Exploring the World Through American Cinema


If you’re looking for entertainment with an international twist, consider a movie with a foreign flair.   Whether you're craving adventure, romance, or thought-provoking narratives, here's a curated list of American movies with international flair that have captivated audiences both at home and abroad.

The entertainment factor is high, but cultural accuracy can be hit-or-miss.  However, films with an international setting make an excellent springboard for conversations or research about what a country and its culture are really like.

Here are a few popular films to get you started, so make some popcorn—or your favorite international treat—and sit back and enjoy the show!


Lost in Translation (Japan, 2003)

Sofia Coppola's atmospheric drama follows the unlikely bond between a jaded American actor (Bill Murray) and a young college graduate (Scarlett Johansson) in Tokyo. Against the backdrop of bustling streets and quiet moments of reflection, the film explores themes of loneliness, connection, and cultural dislocation.

Movie poster for the movie, Lost in Translation.


The Beach (Thailand, 2000)

Directed by Danny Boyle and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this adventure drama transports viewers to the idyllic shores of Thailand's Phi Phi Islands. As a young backpacker discovers a hidden paradise, he soon realizes that paradise comes with its own set of dark secrets and consequences.

Movie poster for the movie, The Beach.


Eat Pray Love (Italy/India/Indonesia, 2010)

Based on Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir, this uplifting film follows a woman's journey of self-discovery as she embarks on a year-long quest across Italy, India, and Indonesia. Through food, spirituality, and love, she finds healing and renewal in the midst of diverse cultures and landscapes.

Movie poster for the movie, Eat, Pray, Love.


The Darjeeling Limited (India, 2007)

Directed by Wes Anderson, this whimsical comedy-drama follows three estranged brothers as they embark on a train journey across India in an attempt to reconnect and find meaning in their lives. With Anderson's trademark visual style and offbeat humor, the film is a colorful exploration of family dynamics and spiritual awakening.

Movie poster for the movie, The Darjeeling Limited.


Out of Africa (Kenya, 1985)

Starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, this epic romance is based on the memoir of Danish author Karen Blixen, who ran a coffee plantation in colonial Kenya. Against the backdrop of breathtaking landscapes and cultural clashes, the film captures the beauty and complexity of Africa.

Movie poster for the movie, Out of Africa.


The Last Samurai (Japan, 2003)

Tom Cruise stars in this historical epic set in 19th-century Japan, where he plays a disillusioned American soldier who finds himself drawn into the conflicts of the samurai uprising against modernization. With stunning battle sequences and themes of honor and cultural identity, the film offers a captivating glimpse into Japan's rich history.

Movie poster for the movie, The Last Samurai.


The English Patient (Italy/Tunisia, 1996)

Winner of nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, this sweeping romantic drama is set against the backdrop of World War II and the North African desert. As a wounded Hungarian count recounts his tragic love affair with a married woman, the film weaves together themes of love, betrayal, and redemption.

Movie poster for the movie, The English Patient.


Midnight in Paris (France, 2011)

Directed by Woody Allen, this romantic fantasy whisks viewers away to the enchanting streets of Paris. As a disillusioned writer (Owen Wilson) finds himself mysteriously transported back to the 1920s each night, he encounters iconic figures of the era, from Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Through his time-traveling adventures, he learns valuable lessons about nostalgia, creativity, and the allure of the past.

Movie poster for the movie, Midnight in Paris.


The Hundred-Foot Journey (France/India, 2014)

Directed by Lasse Hallström and produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg, this heartwarming film tells the story of an Indian family that opens a restaurant in the south of France, just a hundred feet away from a Michelin-starred French restaurant. As the two establishments engage in a culinary rivalry, tensions gradually give way to friendship and mutual respect, bridging cultural divides through the universal language of food. With sumptuous visuals and a delectable blend of flavors, it's a delightful tale of love, ambition, and the power of gastronomy to unite people from different worlds.

Movie poster for the movie, The Hundred-Foot Journey.


Cinema offers a window to distant lands and cultures, all within the cozy confines of our homes. Films set in international locales serve as a fantastic catalyst for engaging conversations with your exchange student about the intricacies of their culture. So, why not delve into one of these cinematic gems together and explore the world through the magic of film? What cultural insights will you discover next?

Do you have a favorite internationally-themed film that missed our list?  Share it in the comments below!


Note:  ICES does not guarantee the suitability of these films for younger audiences.  Viewer discretion is advised.

Tags: Travel, cultural understanding, Cinema

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