As Bong Joon Ho rightfully pointed out, if you can conquer a one-inch subtitle, then entire worlds of storytelling will open up to you. And you don't even have to leave your house to get there. To help you navigate a Netflix algorithm that's infinitely bigger once you start scrolling through non-English language shows, TV Guide has put together a list of some of the most exciting storytelling happening all around the world, focusing on shows that you may not have heard of (which is why there's no Dark, Babylon Berlin, or other more popular international titles that have enjoyed some buzz).
(Just do us a favor and promise that you'll put on the subtitles instead of listening to the dubbed version — Netflix dubs truly sound like they were recorded by an AI. There's no loving translations a la Fullmetal Alchemist to be found here. Trust us when we say the subtitles are way more engaging.)
Little Things (India)
Why it's great: This Indian webseries-turned-Netflix-production is an understated, in-depth look at what it takes to keep a relationship together. Created by and starring Dhruv Sehgal, Little Things is an empathetic take on the pressures of millennial love. The series is especially notable for its grounded characters that manage to make the ordinary, everyday rhythms of a long-term relationship into something truly wondrous and magical. Consider it the antithesis of every Bollywood rom-com you've ever seen.
Binge if you like: Lovesick, You're the Worst, Master of None
Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories (Japan)
Why it's great: Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories is a delicious slice-of-life series straight from Japan. Patrons from all walks of life are brought together in one chef's late-night restaurant and each episode focuses on a different diner's life and various problems they're trying to solve in it. At turns hilarious, heart-breaking, maddening, and hopeful, Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories is like reading an advice column that actually works. And on top of all that there's tons of lovingly shot close-ups of food.
Binge if you like: Ugly Delicious, Taco Chronicles, Gentefied
Nobody's Looking (Brazil)
Why it's great: This Brazilian comedy is not just a delightful play on the afterlife, but also a visual treat. When the first angel in 300 years is added to the surprisingly bureaucratic afterlife management system, his innocent questions soon turn into full out office rebellion when he dares to fall in love with a human. Also in Nobody's Looking, for some reason, all angels are redheads. Just go with it.
Binge if you like: The Good Place, Miracle Workers, Parks and Rec
Kingdom (South Korea)
Why it's great: We all know that South Korea plus horror is a winning combination. So it's no surprise that one of Netflix's best horror productions is the country's Kingdom. The historical drama is set in the 16th Century and follows one prince's brutal race to reclaim his throne from political adversaries before his kingdom is besieged by a mysterious plague. It's only after his father's death that he realizes everyone touched by the plague will rise again (y'know, zombies). Intense and action-packed, Kingdom will no doubt one day be considered one of zombie lore's GOATs. (Also, Sense8 fans — keep an eye out for Doona Bae!)
Binge if you like: The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, The Terror
The King's Avatar (China)
Why it's great: The King's Avatar is a Chinese dramedy about a legendary professional esports player making a comeback after being forced off his championship team. A veteran who had fallen out of love with the sport, Ye Qiu resorts to working in an internet cafe while figuring out the next step. But surprisingly, he finds people who not only remind him of why he loved playing the game in the first place, but also are the perfect teammates to launch a comeback with. A thrilling sports saga with especially exciting video game animation, The King's Avatar is a must-watch for anyone who found an online family through gaming.
Binge if you like: Friday Night Lights, Silicon Valley, The Witcher
Delhi Crime (India)
Why it's great: Delhi Crime is a fictionalized account of a 2012 rape case that led to country-wide protests and an overhaul of the way India's judicial system deals with sexual assault cases. The show follows the police tasked with finding the gang who left a young woman and her boyfriend for dead. Their struggle to solve the case under mounting public and political pressure highlights not only the justice system's archaic understanding of sexual assault, but also how quickly lack of resources and corruption can poison the well. Thanks to a dedicated female police chief leading a handful of dogged detectives, officers make an unbelievable arrest that changes a nation.
Binge if you like: Unbelievable, Broadchurch, Happy Valley
Club of Crows (Mexico)
Why it's great: This Mexican dramedy is about a pair of billionaire siblings fighting for control over the family's golden egg: a soccer team. But while the Iglesias family is busy tearing themselves apart in the boardroom, the players and staff of Cuervos FC suffer. After leading a number one team into a steady string of losses, the siblings are forced to reckon with their own faults. Club of Crows is especially notable for how it tackles class and gender in the kind of high-stakes professional world often dominated by men.
