World cinema – recommendations for newbies

I got into world cinema many years ago whilst at university. The films we were required to watch really broadened my horizons and I’ve been hooked on finding unknown gems ever since. There’s a whole world (literally haha) of great films out there that maybe we don’t dive into because we wouldn’t know where to start, how would we know what will be a film we’ll enjoy or one we’ll hate? Well taste is subjective of course but with this blog I’m hoping to give some personal recommendations that span a number of genres so hopefully, if you’re thinking about diving into world cinema then you’ll find something to your liking. I’ve been deliberately brief about each film so as a) not to spoil it and give too much away or b) be boring! Feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments.


Film: Spirited Away

spirited away

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure/Cartoon.


Arguably one of Studio Ghibli’s best known productions and from the wonderfully talented Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited away tells the story of a 10 year old girl who’s unhappy to be moving house and during a detour, discovers  the Land of the Spirits. This was one of the first pieces of ‘anime’ I’d watched and immediately fell in love with the works of Studio Ghibli and more so, Miyazaki. Spirited away is wonderfully drawn, animated and brought to life; its story and themes are well structured and once you’ve seen it you’ll understand why it was one of the most successful films of all time in Japan.

You may also like:  Howls Moving Castle, 5 Centimetres per Second and My Neighbour Totoro.


Film: Amelie


Genre: Romantic Comedy/Drama


I fell in love with this film years ago and absolutely adore Audrey Tatou who plays Amelie. This is a wonderful story about the discovery of a tin box full of old memories which leads to Amelie helping others to find true love and happiness.

You may also like: A Very Long Engagement and Brotherhood of the Wolf.


Film: [REC]


Genre: Horror/Thriller


This has been re-made by the Americans (renamed Quarantine) but despite being almost a shot-for-shot remake, REC seems to me to be the better version. A team of local reporters are shadowing firemen on duty when a virus spreads through the building they’re in and the CDC (or Spanish equivalent!) quarantine them inside. This is your typical ‘zombie’ movie shot surprisingly nicely in the ‘hand-held’ camera style that the industry have done to death in recent years.

You may also like: Ring, Shutter and Premonition.



Film: Timecrimes

time crimes

Genre: Sci-fi/Thriller


I hadn’t heard of this until a friend bought it for my birthday last year and I really enjoyed it. The main protagonist (Hector) accidentally gets into a time machine and travels back in time an hour. The theme is primarily about time travel and fixing messes (as we’ve seen in the likes of Triangle and Source Code) done in a very low-budget but effective way.

You may also like: Fermat’s Room.


Film: The Orphanage

the orphanage

Genre: Supernatural Thriller/Drama/Mystery

Laura returns to the orphanage where she was raised, with her husband and her son Simon to restore and reopen the house as a home for disabled children. When Simon goes missing, Laura is convinced that something long-hidden and terrible is lurking in the old house. This is one of my favourite films, it is NOT a cheap jump-out-your seat horror, it’s a beautifully told and sad tale with a supernatural element.

You may also like: Pan’s Labyrinth, The City of Lost Children.


Film: Troll Hunter

 troll hunter

Genre: Fantasy/Thriller


I’d heard that this was an excellent film but was reluctant to watch it because the concept seemed ridiculous.  In essence, it does what it says on the box… it is about a troll hunter and a group of students who trail him to get their footage. I was happy to be proven wrong… this is a fantastic gem of a film, told as documentary with little slices of humour woven in.

You may also like: Death Note, Let the Right One in.


2 thoughts on “World cinema – recommendations for newbies

  1. I’ve not heard of 5 Centimetres per Second, I’ll have to give that a try. I do love the Studio Ghibli films: Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away especially. Ponyo is also very sweet. Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke have more adult themes.
    Tekkonkinkreet, a manga animation, immediately sprang to mind. I guess that leads on to other manga like Ghost in the Shell and Akira.
    The only other foreign language film that leaps to mind right now is the French Tell No-one, which I seem to remember was very good.
    Oh, and I absolutely love Pan’s Labyrinth, that you’ve already mentioned. Beautiful, magical, shocking and terribly sad in places.
    Just seen you’re mention of Ring. Ring and Ring O are terrific; I also like Dark Water, Audition and (Ju-On) The Grudge.

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