• From left: A Separation, The Counterfeiters, A Fantastic (SBS Movies)Source: SBS Movies
Eight winners of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film from Germany, Chile, Iran, Denmark, South Africa, Japan and France, all available to stream at SBS On Demand.
SBS Movies

5 Dec 2019 - 2:47 PM  UPDATED 14 Feb 2020 - 10:54 AM

“Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” said South Korean master filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho at the Golden Globe awards in January this year, winning Best Foreign Language Film for his satirical thriller Parasite. It's a barrier that Academy Award voters in 2020 seemed to finally overcome and even break entirely; Parasite made history by winning not only the Oscar for Best International Feature but also Best Picture, making it the first time in the Academy's history that the top honour has gone to a film not in the English language.

Now streaming at SBS On Demand are a selection of films that won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, each of which (per Bong's words) barely require overcoming a one-inch-barrier to be amazed by.


The Lives of Others

Germany, 2006
Genre: Drama
Language: German
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Starring: Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Tukur
What's it about?
East Berlin, November 1984. Five years before its downfall, the former East-German government ensured its claim to power with a ruthless system of control and surveillance. Party-loyalist Captain Gerd Wiesler (Mühe) hopes to boost his career when given the job of collecting evidence against a playwright (Koch) and his girlfriend (Gedeck). He doesn't anticipate the impact that the exercise will have upon him. Winner of the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

A Fantastic Woman

Chile, 2017
Genre: Drama
Language: Spanish
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Starring: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Aline Küppenheim
What's it about?
Marina's (Vega) life is thrown into turmoil following the death of her partner (Reyes). Mourning the loss of the man she loved, she finds herself under intense scrutiny from those with no regard for her privacy. Winner of the 2018 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

'A Fantastic Woman': Empathetic, Resonant Oscar-winning Chilean Melodrama
'A Fantastic Woman' star takes historic Oscars win in her stride

A Separation

Iran, 2011
Genre: Drama
Language: Persian-Farsi
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Starring: Peyman Moaadi, Leila Hatami, Sarina Farhadi, Sareh Bayat
What's it about?
A married couple is faced with a difficult decision - to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer's disease. Winner of both the Golden Bear (top prize) at the 2011 Berlin Festival and the 2012 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, this is one of the most celebrated and acclaimed Iranian films of all time.

A Separation Review

In a Better World

Denmark, 2010
Genre: Drama
Language: Danish
Director: Susanne Bier
Starring: Mikael Persbrandt, Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen
What's it about?
In a Better World traces elements from a drab refugee camp in Sudan to the gray humdrum of everyday life in a Danish provincial town. The lives of two Danish families cross each other, and an extraordinary but risky friendship comes into bud. But loneliness, frailty and sorrow lie in wait. Soon, friendship transforms into a dangerous alliance and a breathtaking pursuit in which life is at stake.

The Counterfeiters

Germany, 2008
Genre: Drama, Crime, War
Language: German
Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Starring: August Diehl, Karl Markovics, Devid Striesow
What's it about?
Salomon 'Sally' Sorowitsch (Markovics) is an expert Jewish counterfeiter enjoying the good life until he’s sent to Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. Sally manages to survive for five years before transfer to Sachsenhausen, where he is assigned to produce perfect forgeries of British and US banknotes for the Third Reich. 

The Counterfeiters review: A stunning piece of cinema


Japan, 2008
Genre: Music, Drama
Language: Japanese
Director: Yôjirô Takita
Starring: Masahiro Motoki, Ryôko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki
What's it about?
Daigo Kobayashi (Motoki) is a devoted cellist in an orchestra that has just been dissolved and now finds himself without a job. He decides to move back to his old hometown with his wife to look for work and start over. He answers a classified ad entitled "Departures" thinking it is an advertisement for a travel agency only to discover that the job is actually for a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. 


South Africa, 2005
Genre: Drama, Crime
Language: Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, English
Director: Gavin Hood
Starring: Presley Chweneyagae, Mothusi Magano, Israel Matseke-Zulu
What's it about?
Set amidst the sprawling Johannesburg township of Soweto – where survival is the primary objective – this film traces six days in the life of ruthless young gang leader Tsotsi (Chweneyagae), who ends up caring for a baby accidentally kidnapped during a car-jacking. 

Mon Oncle

France, 1958
Genre: Comedy
Language: French
Director: Jacques Tati
Starring: Jacques Tati, Jean-Pierre Zola, Adrienne Servantie
What's it about?
Genial, bumbling Monsieur Hulot loves his top-floor apartment in a grimy corner of the city, and cannot fathom why his sister's family has moved to the suburbs. Their house is an ultra-modern nightmare, which Hulot only visits for the sake of stealing away his rambunctious young nephew. Hulot's sister, however, wants to win him over to her new way of life, and conspires to set him up with a wife and job.

Jacques Tati at SBS On Demand