5:34 PM on December 31, 2008

Spirited Away, a Japanese animated film by Hayao Miyazaki. It's a beautiful, inspirational piece that's considered to be one of the best animated films of all time. Along with some of the others already mentioned, it's on the IMDb's Top 250 listings. In fact, you could use that list as a reference - everything on it is quality.
posted by Holly at 5:44 PM on December 31, 2008

LOS OLIVDADOS - Buñuel's heartbreaking story of orphans and throw-away children in Mexico City. A tragic story unfolds over the course of the film, but it is suitable for children...

RIFIFI - Probably the greatest heist film of all time was directed by an American in Paris: Jules Dassin. It has a nearly thirty minute, silent heist sequence that is brilliant - but this might not hold the attention of young children. I must also mention that one character's wife briefly appears in a very sheer and very wet blouse - this will hold the attention of young children.

WAGES OF FEAR - A grim and tense film where four outcast/hobo/ex-pats in an undisclosed South American country are hired by an American oil company to complete an impossible mission: hauling nitroglycerin on 500 miles of bad road through the jungle. Might be too cynical for the five year old... just cynical enough for a thirteen year old. If Hitchcock had made a tough guy action film, this would have been it...

SMALL CHANGE - A couple of days in the life of some kids in a small town in France. This is one of my favorite films by François Truffaut and would make a great introduction (for kids) to one of the the major figures of the French New Wave. (By the way, this one is a light hearted comedy!
posted by cinemafiend at 6:01 PM on December 31, 2008

A World Without Thieves
posted by porpoise at 6:39 PM on December 31, 2008

I second Persepolis, Lola Rennt, and Goodbye Lenin. Despite the (surprising!) lack of violence, Der Untergang might be a little too intense for the kids, especially if they know anything about WWII. (Oh, god, the scene with Frau Goebbels and her kids...) When they're older, though, the film might be fascinating paired with the documentary Im toten Winkel - Hitlers Sekretärin, which consists of interviews with Traudl Junge.

Someone above mentioned Hero; a lot of Zhang Yimou's movies might actually work well. Though his more recent ones have a lot more fighting, it's mostly very stylized - it's nothing like the fighting in American films (all guns, blood, and explosions.) House of Flying Daggers and Curse of the Golden Flower are both along those lines. Raise the Red Lantern is a much more adult and depressing drama; though the main character is a concubine and though a character dies, the sex/violence aspects are pretty subtle and your oldest kid might be ready for it in a few years.

A good many films by great directors from the middle of the 20th century qualify on the not-much-explicit-sex-or-violence front, but are still probably not great for kids as young as the ones in your family. (Many films by directors like Fassbinder, Herzog, Bergman, or Truffaut, for example, would qualify on the sex/violence front, but might still be too adult for your kids to understand. Although, now that I think about it, I could see Fitzcarraldo working - it's more whimsical than most of Herzog's stuff.)
posted by ubersturm at 6:51 PM on December 31, 2008

Response by poster: This looks great. Thanks for all the recommendations everybody. Feel free to add or MeFi Mail me with more!

More thoughts on violence: I don't really mind "excessive" violence as long as it's not gratuitous and an end in itself. For instance, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, and Princess Mononoke (or Braveheart or High Noon) are violent films, but the story is about good attempting to overcome evil when violence is unavoidable. That's part of the world we live in and I want my kids to know stories like those when they are at an appropriate age.

re: mudgirl: The Third Man and Bicycle Thief are great films.

re: citron: Hero was great.

re: eritain: Joyeux Noël is a seasonal fave around here.

re: halcyon_daze: Danny Deckchair was cute.

re: cinemafiend: lol. We're watching Wages of Fear tonight.
posted by keith0718 at 6:59 PM on December 31, 2008

Some of my all time favorites, and fun for the family, are Jacques Tati's films. These are practically a genre of their own. They are movies with a slow, pleasant pace, and lots of visual and audio charm. Not big on plot. Subtle sight gags. Quiet funny things.

Mon Oncle is my favorite. Here's a clip.
Mr. Hulot's Holiday is a classic. Clip.
Playtime is his response to the "modern" Paris of the late 60's. Filmed in a mock high rise city constructed entirely for the film. Clip.

The Tati website.
posted by ecorrocio at 7:07 PM on December 31, 2008

Off the top of my head...

For outside-Japanese films, I liked Nueve Reinas, aka Nine Queens. An Argentinian film, it's rated R, but for language. Just so you can judge whether it's okay for your family, a small part of the language references adult situations, but it's not the main theme of the film. The premise of the movie is more of a psychological crime story, a big con game.

