The Best Netflix Shows Right Now All Have This In Common

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I grew up on a healthy pop-culture diet of Japanese martial arts movies and Italian-made “spaghetti westerns,” thanks to my dad’s affinity for both. I absolutely hated them for one specific reason: the dubbing. The process, with the dissonance between the movement of character's mouths and words they’re supposedly saying, is mildly irritating at best, and infuriatingly distracting at worst.
So, when I watch international imports these days, it’s subtitles all the way. It’s more work, but unquestionably worth it. And, as Netflix continues to buy the rights to foreign language gems or create their own international original series, it has become clear many of the best shows in the digital world are worth the effort of reading lines of dialogue for hours on end. In fact, these series can be even more rewarding than their English-language counterparts.
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Think about it: You can scroll through Twitter and text friends while watching even the most difficult-to-comprehend American-made series (looking at you, Westworld), but the same can’t be said for a show you’re watching in a language you don’t understand. If a viewer looks away for even a second, it’s highly likely they’ll miss some essential piece of information.
And, to top it all off, many of these foreign-language series are simply more compelling than 95% of American TV. They’re full of obscure mysteries, shocking twists, and creative concepts. So, we put together this handy guide to the best international original series on everyone’s favorite streaming giant, Netflix. Get ready to lose yourself in subtitles (yes, it really can happen!).
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1 of 10
Elite (Spanish)

If Casa De Las Flores is good, Elite great. The soapy teen show centers around Spain's posh (and fictional) Las Encinas, a school for society's most upper crust. After a public school is destroyed, three working class students are given the “opportunity” to attend the elite — get it? — institution.

What follows is an endless stream of scheming, throupling, and, eventually murder. If you wish Gossip Girl had more fatal intrigue and sex scenes, Elite is the show you've been waiting for.
2 of 10
Las Casa De Las Flores (Spanish)

This modern telenovela has everything: back-biting family drama, dream sequences that play into moving coming out scenes, a secret cabaret, so many flowers. Which makes sense, since the series' name translates literally to The House Of Flowers. The owners of the titular house are the members of the wealthy de La Mora clan, a family who supposedly built their fortune off of a very luxe floreria.

If that sounds impossible to you, it is, as you'll come to learn over Casa's 13 dazzling episodes.

Much like HBO's Succession, Casa comes down to the question of who will get the family business, and how many lives need to be ruined to get there. And, much like Succession, it's a wildly fun ride to learning the answer to the question (with far more fun than the Roys have ever had in their lives).
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3 of 10
Babylon Berlin (German)

If there’s one series that took the R29 office by storm since the fervor of 13 Reasons Why, it was Babylon Berlin, the 1920s-set drama that mixed Nazi intrigue, rich people mysteries, and sex dungeons. This is a perfect melting pot of genres.

The true draw of watching Babylon Berlin in its native German — other than listening to star Volker Bruch’s fantastic voice — is getting a true feel for the heydays of the seductive, wild Weimar Republic. In fact, there is no other way to enjoy the jaw-dropping, gender-bending, premiere-ending musical number. It’s one you’re going to want to watch over and over again, and probably will.
4 of 10
Dark (German)

There is an easy argument to be made for watching Dark with the English dubbing very much on: it’s a baffling show. The sci-fi drama quickly reveals itself to have multiple timelines, multiple versions of the same person (old and young, in their own past and in their own future), and a much more confusing family tree than anyone would ever expect. But resist that urge to make things extremely easy for you.

Off the bat, the translations aren’t perfect, and you don’t want to miss a single detail of a show like Dark. Secondly, how else are you going to enjoy people saying “Jonas” in the proper, delightful, German way if everyone’s speaking boring old American-affected English?
5 of 10
The Rain (Danish)

Speaking of people’s names sounding all the better in their native language, let’s talk about The Rain. One of the best parts of the very good young adult sci-adventure is listening to people yell the name “Rasmus!” — pronounced “Rhast-moose” in Danish — throughout the barren wasteland that was once Denmark.

Like Netflix’s best international original series, The Rain serves up a major mystery to viewers by making us question how rain, of all things, became the harbinger of the apocalypse, while also crafting the kind of characters we care about. It’s inevitable the enigma of Beatrice (Angela Bundalovic) will prove to be the most intriguing character on your screen.
6 of 10
3% (Brazilian)

Welcome, Hunger Games fans, to the show Netflix basically created just for you. This dystopian drama posits a pretty hefty question: what would happen if impoverished (but still sexy!) young people could escape the slums for paradise on Earth by way of completing a long line of absurd trials? The answer is 3%. Since, you know, only 3% of applicants can past The Process.

The entire series is so thrilling, it’s likely you’ll forget you’re even reading subtitles.
7 of 10
Tabula Rasa (Flemish)

The appeal of a Netflix show truly lies in how quickly you want to press “Next episode.” If the ending of an installment, or even a season, is a shocking, addictive ride, the original series has done its job. If you know how Tabula Rasa closes out its mind-blowing freshman season, you’ll agree the horror-tinged mystery lives up to that goal.

The series follows a woman named Annemie D'Haeze (Veerle Baetens), who is both suffering from retrograde amnesia after a car accident and the lead witness in a man’s disappearance. Essentially, Annemie is the worst person to lean on in this kind of case. But, she is certainly a fascinating protagonist.
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8 of 10
Ingobernable (Spanish)

The only way to describe this political thriller is, “breathless.” After all, it does begin with a woman (Kate del Castillo) attempting to divorce and flee her husband (Erik Hayser), who is also the fictional President Of Mexico, and ends with that president crashing to his death from a balcony. From there it’s a taut race to figure out who framed del Castillo’s Emilia Urquiza for the murder of her powerful spouse. Honestly, your blood pressure will go up just thinking about Ingobernable’s intense start.

And, you guessed it, you simply don’t get the urgency of the story — which kicks off with a terrifying domestic dispute between the First Couple — with dubbing.
9 of 10
Rita (Danish)

Television always needs more complex portrayals of motherhood. Rita, a dramedy about a sharp-tongued mother-of-three and school teacher, gives us just that. Rita Madsen (Mille Dinesen) makes inappropriate jokes, sleeps with her principal, and supports her friends through their own sexual panics.

By the time you finish Rita you will probably want to be Rita (without all the smoking, please). And by watching Rita in Danish, you get to hear the real bite, and wink, of her trademark wit.
10 of 10
Aggretsuko (Japanese)

In the premiere of Netflix’s “death metal red panda anime,” as Aggretsuko is billed, the central red panda, Retsuko (Erica Mendez), screech-growls into a microphone. “Neanderthal knuckle-dragging chauvinist pig! Looking at your face just makes me feel sick!” she screams. “How can one person be such a dick?!” Retsuko, a hard-working young woman-slash-red panda, just so happens to be talking about a literal pig, her boss Ton (Souta Arai), who jokes about preferring incompetent women to those annoying competent ones. Ha! So funny!

Later in the season, a dramatic seagull woman (Komegumi Koiwasaki) waxes poetic about relationships, facades, and the fleeting whims of happiness with an unparalleled level of existential dread, all while taping away on a cellphone.

Aggretsuko just might be the best.
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