• (L - R) 'Burning', 'Her Smell', 'Loving Vincent' and 'Sweet Country' (SBS)Source: SBS
These 21st century films from around the world are sure to become cinema classics. You can stream them now as part of the Modern Masterpieces Collection at SBS On Demand.
SBS Movies

20 Aug 2020 - 1:04 PM  UPDATED 20 Aug 2020 - 1:04 PM


South Korea, 2018
Genre: Mystery, Drama, Thriller
Language: English, Korean
Director: Lee Chang-Dong
Starring: Ah-In Yoo, Steven Yeun, Jong-seo Jun
What's it about?
Undeniably a masterpiece in slow-burn mysteries, Lee Chang-Dong's Burning won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and was also nominated for the Palme d'Or. The film tells the story of deliveryman Jongsu (Ah-In Yoo) who is out on a job when he runs into Haemi (Jong-seo Jun), a girl from his neighbourhood. She asks if he'd mind looking after her cat while she's away on a trip to Africa. On her return she introduces Jongsu to the enigmatic Ben (Steven Yeun), who she met during her trip. And one day Ben tells Jongsu about his most unusual hobby. Complex, dark, thrilling and although a slow-burn it rises in intensity in such a way that you become transfixed.


Cold War

Poland, 2018
Genre: Romance, Drama
Language: Polish
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Starring: Joanna Kulig, Borys Szyc, Tomasz Kot
What's it about?
Cold War takes place in the ruins of post-WWII Poland. Pianist Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) is commissioned by the Soviet state to form a musical ensemble to help rekindle national pride. While touring the villages in search of talent, he falls in love with the beautiful Zula (Joanna Kulig), a fiery and charismatic singer with a past. When a performance in Berlin offers the pair an opportunity to escape to the West, a last-minute decision finds them stranded on either side of the Iron Curtain. An absolute visual treat, the use of Academy ratio (1.37) takes nothing away from the amazing visuals on screen, if anything it makes you feel more immersed in the story. Pawlikowski won Best Director at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival for Cold War, and it was also nominated for three Academy Awards the same year.

Cold War Review
'Cold War': An Intimate Epic

Cold War


Sweet Country

Australia, 2017
Genre: Drama, History, Western
Language: English
Director: Warwick Thornton
Starring: Hamilton Morris, Bryan Brown, Sam Neill, Thomas M. Wright, Ewen Leslie, Matt Day, Gibson John
What's it about?
Warwick Thornton's moving period Western Sweet Country won the Special Jury Prize at the 2017 Venice Film Festival, plus 6 AACTA Awards including Best Picture. Inspired by true events, it is loosely based on stories told to co-screenwriter David Tranter by his grandfather, in particular the true story of an Aboriginal man, Wilaberta Jack who in the 1920s was arrested and tried for the murder of a white man in Central Australia. Sam (Hamilton Morris) is representing Wilaberta Jack, but when Sam kills white station owner Harry March (Ewen Leslie) in self-defence, he and his wife Lizzie (Natassia Gorey-Furber) go on the run. They are pursued across the outback, through glorious but harsh desert country. This film is sure to become not just a classic Australian film, but a classic in the world of cinema.

Warwick Thornton talks up his Venice award-winning film, 'Sweet Country'


Loving Vincent

United Kingdom, Poland, 2017
Genre: Animation, Drama, Mystery
Language: English
Director: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
Starring: Douglas Booth, Eleanor Tomlinson, Robert Gulaczyk, Helen McCrory, Saoirse Ronan, Chris O'Dowd
What's it about?
Loving Vincent is a masterpiece of cinema combined with one of the great masterpiece artists in the world, Vincent van Gogh. The film brings the paintings of van Gogh to life to tell his remarkable story. Every one of the 65,000 frames of the film was hand-painted by 125 professional oil-painters who travelled from all across the world to the Loving Vincent studios in Poland and Greece to be a part of the production. As remarkable as Vincent's brilliant paintings are his passionate and ill-fated life and mysterious death. Nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2018 Academy Awards this beautiful, vibrant biopic is unlike any other you have seen.

'Loving Vincent': Awe-inspiring animated portrait of Vincent van Gogh

'Loving Vincent', a 2018 Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Feature


An Education

United Kingdom, 2009
Genre: Drama
Language: English
Director: Lone Scherfig
Starring: Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike
What's it about?
Lone Scherfig's coming-of-age drama was nominated for 3 Academy Awards in 2010 including Best Picture. It also featured Carey Mulligan's breakout performance as Jenny, a bright young girl on the cusp of 17 who finds herself in a whirlwind romance with a much older David (Peter Sarsgaard). Once she sees the lifestyle David can provide, one she never imagined might so easily be hers, she is hooked. Jenny's family's long-held dream of getting their brilliant daughter into Oxford seems within reach, but will David be the making of Jenny or her undoing?

