Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in April 2021 and has since been updated.
World cinema has given us plenty of auteurs hell-bent on creating the most disturbing experience possible, from Pier Paolo Pasolini to Catherine Breillat, Gaspar Noe, and Takashi Miike. Below, IndieWire highlights a selection of foreign-language films likely to keep you up at night terrified, or thinking, or both.
Leave it to any country except the U.S. to render the worst possible horrors, psychological, physical, and otherwise, onscreen in unflinching detail. While some of these films listed below are, in fact, outright horror films, others take a more psychic or spiritual approach to peeling back on society’s, and humankind’s, worst tendencies — or while querying war, faith, or sexuality.
While many of the directors highlighted here made a personal brand out of pushing the limits of extreme storytelling, consider the below just a selection (or starter kit, if you will) to prime you for further viewing.
Christian Blauvelt, Kate Erbland, Eric Kohn, Chris O’Falt, Christian Zilko, and Anne Thompson contributed to this story.