European cinema stands as a pillar of artistic ingenuity and cultural diversity, shaping the worldwide scenery of filmmaking for over a century. With its rich variety of languages, cultures, and historical contexts, European films have enraptured audiences worldwide with their profound narratives, nuanced character studies, and stunning visual aesthetics. Since its inception, European cinema has been a trailblazer, pushing storytelling boundaries and redefining the art form.


Cinema of Europe

At the turn of the 20th century, European filmmakers embarked on a groundbreaking journey, laying the groundwork for a cinematic revolution. From the visionary experiments of Georges Méliès to the poetic realism of Jean Renoir, the silent era witnessed the birth of masterpieces that transcended linguistic barriers and fascinated audiences globally.

As the medium evolved, so did the ambitions of European filmmakers that pushed the growth of the film production industry into new heights. More and more new film equipment rental and location scouting companies emerged on the continent. Against the backdrop of tumultuous political landscapes, directors such as Sergei Eisenstein and Fritz Lang utilized film as a tool to critique social injustices and confront the horrors of war.

The post-war era marked a resurgence of European film production, as filmmakers grappled with the aftermath of decades of upheaval. The Italian neorealists, led by luminaries like Vittorio De Sica and Roberto Rossellini, brought raw authenticity to the screen, depicting the struggles of everyday people amidst poverty and moral decay.

Old cinema

Photo by Cottonbro studio

Simultaneously, the French New Wave heralded a new era of cinematic innovation, with directors like François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard challenging traditional storytelling conventions and embracing spontaneity and experimentation backed up by seamless media production.


The rise of European filmmakers

In the ensuing decades, European filmmakers continued to push boundaries, delving into themes of identity, alienation, and existentialism with unparalleled depth. From Ingmar Bergman’s surreal visions to Andrei Tarkovsky’s political allegories, European cinema remained a beacon of artistic exploration and philosophical inquiry.

In this comprehensive journey through European cinema history, we unveil the top 50 best European movies that have left an unforgettable mark on the cinematic landscape. Each film stands as a testament to the boundless creativity and enduring spirit of European filmmakers, offering a glimpse into the diverse mosaic of human experience and the timeless power of the silver screen.


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We’ll delve into the heart of European filmography, where every frame is a masterpiece, and every story is a testament to the depth of human emotion and the enduring allure of storytelling. Get ready to add new must-watch European movies to your movies watchlist.


Photo by Joanjo Puertos


The list of best European movies


1. La Dolce Vita (1960) – Italy

Directed by Federico Fellini, “La Dolce Vita” remains a quintessential exploration of existential ennui amidst the decadence of Rome’s high society. Marcello Mastroianni’s portrayal of journalist Marcello Rubini captures the disillusionment and longing inherent in the pursuit of pleasure and fame. Fellini’s masterful direction, coupled with Nino Rota’s evocative score, creates a visually stunning and thematically rich cinematic experience.

2. The Seventh Seal (1957) – Sweden

Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal” is a haunting meditation on faith, mortality, and the search for meaning in a world plagued by suffering. Set against the backdrop of the Black Death, the film follows a medieval knight named Antonius Block as he plays a game of chess with Death himself. With its iconic imagery and profound philosophical themes, “The Seventh Seal” stands as a timeless masterpiece in classic European cinema.

3. The Bicycle Thief (1948) – Italy

Vittorio De Sica’s “The Bicycle Thief” is a poignant portrayal of post-war poverty and desperation in Rome. The film follows Antonio Ricci, a struggling father who embarks on a desperate search for his stolen bicycle, which he needs for work. Through its neorealist aesthetic and heartbreaking performances, “The Bicycle Thief” shines a light on the human cost of economic hardship and societal inequality.

4. Breathless (1960) – France

Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless” revolutionized cinema with its bold experimentation and rebellious spirit. The film follows petty criminal Michel Poiccard as he embarks on a crime spree with his American girlfriend, Patricia Franchini. Shot on the streets of Paris with handheld cameras and natural lighting, “Breathless” captures the spontaneity and vitality of youth culture in the early 1960s, while also deconstructing traditional narrative conventions.

5. The Pianist (2002) – Poland

“The Pianist” is a powerful and poignant film directed by Roman Polanski, released in 2002. Set in the heart of World War II, it follows the true story of Władysław Szpilman, a Polish Jewish pianist played by Adrien Brody. As Warsaw falls under Nazi occupation, Szpilman’s world is shattered, and he is separated from his family. Amidst the horrors of the Holocaust, he struggles to survive, hiding in abandoned buildings and relying on the kindness of strangers. Music becomes both his solace and his salvation as he navigates the brutality of war-torn Poland. The film’s raw portrayal of resilience, survival, and the human spirit earned it critical acclaim and several prestigious awards, including three Oscars.

