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Around the World With Netflix: Ten Foreign-Language Hits Worth Watching

Mining for gold in the streamer's deep international catalog.
  • Turn on the subtitles and settle in. Squid Game is just the tip of the iceberg.
    Turn on the subtitles and settle in. Squid Game is just the tip of the iceberg.

    It’s been a while since Netflix had a bonafide surprise hit, but the streaming giant recently achieved just that with Squid Game, a Korean thriller about cash-strapped players competing in a series of deadly children’s games. Since its debut on September 17, Squid Game has smashed the streamer's records for non-English language series — the show hit No. 1 in the U.S. in just four days, faster than any other international series — and co-CEO Ted Sarandos recently revealed the survival drama is on track to become the service’s biggest show of all time.

    If Squid Game is your first introduction to Netflix’s international library, welcome. The chart-topping hit is just one of many excellent foreign-language shows and movies available to stream on Netflix, so if deadly social experiments aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other options, from romantic comedies to teen dramas to crime thrillers. Join us as we travel around the globe with ten of the most interesting recent additions to the streamer's deep international catalog.

    Young Royals (Sweden)

    One part The Crown, one part Gossip Girl, this Swedish drama follows Sweden’s fictional Prince Wilhelm (Edvin Ryding) as he’s sent away to a prestigious boarding school in the wake of a scandal. At first, Wilhelm refuses to embrace his relocation, but his attitude shifts when he meets Simon (Omar Rudberg), a non-boarding student from a less privileged background. As Wilhelm and Simon’s friendship grows into something more, the young prince grapples with his identity, the royal family’s expectations, and a family tragedy that upends his life entirely. Young Royals was recently renewed for a second season, so there's more to come for viewers who burn through the drama’s addictive first six episodes.

    Friendzone (France)

    The better of two foreign-language romantic comedies released late last month, Friendzone reimagines an age-old trope: an unlucky-in-love guy routinely falls for women, only to be relegated to the “friend zone.” When he’s rejected again, this time by his new friend Rose (Eva Danino), baby-faced Thibault (Mickaël Lumière) seeks help from his friends, who give him a top-down makeover and teach him how to talk to women. It may sound like the world’s most generic rom-com, but a strong script, genuine chemistry between Lumière and Danino, and a banging soundtrack elevate Friendzone above the fray.

    Blood & Water (South Africa)

    Netflix has invested heavily in African series in recent years, resulting in hits like Blood & Water, which returned for its second season in late September. The Cape Town-set drama centers on a teenage girl (Amamkele Qamata) who transfers to an elite school to prove that the popular star student is really her abducted-at-birth sister. But in true teen drama fashion, Puleng’s quest leads her down a rabbit hole of family secrets that threaten to upend her life forever. The show's dedicated fanbase includes Lil Nas X and Gabrielle Union, both of whom enthusiastically tweeted about the series as it returned for Season 2.

    Skater Girl (India)

    While Skater Girl lands on this list with an asterisk — it was co-produced in India and the United States, with the dialogue split between Hindi and English — it stands out as one of the best coming-of-age films on Netflix. Directed and co-written by Manjari Makijany, the drama is set in a remote Indian village where a local teen named Prerna (Rachel Saanchita Gupta, in her screen debut) becomes infatuated with skateboarding after meeting Jessica (Amrit Maghera), a visiting London-bred advertising executive. As Prerna develops her skills, she must choose between conforming to expectations or living out her dream of competing in the National Skateboarding Championships.

    Move to Heaven (South Korea)

    Viewers looking for another K-drama after finishing Squid Game will find much to enjoy in Move to Heaven, a series about a family of “trauma cleaners.” After he’s released from prison, Sang-gu (Lee Je-hoon) becomes the guardian of his nephew with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Gen-ru (Tang Jun-sang), who oversees the family business of cleaning up after the departed. As Gen-ru copes with his estranged uncle’s arrival, Sang-gu begins to realize there’s more to the job, and more to the idea of family, than he first thought.

    Fever Dream (Spain/Chile)

    It wouldn’t be Halloween without a creepy psychological thriller, and Fever Dream more than fits the bill. An adaptation of Samanta Schweblin’s 2014 novel, the drama begins as a young mother (María Valverde) lies dying, and turns to a boy for help remembering what happened. As her time runs out, the boy helps her unravel a haunting story of obsessive jealousy, an invisible danger, a looming environmental catastrophe, and a spiritual crash. As esoteric as that sounds, the real draw here is Peruvian director Claudia Llosa (The Milk of Sorrow), who brings her unique eye to a thriller that critics say lives up to its title.

    How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast) (Germany)

    A nerdy teen inadvertently becomes one of Europe’s biggest dealers when he begins selling ecstasy online in this hit German-language Netflix original series. Across the show’s three seasons, the most recent of which dropped in July, Moritz (Maximillian Mundt) establishes a reputation in the industry, only to have his empire threatened by rivals, high school drama, and a pesky little thing known as the law. After binge-watching How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast), fans can complete their marathon with Shiny_Flakes: The Teenage Drug Lord, a documentary about the true story behind the scripted series.

    Forever Rich (Netherlands)

    Who says American rappers have all the fun? Forever Rich stars Jonas Smulders as Richie, an up-and-coming Dutch rapper who’s robbed of his watch by a group of armed teenagers right before the biggest show of his career. When the video of the attack goes viral, Richie sets out for revenge, but his increasingly-erratic moves only make his social media nightmare worse. Set over the course of one fateful night, Forever Rich gives off big Good Time vibes, so fans of the Safdie brothers should definitely check out this Dutch thriller.

    Little Things (India)

    Filmed mostly in English (with the exception of a few Hindi phrases), this Indian romantic comedy tracks the ups and downs of Kavya (Mithila Palkar) and Dhruv (Dhruv Sehgal), a couple living together in Mumbai. As the two travel through life together, their relationship evolves, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. Little Things first aired on Dice Media’s YouTube page, but moved over to Netflix beginning with its second season. The comedy’s fourth and final season drops Friday, October 15 on Netflix.

    In For a Murder (W Jak Moderstwo) (Poland)

    Our trip around the globe ends with In For a Murder, a Polish film debuting October 19 that shares similar DNA with Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building. The mystery-comedy follows a stay-at-home mom and avid reader of crime stories who becomes obsessed with a murder in her small Polish town after she discovers it’s connected to her best friend’s disappearance. What follows is a quirky tale filled with twists that even Only Murders' Charles, Oliver, and Mabel wouldn’t see coming.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the TV Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: Squid Game, Netflix, Blood & Water, Friendzone, Young Royals