Put These Foreign-Language Films at the Top of Your Fam's Must-Watch List
Broaden your movie horizons — and your imaginations — by adding these subtitled films to your next family movie night!
Maria Bailey and Sarah Burns
No one said it better than Oscar-winning director Bong Joon-ho: “Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of the subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” And foreign-language films for kids are no exception! There are so many amazing subtitled movies out there for little film enthusiasts that are not only enchanting to watch but also provide exposure to foreign languages and cultures — and reportedly improve reading, listening, and writing comprehension, too! Experience the world through these magical films that take the imaginations of young viewers to far-reaching places.
1. My Neighbor Totoro (Japan)
One of the most beloved family films of all time, My Neighbor Totoro is a 1988 Japanese fantasy film that follows the adventures of Satsuki and her four-year-old sister Mei. Their move to the countryside takes an exciting turn when they meet their neighbor, Totoro: a larger than life mysterious forest spirit who children can only see. Join them on their exciting journey by watching the original subtitled film (rated G) on Google Play, or watch the English-dubbed version featuring the voices of real-life sisters Elle and Dakota Fanning on HBO Max.
2. The Way Home (South Korea)
A heartwarming story about the bond between grandparents and their grandchildren, The Way Home is a South Korean film about a city kid from Seoul who is sent to live with his mute grandmother in the countryside. The change of scenery is quite an adjustment for the challenging 7-year-old, but he learns to love it and his blossoming relationship with his grandmother. Watch the uplifting story (rated PG) that is sure to pull on everyone’s heartstrings here.
3. Anina (Uruguay and Colombia)
Meet Anina Yatay Salas: a ten-year-old girl whose name — consisting of three palindromes (which can be read the same backward and forwards) — spells trouble! She becomes the subject of teasing at school because of it, leading to a playground fight with a classmate that results in a bizarre punishment. All ages can watch this beautifully animated film from Uruguay and Colombia on Amazon Prime that follows Anina’s delightful journey of self-discovery.
4. Wadjda (Saudi Arabia)
Nothing is stopping Wadjda, an independent, free-spirited 10-year-old Arabic girl, from accomplishing her dream: buying and riding a bicycle. To Wadjda, a bike represents freedom — freedom from patriarchal dominance, as well as a chance for her to beat Abdullah, the boy (who she shouldn't be playing with) that lives next door. Does she overcome life's setbacks to achieve her goal? Find out in Saudi Arabia's first feature film, which is also the first to be directed by a Saudi woman. This inspiring story — on and off-screen — can be viewed with parental guidance on Netflix.
5. Mirai (Japan)
Not everyone is thrilled about the arrival of baby Mirai. This Japanese animated feature follows a 4-year-old boy named Kun, who becomes increasingly jealous of his sister after she arrives into the world and diverts his parents' love and affection. Kun storms off into the garden, where he encounters characters from the past and future — including his baby sister as a teenager. Together, the two go on an adventure through time, uncovering their family's story in the process. Join them on their travels by watching this enchanting (PG-rated) film on Netflix.
6. The Cave of the Yellow Dog (Mongolia)
Be transported to the plains of Mongolia to follow the daily lives of a nomadic family — in particular, a young girl named Nansal. After discovering a stray dog while working the fields, Nansal brings it home to her family’s yurt. Her father, fearful that her new four-legged friend will attract wolves, demands that she leave it behind when they move on for winter. The question is: what does she do? Filmed on location in the Altai region on the Mongolian steppe, The Cave of the Yellow Dog stars five members of a real nomad family, none of whom have acted before, effectively blending documentary and fiction. Suitable for all ages, watch this powerfully moving film here.
7. Dangal (India)
Prepared to be floored by the performances in Dangal that are girl power epitomized! The 2016 Hindi-language sports drama follows the extraordinary true story of Mahavir Singh, a once-promising wrestler who pursues the gold medal he never won by training his daughters to compete in the Commonwealth Games. Rated PG-TV, this feel-good movie on Netflix will leave the whole family feeling inspired.
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