Recommended series and movies from around the world to escape from Christmas

Looking for something to watch and unwind after a hectic finals week? Or just wanting to binge-watch something during winter break? Here are some must-see foreign series and movies, recommended by international students and faculty at California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB).



Inspired by real events, the Belgium thriller/crime series “Undercover” was released in 2019 and offers three seasons available on Netflix USA. Each season averages 10 45-minute episodes. The Rotten Tomatoes audience score is at 85%. The Netflix description states “The lines begin to blur for a pair of undercover cops as they try to infiltrate a drug kingpin’s operations by posing as a couple moving in next door.”

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Money Heist

Spanish thriller/crime show “Money Heist” was released in 2017 and offers five parts, or season, available on Netflix USA. The Rotten Tomato average tomatometer is 94% with descriptions stating that “A criminal mastermind who goes by “The Professor” has a plan to pull off the biggest heist in recorded history – to print billions of euros in the Royal Mint of Spain. To help him carry out the ambitious plan, he recruits eight people with certain abilities and who have nothing to lose. The group of thieves take hostages to aid in their negotiations with authorities, who strategize to come up with a way to capture The Professor. As more time elapses, the robbers prepare for a showdown with the police.” The show averages between eight and 13 episodes per season, with episodes typically being 45 minutes long. 

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Note: There is also a “Money Heist From Tokyo to Berlin” and “Money Heist: Korea joint economic area.”

“Money Heist From Tokyo to Berlin” released in 2021, focuses on behind the scenes from the fifth season where Netflix describes it as “the filmmakers and actors behind “Money Heist” characters like Tokey and the Professor talk about the emotional artistic process of filming the series.” It features two seasons with one 50-minute long episode.

“Money Heist: Korea joint economic area” is a 2022 series, with 12 episodes total, running between 60 and 80 minutes long. According to Netflix “Thieves overtake the mint of a unified Korea. With hostages trapped inside, the police must stop them – as well as the shadowy mastermind behind it all.” The original language is Korean, with English subtitles.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo

Korean courtroom and social issue TV Drama offers “Extraordinary Attorney Woo ” which was released this year. In the short time, it has earned itself a 100% score on the Rotten Tomatoe average Tomatometer and is now the eighth most watched non-English series of all time on Netflix, according to the website Digital Spy. 

There is one season available on Netflix USA, with 16 episodes, averaging at 70 minutes. Netflix describes the show as “Brilliant attorney Woo Young Woo tackles challenges in the courtroom and beyond as a newbie at a top law firm and a woman on the autism spectrum.” Rotten Tomatoes offers a similar description stating “Woo Young Woo is a young lawyer with Asperger’s Syndrome; she boasts a high IQ, an impressive memory and a wonderfully creative thought process, but she struggles with everyday interactions.” 

Season two has been confirmed, but no release date has been set. According to some of the cast members, it is speculated to release sometime in 2024.

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Crash Landing on You

“Crash Landing on You” is another Korean show that is a must watch. It is a romantic, drama and comedy which have earned a 98% average audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. There is one season available on Netflix USA, which has 16 episodes, with an average run time of 80 minutes. 

The Netflix description for the show states “A paragliding mishap drops a South Korean heiress in North Korea – and into the life of an army officer, who decides he will help her hide.” Jo Walker, at The Guardian described the movie in their review as: “But, look, you don’t have to know or care about that to embrace the oddball majesty of Crash Landing. Watch it for the rollicking adventure story. Or for beautiful people doing romantic things. Or for the chance to laugh and cry and scream at the telly, and not think about anything else aside from how a North Korean guy and a South Korean girl boss can make it in this crazy world of ours.”

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Young Royals

Praised for its realism, actors, script, and opened about struggles of LGBTQ+, Swedish produced “Young Royals” is a must watch for anyone who loved “Heart Stopper.” “Young Royals” is a Romantic TV drama, and teen series, released in 2021, with season two released just a few months ago. With good reasons, it quickly received a 100% on the Rotten Tomatoes average Tomatometer. Both seasons feature six episodes, which runs an average of 45 minutes and are available on Netflix, USA. 

