12 Foreign Films That Show Hollywood How A Genre Film Should Be Done

Studios could learn a few lessons from these. 

The Raid
Sony Pictures Classics/Stage 6 Films

It's no controversial thing to say that American cinema has some huge issues with its genre films, especially with its big studio movies.

There are still plenty of good Hollywood films, but if it deviated from genre templates and franchises, while actually taking risks for once, its output would be a lot more consistent. And what's also very noticeable is how often foreign cinemas are doing just that, and pull off similar films far better.

It's not clear exactly why foreign films seem to avoid all of Hollywood's mistakes. It could be down to the lack of studio interference compared to Hollywood, or it might be the more culturally specific themes, or maybe the more artistic styles a lot of these movies favor.

Whatever the reasons, these films from the past two decades could provide plenty of guidance in making Hollywood's studio output more worthwhile, while putting the U.S. movies to shame.

12. I Saw The Devil

The Raid

Country: South Korea

Genre: Revenge Thriller/Horror

Plot: A South Korean horror film from director Kim Jee-woon, this stars Lee Byung-hun and Choi "Oldboy" Min-sik. Byung-hun's secret agent, devastated after the death of his fiancee, goes on a campaign of vengeance against her murderer, played by Min-sik.

I Saw the Devil is by far the weakest film on this list. It's overlong, difficult to watch and the themes of how revenge destroys you are trite by now, yet despite these issues it is a very memorable work. It's unlikely you'll watch it again given how disturbing it is, but that's a sign that the film has done its job well.

While most Hollywood thrillers feature clear-cut heroes and villains, as well as following conventional story-lines, ISTD stands out thanks to two hugely important elements. Firstly, it unfolds in a moral grey area, with the apparent hero and villain ultimately being quite hard to tell apart. This is a far more emotionally resonant approach, largely because it helps the story feel more realistic.

Secondly, it commits fully to bleakness. This was risky, but this approach hammers in a familiar message and makes the film seriously powerful. Frustratingly, Hollywood Revenge Thrillers are usually fairly risk-free in comparison.


One was planned, with You're Next director Adam Wingard attached, but word had been quiet recently. By the looks of it it'll probably eventually be made, though maybe not with Wingard directing.

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Film Studies graduate, aspiring screenwriter and all-around nerd who, despite being a pretentious cinephile who loves art-house movies, also loves modern blockbusters and would rather watch superhero movies than classic Hollywood films. Once met Tommy Wiseau.