Hollywood has dominated worldwide markets over the last 80 or so years. However, there are hundreds of other countries across the world who also play a big role in the modern movie industry. So, although it’s a question with absolutely no definitive answer, let’s have a look at which country makes the best films.
While the spread of English has led English-language films to dominate worldwide, if there’s a country outside of the Anglosphere that gives the USA and others a good run for their money, it’s definitely France.
The country is the home of modern cinema, and during the 1890s-1920s, France was arguably the most dominant force in global filmmaking, ranging from the successes of the legendary Arrival Of A Train At Vincennes Station (1896), to the groundbreaking A Trip To The Moon (1902).
But France doesn’t just own cinema’s most ancient relics, it’s been a constant source for innovative and popular films ever since the early days, often working light years ahead of anything Hollywood is able to put out, such as the likes of Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut during the French New Wave of the late 1950s-60s.
To this day, France is a fixture in the movie world, with 12 Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film. Its own annual awards ceremony – the Césars – is the most respected outside of the Anglosphere, as the country produces films of the highest quality year-on-year, reaching out to audiences across the world.
Some of the best: Amélie, Breathless, The Intouchables, The 400 Blows, Elle, Alphaville, Persepolis, The Passion Of Joan Of Arc, Delicatessen, Léon: The Professional
With the most Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, and home to some of cinema’s most stylish and memorable moments, there’s no doubt that Italy has always been able to make some amazing films.
Although the Italian film industry isn’t at its peak nowadays, with only a couple of strong international hits coming out each year, there was once an era when it was the source of the very best films the world had to offer, and unlike many others that were acclaimed at the time, so many of Italy’s all-time classics have held strong to this day.
Particularly in the post-war period, Italy’s rise from the ashes drew attention from all over the world, as directors such as Vittorio De Sica, Michelangelo Antonioni, Roberto Rossellini, Federico Fellini and more produced a a wide range of classics over a thrilling 30 year period where Italy was on top of its game.
Its Neo-Realist movement of the era is undoubtedly its crowning achievement, and filmmakers today still look to what Italian filmmakers achieved at the time, bringing powerful emotion and drama to the table in a way never seen before, coupled with effortless style and class in a way that only the Italians can do.
Some of the best: La Dolce Vita, Cinema Paradiso, 8 1/2, Life Is Beautiful, Marriage Italian Style, Bicycle Thieves, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, Perfect Strangers, Rome, Open City
For a country of only 10 million people, the impact that Sweden has had on world cinema over the years is really quite astonishing.
A land of dark humour and some powerfully deep reflections on the meaning of life, everybody knows what they’re in for with Swedish cinema, but it’s that distinct characteristic that has helped the country to retain worldwide acclaim through the decades.
Legendary director Ingmar Bergman’s masterpieces of the 50s and 60s need no introduction, but Swedish cinema has stayed at the top of its game ever since, with a continuous stream of cult favourites that has come to an incredible peak over the last ten years, with a whole heap of recent Swedish releases winning plaudits all across the globe.
Some of the best: The Seventh Seal, Let The Right One In, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Force Majeure, The Square
Although not the Anglosphere’s most prolific filmmaker, there’s no denying the enduring role the United Kingdom has on the international stage, as the home of some of the world’s most celebrated actors, directors, writers and so much more, all of whom have made their mark not only on Hollywood, but the whole world.
With endless collaborations with the USA that have produced some of cinema’s greatest classics, the UK’s own film industry is one of the most acclaimed in the world, with arguably a greater diversity and range than any other in the world, with the ability to produce huge, billion-dollar blockbusters, as well as legendary pieces of indie cinema, and absolutely everything in between.
Beginning with a slow-starting film revolution in the silent era, British film has grown and grown dramatically over the years, and with a strong cultural connection to both the powerhouse of the United States and the world of European cinema, the country has always been at the forefront of filmmaking, forging new directions that have an absolutely undeniable role in the long history of cinema.
Some of the best: Goldfinger, Slumdog Millionaire, Hot Fuzz, This Is England, Attack The Block, Oliver!, A Fish Called Wanda, Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, Two For The Road, Lawrence Of Arabia, Senna, The Dam Busters, A Matter Of Life And Death, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, Dunkirk, Ice Cold In Alex
Japan has been there from the very start, as the pioneering filmmaking nation in East Asia since the early 20th Century, evolving over the years with an endless run of incredibly talented directors, writers, actors and more that have found huge popularity all over the world.
While it’s known principally nowadays as the source for some of the world’s best animated movies, the country is responsible for so much of the development of world cinema, with the legendary samurai movies (jidaigeki) of the 1950s breaking technical boundaries, all the while telling countless unforgettable stories that have proved the inspiration for a number of Hollywood’s all-time classics, most notably Star Wars.