I know you wanted non-Japanese, but I have to recommend the anime Tokyo Godfathers. Brief scene of a breast-feeding in progress, but it's not gratuitous nor excessive (in my opinion).
posted by CancerMan at 7:39 PM on December 31, 2008

I believe a few of these have already been said, but I'll agree with Cinema Paradiso and any Jacques Tati movie (namely, Les Vacances des Monsieur Hulot and Mon Oncle. Oh! And, if your family likes Hitchcock, try the original Les Diaboliques with Simonne Signore. This movie blew me away when I first saw it. Since Tati and Cinema Paradiso have already been mentioned, I'm stressing Les Diaboliques as my primary suggestion.

My Mom's a bit of a prude, but I wouldn't hesitate showing any of these movies to her.
posted by Mael Oui at 7:45 PM on December 31, 2008

Great thread, with some of my absolute favorites on here. Just chiming in to second, as strongly as possible, The Lives of Others (it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film a couple of years ago, and it's easily one of my favorite films of the past decade), as well as to add Burnt By the Sun to the list (also a Best Foreign Film winner).

Yes, evidently I have a soft spot for heartbreaking tragedies under totalitarian regimes.
posted by scody at 8:25 PM on December 31, 2008

I'm a big fan of Persepolis.

You might try Bend It Like Beckham.
posted by lukemeister at 9:59 PM on December 31, 2008

Definitely My Life as a Dog, and I also recommend "Show me Love/Fucking Åmål", and perhaps some of the other Lucas Moodysson movies. Some other Swedish family films you might enjoy are Fanny & Alexander and Ronja Rövardotter. I might also recommend House of Angels and Let the Right One In.
posted by gemmy at 10:17 PM on December 31, 2008

Bon Voyage (2003)
posted by estherbester at 10:47 PM on December 31, 2008

Also, one of the greatest films ever made, and certainly the greatest Indian film ever made (in my humble opinion) is the absolutely gorgeous Pather Panchali, the first film of the great Satyajit Ray. This movie made the child in me long to run around amongst the ancient temple ruins of India and play there in the jungles; it's also sad and beautiful. I highly recommend it.
posted by koeselitz at 11:36 PM on December 31, 2008

* Goodbye, Lenin! - Really nice film about a son whose mother wakes up from a coma and doesn't know the Berlin wall has fallen. Her son tries to hide this fact from her to spare her the shock. Rated R, but I can't recall why.
* Valentin - Precocious kid tries to solve his family's problems. Cute.
* Children of Heaven - About a little boy who loses his sister's shoes, and the lengths he goes to to get them back.
* My Best Friend - French antique dealer treats everyone as a customer until he meets a friendly taxi driver, who tries to teach him about friendship.

These don't count as foreign, per se, but:
* Once - Wonderful musical film about an Irish street musician and the woman he falls for. Rated R strictly for language, which is fucking ridiculous.
* Dear Frankie - Really, really sweet movie about a mother who makes her son believe his absent father still cares.
* Slumdog Millionaire - Violent in spots and unflinching in its portrayal of slums, but beautifully shot and ultimately uplifting story of love and persistence triumphing over all obstacles.
posted by cnc at 12:10 AM on January 1, 2009

Can't resist: M. Hulot plays tennis.
posted by gimonca at 12:59 AM on January 1, 2009

Many films by directors like Fassbinder, Herzog, Bergman, or Truffaut, for example, would qualify on the sex/violence front, but might still be too adult for your kids to understand.

Yeah, that's the deal: there's a ton of things I could recommend that would technically have no violence or nudity, but aren't suitable for general family viewing. I enjoyed Buñuel's Diary of a Chambermaid, but I wouldn't want to be stuck explaining why the old man was so keen on having Jeanne Moreau wear those particular, very special lace-up boots.
posted by gimonca at 1:08 AM on January 1, 2009

Example. Oh, YouTube, how did we ever live without you?
posted by gimonca at 1:14 AM on January 1, 2009

Just now watching Gregory's Girl again. It's very family friendly, there's is a hint of nudity in the first two minutes but after the titles start, it's very tame.