Netflix describes the show as “Following a scandal, Prince Wilhelm enrolls in a new boarding school, Hillerska. His second cousin, August, plans an initiation party in his honor.” While the Netflix description doesn’t do it justice, (and is rather a description of the first episode), critics praised the show and fans quickly binge-watched the season demanding more. What differs this from many other shows, is the healthy representation of the LGBTQ+ relationship between the two main characters Willhelm and Simon, where neither of their characters are solely focused on the coming out troope, usually found in similar shows. 

Furthermore, the show also brings a fresh sense of realism where we learn that Simon’s sister have aspergers, and ADHD. However, her character is well developed and complex, and the fact that she has aspergers and ADHD isn’t her whole persona. It is just a small part of her that shows the focus on detail and realism the show was praised for. Sheena Scott, from Forbes concluded their review with ““Young Royals” is a well-written and directed YA/teen series with a refreshing cast that looks like real teenagers. So far, this easily-binged series appears to be immensely popular with its audience. “Young Royals” has a 99% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes, with all reviewers wishing for a second season.”

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Train to Busan

Korean “Train to Busan” is a horror, action & adventure movie that was released in mid-2016. The Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer gave the movie a 94% score. The runtime of this movie is 1 hour and 57 minutes. It is not available on Netflix USA, but can be found on Netflix South Korea, which can easily be unblocked using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Netflix describes the movie “as a zombie outbreak sweeps the country, a dad and his daughter take a harrowing train journey in an attempt to reach the only city that’s still safe.” The overall critic consensus on Rotten Tomatoes described it as; “Train to Busan delivers a thrillingly unique – and purely entertaining – take on the zombie genre, with fully realized characters and plenty of social commentaries to underscore the bursts of skilfully staged action.”

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Academy Awards Winning “Parasite” is a Korean comedias and thriller released in 2019. It has gained a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score of 99% which is not surprising given the number of awards it won in 2020. The runtime of the movie is 2 hours and 12 minutes. It is available on Netflix Canada where it can be unblocked with a VPN. The Netflix description states “One by one, the crafty members of a destitute family insinuate themselves into the household staff of a wealthy couple living in oblivious privilege.” 

Meanwhile the Critics’ consensus on Rotten Tomatoes describe it as “An urgent, brilliantly layered look at timely social themes, “Parasite” fins writer-director Bong Joon Ho in near-total command of his craft.” Needless to say if you have not seen it yet, it is definitely worth a try!

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Norwegian “Troll” was released Dec. 1, 2022, but has already claimed top watched on Netflix across the world. “Troll” is an action & adventure and monster film with a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score of 90%. The run time of the movie is 1 hour and 43 minutes. Netflix describes the movie as  “When an explosion in the Norwegian mountains awakens an ancient troll, officials appoint a fearless paleontologist to stop it from wreaking deadly havoc.”

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Pan’s Labyrinth

Spanish director Guillermo del Toro brings a wonderful tale in “Pan’s Labyrinth” where he brings a beautiful blend of drama and fantasy. It was released in 2006 and despite its age, it has a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score of 95%. The run time is 1h and 59 minutes. It is only available on Netflix South Korea through a VPN, where it is listed as 판의 미로. 

The Netflix description states “Young Ofelia meets a mythical faun who claims she is destined to become the princess of the Underworld. But first, she must carry out three difficult tasks.” Meanwhile Critics’ consensus on Rotten Tomatoes description states; “Pan’s Labyrinth is Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups, with the horrors of both reality and fantasy blended into an extraordinary, spellbinding fable.”

Click here for the trailer

All show and movie recommendations featured have English subtitles available.

VPN used in this article: Surfshark

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