With a period of experimental neo-realism during the 1960s that was on a par with its European rivals, as well as any number of brilliant yakuza pictures, Japanese cinema has been one of the strongest worldwide for a good 70 years now, further developing and modernising into the 21st Century with its acclaimed anime industry, as well as all manner of fantastic domestic hits that range from psychotic horror-thrillers to unique and elegant dramas, all of which are rarely seen outside the country, but deserve just as much international acclaim as anything else.
Some of the best: Spirited Away, Seven Samurai, My Neighbour Totoro, Rashomon, Battle Royale, Ran, Grave Of The Fireflies, Confessions, Ghost In The Shell, Tag, Linda Linda Linda, Audition
Although its film industry dates back to the years immediately after the Korean War, there’s no country that has burst onto the world stage in the 21st Century in such spectacular fashion as South Korea.
While there are undoubtedly domestic classics and favourites from the golden age of the 1950s and 60s, it’s the advent of the so-called renaissance since the turn of the century that has propelled South Korean filmmaking to international acclaim, with consistent modern classics coming from directors like Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho and so many others.
With a particular appetite for riveting, no-holds-barred thrillers from all genres, South Korean cinema has been some of the most energetic and electric on the planet over the last 20 years, while it’s also proved one of the world’s best sources of modern romantic dramas, with the talent from its huge K-drama TV industry spilling over into the movie business, creating elegant and deeply romantic gems that Hollywood has never quite been able to pin down so well.
Some of the best: Oldboy, My Sassy Girl, 3-Iron, Train To Busan, Joint Security Area, The Beauty Inside, Snowpiercer, The Handmaiden, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… And Spring
The country may no longer be, but the cinema of the Soviet Union lives on in cinematic legend, standing as one of the true all-time greats of filmmaking, with its influence still being felt to this day.
The undisputed king of the silent era, with revolutionary filmmaking that stood light years ahead of the United States, Germany and other leaders of the period, Soviet films pushed cinema to its limits, finding new and innovative ways to make movies in a style and on a scale that just couldn’t be replicated overseas.
Furthermore, Soviet cinema’s status as a propaganda machine is significantly overstated, and while there were indeed films with an overwhelmingly political core, the diversity and artistic prowess of Soviet filmmakers was too much to be contained, and as such the country continued through the mid-20th Century with a wide array of legendary pieces of cinema, with directors like Andrei Tarkovsky, Sergei Bondarchuk and more winning worldwide acclaim, while the country also had a great flavour for comedy, and although many of its lighter movies aren’t quite as widely seen, there’s no doubting the sheer brilliance of Soviet cinema over the last century.
Some of the best: Solaris, War And Peace, Battleship Potemkin, Unbelievable Adventures Of Italians In Russia
Lying just south of Hollywood is Mexico, one of the world’s most underrated box offices, and an absolute behemoth of movie-making that barely ever gets a look-in on the global stage.
That’s a huge shame, because the immense talent that comes out of the country is evident, with a recent flurry of international recognition going to directors Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Guillermo del Toro, who provided three successive years of Mexican winners of the Academy Award for Best Director between 2013-2015.
With an ever-strengthening film industry that now produces widely-acclaimed and awards-worthy dramas on an annual basis, a foundation over half a century of filmmaking that has seen the country become the most influential in Latin American cinema, as well as a booming box office that’s seen a number of enormous domesitc hits over recent years, there’s no denying the brilliance and importance of Mexican film.
Some of the best: Roma, Innocent Voices, Like Water For Chocolate, Y Tu Mamá También, The Noble Family
Whatever your favourite movie-making country is, there’s no denying that everything about modern cinema is thanks to the successes of the American film industry, and its still-indomitable role in every corner of the world.
The unquestioned king of the international box office, raking in billions of dollars outside its own borders, the worldwide appeal of American movies has always been the defining feature of the world of cinema, with a breadth and depth to the country’s industry that no other can even hope to match, from the titanic blockbusters of Hollywood to the thousands of independent pieces that are seen all across the world every year.
The Americans may not have always been the most revolutionary or groundbreaking filmmakers, but there is no other country on the planet like the USA, where the greatest talents in cinema congregate and work together to produce world-conquering classics, with the country’s unmatched position as the leader of the world’s movie industry remaining steady for almost 80 years now, featuring a playbook of legendary films bigger than any other country.
Some of the best: Gone With The Wind, The Wizard Of Oz, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, A Streetcar Named Desire, Singin’ In The Rain, Psycho, The Sound Of Music, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Godfather, Jaws, Star Wars, Apocalypse Now, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Back To The Future, The Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction, Toy Story, Fight Club, Memento, The Incredibles, There Will Be Blood, The Dark Knight, Inception, The Avengers, Gone Girl, Arrival, La La Land