‘Parasite’ Best Picture Oscar Win: What Other Foreign Films Were Nominated for Best Picture?
Parasite made Oscar history as the first foreign language film to win the Best Picture Award. Bong Joon Ho’s tale of con artists living off a rich family finally crossed that boundary. Other foreign language films have made it to the final round, but lost to a traditional English-language film.
Parasite was already in good company with these other nominees, but if you’re interested in the history behind this landmark victory, here are some of the other foreign language films The Academy nominated in the past.
One year before ‘Parastie,’ ‘Roma’ had a good chance at the Best Picture Oscar
Alfonso Cuaron’s 2018 film Roma was an Oscar favorite. Cuaron based his black and white drama about maid (Yalitza Aparicio) for a wealthy Mexican family on his own life growing up. Roma still won Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director and Best Cinematography, but Green Book ultimately won Best Picture.
Roma’s success was enough to make Steven Spielberg launch a campaign to disqualify Netflix from Oscar nominations. So far, Netflix is still in, as The Irishman got lots of nominations too.
In 2013, ‘Amour’ was the sole foreign language Best Picture nominee
Michael Haneke’s 2012 French film Amour was a brutal drama about an 80-something stroke victim (Emmanuelle Riva) who wanted to end her life. Her husband (Jean-Louis Trintignant) tried to care for her, facing more and more resistance.
Amour won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. The Academy nominated Haneke for Best Director and Best Screenplay and Riva for her performance. Argo won Best Picture that year.
‘Babel’ and ‘Letters From Iwo Jima’ were technically foreign language films
Babel was a multi-narrative story traversing multiple cultures. As such it had stories in Spanish, in Japanese, in Arabic and in sign language. It also had an American story with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett speaking English.
Letters from Iwo Jima was a Clint Eastwood movie. He directed the Japanese perspective on WWII as a companion to his film Flags of Our Fathers. Much of Letters is in Japanese with English subtitles, but there are also English speaking characters and it is a Hollywood production.
‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ was the last Asian Best Picture nominee before ‘Parasite’
Ang Lee’s martial arts epic landed a Best Picture nominee. Lee would have to settle for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Cinematography for Peter Pau, Best Original Score for Tan Dun and Best Art Direction for Tim Yip. Gladiator won Best Picture that year.
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was a Hong Kong/Taiwanese film. The actors spoke Mandarin. Parastie is a Korean film in Korean language.
‘Life Is Beautiful’ and ‘Il Postino’ were Italian Oscar nominees
Roberto Benigni achieved a remarkable feat with his 1998 film Life Is Beautiful. He made a comedy about the Holocaust. He would win Best Actor and Best Foreign Language Film for it, and his composer Nicola Piovani would win Best Score. Shakespeare in Love took home Best Picture
1995’s Il Postino was a whimsical love story about a postman with a crush. He learns poetry from a poet whose mail he delivers, and those poems, and all other dialogue, are in Italian. Il Postino got the Best Picture nomination but not Best Foreign Language Film. It won for Best Score, but not Best Actor for the late Massimo Troisi or Director Michael Radford either but Braveheart won Best Picture.
Earlier foreign films nominated for Best Picture Oscars
For the sake of completion, here are a few more early foreign language films that landed the Best Picture nomination. 1937’s French film Grand Illusion, 1968’s French/Algerian Z, 1971’s Swedish The Immigrants and 1972’s Swedish Cries and Whispers.
All in all, only 12 foreign language films ever got close to a Best Picture Oscar, and only 10 if you disqualify Babel and Letters from Iwo Jima. Hopefully Parasite is the first of many.