Netflix is full of intriguing hidden gems, many of which are foreign films or shows. Foreign programs fly under the radar with English-speaking audiences because most viewers are reluctant to breach the barrier of subtitles. There’s also the matter of certain things getting lost in translation.
Thanks to streaming sites like Netflix, watching shows of any genre or culture has never been easier. Viewers have unlimited access to media that they wouldn’t normally watch. Foreign films and series are still an area that is underappreciated by American and English-speaking Netflix viewers, though plenty of them are worthy of critical acclaim.
Updated on March 25th, 2021 by Svetlana Sterlin: Global audiences and critics are starting to open up to foreign media and thus, remove the barrier that separates it from mainstream media. Parasite winning Best Picture at the 2020 Academy Awards has been a significant step forward, and in 2021, Minari is nominated in 6 mainstream categories – as it should be. When it comes to television, there’s still room for improvement, but critical attention is starting to change that. Here is an updated list of the top-rated foreign series on Netflix, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
13 Dark (95%)
- 1 13 Dark (95%)
- 2 12 Unorthodox (96%)
- 3 11 Kingdom (96%)
- 4 10 Elite (97%)
- 5 9 Fauda (100%)
- 6 8 Borgen (100%)
- 7 7 Erased (100%)
- 8 6 Osmosis (100%)
- 9 5 Call My Agent! (100%)
- 10 4 Suburra: Blood On Rome (100%)
- 11 3 Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman (100%)
- 12 2 Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories (100%)
- 13 1 Babylon Berlin (100%)
A popular German show, Dark tells the tale of four families whose secrets and double lives get unexpectedly brought to light after they begin searching for two missing children.
The creators never hold back when telling the ominous and bleak story, keeping this sci-fi drama at the forefront of viewers’ mind for weeks. Although dark and solemn, this show is extremely clever with fantastic acting and beautiful scenery to accompany an interesting and shocking tale.
12 Unorthodox (96%)
Loosely based on Deborah Feldman’s 2012 autobiography Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection Of My Hasidic Roots, this Yiddish series opens viewers’ eyes to a somewhat unfamiliar culture.
A young woman flees her arranged marriage in Brooklyn and heads to live her own life in Berlin. Unorthodox is a captivating look into multiple faiths and cultures that aren’t often featured onscreen. Ultimately, this is a story of rebellion and self-discovery, with a thrilling tale mixed in.
11 Kingdom (96%)
This South Korean zombie series is filled with standout moments and interesting lessons set against a rich culture. It tells the tale of a prince tasked with saving his people after the king rises from the dead, bringing a mysterious plague with him.
Zombie stories have been done before, in almost every context, genre, and subject imaginable, but Kingdom is a whole other ballgame. This is a historical, political, and zombie drama all mixed into one with the right amount of horror thrown in just when it matters. As Netflix’s first original Korean series, Kingdom is not to be missed.
10 Elite (97%)
At first glance, this show looks like a simple teen drama set in an elite private school, but its appeal reaches far beyond the surface. Elite begins when three working-class kids are allowed to attend an exclusive private school after their old school is closed, which causes tension and hostility that eventually leads to murder.
This shocking drama is extremely easy to binge thanks to its gripping storyline and distinctive characters. Not only does it have an interesting storyline but it also covers important subject matter such as class inequality, xenophobia, and the stigma surrounding HIV.
9 Fauda (100%)
When a top Israeli agent is forced to come out of retirement to fight a Palestinian fighter, a series of chaotic and deadly events unfolds. This thriller is gritty and fast-paced, fuelled by captivating performances.
It’s easy to see why this series earned a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with its careful nuance and intriguing plot. The show is also complex in its exploration of morals through its main characters.
8 Borgen (100%)
This award-winning Danish drama is a thrilling political show that was added to Netflix in 2020. It begins when Birgitte Nyborg becomes the first female Prime Minister of Denmark in a shocking win.
However, her struggles only begin when she claims her new position. From political struggles to those more personal, the show is a realistic exploration of political tension. A fourth season was announced to be in pre-production in 2020, seven years after the conclusion of its first three seasons.
7 Erased (100%)
Inspired by a manga comic of the same name, this Japanese show tells the story of a time-traveling son who finds his mother has been murdered. He travels eighteen years into the past to prevent her death and those of his three classmates.
What makes this show so appealing is its intense and addictive tone. Gripping and well-structured, the story is fuelled by suspense that leaves viewers struggling to drag their eyes away.
6 Osmosis (100%)
This French show rings like an episode of Black Mirror. It’s all about a dating app that matches people with their soulmates based on analyzing their brain data. However, when it begins becoming sentient, everything is thrown into disarray.
This sci-fi drama is well-paced and full of twists and turns and seeing Paris of the near future is exciting in itself. The show brings into question what true love really is and whether it can ever truly be understood.
5 Call My Agent! (100%)
This lively and energetic French comedy has only recently started gaining the attention it deserves, perhaps due to its recent cancelation. After four seasons, the funny, well-written and performed series has come to an end, leaving many fans sad to see it go.
The series follows a group of agents at a Paris talent firm called A.S.K. as they struggle to keep their famous clients happy and the business alive. The main characters, Mathias, Gabriel, and Andréa, fumble their personal and professional lives as they give themselves to their stars.
4 Suburra: Blood On Rome (100%)
Inspired by a real political scandal in 2008, a fight begins over a seaside town just outside of Rome, which ends up spiraling into a battle between corrupt politicians, vicious gangs, and the Vatican itself.
This show is fast-paced, entertaining, and addicting. The surreal story is well supported by its stellar cast of actors and their respective characters. Each character justifies their reasons behind the decisions they make, and even when they seem questionable, viewers can find some way to empathize with them.
3 Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman (100%)
This endearing comedy follows an elite publishing sales rep by the name of Ametani Kantarou. He’s a great representative, wrapping up every case in record time – but not for the reasons one might assume.
Kantarou, as the title suggests, has a killer sweet tooth. He hurries his client visits so that he can secretly indulge in all of his favorite sweet treats, which makes for some pretty entertaining scenes.
2 Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories (100%)
The Midnight Diner, called Meshiya, is located in a back alley of a busy Tokyo district. Its nickname comes from it unusual opening hours – midnight to 7:00am – which don’t seem to ward away potential customers.
A fun motley of characters visit the diner at all hours of the night, coming in to try the Master’s cooking. Though the diner offers a menu, the Master often prepares whatever his guests request. The guests also feel nourished in their souls at this safe diner.
1 Babylon Berlin (100%)
In 1920s Germany, police commissioner Gereon Rath is transferred from Cologne to Berlin, the epicenter of sociopolitical upheaval during the 20s. Still reeling from his service in World War I, he begins to investigate one of the city’s biggest pornography rings.
During his investigations, he uncovers a dangerous web of mystery, but it’s not the only conspiracy he should be worried about. When Soviet supporters of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky hijack a train, it becomes clear that there’s a much larger issue at hand.
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