The most popular TV shows on Netflix are mostly in the English language e.g. Narcos, Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, The Crown, Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why and so on. However, over the past few years, the streaming portal has also invested in bringing some of the best foreign TV shows to its platform, adding original and licensed titles that include German fantasy thrillers, Danish crime dramas, Japanese comedies, and Spanish soap operas.
For people who are tired of watching the same clichéd tropes offered by American TV shows, these foreign shows are a whiff of fresh air as they take more risks with their content and push the boundaries, rather than relying on a defined model of entertainment. So here goes, 10 kickass foreign language TV shows on Netflix (in no particular order) you can binge on right away!
Termed as a mix of Stranger Things and Twin Peaks, this extremely weird German sci-fi series combines multiple timelines and versions of the same characters to deliver an intriguing mystery. With a baffling and eerie premise, Dark will hook you from the beginning to the end. Note of caution though- the English dub makes the show seem pedestrian with the characters seemingly showing a lack of emotions. Watch the original German dub with subtitles.
A Norwegian political drama based on a very interesting premise. In the near future, Norway is the main oil producing country in the Europe. The environmental-friendly Norwegian Green Party comes into power and stops all production of fossil fuels. This pisses off the European Union, which authorizes Russia to occupy Norway. What happens along after makes up the plot of Occupied- a taut, fast-paced thriller and the most expensive show ever made in Norway- reasons enough to watch it.
Dystopian YA has become immensely popular in recent years, led by the likes of The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, and The 100. Brazil’s first original Netflix drama 3% capitalizes on the same, with a group of heroes and heroines belonging to the impoverished masses aiming to lead a better life by seeking to get to the mythical utopia called ‘The Offshore’. This TV show is directed by Cesar Charlone- the amazingly gifted cinematographer of City of God, and though the budget is significantly low, the clever and crisp writing makes everything worth for.
Japan throws up a lot of bizarre stuff in its animes that is also really entertaining to watch. Billed as ‘death metal red panda anime’, Aggretsuko is the story of an anthropomorphic red panda who sings death metal songs at a karaoke bar every night to deal with her frustrations at job. Many of us who are pissed off with our daily lives will identify and easily enjoy the character of Retsuko. Funny and meaningful stuff!
Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Naoki Matayoshi, Hibana is the story of a veteran comedian Kamiya mentoring a young, aspiring stand-up comedian Tokunaga in manzai, the Japanese version of Abbott and Costello style two-person comedy. Philosophical, profound, and hilarious, Hibana provides a deep insight into life and humor as the comedians traverse their journey to succeed in Japan’s cutthroat comedy scene.
5. The Rain
A post-apocalyptic thriller, The Rain is the story of two Danish siblings who emerge from their safe bunker after most of the civilization in Scandinavia has been wiped out by a rain-carried virus. As they meet other survivors and navigate abandoned lands in search of life, they have to deal with different emotions, interpersonal relationships, and difficult decision-making. Those who dig the genre, this is certainly an entertaining watch.
4. Tabula Rasa
If you thought the show OA was a definite hit with you, then do not miss out the Belgian psychological thriller Tabula Rasa. A thoroughly addictive ride, Tabula Rasa of a woman suffering from retrograde amnesia who finds herself being investigated in a psychiatric institution by a police inspector over a missing person’s case. A binge-worthy thriller with many twists and turns, combined with fantastic cinematography and stunning imagery.
A rollicking Mexican political thriller, Ingobernable revolves around the First lady of Mexico, who is disillusioned with the progress she had envisioned for the country along with her husband. This creates friction in their marriage and she decides to divorce him. One night, after an intense argument, she prepares to leave him, but things go terribly wrong when the president is killed and crashes to his death from a balcony. However, autopsy reveals that he was killed by a bullet, not the crash. From then, the first lady Emilia is on the run and must find out who the murderer of her spouse was, while seeking help from the people who were most affected by the policies of the government.
Motherhood is a complicated and wonderful thing, and depicting its travails onscreen has been quite a challenging task. Enter Danish dramedy Rita, which gives a light-hearted touch to its titular character, who is a sharp-tongued mother-of-three and school teacher. Rita sleeps around with the principal, makes inappropriate jokes, has a no-holds-barred approach to teaching, and also supports her own friends when they are experiencing sexual panics. A witty and enjoyable drama, Rita is best watched in Danish with subtitles.
1. Babylon Berlin
Discussion on German history tends to revolve around two things- World War 2, Hitler, or the automotive industry. Thankfully, Babylon Berlin shows us another side by painting a fascinating vignette of the country in the 1920s. It is 1929, and the Weimar government is in charge. It is a time of sexual liberation and divine decadence, with Berlin being a fertile ground for progressive art movements. Amid all this is based a blackmail mystery revolving around a pornographic film, which detective (Volker Bruch) must solve.
The creators of Babylon Berlin have undertaken painstaking efforts to depict all the social, cultural, and political mores of the Weimar period in all its glory. No wonder it is the most expensive German TV show to date. It is a fascinating insight into an era that preceded one of the most horrific ones in human history, and certainly should be at the top of your watch list.