The Ten Best Non-English Language Love Story Movies!!

Jun 3, 2005 (Updated Nov 21, 2007)

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The Bottom Line Use this list to find your way to some outstanding non-English language love stories!

Among the genre categories for lists at Epinions are both "Romance Movies" and "Love Story Movies." More than a year ago, I posted a list of my of The 10 Best Foreign Language Romance Movies!! as my 100th Epinions review and listed my criteria. In thinking about it further, I realize now that I interpreted the term "Romance" rather narrowly at the time, along the line of my dictionary's 7th definition for the term: "a romantic affair or experience." I could have, instead, interpreted "Romance" in the more literary sense: "A tale depicting heroic or marvelous achievements, colorful events or scenes, chivalrous devotion, unusual, even supernatural experiences, or other matters of a kind to appeal to the imagination." Had I taken that second approach, the distinction between "Romance Movies" and "Love Story Movies" would have been very evident. On the other hand, the way I interpreted the term "Romance" at the time was consistent with how it is used by the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), where it is one of the standard genre categories that they use to describe films. Roughly seventy of the almost 500 foreign language films that I've reviewed to date include "Romance" as one of their genre categories and very few of those fit the "literary" meaning of the term "Romance."

If, then, we stick with a meaning for "Romance" as a film relating to "a romantic affair or experience," is there any difference between a "Romance Movie" and a "Love Story Movie?" IMDB doesn't use "Love Story" as a genre category, so we'll get no help from that source. My view is that "Love Story" is a narrower concept than "Romance"; or, as mathematicians would say, "Love Stories" are a subset of the "Romances." Every love story is also a romance but only some romances are love stories. A "Love Story," in my opinion, has to be primarily about two people who have an intense emotional attraction to one another of the kind we call love. What does that exclude from films that qualify as "romances?"


•  Films in which the emotional longing is one-sided. The attraction in a love story can begin as one-sided but must evolve into a mutual longing for a significant part of the story (not merely briefly at the end).

     Examples of Films I've Excluded on That Basis:
        Cyrano de Bergerac
        Un Coeur en Hiver
        Children of Paradise
        Les Bonnes Femmes

•  Films in which the primary emotional attractions involve more than two people, such as love triangles, ménage à trois arrangements, bedroom romps involving a variety of pairings, or several couples given similar centrality in the story

     Examples of Films I've Excluded on That Basis:
        Smiles of a Summer Night
        Belle Epoque
        Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears
        Y Tu Mamá También
        Farewell My Concubine
        Eat Drink Man Woman

•  Films in which the attraction between the primary pair is mainly only sexual or otherwise shallow, exploitive, kinky, or perverse.

     Examples of Films I've Excluded on That Basis:
        Tie Me Up! Time Me Down!
        Last Tango in Paris
        Temptress Moon
        Swept Away


•  Films in which the sexual orientation is homosexual rather than heterosexual, though the vast majority of love stories, in practice, depict heterosexual relationships.

•  Films in which the romance doesn't culminate in marriage or sex.

•  Films that also fit another genre category, such as science fiction, comedy, tragedy, musical, drama, or crime story.

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Metalluk’s Ten Best Non-English Language Love Story Movies:

#10. Wings of Desire (1987)
He: Darriel (Bruno Ganz)
She: Marion (Solveig Dommartin)
Director: Wim Wenders    Country: Germany

Set in a divided Berlin, this is an existential love story involving the angel, Darriel, burning with desire to experience life from the vantage point of the sensory perceptions that humans enjoy. That longing becomes all the more urgent when Darriel falls in love with a French trapeze artist, Marion, whose thoughts he can sense, though she cannot see him. Darriel will have to give up immortality if he decides to pursue his heart's desire.

#9. Chunhyang (2000)
He: Mongryong Lee (Seung-woo Cho)
She: Chunhyang (Yi Hyo-Jeong)
Director: Im Kwon-taek    Country: South Korean

Framed within a Pansori concert (a traditional Korean folk art form), this powerfully melodramatic love story relates the courageous resistance of the chaste Chunhyang, when her region's new Governor demands that she serve him as a kisaeng, as she awaits the return of her husband from Seoul.

#8. Run Lola Run (1998)
He: Manni (Moritz Blelbtreu)
She: Lola (Franka Potente)
Director: Tom Twyker    Country: Germany

Manni is in trouble with the mob and it's up to Lola to save him, but will their love be strong enough to overcome the obstacles? Twyker gives us three run-throughs of Lola's valiant effort representing three levels of commitment in their love relationship. This is a highly kinetic adrenal rush that explores the concept of commitment, rather than a sentimental love story.

#7. In the Mood for Love (2000)
He: Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung Chiu Wai)
She: Mrs. Chan, nee Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung)
Director: Wong Kar-wai     Country: Japan

A married man and a married woman, living in neighboring apartments discover that their respective spouses are having an affair with one another. In their mutual despair, they begin spending time together, as they struggle to understand how their spouses could have begun cheating. Gradually, their relationship becomes increasingly intimate, but will they follow in the footsteps of their respective spouses?