Binge if you like: Ballers, Succession, Scandal
Singapore Social (Singapore)
Why it's great: Once upon a time, not so long ago, a Netflix exec saw Crazy Rich Asians and then proceeded to text the office group chat: What if Crazy Rich Asians, but real life? From this historic group chat (I'm assuming) sprang Singapore Social, a reality show that follows the lives of six young, wealthy, and attractive friends as they try to figure out what success and happiness means to them. Much like its American counterparts, there's tons of drama and plenty of fights to go around. But in a refreshing change of pace, Singapore Social's cast take their respective careers pretty seriously, and there's quite a few people to really root for as they weather professional turbulence. The real ace up the sleeve of this reality show is that the cast's families and friends are given ample screen time and it really does feel like you've been invited into someone's home.
Binge if you like: Keeping Up With the Kardashians, The Hills, Jersey Shore
Taj Mahal 1989 (India)
Why it's great: Taj Mahal 1989 is an incredibly satisfying meditation on love set in Lucknow, India. The series follows a loosely connected cast of characters — all with drastically different understandings of relationships — through their first loves, honeymoons, fights, divorce, and even death. Despite a refreshingly honest look at the uglier side of love, particularly jealousy, boredom, and spite, Taj Mahal 1989 will leave you feeling buoyant and filled with hope. Almost like the kind words of a best friend after your heart's been broken.
Binge if you like: Easy, Modern Love, Lovesick
House of Flowers (Mexico)
Why it's great: A Telenovela with a capital T, House of Flowers is a black comedy about a wealthy family whose social and business standing is torn to shreds when the patriarch's lover commits suicide in the family's flower shop. As she narrates the tale from beyond the grave, her death propels a multitude of secrets — including a hidden daughter — into the light and shatters the picture perfect de la Mora family. House of Flowers hits all the classic telenovela tropes but with fresh modern twists that keep the audience captivated. Think Jane the Virgin, but about a family filled with terrible rich people who are slowly learning to be kinder. Another sign House of Flowers is bingeworthy? Telenovela icon Verónica Castro plays the beleaguered matriarch dealing with the fallout of her husband's infidelity.
Binge if you like: Jane the Virgin, Succession, Parenthood
The Naked Director (Japan)
Why it's great: The Naked Director is a fictionalized retelling of Toru Muranishi's rise to infamy. During the '80s, Toru went from a failed bookseller to the Hugh Hefner of Japan. Considered the king of pornography during a period of unusual sexual liberation, Toru flouted censorship laws for his art (if you'd prefer to call it that) and revolutionized how Japanese people thought about desire. He also ended up on the run from the police and the yakuza, so you know, maybe take his heroism with a grain of salt. The Naked Director is a rare story about morally grey characters that still manages to be wildly engaging and fun. (Americans, expect a jarring mix of tones; the series splits the difference between an American prestige drama and a Japanese broad comedy, which is similar to vaudeville. Also note there's a few points where the show presents regressive sexual attitudes to reflect the time period.)
Binge if you like: The Deuce, Masters of Sex, The Playboy Club
Green Frontier (Colombia)
Why it's great: Green Frontier is a slow burn mystery set in the wilds of the Amazon. A young detective travels deep into the rainforest to investigate the murder of missionaries. The main suspects are from an indigenous tribe, but the case takes a turn when one of the bodies bears both tribal markings and the clothes of a missionary. The detective remembers this murdered woman from her childhood, but the body in front of her hasn't aged and has no blood. What unfolds next is a spine-tingling supernatural thriller that manages to always stay grounded in humanity.
Binge if you like: True Detective, Top of the Lake, Frequency
Carole and Tuesday (Japan)
Why it's great: From legendary anime director Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy BeBop, Kids on the Slope, Samurai Champloo) comes a series that will make you sing. Carole and Tuesday is about two young women from different worlds — one disowned by her wealthy family, one orphaned and left to raise herself — whose passion for music changes their lives. Set in a near futuristic society on Mars (Instagram still exists!) that's obsessed with music made by artificial intelligence, the series becomes a love letter to imperfection and originality when Carole and Tuesday form a band in which they write all their own music. There's just no way to avoid falling in love with the gregarious pair as they struggle to achieve their dreams of making it big.
Binge if you like: Kids on the Slope, Flight of the Conchords, High Fidelity