The Best Foreign TV Shows You're Not Watching (But Should Be)

American television is currently in a Golden Age. Little-known fact, though: Many of the most beloved, critically acclaimed shows are actually overseas imports that have been redone for English-speaking audiences. Homeland, The Bridge, and The Killing are all examples of international phenomenons that were made over for our shores.

American TV creators are increasingly looking to foreign programming for inspiration. While the remakes are great, there's just no beating the originals. There's also a whole slew of foreign TV shows that have yet to receive the adaptation treatment — and are definitely worth watching.

If murder mysteries in sleepy towns and the eccentric detectives brought in to solve them are your dramatic sweet spot, for example, there's literally an entire world out there devoted to that genre. Somehow the shows all manage to be unique and completely engrossing, especially those from Scandinavia that now have their own classification of "Nordic noir."

There are so many brilliant foreign series out there, and the good news is that it's easier than ever to stream them in the U.S. Ahead, check out the best offerings from countries all around the world — and where to watch them.

Ingobernable, Netflix

The first lady of Mexico, Emilia Urquizia (Kate del Castillo) leaves her husband, the president of Mexico. Soon after, he's suddenly murdered, and he's nowhere to be found. Was she involved in his murder? What happened to their grand dreams of fixing Mexico? This show is far more scandalous than Scandal.
Dark, Germany

Something's amiss in the small town of Winden, Germany. Two young boys disappear in the forest, just like what happened 33 years ago. Time seems to be trapped in a loop, but only the town's conspiracy theorist can see it. Like Broadchurch and Stranger Things, this show hurls a tight-knit community into an unbelievable situation, and then sees how their relationships contort around the pressure. Dark comes to Netflix on December 1.
Suburra, Italy

A swath of land near the Roman waterfront has finally been cleared for construction. Sensing a huge economic opportunity, the mafia families who run the city's back channels all clamor to develop casinos. Over the course of ten days, three young men fight to get ahead, and win over the Roman officials willing to be bought out. The Rome depicted in Suburra is wildly corrupt, and bloody, and full of orgies. So: Great TV.

Netflix's first Italian-language original hits on October 6.
Un Village Français, France

This smash hit was the first major show in France to ever to directly address the Nazi occupation of France during WWII. During that time, the invading Germans army settled into various small villages, like Villeneuve, the fictional village in which this story is set. Over the course of seven seasons, we see how regular villagers adjust to the stress and subjugation of occupation. Who resists the Gestapo, and how? Who collaborates, and to what extent? This is a show of ordinary people in extraordinary times. Inevitably, you'll wonder how you would grapple to times like these.
White Nights, Korea

It's a ruthless climb to the top, as the three main characters in this K-drama know too well. In the show, the lives of three individuals — an heiress, her ex-lover, and her new hire — are intertwined as they each try to achieve their shared goal: insane success. This is the capitalists' dream show.

Where to watch: Netflix
Summer Heights High, Australia

Comedic mastermind plays three characters in this public high school in Australia. One, Mr. G, is the school's egocentric drama instructor. There's Jonah, the relentless troublemaker who somehow manages to be endearing. Last but not least, Jamie, the wealthy exchange student from a private school who's lacking in self-awareness and exploding with smugness.

Where to watch: HBO Go
Courtesy of BBC
Wolf Hall, England

In this BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel's acclaimed novel, Henry VII (Damian Lewis) is desperate to marry Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy). He enlists the help of a longtime political enemy, Thomas Cromwell (Mary Rylance) to pull the political strings to make this marriage work. This miniseries features a whopping 102 characters.
Courtesy of Netflix
Terrace House, Japan

At first, this Japanese reality TV show might seem like a hard sell, especially when we're used to sensational shows like The Real World and Big Brother. While Terrace House also features a bunch of beautiful people living together, there's no drama or bad behavior. Instead, the 20s year old are amicable, and we watch as chemistry chastely buds. It's addicting, and refreshing.

Catch it on Netflix.
The Island, Greece

History, leprosy, and a Greek island converge in this acclaimed miniseries, based off a novel by Victoria Hislop of the same name. The series is set on a now-defunct lepers' colony off the coast of Crete, and what happens when a local schoolteacher finds out she has contracted the disease and must live on the island — forever. Her ancestor travels back to Crete to piece together the story of her family.