Concentration camp

Photo by Hamit Ferhat

6. (1963) – Italy

Federico Fellini’s “8½” is a dazzling kaleidoscope of memory, fantasy, and creative self-reflection. The film follows filmmaker Guido Anselmi as he grapples with artistic blockage and existential malaise while attempting to complete his latest movie. Blurring the lines between reality and illusion, “8½” is a deeply personal and visually sumptuous exploration of the creative process and the search for meaning in life.

7. Amélie (2001) – France

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, “Amélie” is a whimsical and enchanting tale of love, destiny, and human connection set in the streets of Paris. The film follows the eponymous Amélie Poulain, a shy and imaginative young woman who embarks on a mission to bring happiness to those around her. With its vibrant cinematography, playful narrative style, and memorable characters, “Amélie” radiates with warmth and charm.

8. The Third Man (1949) – UK

Directed by Carol Reed and penned by Graham Greene, “The Third Man” is a classic film noir set amidst the atmospheric backdrop of post-war Vienna. The story follows pulp novelist Holly Martins as he investigates the mysterious death of his friend Harry Lime, uncovering a web of intrigue and betrayal in the process. With its iconic zither score by Anton Karas and stunning cinematography by Robert Krasker, “The Third Man” remains a timeless European film masterpiece of suspense and moral ambiguity.

9. Cinema Paradiso (1988) – Italy

Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Cinema Paradiso” is a nostalgic tribute to the magic of cinema and the power of nostalgia. The film follows Salvatore Di Vita, a successful filmmaker who returns to his hometown in Sicily for the funeral of his mentor, Alfredo. Through a series of flashbacks, “Cinema Paradiso” recounts Salvatore’s formative years working as a projectionist in the local cinema and the profound impact it had on his life. With its heartfelt storytelling and sweeping score by Ennio Morricone, “Cinema Paradiso” celebrates the enduring power of storytelling and the importance of preserving cultural heritage.

10. The 400 Blows (1959) – France

François Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows” is a poignant coming-of-age tale that captures the alienation and rebellion of youth in post-war Paris. The film follows Antoine Doinel, a troubled adolescent who struggles to find his place in a world that seems indifferent to his existence. With its naturalistic performances and evocative black-and-white cinematography, “The 400 Blows” remains a timeless portrait of adolescence and the search for identity.

11. Metropolis (1927) – Germany

Directed by Fritz Lang, “Metropolis” is a visionary sci-fi epic that explores the social and political tensions of the future. Set in a dystopian city where the wealthy elite live in luxury above ground while the workers toil in the depths below, the film follows the son of the city’s ruler as he discovers the plight of the oppressed workers and seeks to bridge the gap between the classes. With its groundbreaking special effects and iconic imagery, “Metropolis” remains a landmark in cinematic history and a timeless commentary on the human condition.

12. Zobra the Greek (1964) – Greece

“Zorba the Greek” is a classic Greek film directed by Michael Cacoyannis, released in 1964. Based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, the movie follows the story of a reserved English writer, played by Alan Bates, who travels to Crete to oversee an abandoned mine he has inherited. There, he meets Alexis Zorba, a larger-than-life character portrayed by Anthony Quinn, who becomes his companion and mentor. Zorba, with his zest for life and spontaneous attitude, helps the writer to embrace the joys of living fully, despite the challenges they face. Set against the picturesque backdrop of the Greek island, the film explores themes of friendship, love, cultural differences, and the pursuit of happiness. With its unforgettable characters, poignant moments, and lively soundtrack by Mikis Theodorakis, “Zorba the Greek” has become a timeless classic, celebrated for its vibrant portrayal of Greek culture and the human spirit.

13. When Father Was Away on Business (1985) – Yugoslavia

“When Father Was Away on Business” (Otac na službenom putu) is a poignant and compelling drama directed by Emir Kusturica, released in 1985. Set in post-World War II Yugoslavia, the film revolves around the experiences of a young boy named Malik, whose father is sent away to work in a labor camp as punishment for his political beliefs. As Malik navigates life in a tumultuous and politically charged environment, he grapples with the complexities of family dynamics, love, and societal expectations. Against the backdrop of historical events, including the political upheavals of the era, the film intricately explores themes of loyalty, resilience, and the human spirit’s capacity for survival. With its rich storytelling, nuanced characters, and powerful performances, “When Father Was Away on Business” is widely regarded as a masterpiece of Serbian cinema, earning critical acclaim and international recognition, including the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

14. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – Spain

Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” is a dark fairy tale set against the backdrop of post-Civil War Spain. The film follows young Ofelia as she discovers a hidden labyrinth inhabited by fantastical creatures, where she must complete a series of tasks to prove herself as the reincarnation of a lost princess. Blending elements of fantasy, horror, and historical drama, “Pan’s Labyrinth” is a visually stunning and emotionally resonant exploration of the power of imagination in the face of tyranny and oppression.

