With summer ahead, we confront an anemic tourist season. For the majority of us, short trips by car may be the best move; overseas travel, not so much.
Though there’s a long road ahead, I choose to believe it will all come back: both overseas travel, and more broadly, our desire for shared communal experiences, like eating out and...going to the movies.
Let’s not forget a century ago, when the 1919 Influenza outbreak was followed by the Roaring Twenties. It is in our genes to seek discovery, happiness and fulfillment, together.
Until those bright, active days return, outstanding international films can help satisfy that yearning for far-off places. Below are ten special Netflix titles that should satisfy your itch to travel the world.
MEXICO: Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
Alfonso Cuaron’s sensual film follows two late teens (Gabriel Garcia-Bernal and Diego Luna) on summer vacation in Mexico. They meet sexy Luisa (Maribel Verdu), ten years’ their senior, and invite her on a road trip. To their surprise, she accepts. Spicy fun and heartbreak ensue.
Full review here. | Stream now on Netflix. Also available on Criterion Channel, Apple iTunes, Amazon Video.
INDIA: Lagaan (2001)
In late nineteenth-century India, a cruel English officer forces local villagers into a game of cricket, saying they’ll be exempt from taxes if they win, but incur triple the taxes if they lose. Problem: the villagers have never played cricket! Long at well over three hours, but incredibly entertaining and involving.
Full review here. | Stream now on Netflix.
POLAND: The Pianist (2002)
In Roman Polanski’s harrowing war film, Adrien Brody is a gifted Jewish concert pianist caught in Warsaw just as the Nazis invade. His world of comfort over, he eludes capture and goes into hiding. But the Nazis are everywhere. Brody deservedly won a best actor Oscar for this.
Full review here. | Stream now on Netflix. Also available on CBS All Access Amazon Channel, Amazon Prime Video, DIRECTV, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Vudu, Microsoft Store, AMC on Demand, Redbox, FandangoNOW.
URUGUAY: Whisky (2004)
This offbeat, deadpan delight concerns an eccentric factory owner who, on the death of a parent, must host his visiting younger brother, who’s dynamic and successful. To impress him, he asks a female employee to pose as his wife during the visit. Various complications ensue. Priceless!
Full review here. | Stream now on Netflix. Also available on Fandor, Amazon Prime Video.
HUNGARY: The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)
The title character is a forgotten old man, alcoholic and destitute. When he experiences severe chest pains, he gets thrust into Romania’s cold, archaic health care system. It sounds sad, and is, but this memorable film is also leavened with moments of humor and humanity. A keeper.
Full review here. | Stream now on Netflix. Also available on Kanopy, VUDU, Mubi.
SPAIN: Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
As the Spanish civil war ends, a young girl moves to a farmhouse with her pregnant mother and nasty stepfather. One day, she wanders into a magical garden, and is swept away into a wondrous, sometimes frightening fantasy world. Directed by Guillermo del Toro, this hypnotic film earned three Oscar nods.
Full review here. | Stream now on Netflix. Also available on Starz Play Amazon Channel, Apple iTunes, Vudu, Microsoft Store, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube, AMC on Demand, Redbox, FandangoNOW.
SOUTH AFRICA: District 9 (2009)
Fast paced, clever sci-fi picture from director Neil Blomkamp has extra-terrestrials landing in Johannesburg, and being relegated to slums. Now the authorities want to move them to even less hospitable dwellings. This transition is anything but smooth, with one state security agent (Sharlto Copley) in the thick of it.
Full review here. | Stream now on Netflix. Also available on Amazon Prime Video, Apple iTunes, Vudu, Google Play Movies, YouTube, AMC on Demand, DIRECTV, Microsoft Store, Redbox, FandangoNOW.
GERMANY/ISRAEL: The Cakemaker (2017)
In this fascinating, poignant film, German baker Thomas (Tim Kalkhof) is involved with a married Israeli, meeting him whenever he visits on business. When he later learns his lover has died, Thomas seeks out his widow in Israel, never revealing his connection to her husband. Will she ever learn the truth?
Full review here. | Stream now on Netflix. Also available on Vudu, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube.
SOUTH KOREA: Burning (2018)
An awkward, struggling writer runs into a former female classmate, and they end up sleeping together. She then asks him to cat-sit while she’s on vacation. When she returns, she’s accompanied by a handsome, rich playboy type. Uh-oh. This increasingly awkward triangle may not end well.
Full review here. | Stream now on Netflix. Also available on Kanopy, Hoopla, Vudu, Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Microsoft Store, Amazon Video, FandangoNOW.
ITALY: The Two Popes (2019)
Fernando Meirelles’s literate, moving film focuses on the unlikely friendship between two very different pontiffs, the conservative Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) and his more progressive successor, Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce). The two highly talented stars offer a master class in screen acting.
Full review here. | Stream now on Netflix.
More: Corona Watch List — 10 Scenic Films for those Craving the Great Outdoors