Where to watch: DailyMotion
Courtesy of Canal+
Spiral, France
If you’ve exhausted all of America’s options for police procedurals, check out this award-winning French drama, long considered one of the best cop shows in Europe. Set in contemporary Paris, the large cast of police and lawyers grapple with instances of terrorism, drug trafficking, corruption and other issues of modernity.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Crazyhead, United Kingdom
Buffy The Vampire Slayer went to Britain, earned itself a funny bone, and took weird to another level. This British comedy tells the tale of demon-slayers Amy (Cara Theobold) and Racquel (Susan Wokoma) as they slay demons and navigate their early twenties. They look up demon killing techniques on the internet and endure awkward encounters with boys, as one does when one is born to kill demons. It's soapy, silly, and just self-aware enough that you don't feel like you're watching a relic of 90's television. Wokoma, who also appeared in Netflix's Chewing Gum, stands out as the charismatic center of the series. She takes the show from a rehash of popular supernatural television to a paragon of humorous fantasy writing.

Where to watch: Netflix.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Heartland, Canada
The OC traveled to Canada and became Heartland, the soapy teen drama that takes place on a horse ranch. The northern-based series will satisfy any cravings you have for Degrassi or its brothers Gossip Girl and Secret Life Of The American Teenager. It focuses on Amy, your classic scrappy teen on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Her mother just died, and, to top it all off, they might just lose their ranch.

Where to watch: Netflix.
Photo: Courtesy of Pivot.
Occupied, Norway
Vogue called it "the new Homeland," The New York Times declared it "gripping," and, to make matters even more delicious, the Russian government ain't pleased with it. Safe to say, the Norwegian import that came to Netflix this year is the type of incendiary television you've got to watch. In the show, which is called "Okkupert" in Norway, Russia occupies the uber-progressive country after it decides it will remove themselves from oil and gas production. What follows is a tense psychological thriller about one country's struggle for autonomy.

Part of this series intense appeal relies on its timing — just as the United States uncovers Russian interference in our own political system, a Norwegian drama dramatizes a similar interaction with the eastern European nation. Occupied will either scare you to your bones, or scare you to your bone marrow. There's drama in Norway, but it's awful close to home.

Where to watch: Netflix.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Pacific Heat Australia
Imagine that the screwball series Brooklyn Nine-Nine went Aussie and animated— that's Pacific Heat for you. The bumbling idiots in this series are a group of undercover police investigators called the "Pacific Heat." The first episode sees the team attempt to crack an undercover meth ring. (Although most meth users become professional chefs, as one of the team points out.) Naturally, things go awry, there are a few errant subtitles, and the team argues over who gets to say the tacky pun. ("Our loveboat just became a drugboat.")

Created by what amounts to Australian comedy royalty, Pacific Heat is the type of foreign TV that provides pure escape. There are laughs, there are beaches, and there's a spunky lab technician with a short haircut. You can watch The Wire some other time — for now, enjoy some low-stakes animated tomfoolery.

Where to watch: Netflix.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
3%, Brazil
The title of this Brazilian Netflix original refers to the elite 3% of the population, carefully hand-picked via the annual "Process," who get to live in luxury on the fabled Offshore. The remaining 97% of the world's population live in poverty on the Inland. This is a meritocracy to extremes — all 20-year-old citizens must endure said Process and its harrowing events. The series follows a group of aspiring 3-percenters as they fight their way through government-designed tests and trials.

Like the best dystopian thrillers, 3% forces a closer inspection of the present. The Process mirrors the high-stakes job interviews of today — Vice compared it to the Google job interview. But that's not even the most frightening part. 3% is so chilling because, as the main characters fall victim to the Process, the tyrannical government starts to sound reasonable. And that's just scary.

