While the Academy Awards honor foreign language films with their own category, every so often a foreign title manages to break out of the pack and earn nominations in other major races like best picture and best director. Both “Roma” and “Cold War” are looking to be major contenders at the 2019 Oscars, both in the foreign language race and beyond.
Click through the gallery for 29 foreign language films that managed to earn Oscars for best picture and/or best director. (Note: Dates following film titles represent the year they were nominated).
Jean Renoir’s French war film, starring Jean Gabin and Dita Parlo, is notable for being the first foreign film to break into the race for best picture. The film was nominated against and lost to Frank Capra’s “You Can’t Take It with You” at the 11th Academy Awards.
Jules Dassin’s Greek comedy “Never on Sunday” centers on the relationship between a free-spirited prostitute (Melina Mercouri) and an American tourist obsessed with Greek culture. Dassin was nominated for best director, while the film also picked up nominations for best actress, costume design, and more.
Federico Fellini won the Palme d’Or at Cannes with “La Dolce Vita,” which went on to earn him an Oscar nomination for best director. The film won the Oscar for best costume design.
Pietro Germi’s Italian comedy landed him in the best director race at the 35th Academy Awards, but he lost the prize to David Lean for “Lawrence of Arabia.” The movie won best original screenplay.
Federico Fellini’s second Oscar nomination for best director came courtesy of his masterpiece, “8½.” The movie won the Oscar for foreign language film and costume design.
Japan earned its first Oscar nomination for best director when Hiroshi Teshigahara broke into the race at the Oscars in 1965. “Woman Of the Dunes” had been nominated for best foreign film the year prior because of its international release. Teshigahara lost the Oscar to Robert Wise for “The Sound of Music.”
Claude Lelouch won the Oscar for best foreign language film with his 1966 drama about a young widow (Anouk Aimée) and widower (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who start a relationship after meeting by chance at their children’s boarding school. Lelouch was nominated for best director as well.
The Italian-Algerian war film “The Battle of Algiers” landed Gillo Pontecorvo an Oscar nomination for best director at the 41st Academy Awards. Gillo Pontecorvo was nominated against Stanley Kubrick for “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but both men lost to Carol Reed and “Oliver!”
Costa-Gavras’ political thriller about the 1963 assassination of democratic Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis was nominated for best picture at the 42nd Academy Awards. The Algerian-French production lost to “Midnight Cowboy.” Costa-Gavras earned a best director nomination as well.
“Fellini Satyricon” was the third movie to earn Federico Fellini a best director Oscar nomination, despite the fact the movie was snubbed for a nomination in the best foreign language film category at the 42nd Academy Awards. The surreal drama is broken into nine chapters and follows a scholar and his friend trying to win the heart of a young boy.
Jan Troell delivered Sweden its first best picture and best director nominations with “The Emigrants,” a drama about a group of impoverished Swedes who emigrate to Minnesota in the middle of the 19th century. The film stars Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann. The movie was nominated against “The Godfather,” “Cabaret,” and “Deliverance.”
“Cries and Whispers” is the first and only Ingmar Bergman movie to be nominated for best picture. The title also gave the director his first nomination for filmmaking. The Swedish drama competed against “The Exorcist” and “The Sting,” losing to the latter.
François Truffaut finally earned an Oscar nomination for best director with “Day for Night” at the 47th Academy Awards. While the film won the Oscar for best foreign language film, Truffaut lost the directing prize to Francis Ford Coppola for “The Godfather Part II.” “Day for Night” was the filmmaker’s only directing nomination.
Federico Fellini was nominated for his fourth Oscar for best director with “Amarcord,” his semi-autobiographical movie about a young boy coming of age in the village of Borgo San Giuliano during the rise of fascism in the 1930s. The movie won the best foreign language film prize.
Ingmar Bergman scored his second best director Oscar nomination for “Face to Face,” a psychological drama starring Liv Ullmann as a psychiatrist suffering a mental breakdown. Ullmann was nominated for best actress, but the film lost in both categories.
Lina Wertmüller made history at the 49th Academy Awards when she became the first woman nominated for best director thanks to her Italian film “Seven Beauties.” Wertmüller would remain the only female directing nominee until Jane Campion for “The Piano” in 1993.
“La Cage aux Folles,” Édouard Molinaro’s adaptation of Jean Poiret’s 1973 play of the same name, was nominated for three Oscars at the 52nd Academy Awards, including best director, best costume design, and best adapted screenplay. Molinaro lost to Robert Benton for “Kramer vs. Kramer.”
Wolfgang Petersen’s German war movie was left out of the best foreign language film race, but the director still managed to earn one of the five nominations for best director at the 55th Academy Awards. Petersen went up against Steven Spielberg for “E.T.” and Sydney Pollack for “Tootsie,” but all of them lost to Richard Attenborough for “Gandhi.”
“Fanny and Alexander” was the third Ingmar Bergman movie to land the Swedish filmmaker in the best director race after “Cries and Whispers” and “Face to Face.” The movie won the foreign language film Oscar, but Bergman lost his category to James L. Brooks of “Terms of Endearment.”
Akira Kurosawa’s first and only best director Oscar nomination came at the 58th Academy Awards when “Ran” landed him in the race opposite John Huston of “Prizzi’s Honor” and eventual winner Sydney Pollack of “Out of Africa.”
Lasse Hallström made a name for himself in the U.S. with “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and “The Cider House Rules,” but he first emerged at the Oscars by landing a best director nomination for his Swedish drama “My Life as a Dog.”
Krzysztof Kieślowski’s first two entries in his “Three Colours” trilogy failed to land him an Oscar nomination for best director, but final entry “Red” got the Polish director in the race at the 67th Academy Awards.
Michael Radford and Massimo Troisi’s Italian drama about the fictional relationship between Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and a poetry-loving postman lost to Mel Gibson’s “Bravehart” at the 68th Academy Awards. Radford also competed in the best director race, also losing to Gibson.
Roberto Benigni’s Holocaust drama was an Oscars darling at the 71st Academy Awards. The movie not only won best actor and best foreign-language film, but it also competed for best picture and best director, among a handful of other categories like best editing.
Ang Lee’s Wuxia blockbuster was nominated for 10 prizes at the 73rd Academy Awards, winning best foreign-language film, best original score, and best cinematography. Lee earned a best director nomination but lost to Steven Soderbergh for “Traffic.” The film then lost to “Gladiator” in the best picture race.
Pedro Almodóvar had been nominated for the best foreign language Oscar numerous times prior to the the 75th Academy Awards, but with “Talk to Her” he finally got his director nomination. Almodóvar lost to Roman Polanski of “The Pianist,” but the Spanish writer-director ended up winning the Oscar for best original screenplay.
Fernando Meirelles’ Brazilian crime film earned four Oscar nominations at the 76th Academy Awards: best director, best cinematography, best film editing, and best adapted screenplay. Meirelles lost to Peter Jackson for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”
Julian Schnabel’s French-language “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” stars Mathieu Amalric as writer Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered a massive stroke that caused paralysis of nearly all his voluntary muscles. The film earned Schnabel an Oscar nomniation for best director, plus cinematography, editing, and adapted screenplay nominations.
Michael Haneke’s “Amour” was nominated for best picture and best director at the 85th Academy Awards, losing the prizes to “Argo” and Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”), respectively. No foreign-language movie has earned a best picture nomination in the years since “Amour.”