• Abi Prowse

5 Reasons to Watch Subtitled Films & Shows

Following the global success of South Korean blockbuster 'Parasite' at this year's Oscars, subtitled films have begun to lose their long-standing stigma. With its award-winning director Bong Joon Ho urging viewers to overcome the "one inch barrier", cinema lovers all over the world are beginning to take heed, branching out into a unexpected genres from a range of cultures and countries. For native English speakers, who are so used to understanding a huge percentage of movies and series, this may seem like a big step: but one that is well worth taking. Behind each set of subtitles is a talented translator, who has been challenged to overcome the linguistic nuances and fast-paced plotlines of that movie, rendering it equally enjoyable in a foreign language as its original dialect.

For those who are still unsure of the world of foreign-language cinema, here are 5 of the reasons you should definitely start watching subtitled films and shows.

1. It forces us out of our comfort zone

When it comes to choosing a movie or series to watch, most people are creatures of habit. Fans of thrillers will opt for the latest horror film, whilst those who just want to be entertained may search for a rom-com. With streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime making it easier than ever to access thousands of new movies and shows, now is the time to branch out and try something a little different.

2. It introduces us to new genres

While some movie genres are universal, other cultures have their own particular niches when it comes to the world of cinema. By expanding your repertoire of viewing material to include subtitled films and series, you may stumble across something you never expected to enjoy, but which may quickly become a fast favourite.

Movie genres which are unique to certain cultures include:

  • Italian Neorealism, which used inexpensive sets and non-famous actors to tell stories between the working and upper classes of the time.

  • French New Wave, which is celebrated for its experimental cinematography and political plotlines.

  • Latin American Third Cinema, which is characterised by its criticism of neocolonial and capitalist society.

3. It gives us an understanding of other cultures

You can learn a lot about another culture through its art, and cinema is no different. Whether it's a comedy, a horror, or a hard-hitting drama, the traditions of that culture will shine through, giving you an insight into the country's traditions and linguistic differences. From the character interactions to the setting and scenery, foreign-language and subtitled films provide a window into a world that might be entirely different from your own. You may also gain some inspiration for your next holiday destination!

4. It allows us to support lesser-known actors and directors

At a time when diversity and inclusivity in cinema is one of the world's most talked-about topics, supporting actors and directors from a variety of cultures is one of the best ways to encourage this cause. Subtitled movies and shows can introduce us to incredibly talented actors, scriptwriters and directors we may not have otherwise known, leading us also to discover other films they may have starred in.

5. It helps us learn another language

When speaking to someone whose native language is not English, I am always interested to know how they obtained such fluent speaking skills. Their answer, more often than not, is "by watching films and shows". Watching a subtitled show or movie is one of the easiest and most passive ways to learn that language: by simply absorbing the actors' and actresses' words. Unlike learning from a textbook or course, watching films will introduce you to slang, body language, and even a range of regional dialects - all of these are essential factors in mastering a foreign language.


Here are my recommendations for some of my favourite subtitled films and shows:


Parasite (2019) - Korean

Les intouchables (2011) - French

La vita è bella (1997) - Italian


Baby (2018) - Italian

Money Heist [La casa de papel] (2017) - Spanish

Let me know your favourite subtitled shows and movies in the comments below!

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