Where to watch: Netflix.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Lovesick, England
This patient romantic comedy suffered at the hands of its original title, Scrotal Recall. The replacement, Lovesick, isn't much better, but the show is proof that a television show is much more than the sum of its title. Somehow, this UK sitcom survives its sophomoric name (and, for that matter, premise) to deliver a gentle depiction of love, regret, and friendship in your 20's. It begins when hapless Dylan (Johnny Flynn) discovers he has chlamydia. The diagnosis catalyzes an analysis of his romantic past: the failures, the successes, the omipresent anguish. The show uses flashbacks to explore various parts of Dylan's history. He's accompanied by Evie (Antonia Thomas) and Luke (Daniel Ings), both as oblivious as Dylan himself. It may have lost on its title, but Lovesick wins at heart and pathos.

Where to watch: Netflix
The Last Panthers, France
A British insurance agent is on the hunt to recover a handful of diamonds stolen by an elite mob called the Pink Panthers. A French-Algerian policeman is also looking for the goods. It's dark and brooding, but also beautifully shot.

Also: David Bowie arranged his song "Blackstar" as the show's theme, so you know the music will be great.
Gomorrah, Italy
Gomorrah’s lens is set on Italy’s sprawling gangster subculture. It’s more The Wire than Sopranos, which focused on one crime family with intimacy. Gomorroah is about how a few people’s crimes affect (or infect?) the lives of everyone around them.

Where to watch: SundanceTV.
Photo: Courtesy of Xenium Productions.
The Samaritans, Kenya
Go inside a dysfunctional NGO in this Kenyan mockumentary. It’s like The Office or Parks and Recreation, only with a geo-political spin. The fictitious “Aid for Aid” organization the show focuses on is a sly take on white colonialism and human rights efforts. When an offbeat and inept manager is brought into to run the aid agency, eyerolls and buffoonery ensues.

Where to watch:
Photo: Huw John/REX/Shutterstock.
Torchwood, England
Captain Jack Harkness leads a team of alien hunters. And we’re all just sitting blissfully ignorant while they continually save our butts from extraterrestrial doom. It's sure to please anyone remotely interested in sci-fi or who misses old X-Files episodes.

Where to watch: Amazon
Photo: Everett.
Gavin & Stacey, England
What’s that? You love James Corden? Well, technically this show is about a long-distance couple, Gavin and Stacey, but we’re really here for Corden, who plays their friend Smithy. This program is basically about the romantic relationship between the title characters, and all the milestones that come with it — engagement, looking for a house, maybe having a baby, that kind of thing. But since Corden co-created and wrote the show, you can expect his infectious brand of humor throughout.

Where to watch: Hulu
Photo: Courtesy of Seeso.
Fawlty Towers, England
This 1970s British sitcom takes place in Fawlty Towers, a seaside hotel in England. The guests are wild! The hotel is falling apart! The owners aren’t the brightest and probably shouldn’t be running a hotel at all! What a treat. Requirement: Must enjoy dry British humor. And there are only 12 episodes, so you can binge it on the next rainy day.

Where to watch: Seeso
Photo: ITV/REX/Shutterstock.
The Bletchley Circle, England
Or, four former female spies take on modern crime. This lady-filled British drama follows former World War II codebreaker Susan as she applies the skills she learned during the war to everyday events. The title of the show refers to Bletchley Park, the historic site where operatives broke secret German code during the war. Susan and three of her fellow code masterminds begin to unravel a pattern surrounding serial murders in London.

Where to watch: Netflix.
Photo: Ray Burmiston/HBO.
Life’s Too Short, U.K.
I know Ricky Gervais can be polarizing. But his BBC series with Stephen Merchant is hilarious and features a lot of people you definitely love. If you want a taste of what you can expect from the observational comedy, check out this clip in which Liam Neeson wants to do more comedy and comes to Gervais and Merchant for help.

Where to watch: HBO Now.
Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.
Grand Hotel, Spain
If you’re into Downton Abbey, then you probably enjoy just about any glimpse into the lives of early-20th-century aristocracy. This one’s set in Spain and centers on Julio, who gets a job as a waiter at the titular hotel to further investigate the disappearance of his sister.

Where to watch: Hulu
Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.
Father Ted, Ireland
Father Ted is a Catholic priest on Craggy Island, a fictional Irish isle. He lives with Father Dougal, a younger, oblivious priest, as well as the elderly and cranky Father Jack and their housekeeper Mrs. Doyle. This sitcom was on air for just a few years in the ‘90s, but it certainly stands the test of time.

