Best Foreign TV Shows on Netflix
Netflix has a very large library of movies, documentaries and TV shows. Moreover, each country has a curated catalogue, which means that all the movies and TV shows Netflix has a license to stream are not available everywhere. Even the US catalogue only has about 40% of Netflix’s titles available, and theirs is the largest already. With over 13,500 titles under its belt, Netflix has some of the best foreign TV shows in their library. While some are not available outside their country, some are being streamed internationally equipped with multiple language subtitles and audios.
We’ve searched through Netflix’s directory of titles and below is a list of some of Netflix’s best foreign TV shows.
European TV Shows
If you liked Stranger Things, you’ll probably also love Dark. Dark is Netflix’s first German original series that first aired in 2017 and it has become one of their more successful ones for a foreign-language show. Set in a small town in Germany, Dark‘s story starts off when a child suddenly goes missing in the woods. With the child’s disappearance, four families start helping each other which eventually uncovers a secret bigger than they’d ever expected.
Unorthodox is a four-episode series that’s loosely based on Deborah Feldman’s Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots. It follows the story of a young woman, Etsy, who flees to Berlin – abandoning her Hasidic Jewish roots in Brooklyn and escaping an arranged marriage. While short, Unorthodox is an intriguing show that introduces the culture of Hasidic Judaism and tells a story of a woman’s self-discovery.
Money Heist is undoubtedly one of the best foreign TV shows we have today. Ever since its first airing in 2017, Money Heist has grown to become a pop culture phenomenon today. The story follows a group of robbers, led by someone called The Professor, to plan the biggest heist in history. It’s an exhilarating show that involves infiltrating the Royal Mint of Spain, taking hostages, and staying inside the Mint for 11 days to print more money while fighting off the police forces.
School dramas are not an uncommon genre in shows. We’ve had Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and even Riverdale. Elite is another TV show that falls under that list. The show is centered on three middle-class kids who enter Spain’s most exclusive school, and the relationships with their wealthy classmates. However, things take a darker turn when one of their classmates end up dead.
Call My Agent
If you’ve watched Entourage, Call My Agent is the French version of it. As a drama comedy, Call My Agent is an entertaining watch of how a group of movie star agents tries to save their agency after their leader passes away. There’s no dramatic events in the show, only people with realistic problems, making the show very simple and easy to enjoy.
If you’re looking for a crime thriller drama, The Mantis should be on your list. It is an exciting show where the French police start searching for a psychopath whose crimes seems to have been inspired by The Mantis. The Mantis, also known as Jeanne Deber, is a famous serial killer that terrorized the country over 20 years ago. The police then ask Jeanne for help to track down the criminal that has been copying her, forcing her out of her solitary confinement. She agrees on one condition: she will only work with her estranged son, Detective Damien Carrot.
A Very Secret Service
Set during the Cold War in 1960, A Very Secret Service follows the story of André Merlaux who joins the French Secret Service as a trainee officer. While the premise may sound serious, the French TV show is actually a drama comedy series. We follow André, a man who was never trained for the job, clumsily work his way through the secret service. It has the usual elements of a workplace comedy, making A Very Secret Service very enjoyable to watch.
The Chalet is a six-episode miniseries about a group of friends who go to a remote chalet in the French Alps. This French show falls under the thriller, crime, slasher genre as these group of friends get involved in a series of accidents. The show itself tells us a two stories happening in different timelines. The group of friends in 2017, and the family that disappeared when they rented the same chalet in 1997.
Suburra: Blood On Rome
Suburra: Blood On Rome is an Italian web series, and a prequel to the film, Suburra. It is also Netflix’s first Italian original TV series. The show’s story is actually based on a real-life political scandal in 2014 called the Mafia Capitale investigation. The show starts with a fight that happened in 2008 near Rome. The incident eventually escalated to a fight among the organized crime groups, corrupt politicians, and the Vatican.
