Every Non-English Language Best Picture Nominee Ranked

10. Il Postino (1994)

A heady, romantic fact meets fiction tale all about the power of words. Co-writer, star and would-be-co-director Massimo Troisi tragically passed away aged just 41 after principal photography was completed, but his quiet charisma suffuses the whole project.

Fisherman-turned postman Mario Ruoppolo (Troisi) is tasked with delivering the fan mail of exiled Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret), and over the months forms a close bond with the writer who teaches him how to sensitively express his feelings for his intended.

The idyllic coastal Italian landscapes, leisurely pacing and warm human interaction all help to make Il Postino a crowd-pleaser, and the consistent humanist quality of the film as a whole makes it a much bigger tragedy that we were robbed of Troisi’s talent so early.

Braveheart won this year, which, beyond its scale and ambition, seems less and less the right decision as time passes.

9. Past Lives (2023)

Past Lives Review

Intimate, elegant and emotionally intelligent, Past Lives avoids the cliches of romance films to tell a much more grounded and honest not-quite-love story.

24 years after she and her family moved from South Korea to settle in North America, the now-married Nora (Greta Lee) reconnects with her childhood friend Hae-sung (Teo Yoo) and wonders what might have been.

One of the more impressive feature directorial debuts in recent memory, Celine Song’s theatre background lends itself well to working closely and collaboratively with her actors in building their characters and making them feel like they have lived full lives outside of the film’s story, and she uses the real New York City locations well to create lasting, evocative imagery.

2024 was an unusual year for the Academy in that they deigned to recognise three films not in English in their list of Best Picture nominations, a full one fifth of their all-time total. Maybe this is a sign that things are changing for the better and we are moving towards more enlightened awards bodies. Maybe it was a fluke.

8. Drive My Car (2021)

As a 3 hour film about adapting Chekhov for a multi-lingual cast where the opening credits don’t appear until we’re past the 40 minute mark, this might seem like arthouse “awards bait” but ends up being far more engrossing and emotionally tender than you might expect.

The crux of it is the gradual development of the bond between a grieving theatre director (Hidetoshi Nishijima) and his driver with a troubled past (Tôko Miura) as they share long daily journeys to and from his temporary accommodation into Hiroshima where he is to rehearse and stage his play performed by a multi-lingual cast.

The deliberate, almost glacial pacing, and the time the film dedicates to building all the key character relationships above all else, makes this a mesmerising, singular experience if you’re in the right frame of mind, though it is by no means devoid of humour and warmth to keep the film riveting. 

CODA won, because representation matters and you’ve got to start somewhere.

Recommended for you: 2022 Oscars Best Picture Nominees Ranked

7. Anatomy of a Fall (2023)

Anatomy of a Fall Review

Anatomy of a Fall is one of the great movies about perception and the questionable reliability of both witnesses and narrators.

When author Sandra’s (Sandra Hüller) husband dies falling from the roof of her alpine house, she is tried for murder and only her visually-impaired son’s testimony can save her.

A measured, wordy two and a half hours, Anatomy of a Fall remains completely and utterly gripping throughout. What’s unusual and strangely compelling about this particular mystery is that even by the end of the story and examining events from every conceivable angle you are still left wondering what really happened.

Sandra Hüller’s performance is masterful, and the richly layered screenplay from writer-director Justine Triet ensures this will be a film that bears up to repeat viewing.

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