Top foreign movies from 2000 to 2010

Isabelle Huppert

Isabelle Huppert stars in White Material

2000 to 2010 was a great decade for foreign, i.e. non-American, movies. Some of the truly great movies of that decade were made outside the Hollywood system, including Michael Haneke's French-language Cache (2005) and German The Lives of Others (2006) by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

Hollywood movies are market-driven. No harm there except that the Hollywood system, which has to put as many butts on cinema seats as possible, is terrified of taking risks, making movies that are open-ended, intellectually demanding, or even slow-paced. Holywood movies have to be simple, to the point, and most of all entertaining. Here, we celebrate international cinema with 10 great foreign movies.

2000: Amores Perros

Amores Perros: Mexico, 2000. English title: Love's A Bitch. Written by Guillermo Arriaga Jordan. Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

Amores Perros movie poster

Amores Perros, Mexico, 2000

No Man's Land

No Man's Land, Bosnia, 2001

The Man Without A Past movie poster

The Man Without A Past, Finland, 2002

The Twilight Samurai, movie poster

The Twilight Samurai, Japan, 2003

Downfall movie poster

Downfall, German, 2004

Mad Max movie poster

Cache, France, 2005

The Lives Of Others movie poster

The Lives Of Others, Germany, 2006

Beaufort movie poster

Beaufort, Israel, 2007

Just Another Love Story, movie poster

Just Another Love Story, Denmark, 2008

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo movie poster

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Sweden, 2009

White Material movie poster

White Material, France, 2010

Starring: Gael García Bernal, Goya Toledo, Emilio Echevarria.

Plot: Three intertwining stories told with three characters in three chapters, each involving dogs.

Factoids: Oscar-nominated, losing out to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, directed by Ang Lee and starring Michelle Yeoh.

Amores Perros was Gael García Bernal's breakthrough to an international movie career. He has since starred in Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Science of Sleep, The Motorcycle Diaries, Babel, and Letters to Juliet.

2001: No Man's Land

No Man's Land: Bosnia & Herzegovina, 2001. Written and directed by Danis Tanovic.

Starring: Branco Djuric, Rene Bitorajac, Filip Sovagovic, Katrin Cartlidge, Simon Callow,

Plot: Set during the war in Bosnia, Ciki and Nino, a Bosnian and a Serb, are soldiers stranded in No Man's Land. To make matters worse, a fellow soldier is lying on a bomb that will explode if he moves.

Factoids: Oscar winner. Best foreign language film at the 2001 Golden Globe Awards. Best screenplay at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival.

2002: The Man Without A Past

The Man Without A Past: Finland, 2002. Written and directed by Aki Kaurismaki.

Starring: Markku Peltola, Juhani Niemela, Kati Outinen.

Plot: A man loses his memory when he is beaten and robbed by thugs. He is pronounced dead in hospital, but soon after he sits up and walks out. He must then build a new lfe from scratch.

Factoids: Oscar-nominated. Won the Grand Prix of The Jury Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Won the Swedish Guldbagge Award for best foreign film.

The film is the second installment in Kaurismäki's Finland trilogy, the other films are Drifting Clouds and Lights in the Dusk.

2003: The Twilight Samurai

The Twilight Samurai: Japan, 2003. Written by Yoji Yamada and Yoshitaka Asama. Directed by Yoji Yamada.

Starring: Hiroyuki Sanada, Nenji Kobayashi, Ren Osugi, Rie Miyazawa.

Plot: Set in 19th century Japan, it follows the everyday struggles of Seibei Iguchi (Hiroyuki Sanada), a low-ranking samurai. Though poor, he lives happily with his daughters and senile mother until he is given an assignment to kill Yogo (Min Tanaka) which could cost him his life.

Factoids: The Bushido Code, Way of the Warrior, governing Samurai behavior states: One who is a samurai must before all things keep in mind, by day, and by night, the fact that he has to die. That is his chief business.

2004: Downfall

Downfall: Germany, 2004. Written by Bernd Eichinger. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel.

Starring: Bruno Ganz (Hitler), Alexandra Maria Lara (Traudl Junge), Corinna Harfouch (Magda Goebbels), Ulrich Matthes (Joseph Goebbels), Juliane Köhler (Eva Braun), Thomas Kretschmann (Hermann Fegelein).