Into the Night
If you love sci-fi and apocalyptic shows, Into the Night is exactly your cup of tea. Netflix’s first Belgian original series, Into the Night is a story that takes inspiration from the Polish novel, The Old Axolotl. A group of passengers aboard a flight from Brussels fight to survive when exposure to sunlight leads to death. They head west in order to keep the sun behind them, while dealing with other problems like fuel shortage and irradiated food.
Tabula Rasa is a Belgian TV series done in the Flemish language. A psychological thriller drama, it follows the story of Mie, a woman with an amnesia who is locked up in a psychiatric hospital. She soon becomes the prime suspect and a witness to the sudden disappearance of a man called Thomas Spectre. Mie now has to reconstruct and recover her past memories as she seems to be the only key in solving the case of the missing man.
Undercover is a 2019 Belgian-Dutch crime drama web series. It’s a thrilling 10-part series about undercover agents infiltrating a drug kingpin’s operation. The two undercover agents involved in the mission pose as a couple in a campground that the drug kingpin frequents on the weekends. Inspired by real-life events, Undercover takes place in Limburg, a Belgian province that borders Netherlands.
Secret societies and college is a recipe for a great horror show. Ares is exactly that. A Netflix Dutch original series, the horror web series is centered around Rosa Steenwijk, a first-year pre-med student at the University of Amsterdam. She joins an elite secret society called Ares and soon after joining, she discovers the dark secrets of the society and what it really is all about. The whole show is only 8 episodes long, making the show seem like a four-hour long horror movie. Definitely binge material.
Nobel is a 2016 Norwegian TV series that shows how Norway’s military was involved in Afghanistan. The show follows Lieutenant Erling Riiser going home after a deployment in Afghanistan. However, soon after getting home, he becomes a political pawn for the government. Nobel tells us his story and his struggles to know how far he should go to attain peace. The show only ran for a short while but became well-received by Norwegian critics.
If you’re fascinated by gods, specifically the Norse mythology, Ragnarok is definitely a show you will enjoy. Set in a fictional Norwegian town called Edda that seems to be heading for a Ragnarök. The climate changes and pollution the town is experiencing is caused by factories owned by the Jutuls. They are then challenged by the protagonist, Magne, who is actually the embodiment of Thor.
If we’re talking about best foreign TV shows in Netflix, the Dutch web TV series The Rain will always be mentioned. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, two siblings fight to survive after a virus brought by rainfall kills almost everyone in Scandinavia. The show follows their journey as they search for a place while looking for their father, a scientist, who may hold the answers to the virus – and its cure.
The Valhalla Murders
The Valhalla Murders is the first Icelandic series that Netflix will be featuring on its platform. Like the others mentioned before, The Valhalla Murders is also another story loosely based on real-life events. The beautifully shot show actually tells the story of a police profiler, Arnar, who reluctantly returns to his hometown, Iceland. Together with Senior Inspector Kata, they work to solve Iceland’s first serial killer case.
Mexican TV Shows
Ingobernable is an exciting Mexican political drama that premiered on Netflix in 2017. It tells the story of Mexico’s first lady, Emilia Urquiza, who is known for her strong ideals and morals. With plans to make big improvements in the country to fight for peace, things take a turn for the worse when she loses faith in her husband and eventually, become a prime suspect in her husband’s murder.
Control Z is another thrilling Mexican drama that tackles the subject of hacking. The show is set in a school where panic and humiliation breaks out as a hacker reveals the students’ secrets one by one. This causes distrust among the student and Sofia Herrera, an introverted student, takes it upon herself to find the hacker’s identity before her secret is revealed.
The House of Flowers
For a dose of dark comedy, the Mexican TV show The House of Flowers provides that. The story follows a dysfunctional upper-class Mexican family that own a famous florist shop and a cabaret that share the same name, The House of Flowers. The show takes on a unique concept that satirizes the famous telenovela format, thus being dubbed as a millenial telenovela. The show tackles sensitive subjects as homophobia, transphobia, stereotyping of genders, class, and race.
