Netflix is arguably best known for three things: awesome Netflix originals, fascinating Netflix documentaries, and hilarious Netflix comedies.
However, most of this stuff is in English. And if you limit yourself to one language, you’re going to miss out on some brilliant foreign Netflix shows.
With that in mind, here are the best foreign shows on Netflix from around the world. And we recommend everyone watch these shows, regardless of language.
1. Narcos (2015)
If you’re a Netflix subscriber who hasn’t heard of Narcos yet, do yourself a favor and move it straight to the top of your watchlist.
While not exactly a foreign Netflix series, this fictionalized retelling of Pablo Escobar and his legendary Columbian cocaine operation in the 1970s is one of the most gripping tales ever told.
In the years since its 2015 release, each season of Narcos has focused on a linear progression of cartel expansion within the Americas. Interspersed with archival footage of the real Pablo Escobar, Narcos achieves a level of depth that few TV series manage to achieve.
Overall, it is an intense, action-packed drama, but never loses sight of its characters. It’s intricately plotted, but never impossible to follow or understand. This Golden Globe-nominated sensation is a must-watch TV show.
2. Money Heist (2017)
Don’t be turned off by Money Heist’s generic title. Originally called “The House of Paper”—but renamed for Netflix—there’s absolutely nothing generic about this show. It follows a team of professional thieves who break into the Royal Mint of Spain, led by a mastermind known only as “The Professor.”
Essentially, take everything you know about heist movies and throw it out the window. Money Heist will have you sympathizing with all three parties (the cops, the robbers, and the hostages) by being smartly written with well-developed characters. It’s a cat and mouse game in the truest sense of the phrase, with plot twists at every turn.
Best of all, the plot twists actually make sense to the story and deepen it, instead of simply being there for shock value.
This series absolutely deserves to be on a list of the best foreign series on Netflix.
3. Dark (2017)
With all the time travel TV shows that have come before this, you may be forgiven in thinking that there are no new or interesting angles left to explore for this plot device. Fortunately, that assumption is wrong.
Dark, the first Netflix original in German, is living proof that time travel can still be surprising and mind-warping. The setup: in the small German town of Winden, children start to disappear in a way that is reminiscent of a spate of disappearances that happened 33 years ago.
As the police chief investigates these disappearances, the entire town is forced to confront a previous tragedy as secrets are uncovered and the fabric of trust unravels.
4. Babylon Berlin (2017)
Looking for one of the best foreign TV shows with high production values?
Babylon Berlin is one of the most expensive non-English TV dramas ever produced. It’s also one of the richest and most engaging period pieces we’ve ever seen—even more so than well-known favorites like Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire.
Visually gorgeous with an exquisite attention to detail, Babylon Berlin has a bit of everything: romance, sex, drugs, crime, police work, politics, and interpersonal drama. All of these events take place in the 15-year period leading up to the rise of the Third Reich.
Through masterful storytelling, Babylon Berlin successfully transports you to the 1920s and keeps you entranced by all its beauty and ugliness. To call it “ambitious” would be an understatement.
5. Samurai Gourmet (2017)
Looking for a foreign Netflix series with no drama? And no intricate plotlines or confusing character relationships? Then try Samurai Gourmet, a simple, joyful food show that’s so soft you’ll wonder why you’re watching it—yet you’ll be unable to look away.
As a food show, Samurai Gourmet follows an older man who has just entered retirement. When he does, he begins to explore food—not just the taste of it, but how one’s enjoyment of food can change based upon the setting, the emotions, and the people you’re with.
If you need to be uplifted in these uncertain times, Samurai Gourmet is the perfect show for it.
6. Fauda (2016)
Looking for political intrigue? The Israeli-made Fauda starts off a bit slow, but quickly snowballs into a high-intensity thriller that is reminiscent of shows like 24 and Strike Back.
The plot: an elite member of the Israeli Defense Force is pulled out of retirement when his last target, whom he supposedly killed, resurfaces.
We recommend Fauda if only because it breaks up the dominance of European and Asian TV series when it comes to Netflix’s “International” TV section. The underlying Israeli perspective elevates it to new heights, too.
7. Tabula Rasa (2017)
What if we told you that one of the best psychological thrillers on TV is Belgian? Well, it’s true, and it’s called Tabula Rasa. While the title is overused and borderline cliche, it fits the show.
In Tabula Rasa, an amnesiac woman is the key witness in a child disappearance case. However, unlocking her memory may unleash more drama than anyone ever expected.
If you like slow-burn, high-suspense, twist-filled stories that take their time and earn their climactic moments, then you need to watch this show.
8. A Very Secret Service (2015)
As the only comedy on this list, A Very Secret Service stands out in a way that no other show does. In this French-produced single-season series, a French secret service newbie is trained and mentored in cold-war France as it changes and evolves under the influence of global politics.
Honestly, that plot sounds a lot more serious than it is, but we assure you that A Very Secret Service is a spoof on the espionage genre. Often described as “James Bond meets The Office,” it takes a serious subject and turns it into a humorous one through silly situations and characters.
This TV series is a breath of fresh air for anyone who’s tired of the same old comedy cliches.
9. 3% (2016)
3% is a science-fiction thriller that takes you forward to a dystopian Brazil that’s been split into two unequal societies: the Offshore, which overflows with affluence and abundance, and the Inland, where poverty and desperation have taken over.
Every year, 20-year-old adults are given the chance to “cross over,” but only three percent of them make it. If you’re drawn to movies like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, then you’ll find a lot to like in 3%. It feels very much like a young adult tale, but adeptly tackles deeper issues and themes that are accessible to a wider audience.
10. Glitch (2015)
Glitch is one of the best mini-series to come from “Down Under.” In a tiny Australian town, seven people mysteriously rise from their graves. Their bodies are still intact, as if they’d never died, but their memories are fragmented.
What’s more, these seven grave risers apparently have nothing in common, with many decades occurring between each of their deaths.
Yes, Glitch is technically another zombie show, but it avoids most of the usual trappings of a zombie show by focusing on mystery instead of cheap thrills. As you learn more about the characters, it only gets more interesting.
11. High Seas (2019)
High Seas is a Spanish television show with high drama, high romance, and a high attention to historical detail.
When two sisters cross the Atlantic ocean from post-WWII Spain to Brazil, their trip is thrown into chaos when a woman on board is murdered. After the sisters join forces with the ship’s first officer to solve the murder, they discover a decades-old conspiracy deeper than any of them ever imagined.
Glamorous, glitzy, and full of intrigue, High Seas is the perfect sort of show to watch if you’re interested in high drama set in odd places.
12. Mr. Sunshine (2018)
Last on our list of the best foreign Netflix series is Mr. Sunshine. This is an award-winning South Korean TV series that takes place during the early 1900s.
Following a collection of characters ranging from Eugene Choi (an American immigrant who returns to Korea as a US Marine), to Go Ae-shin (a noblewoman who secretly works for the Korean independence movement), this TV series is tense, poignant, and beautifully written. It pays equal attention to historical events and the trials and tribulations that the characters go through.
If you’re embarking on an historical TV binge, definitely check this one out.
More Awesome Shows to Watch on Netflix
If you’re tired of the same old shows that cater to the same old audiences, then take heart: Netflix is arguably the most experimental “TV network” of them all. You can find a lot of brilliant foreign Netflix series to dig into.
If you’re looking for other things to watch on the streaming platform, we recommend the best BBC shows on Netflix for Americans, followed by the best Nordic dramas on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!
Read the full article: The 12 Best Foreign Netflix Shows From Around the World