So, you’ve binged your way through the best Netflix shows of the sci-fi and fantasy variety, including futuristic odysseys, angst-ridden supernatural dramas and Marvel spin-offs. You've even binged Iron Fist – and now you’re looking for your next sci-fi/fantasy/comic book small screen fix.
Well, if you can get over the one-inch barrier of subtitles, there’s a whole host of international genre fare on the streaming service that's just as compelling, exciting and unashamedly nerdy as anything Hollywood has produced. From Norwegian mythology and Brazilian dystopia to French horror and South Korean romance, here’s a look at 10 foreign-language shows that every open-minded geek should instantly add to their queue.
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If San Junipero and Hang the DJ are your Black Mirror episodes of choice, then this sensual start-up story set is perhaps the next logical step. Set in a Parisian near-future, Osmosis shares its name with a revolutionary brain-hacking data app that makes Tinder look as antiquated as a lonely hearts column. The eight-part series doesn’t shy away from the moral and ethical dilemmas that emerge from the seemingly impossible promise of a 100% match. Yet like Charlie Brooker’s unusually optimistic narratives, it also proves that machinery and mankind can co-exist without causing mass destruction.
Putting an environmentally-conscious spin on Norse legend, Ragnarok shows that there’s more to Scandinavian TV than noirish crime and woolly jumpers. Netflix’s first Norwegian original sees a socially-awkward gangly teenager discover his superhuman abilities after returning to his childhood hometown. But with great javelin-throwing and rabid dog-demolishing powers comes great responsibility.
And our unlikely hero must contend with an ageless, and unintentionally camp, “immortal clan of warriors” determined to destroy the planet if he’s ever to make it past high school. While the climate change angle might make Ragnarok sound a little too worthy, it never takes itself too seriously.
Hailed as the German Stranger Things on its arrival in 2017, Dark soon revealed itself to be a more brooding, complex and, well, darker, watch than the Duffer Brothers’ colorful nostalgia trip. Unfolding slowly across several time periods, generations and parallel worlds, its central mystery evolves from a missing child tale into a labyrinthian quest to save not only the town of Winden but the entire universe. You may need to take notes to keep up, but over three gripping seasons the show rewards such undivided attention in spades.
Arriving at the tail end of the teen dystopia phenomenon, this Brazilian series sees a bunch of impoverished young adults participate in various challenges for a trip to a mysterious promised land. Of course, as its title suggests, only 3% make the cut, and many pay the ultimate price for competing. Although clearly lacking the budget of The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner etc., director and Oscar-winning cinematographer César Charlone still manages to build an immersive world filled with intriguing, well-developed characters. It’s not afraid to tackle the big issues, either, addressing everything from immigration to inequality with unexpected nuance.
One of the few French Netflix originals to make it to a second season, Mortel instantly stood out from the supernatural teen drama crowd with its focus on voodoo. Here, troubled student Sofiane seeks vengeance for the murder of his brother, enlisting the help of best friend Victor, black magic practitioner Luisa and, of course, a fearsome, murderous god named Obé in the process. Boasting a cool Gallic hip-hop soundtrack, and for a show about mind-reading, soul-trading detectives, a surprisingly measured depiction of mental health issues, Mortel isn’t short of style or substance.
Prefer your superhero stories on the lighter side? Well, there’s little existential angst to be found in this goofy Spanish 10-parter which can be binged through in a single afternoon. The Neighbor stars Quim Gutiérrez as a slovenly manchild granted special powers by an extra-terrestrial. But this being a comedy and all, he’s initially more interested in using them to gross-out his best friend than changing the world for the better. The Neighbor does eventually become a little more high-stakes with the arrival of various supervillains. But it’s the one-liners and daft set pieces which keep you hitting ‘next episode.’
If you’re one of those gluttons for punishment that sent Contagion and Outbreak to the top of Netflix’s most-watched list at the start of the pandemic, then you shouldn’t be too deterred by The Rain’s all-too-timely premise. Taking place six years after a viral rainfall has virtually wiped out Scandinavia, the post-apocalyptic drama follows the fortunes of two Danish siblings as they emerge from their shelter to look for their father. Despite its grim premise, The Rain can often be stunning to look at, and as the survivor group gets stronger along the way, so does your investment in its fate.
My Holo Love
While the K-Pop scene is thriving on both sides of the Atlantic, South Korea’s TV output hasn’t quite caught the western public’s imagination in the same way. And yet shows such as My Holo Love have a similar anything goes approach, throwing in elements of Blade Runner, Her and the current rom-com revival spearheaded by its streaming home. A young warm-hearted recluse with face blindness disorder and a cold-natured holograph who’s a stickler for rules are the two leads here, and their unconventional love story offers a fresh, fascinating perspective on love in the digital age.
Forget The Umbrella Academy. This underrated Turkish series is Netflix’s finest superhero offering outside of their Marvel tie-ins. The Protector in question is Hakan, an Istanbul entrepreneur who after watching his shopkeeper adoptive father gunned down, discovers that his biological parents are more into defeating immortals than selling antiques. Aided by a magical shirt and several secret order allies, the unwitting hero must attempt to keep his hometown safe from various ancient dark forces while simultaneously investigating his mysterious family tree. And with the luxury of four seasons, the show can delve much deeper into its mythological world than most.
Taking the idea of an Orwellian state to new extremes, this Portuguese-language series is set in a not too distant future where every citizen is followed around 24/7 by a tiny all-seeing drone. Yet it turns out these obtrusive UAVs do have their blind spots and when her father’s murder goes mysteriously unrecorded, Omniscient intern Nina must both evade and hack into supercomputer The System to uncover the murky truth. Boasting a bold visual style and old-school noirish score, this literal under-the-radar offering poses all sorts of worrying questions about the power of digital giants without ever getting too preachy.
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