Latin American TV Shows
For the lovers of the dystopia genre, 3% will be a great addition to your list! The Brazilian web series is Netflix’s first Portuguese-language original series. The show is set in a world where the people are divided into two categories: those who live in the Inland, and those who live “Offshore”. People around their 20s go through “The Process”. Successful candidates are then able to move from the poor and crowded “Inland” to the distant island called, Offshore, to live a better life. However, The Process is a difficult and rigorous system that only 3% make it through.
Omniscient is another Brazilian TV series set in a fictional world. The sci-fi show has a 1984-esque plot where the citizens are monitored 24/7. However, a woman, Nina Piexoto, discovers a murder that the all-knowing surveillance did not detect. Now, she must also escape the surveillance she is under to investigate the murder.
Girls from Ipanema
Girls from Ipanema is Brazilian musical period drama. Previously titled as, The Most Beautiful Thing, the show is set in the 1950s where a housewife goes to Rio de Janeiro only to discover that her husband has left her – with their money. However, she decides to stay and opens a bossa nova club in the city.
Apache: The Life of Carlos Tevez
For football fans around the world, you should not miss Argentina’s Apache: The Life of Carlos Tevez. As the title says, it is an eight-episode long that depicts the story of the professional football player, Carlos Tevez. The story focuses on his rise to football fame despite growing up in the neighborhood of Ejército de los Andes, also known as Fuerte Apache.
The Queen of Flow
A 2018 Colombian TV series, The Queen of Flow is a show centered around the reggaeton genre. The protagonist of the show, Yeimy Montoya, is a talented songwriter, but was wrongly imprisoned as a teenager. Seventeen years later, she decides to seek revenge against the people involved in her downfall and the murder of her family.
South African TV Shows
Queen Sono is the first African original series for Netflix. It recently just premiered last year February 2020 and it follows the story of a South African spy who has to deal with her personal life, while she’s about to take on her most dangerous mission yet. Its first season ran only six episodes, and the show has confirmed its second season last April.
Blood & Water
Blood & Water is another school teen drama on this list. The story follows Puleng, whose sister was kidnapped as part of a human trafficking scheme. A few years later, she gets invited to a party of Fikile Bhele, a girl who seems to resemble her. She soon suspects that Fikile is her missing sister and goes on to investigate on this matter. However, she soon discovers other secrets that her family and friends are hiding.
Asian TV Shows
Kingdom is a breath of fresh air in the zombie genre. Netflix’s first South Korean original series is a show that combines the horror, political, and period genres into one. Set during the Joseon period, the show revolves around Crown Prince Lee Chang who tries to investigate the cause of his father, the King’s real illness and the schemes of the Queen and her family. Moreover, he also has to fight against and investigate the mysterious virus that is spreading all over the country while struggling to survive.
The Reply series is actually composed of three dramas: Reply 1997, Reply 1994, and Reply 1988. The shows each feature a different set of casts but all of them have one common feature: you’re guaranteed a trip to the past when you watch the shows. Each show features a group of youngsters who go through the joys and hardships of puberty and adulthood together. Even if there are pop culture references a foreigner would not get, the show is still successfully relatable in terms of depicting the problems and concerns of a person growing up.
Itaewon Class recently rose to popularity as one of the best foreign TV shows in 2020. It is an inspiring show that tells us the story of Park Saeroyi, an ex-con who starts his own bar in Itaewon. Together with his friends, they strive to achieve success in their business despite their disadvantageous circumstances.
Weighlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo
A lighthearted, romantic comedy show is always a great show. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo is exactly that. The show, as a whole, is a story of student athletes in a sports university that portrays their struggles as athletes as well as normal college students. Overall, the show is a simple coming-of-age story that everyone can will definitely relate to.