Where to watch: Hulu
Photo: Courtesy of KBS.
Boys Over Flowers, South Korea
In a Gossip Girl-esque turn, a dry cleaner's daughter winds up at an exclusive private school.

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Please Like Me, Australia
Earning comparisons to Lena Dunham and Girls, creator Josh Thomas also writes and stars in this show (a co-production between ABC Australia and Pivot in the U.S.), which follows his character realizing that he's gay in his early 20s, while also dealing with his mother's mental illness and his father's second marriage.

Where to watch: Amazon
Photo: Courtesy of Channel 4.
Southcliffe, England
A gripping exploration of a town in the aftermath of a mass shooting.

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of Canal+
The Returned (Les Revenants), France
The dead start coming back to life in a sleepy French village, but this isn't your usual zombie fare. These resurrected folks just want to continue their lives right where they left off, but their loved ones have already mourned for them and seemingly moved on.

Where to watch: Netflix.
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of celebrity news, fun takes on pop culture, and trending stories on the Refinery29 Entertainment Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!
Photo: Courtesy of ABC TV.
The Straits, Australia
It’s been called an Australian Sons of Anarchy with a dash of King Lear and The, of course, meth kingpins. Get watching.

Where to watch: Hulu
Photo: Courtesy of Yes TV.
Srugim, Israel
Modern Orthodox Jews search for love and happiness in Jerusalem.

Where to watch: Amazon
Photo: Courtesy of TV4.
Wallander, Sweden, England
Part of the “Nordic noir” wave, this series follows disillusioned detective Kurt Wallander as he solves grisly murders in a formerly peaceful province. The show's based on Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander novels, and has been adapted in both Sweden and England.

Where to watch: Both versions are on Netflix (Swedish, English)
Photo: Courtesy of DR1.
Borgen, Denmark
This political drama, which follows politician Birgitte Nyborg after she unexpectedly becomes the first female Prime Minster of Denmark, has been compared to House of Cards and The West Wing.

Where to watch: Link TV
Photo: Courtesy of RTÉ Television.
Love/Hate, Ireland
Cheeky Misfits star Robert Sheehan gets his brood on in this terrific dramatic series that’s been called Ireland’s answer to The Wire.

Where to watch: Hulu
Photo: Courtesy of Cadena Tres.
Las Aparicio, Mexico
Members of a mysterious family, in which only females seem to survive, have their lives disrupted when a man tries to investigate the "Curse of Las Aparicio."

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of Channel 2.
Prisoners of War (Hatufim), Israel
This Israeli thriller was the inspiration for Homeland.

Where to watch: Hulu
Photo: Courtesy of Cinétévé.
The Witnesses (Les Témoins), France
A detective investigates a string of murders and her partner's mysterious past.

Where to watch: Coming to Netflix in May
Photo: Courtesy of Starz.
The Missing, England
This Golden Globe-nominated miniseries traces the psychological and emotional impact of a child's disappearance on his parents. A second season, which will feature new characters and a different case, is currently in production.

Where to watch: Google Play
Photo: Courtesy of Seven Network.
A Place to Call Home, Australia
In this show set in the 1950s, a woman returns to Australia to start over after 20 years abroad, and ends up at odds with a moneyed matriarch.

Where to watch: Acorn TV
Photo: Courtesy of DR Fikiton.
The Legacy (Arvingerne), Denmark
The latest in addictive Nordic noir is an inheritance drama centering on the adult children of a legendary artist, who discover a long-lost fourth sibling when they gather to sort out her estate.

Where to watch: Amazon
Photo: Courtesy of Werner Film Production.
Dance Academy, Australia
It's a little cheesy, sure, but it's also like Center Stage on television with Australian accents. For some of us, that's a total slam dunk — or, to use a more appropriate analogy, grand jeté.

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of Orion Cinema Network.
Vampire Prosecutor, South Korea
Much like iZombie, Vampire Prosecutor has an undead protagonist whose supernatural abilities, combined with an insatiable thirst for human blood, help him solve crimes.

Where to watch: Hulu
Photo: Courtesy of Antena 3 Televisión.
Grand Hotel (Gran Hotel), Spain
It's been called Spain's answer to Downton Abbey, which should tell you everything you need to know.