An Education review: Tone is everything in story of a schoolgirl's first love
Why You Should Watch: An Education


Her Smell

USA, 2018
Genre: Drama, Music
Language: English
Director: Alex Ross Perry
Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Cara Delevingne, Dan Stevens, Amber Heard, Agyness Deyn, Gayle Rankin 
What's it about?
Alex Ross Perry's challenging film features a gripping performance from Elisabeth Moss. Moss plays Becky Something, a manically destructive punk rock star and leader of the seminal all-female rock band Something She. Pushing her relationships with bandmates, family and followers to the limit, she wages an ongoing war against sobriety while attempting to re-engage the creativity that once led her band to massive crossover success. When a new, younger band called The Akergirls, led by Cassie (Cara Delevingne), bursts onto the scene, Becky becomes their mentor. It is only when she hits rock bottom that she finds her path to true redemption. She must rediscover her voice and take control of her life to be the woman she was always meant to be, both for her daughter and for herself.



The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

France, 2007
Genre: Biography, Drama
Language: French
Director: Julian Schnabel
Starring: Anne Consigny, Emmanuelle Seigner, Mathieu Amalric, Marie-Josée Croze, Max Von Sydow
What's it about?
Based on the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), former editor of French Elle magazine and congenial playboy, Bauby's life changes completely after a stroke leaves him entirely immobile, his right eye the only fully functioning part of his body. By moving his eyes and blinking, he not only resumes interacting with the world around him, but astonishingly authors his memoir via a code used to signify letters of the alphabet. The film is a lesson about life, not in the moralistic sense, but in the energy that it conveys: One must take advantage of every instant. Nominated for 4 Academy Awards in 2008 and winner of Best Director for Julian Schnabel at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is based on Bauby's memoir, Le Scaphandre et le Papillon

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Review



Italy, 2008
Genre: Drama, Crime
Language: Italian
Director: Matteo Garrone
Starring: Salvatore Abruzzese, Simone Sacchettino, Toni Servillo
What's it about?
Power, money and blood: these are the 'values' that the residents of the province of Naples and Caserta confront every day. They have practically no choice, and are forced to obey the rules of the 'System', the Camorra, a crime syndicate built on a fortune of cocaine, corruption and chemical waste. Only a lucky few can even think of leading a 'normal' life. Some try to fight back, others try to hide, but one thing is for certain – they can't be beaten. Gomorrah is based on the book by Roberto Saviano and the film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. Saviano has been living under protection since exposing the Camorra's activities in his novel, and the ensuing movie and television series.

Gomorrah Review



Spain, Mexico, 2010
Genre: Drama
Language: Spanish
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu
Starring: Javier Bardem, Eduard Fernández
What's it about?
This is the journey of Uxbal (Javier Bardem), a conflicted man who struggles to reconcile fatherhood, love, spirituality, crime, guilt and mortality amidst the dangerous underworld of modern Barcelona. As fate encircles him and thresholds are crossed, a dim, redemptive road brightens, illuminating the inheritances bestowed from father to child, and the paternal guiding hand that navigates life's corridors, whether bright, bad – or biutiful. Written and directed by the great Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, Biutiful was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival where Javier Bardem won Best Actor. 

Bardem plays Biutiful on- and off-screen
Biutiful Review



Denmark, Sweden, 2018
Genre: Thriller, Fantasy, Romance, Drama
Language: Swedish
Director: Ali Abbasi
Starring: Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff, Sten Ljunggren, Ann Petrén, Rakel Wärmländer, Viktor Åkerblom-Nilsson
What's it about?
Customs officer Tina (Eve Melander) is known for her extraordinary sense of smell. It’s almost as if she can sniff out the guilt on anyone hiding something. But when Vore (Eero Milonoff), a suspicious-looking man, walks past her, her abilities are challenged for the first time ever. Vore is hiding something Tina can’t identify. Even worse, she feels a strange attraction to him. As Tina develops a special bond with Vore and discovers his true identity, she also realises the truth about herself. Tina, like Vore, does not belong to this world. Her entire existence has been one big lie and now she has to choose: keep living the lie or embrace Vore's terrifying revelations? Winner of the Un Certain Regard Award at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Ali Abbasi's film is thrilling, unpredictable and brings something new for genre fans. 

'Border': Genre-Bending Swedish Film Destined For Cult Status

Eva Melander in 'Border' (2018)


Browse our Modern Masterpieces Collection at SBS On Demand.

You can also tune into SBS World Movies on Sunday nights at 9.30pm, for our Modern Masterpieces season: 

Connecting in a time of crisis: SBS World Movies Modern Masterpieces collection
SBS World Movies presents Modern Masterpieces all month at 9:30PM on Sundays starting from 2 August.



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