Extracurricular is a teen-slash-crime South Korean drama that first aired earlier this year. The show revolves around Oh Ji-soo, a top model student who turns to illegal and serious crimes to pay for his university. Soon, a classmate of his discovers what he has been doing and blackmails him.
Fashion enthusiasts and Devil Wears Prada Lovers will probably enjoy this show. Atelier is a 2015 Japanese web drama made for Netflix. The show is a story of a young “fabric geek” woman who successfully lands a job in Emotion. Emotion is a small, but upscale lingerie company located in the Ginza district. Just like any other Japanese show, Atelier successfully highlights the importance of working hard and succeeding despite whatever may come your way.
In terms of best foreign TV shows, Terrace House should be in the list that falls under the reality TV genre. The show is basically a franchise with five series under its belt. The show first aired in 2012 and since then, the show has become a popular show even among the international audience. Terrace House‘s premise is this: three men and three women from different walks of life will live in one house while getting to know each other. Nothing changes in their day-to-day life except that they’ll be living with strangers. Additionally, the fact that the whole show is mostly unscripted is what makes it more entertaining.
Samurai Gourmet is an enjoyable Japanese web series about food. Specifically, the show focuses on Takeshi Kasumi who rediscovers the joys of eating and drinking after becoming a retiree. It is a comedy show where Takeshi gets in touch with his inner samurai, a samurai that lives freely during Japan’s civil wars.
Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories
For those who enjoy anthology shows, Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories is a recommended foreign TV show. The show has 5 seasons with 50 episodes in total. It’s set in Meshiya, a small izakaya located in Shinjuku, Tokyo. What’s unique about Midnight Diner is that each episode usually focuses on one customer. They tell their stories and the Master – the owner of Meshiya – will offer advice, often philosophical. Moreover, each episode will also focus on one Japanese dish that usually relates to the customer’s story.
The Rise of the Phoenixes
The Rise of the Phoenixes is probably one of the best Chinese TV shows out there. The show is loosely based on the novel Huang Quan (??). It takes a look on the complicated relationships during the ancient dynasty. The story itself revolves around Ning Yi, the sixth prince, and Feng Zhiwei, an illegitimate daughter of the Qiu clan. Feng Zhiwei, after being banished from her house, crossdresses in order to survive. She soon enters the court as a general and politician and from there, develops a relationship with Ning Yi.
Selection Day is an Indian sports web drama that features a sport that many are probably unfamiliar with: the cricket. Based on a 2016 novel of the same name, Selection Day revolves around two brothers who are cricket prodigies. It’s their story of growing up with a strict and overbearing father, and fighting against a system that seems disadvantageous to them.
Sacred Games is another one of those foreign TV shows that is also based on a novel. It is a gripping show about a cop, Sartaj Singh, who suddenly receives a call from Ganesh Gaitonde, a crime lord that has been missing for 16 years. Ganesh tells him that he has 25 days to save the city and this is where the story jumps off. Sartaj finally finds himself in India’s underworld, while discovering how he and Ganesh are connected by the past.
Delhi Crime is an Indian web series based on the 2012 Nirbhaya case. The show itself is set during the aftermath of the crime which follows DCP Vartika Chaturvedi’s investigation on the case. Tasked with the finding the truth behind the gruesome crime, he sets off to search for the culprits while finding justice for the victim.
Girl From Nowhere
Another anthology series on the list is the Thai TV series, Girl From Nowhere. The show has recently made rounds on the web as one of the best foreign TV shows to watch, despite being a 2-year old show. Each episode is a different story and the show itself follows Nanno. Coming from a mysterious background, Nanno transfers to different schools and exposes hypocrisies and the lies made by both students and faculty.
Asian shows rarely touch on sensitive subjects, which is why Hormones is such a great show. It is one of those foreign TV shows that portrays the lives of Thai high school students. The show specifically focuses on aspects that the conservative Asian society might find controversial. For three seasons, Hormones tries to delve into issues such as sex, teenage pregnancy, drugs, homosexuality, and violence.