Where to watch: Hulu
Photo: Courtesy of SVT1.
The Bridge, Sweden & Denmark
A dead body is discovered on the border between Sweden and Denmark, leading to an investigation by detectives from both countries. FX adapted the thriller for two seasons, setting it on the border of the U.S. and Mexico.

Where to watch: Hulu
Photo: Courtesy of BBC One.
Poldark, England
You may have already caught the Internet rumblings about how much of a babe Aidan Turner is, playing the titular Poldark. The show's also prompted many humorous critiques of modern-day actors’ scything techniques.

Where to watch: Coming to PBS in June
Photo: Courtesy of ABC1.
The Slap, Australia
The original is much better than the recent NBC remake.

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television.
Los Caballeros Las Prefieren Brutas, Colombia
This relationship dramedy is about love, marriage, and machismo.

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of ITV.
Broadchurch, England
Two detectives investigate the murder of a boy in a small town filled with secrets.

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of Canal+.
Spiral (Engrenages), France
This gritty police thriller has been broadcast in over 70 countries, which is just one indication you should get on board.

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of ITV2.
The Only Way Is Essex, England
It's almost a crime how addictive this reality show, which fans affectionately know as TOWIE, is.

Where to watch: Hulu
Photo: Courtesy of E4.
Misfits, England
It's not quite the same since the original ASBO Five (so called for their "anti-social behaviour order") left the series, but this British teen show with a superpower twist is highly entertaining.

Where to watch: Hulu
Photo: Courtesy of SoHo.
Wentworth, Australia
It's like Orange Is the New Black down under.

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of BBC Two.
The Honorable Woman, England
Maggie Gyllenhaal won a Golden Globe for her role in this BBC miniseries (which also aired on Sundance) that follows a British-Israeli businesswoman as she tries to work toward peace in the Middle East.

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of TV 2.
Rita, Denmark
This Danish dramedy centers on teacher and single mother Rita Madsen. Its promotional image caused all sorts of problems with anti-smoking groups.

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of BBC Two.
Peaky Blinders, England
If you've been searching for a fix of early 20th-century gangster drama now that Boardwalk Empire is over, look no further than Birmingham's brutal Peaky Blinders gang.

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of Australian Broadcasting Company.
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, Australia
P.I. Phryne Fisher solves murder mysteries in 1920s Melbourne.

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of Channel 10.
Hostages (Bnei Aruba), Israel
CBS attempted to remake this hit Israeli thriller, but there was just no replicating the tense, compelling original.

Where to watch: Google Play
Photo: Courtesy of ITV.
Vicious, England
Ian McKellan and Derek Jacobi star as a constantly sparring couple whose lives are disrupted when a handsome young man named Ash (Game of Thrones and Misfits star Iwan Rheon) moves into their building.

Where to watch: Google Play
Photo: Courtesy of South Pacific Pictures Ltd.
The Almighty Johnsons, New Zealand
This Kiwi series is about four brothers who just so happen to be descended from Norse gods. We assume it was inspired by Chris Hemsworth, Norse deity (yes, we know he's Australian, but go with it).

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of Sky 1.
Moone Boy, Ireland
Chris O'Dowd's whimsical sitcom (which is getting adapted by ABC) chronicles the adventures of a boy and his imaginary friend.

Where to watch: Hulu
Photo: Courtesy of Channel 4.
Black Mirror, England
This anthology-style series is The Twilight Zone for the technology-obsessed age. It's absolutely terrifying.

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of BBC One.
Happy Valley, England
Yorkshire police sergeant Catherine Cawood investigates a kidnapping with a painful connection to her family.

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of Nine Network.
Underbelly, Australia
This series features dramatizations of Australia's most notorious true crime stories.

Where to watch: Hulu
Photo: Courtesy of BBC One.
Hinterland (Y Gwyll), Wales
A police detective finds trouble afoot in the idyllic Welsh countryside.

Where to watch: Netflix
Photo: Courtesy of Sky Atlantic.
Fortitude, England
A violent crime rocks a peaceful, remote town on the edge of the Arctic Circle in this coproduction between Sky Atlantic and Pivot.

Where to watch: Amazon

Sidenote: If you're still craving additional British offerings after reading, head here for more recommendations from our U.K. chums.
Load more...