Sometimes watching a foreign film is difficult, as you have to be familiar with the culture to grasp the film’s message. One universal theme you’ll find, though, is comedy: Everyone may not laugh at the same things, but everyone loves to laugh. Take a tour of the world from your couch with four of the funniest foreign films of all time:
1. La Cage aux Folles (France)
If you ever saw 1996’s “The Birdcage” starring Nathan Lane and Robin Williams, you may find the story of “La Cage Aux Folles” familiar: A gay couple who owns a drag club attempt to conceal their occupation and lifestyle when they meet their son’s conservative future parents-in-law for the first time. Based on a play, the French version of the film was released in 1978.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rare 100-percent positive rating. The film may be over 30 years old, but it strikes a chord that’s still relevant today. While most of the film will have you chuckling at the crazy situations the characters find themselves in, the message of acceptance makes it a film to remember.
2. Big Man Japan (Japan)
A 2007 film that’s both surreal and a tongue-in-cheek homage to classic Japanese monster films like “Godzilla,” “Big Man Japan” is part mockumentary and part bizarre comedy. The film starts somewhat low-key, as a documentary following the daily life of a seemingly normal middle-aged businessman. The film eventually reveals that the subject of the “documentary” can, like his father, grow 98 feet tall to battle giant monsters that sometimes attack Tokyo.
The bizarre spectacle of a giant man battling rubbery monsters against fake backdrops of buildings is enough to keep you laughing. Eventually, the movie turns dark as the “documentary” unravels the truth behind life as a giant man.
3. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Spain)
The 1988 Spanish black comedy Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown begins with a woman about to kill herself because her fellow voice-over actor ex-boyfriend just left her. A frantic call from one of her best friends (also suicidal) interrupts her plans, and her ex-boyfriend’s son, a child he had unbeknownst to her, shows up at her apartment with a fiancée in tow interested in renting the place.
The fiancée asks for a drink and accidentally drinks the wine laced with medicine the woman intended for her suicide. Layer after layer of coincidence and depressing situations cause one woman after another to consider killing herself, only to be saved — or interrupted— by the next darkly comedic situation to come her way.
Although in Spanish, the film stars a young Antonio Banderas. If you like your comedy dark but with a hopeful message running throughout, you can’t go wrong with this biting social commentary that examines the different types of pressures women feel in modern society.
4. Troll Hunter (Norway)
The 2010 Norwegian film “Troll Hunter” is serious about a not-at-all probable subject. The film takes a mockumentary approach, following a group of college students who are out to make a film about a man they suspect to be illegally hunting bears. Instead of bears, they discover the man is one of the nation’s few troll hunters, who manages to battle incredibly tall legendary creatures right under everyone’s noses.
The film even stars Norwegian comedians, although you won’t find many obvious jokes and you can’t compare it with pure comedy movies. The humor comes from the seriousness with which the characters approach the situation as if the hunter is all that stands between civilization and the trolls determined to eat people.
Once you’ve sampled some of what the comedy the world has to offer, don’t stop there. If you found the absurdity of “Big Man Japan” a riot, check out what else Japanese filmmakers have released. If the mockumentary Troll Hunter impressed you with its wry humor, watch other Norwegian films. When looking for an introduction to foreign films, comedy is a great category to start with. Humor is a universal language that quickly invests its audience in the film.
From situational comedy to black humor to the mockumentary, all of the above mentioned funniest foreign films have something different to offer and are sure to tickle your funny bone. Have you seen any of these films? What were your thoughts after watching them? Let us know in the comments section below!