#6. A Man and a Woman (1966).
He: Jean-Louis Duroc (Jean-Louis Trintignant)
She: Anne Gauthier (Anouk Aimée)
Director: Claude Lelouch     Country: France

A widowed film studio script girl and a race car driver discover a reawakening of love through one another, but each has painful memories that pose obstacles to their romantic feelings. His wife committed suicide and her husband, a stunt man, died while performing a dangerous stunt. Can love strike a second time in a lifetime or is one tragically terminated love relationship all that a heart can bear?

#5. Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964).
He: Guy (Nino Castelvuovo)
She: Geneviève Emery (Catherine Denueve)
Director: Jacques Demy     Country: France

This beautiful romance is made all the more poignant by its luscious use of color and music. Every line of the film is sung, not spoken. Guy and Geneviève are teenagers, passionately in love, but standing in their way are Geneviève’s mother and Guy’s tour of duty in Algiers. Soon after Guy is drafted, Geneviève discovers that she's pregnant. She has to choose between passion and the security that could be provided by a wealthy and devoted suitor. Will the love of Guy and Geneviève survive such challenges?

#4. Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)
He: He (Eiji Okada)
She: She (Emmanuelle Riva)
Director:     Alain Resnais Country: France

In this beautiful, non-linear narrative, a French actress making a film in Hiroshima, Japan meets a Japanese architect in a bar and the two begin an affair, though both are married. They began to share intimate and still vivid details of their life experiences, harking back to World War II, albeit on separate continents. They find themselves increasingly drawn to one another despite the fact that the actress will be in Japan for only a few days.

#3. Maria Candelaria (1943)
He: Lorenzo Rafael (Pedro Armendáriz)
She: Maria Candelaria (Dolores Del Rio)
Director: Emilio Fernandez      Country: Mexico

This romantic gem of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema tells a story of prejudice and intolerance concerning a beautiful native woman of Xochimilco, who is tormented by her neighbors for her mother's sins. Maria's derives her only support from the devoted Lorenzo, as they struggle to save enough money for a wedding dress for Maria so that they can be properly wed in the church. The story is revealed from the vantage point of a sensitive artist, El Pinfor (Alberto Galan), who works in the town.

#2. A Year in the Quiet Sun (1984)
He: Norman (Scott Wilson)
She: Emilia (Maja Komorowska)
Director: Krzysztof Zanussi      Country: Poland

This lovely romance takes place in 1946 in a small Polish town still devastated from World War II. Emilia, a young war widow, and her mother struggle to get by in a wretched flat in a damaged building. When Norman, an American soldier assigned as a driver as part of a commission of inquiry in the town, spies Emilia, he is immediately smitten, but she speaks only Polish and he only English. Can the spark of love ignite when stifled by such an impenetrable communication barrier? Is love even possible amid the ruins of war?

#1. Amélie (2001)
He: Nino Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz)
She: Amélie Poulin (Audrey Tautou)
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet     Country: France

Inspired by the death of Princess Diana, the demure but mischievous Amélie decides to undertake a career of orchestrating small miracles like an undercover saint. She finds small ways to bring joy into the lives of her neighbors and co-workers. When she spies the shy and eccentric Nino, she is certain that he is her soul mate. Will she discover the courage to take risks with her own heart, as she does for others?

Well, there you have my Top Ten Foreign Love Stories. For the insatiable romantics, here’s some other worthy contenders.

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Ten More Honorable Mentions (alphabetically):

Anna Karenina (1967)
Ariel (1988)
Ballad of a Soldier (1959)
Camila (1984)
Delicatessen (1991)
The Horseman on the Roof (1995)
Like Water For Chocolate (1992)
Lovers on the Bridge (1991)
Road Home (2000)
The Scent of Green Papaya (1994)

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You may also enjoy my other genre lists for non-English language films:

Ten Excellent Spanish-Language Films
Ten More Excellent Spanish-Language Films
Coming-of-age – Outside the USA!
Top Ten Foreign Language Psychodramas
Top Ten Non-English Language Political Movies
My Top Ten Non-English Language Tragedies
Top Non-English Language Comedies
Top-Ten Non-English Language Film Biographies
Top-Ten Non-English Language Action/Adventure Films
Ten Best Non-English Language War Movies!!
Top-Ten Non-English Language Mystery Films
Top-Ten Non-English Language ~Horror~ Films
Top-Ten English-Language ~Horror~ Films from Outside the USA
Ten Excellent Films Featuring Royalty
Ten Excellent Non-English Language Thrillers
Ten Non-English Language High-Yield Tearjerkers
Ten Excellent Non-English Language Senior Films
Top-Ten Non-English Language Films Featuring Classical Music
The Top Non-English Language Epics
The 10 Best Foreign Language Romance Movies!!

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