These other recommendations are also British (maybe not foreign enough?):

Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself
The Snapper
Brassed Off
Educating Rita
Cold Comfort Farm
Billy Liar

I also really recommend these two Czech films:

Fantastic Planet (animation, joint effort with French artists, available in French or English)
posted by i_love_squirrels at 3:45 AM on January 1, 2009

I love the short films of Georges Méliès. Le Voyage dans la Lune is the most famous, but there's heaps and they're really sweet and often quite hilarious. He was a very early French filmmaker so they're silent (some have subtitles for the intertitles), but I think people of any age would find them really enjoyable. He was originally a magician, so his films contain some of the earliest special effects. You can buy various DVDs, but you can probably find a lot of them on the web.
posted by Emilyisnow at 5:31 AM on January 1, 2009

Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion is pretty good one of the greatest movies ever made, and his Rules of the Game (La Règle du jeu) is even better. No one who cares about movies should grow up without seeing those, and they're certainly not excessively violent (though there's a hunting scene in the latter that disturbs my wife, who hates seeing animals killed).

Marcel Pagnol's Fanny Trilogy (Marius/Fanny/César) is superb: heartwarming and heartbreaking, with terrific acting (and shot on location in the old port city of Marseille). (But for God's sake watch the Pagnol original, not the hideous American remake TMC keeps showing.)

I can't believe no one's mentioned Krzysztof Kieslowski; just about any of his films, but especially the Three Colors trilogy (Red, White, Blue).

Claude Berri's Jean de Florette and its sequel Manon des sources are a terrific family saga.

And another trilogy: Abbas Kiarostami's Where Is the Friend's Home? (about a schoolboy's epic quest to return his classmate's notebook), And Life Goes on... (about the director and his son visiting the town the first was filmed in to see what happened to the actors after a terrible earthquake), and Under the Olive Trees (about a tentative romance between two of the actors in the previous one). In fact, you should really seek out as many Iranian movies as you can find; they're by definition family-friendly (since you can't make any other kind of movie there), and since the '80s it's been one of the great cinematic countries in the world. Start with Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, both as great as anyone who's ever directed a movie, and branch out from there. Further recommendations on request!
posted by languagehat at 7:23 AM on January 1, 2009

The Red Balloon?
The last 8 minutes are on youtube but don't watch more than a few minutes or you'll spoil the ending for yourself. Released in 1956 it's not just another place but another time ad well.
posted by BoscosMom at 10:26 AM on January 1, 2009

OSS 177: Cairo, Nest of Spies is a hilarious spoof of James Bondesque spy films. If I recall correctly, there's nothing family-unfriendly in there.
posted by altcountryman at 4:25 PM on January 1, 2009

Definitely see this one: Khosla ka ghosla
posted by bbyboi at 1:10 AM on January 2, 2009

I know you mentioned in a follow-up message that you're wanting to move beyond Japanese films, but I seriously cannot recommend Kikujiro enough. It's one of my absolute favorite films. IMDB says it's PG-13 for "threatening situations", but I'm pretty sure there's also an extremely brief scene of full frontal male nudity. It's not of a sexual nature, though. I could also be misremembering the scene; the character may have been wearing a tiny thong-type underwear. Regardless, it's brief and I wouldn't worry about showing it to my children, if I had any.

It's available through Netflix, but I had trouble finding a copy for purchase(finally scored one when a local video store was closing up shop permanently).
posted by owtytrof at 1:43 PM on January 2, 2009

Keith, we are exactly like you (except we only have two kids and they are 12 and 9) but we look for out-of-the-box movies for our kids and don't mind non-gratuitous violence and/or sexual situations.

I'm so glad you posted this because I was looking for recommendations exactly like these (I found this page by googling foreign family film recommendations) and there are excellent suggestions, but with your kids' age range and having a feel for what you're looking for (we are HUGE Miyazaki fans and own every movie of his) may I boldly say the first two films you should rent for your family are:

"Children of Heaven" (Iranian; already recommended by someone and one of the most poignant and beautiful films I've ever seen [and there is NOTHING objectionable in it]; my kids both loved it and we now own a copy) and

"Rabbit Proof Fence" (Australian, ditto on the poignancy and beauty; it has cruelty/bigotry involved and a mild sexual scene as the only "negative" things). Just trust me, even though I'm a complete stranger, and put these two top on your list and I *guarantee* you will not regret it! I created a MeFi account _solely_ to recommend these two to you; that's how strongly I feel!
posted by cbatmefi at 6:46 AM on January 3, 2009

Response by poster: re: cbatmefi: I created a MeFi account _solely_ to recommend these two to you; that's how strongly I feel!

LOL. Welcome to MeFi and thanks for the recommendations!
posted by keith0718 at 9:42 AM on January 4, 2009

Just came to mind: Not One Less. Absolutely beautiful movie.
posted by puritycontrol at 8:42 AM on January 23, 2009

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