Everybody’s an armchair traveler these days. With real-world travel restricted, many of us see little of the outdoors world except what we see on the screen. While some movie-lovers have embarked on adventurous pandemic viewing projects, most of us have defaulted to a Hollywood view of the world.
But what if you could travel the world from your armchair and see it through local eyes?
Following our guide to The World’s Favorite TV Shows, Rave Reviews has assembled a globetrotting list of the most highly rated movies produced in every country. And we’ve mapped them so you don’t get lost on your way back from the kitchen ☕.
Where will your remote control take you next?
Our map tempts you to Mexico with cinema’s most celebrated surrealist; to South Korea with the Oscars’ most surprising Best Picture; through the iron curtain to communist (East) Germany; and through time to the war in Bosnia. And the most highly rated picture in our study? Life: Amidral, a drama from Mongolia with an average IMDb score of 9.8. Read on to discover some choice cinematic landmarks from every continent on Earth.
The Shawshank Redemption regularly tops lists of all-time faves, and IMDb agrees. Users have given Frank Darabont’s Stephen King adaptation an average rating of 9.3, making it the top-rated film produced on the continent.
But there is true class to be found elsewhere in the region. Mexico’s top picture is a mid-career masterpiece from Luis Bunuel, the surrealist best-known for his scandalous collaboration with Salvador Dali. And Soy Cuba (I Am Cuba) is a “delirious, lyrical, epic piece of communist propaganda from 1964.” The communists snubbed it at the time, but its formal innovation still stuns audiences six decades later.
Argentina’s top flick is a labyrinthine crime drama set across two different time periods. The Secret in Their Eyes was named one of the 21st century’s 100 best films by the BBC and has since been remade by Hollywood. But you’re going to watch the original, right?
The most highly rated movie in South America is Lejos de Casa pelicula Venezolana, with an average of 9.8. The story follows the struggles of a young Venezuelan who leaves the country to find a better future. But probably the most famous picture here is Brazil’s City of God, “part tender coming-of-age film and part gang-warfare epic,” which was nominated for four Oscars.
The best-received movie from Bosnia and Herzegovina is a unique take on the four-year siege of Sarajevo that occurred during the Bosnian War in the 1990s. Director Ademir Kenović based much of The Perfect Circle on real-life video diaries that he had facilitated and smuggled out of the city at the height of the conflict.
Germany’s entry is The Lives of Others, an Oscar-winner set in Cold War-era East Germany. The story follows a Stasi agent who grows sympathetic towards the playwright on whom he is tasked with spying. Legendary Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski has two films on the map: A Short Film About Love, made in his homeland, and Three Colors: Red, a Swiss production.
Middle East & Central Asia
Hababam Sınıfı (The Chaos Class) was such a hit in Turkey that it spawned five sequels at the time and a further three spin-offs three decades later. Director Ertem Eğilmez is a popular director in his home country, and this daft high school comedy is one of his best-known.
Borat may be Kazakhstan’s most famous cinematic ‘export,’ but the nation’s favorite picture is another school movie. Harmony Lessons follows a bullying victim who decides to take revenge on his tormentors. Cinematographer Aziz Zhambakiyev won a Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution at the prestigious Berlinale Film Festival.
Rest of Asia & Oceania
The most highly rated picture in our study is Life: Amidral from Mongolia. This 2018 drama has an average rating of 9.8 on IMDb. But the most-celebrated films in this region are from New Zealand and South Korea.
New Zealand’s entry is from one of the best-known film franchises. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won 11 Oscars, a record it holds with just two other movies, Titanic and Ben-Hur. But the success of South Korea’s most-loved film, Parasite, at the Oscars is perhaps more surprising. Bong Joon Ho’s movie was the first-ever non-English language film to win the Best Picture award.
District 9 is the African movie with the highest number of ratings in our study. Nearly 650,000 IMDb users have given the thought-provoking South African sci-fi an average rating of 7.9. After an alien landing, a human bureaucrat tasked with relocating the unwelcome guests begins to mutate and become one of them.
Timbuktu is an Oscar-nominated picture from Mauritania. It was made by the internationally-renowned director Abderrahmane Sissako. The controversial picture dares to humanize the jihadists who have terrorized the region. “To portray a jihadist as simply a bad guy, who does not in any way resemble me, who’s completely different, that’s not completely true,” says Sissako. “Fragility is an element that can make anybody tip over into horror.”
Hidden Gems of ‘World Cinema’
‘World cinema’ is a cheesy genre name for a stunning variety of films – generally, any that is produced by people not from the USA. Like regular American pictures, the cinema of countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe includes movies about love, fantasy, adventure, war, and laughter. But the techniques used to tell the stories and share the emotions are often radically different – and refreshingly inventive.
Of course, the cinema of each country has a slight national flavor – just as American, Canadian, or British cinema does. To get a flavor of a country that interests you, try hunting down one of the top-rated movies in our study – you can sort through the full details in the HTML table below – and let your world tour through movies commence.
METHODOLOGY & SOURCES
We identified films produced in every country by using IMDb country codes and then selected the highest-rated title from the top 50 movies rated by the highest number of users. Only feature movies were included. For countries where there were no qualifying titles produced in that country, a movie set in that country was chosen using the same criteria: highest-rated feature film among 50 with the most ratings given.
In cases where ratings were tied, a title with the higher number of user-ratings was deemed the winner. For films produced in multiple countries, their country of origin was determined in line with IMDB’s guidelines as the country whose production companies contributed the most funding in the production of the film. The dataset includes 227 countries and territories. Data was gathered in January 2021.