Plot: Depicts the last ten days of Adolf Hitler's life in his Berlin bunker during the Second World War in 1945.

Factoids: Oscar-nominated. Won the 2005 BBC Four World Cinema competition.

Director's comment about Hitler: We know from all accounts that he was a very charming man -- a man who managed to seduce a whole people into barbarism.

2005: Cache

Cache: France, 2005. Written and directed by Michael Haneke.

Starring: Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil, Maurice Bénichou.

Plot: On the surface, this is a story of surveillance and trying to find out who is watching you and why. But it is also about what's hidden in our lives and the secrets and lies we refuse to talk about. It's also about post-colonial guilt.

Like all Haneke movies, it is distinctly anti-Hollywood. He refuses to reveal the identiy of the man monitoring the hero's (Daniel Auteuil) life, it is considered by many critics to be one of the top five movies of the decade.

Factoids: At the 2005 European Film Awards, Cache won Best European Film, Best European Director, Best European Actor (Daniel Auteuil), and Best European Editor.

2006: The Lives Of Others

The Lives of Others: Germany, 2006. Written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

Starring: Ulrich Mühe, Martina Gedeck, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur.

Plot: On the orders of an East German party leader, Stasi agent Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) monitors the life of writer playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) with orders to find incriminating evidence against him. Dreyman's lover Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck) is recruited by Stasi to share secrets about him. During the bugging of Dreyman's apartment, Wiesler loses his faith in East German style socialism/communism.

Factoids: This superb, accomplished movie is the feature film debut of writer and director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. It is one of the best movies of the 2000s, Hollywood included.

It won an Oscar, and seven Deutscher Filmpreis awards -- including best film, best director, best screenplay, best actor, and best supporting actor.

2007: Beaufort

Beaufort: Israel, 2007. Written by Ron Leshem and Joseph Cedar. Directed by Joseph Cedar.

Starring: Oshri Cohen, Itay Tiran, Eli Eltonyo, Ohad Knoller, Itay Turgeman.

Plot: Daily routine of Israeli soldiers as they prepare to withdraw from southern Lebanon in 2000.

Factoids: Oscar-nominated. One of the most successful Israeli movies of all time, it made US$500,000 in the first 3 weeks of its release in Israel.

2008: Just Another Love Story

Just Another Love Story: Denmark, 2008. Written and directed by Ole Bornedal.

Starring: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Charlotte Fich, Dejan Cukic.

Plot: Dark, violent movie narrated in flashbacks by a dying man. It's about love, stolen identity, and obsession told in a film noir style.

Factoids: The film has been described as Lars von Trier meets Micahel Haneke. That might just be name-dropping by a desperate film critic, but it conveys the idea of a movie that's more about the trip than the plot.

2009: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: Sweden, 2009. Written by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev.

Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre.

Plot: Troubled computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Michael Nyqvist join forces to solve the mystery of a woman who has disappeared from her wealthy family.

Factoids: Won the 2009 Guldbagge Award (Swedish Oscar) for best film, best actress (Noomi Rapace), and the Guldbagge Film Audience Award. Dragon Tattoo is the first in a trilogy of Swedish films, which also includes The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest.

Based on the international best-selling book by the late Swedish author/journalist Stieg Larsson. The Swedish title of the book and movie, Man Som Hatar Kvinnor, means Men Who Hate Women.

Social Network director David Fincher is directing an American-English remake (2011) of Dragon Tattoo starring Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, and Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgard, Joely Richardson.

2010: White Material

White Material: France, 2010 (USA release). Written by Claire Denis and Marie NDiaye. Directed by Claire Denis

Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Christopher Lambert, Nicolas Duvauchelle as Manuel, Isaach de Bankole.

Plot: Isabelle Huppert plays Maria Vial, a French woman trying to run her family's coffee plantation in an unnamed African country (it was filmed in Cameroon) which is falling apart as rebels try to take over and kick out the colonialists. Although her life is in danger, Maria refuses to leave.

Factoids: The director Claire Denis, an important French director, raised in French Colonial Africa (Burkina Faso, Somalia, Senegal and Cameroon). Her first film, Chocolat (1988), was set there, and also starred Isaach De Bankole.

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