15. The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006) – Ireland

“The Wind That Shakes the Barley” is a gripping historical drama directed by Ken Loach, released in 2006. Set in early 20th-century Ireland, the film follows the story of two brothers, Damien and Teddy, who become involved in the Irish War of Independence against British rule. As they join the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and fight for independence, they face moral dilemmas, personal sacrifices, and the harsh realities of war. The film explores themes of loyalty, betrayal, and the complex socio-political landscape of the time. With powerful performances, authentic period detail, and a compelling narrative, “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” is widely acclaimed for its portrayal of Irish history and the struggle for freedom, earning recognition at international film festivals and resonating with audiences worldwide.

16. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – Germany/USA

Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a whimsical caper that pays homage to the golden age of European cinema. Set in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the wars, the film follows the misadventures of Monsieur Gustave H., the legendary concierge of the eponymous hotel, and his loyal protégé Zero Moustafa. With its vibrant colour palette, meticulous production design, and ensemble cast of eccentric characters, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a visual feast that brims with humor, heart, and nostalgia.

Hotel reception

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

17. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) – France

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is a silent masterpiece that captures the emotional intensity of the trial and martyrdom of the titular saint. Shot almost entirely in close-up, the film follows Joan as she faces interrogation, torture, and ultimately death at the hands of her English captors. With its stark visuals, haunting score, and Maria Falconetti’s iconic performance in the lead role, “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is a transcendent work of art that continues to resonate with audiences nearly a century after its release.

18. Fanny and Alexander (1982) – Sweden

Ingmar Bergman’s “Fanny and Alexander” is a sprawling family epic that combines elements of drama, fantasy, and autobiography. The film follows the eponymous siblings as they navigate the trials and tribulations of childhood in a wealthy Swedish family. With its richly drawn characters, lush production design, and profound insights into the nature of love and loss, “Fanny and Alexander” is a deeply personal and emotionally resonant masterpiece from one of cinema’s greatest auteurs.

19. The Great Beauty (2013) – Italy

Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” is a visually stunning and thematically rich meditation on art, beauty, and the passage of time. Set amidst the decadence of contemporary Rome, the film follows aging journalist Jep Gambardella as he reflects on his life and the cultural decline of Italian society. With its sumptuous cinematography, eclectic soundtrack, and incisive wit, “The Great Beauty” pays homage to Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” while offering its own unique vision of modern Italy.

20. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) – Germany

Directed by Robert Wiene, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is a groundbreaking work of expressionist cinema that continues to captivate audiences with its surreal visuals and twisty narrative. The film follows a young man named Francis as he recounts the terrifying events surrounding the mysterious Dr. Caligari and his sleepwalking somnambulist Cesare. With its distorted sets, angular compositions, and haunting atmosphere, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” remains a landmark in horror filmmaking and a testament to the power of visual storytelling.

21. Belle de Jour (1967) – France

Luis Buñuel’s “Belle de Jour” is a provocative exploration of desire, repression, and fantasy. The film follows Séverine, a bored housewife who becomes a part-time prostitute during the day while her husband is at work. Blurring the lines between reality and imagination, “Belle de Jour” delves into the darker corners of the human psyche, challenging societal norms and conventions with its subversive narrative and surrealist imagery.

22. Wild Strawberries (1957) – Sweden

Ingmar Bergman’s “Wild Strawberries” is a deeply introspective and profoundly moving exploration of memory, mortality, and the search for meaning in life. The film follows elderly professor Isak Borg as he embarks on a road trip to receive an honorary degree, confronting his past and coming to terms with his own mortality along the way. With its evocative black-and-white cinematography and existential themes, “Wild Strawberries” stands as a timeless meditation on the human condition.

23. Andrei Rublev (1966) – USSR

“Andrei Rublev” is a historical epic directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, released in 1966. The film chronicles the life and artistic journey of the renowned Russian icon painter Andrei Rublev during the tumultuous 15th century. Set against the backdrop of medieval Russia, the movie delves into themes of artistic expression, spirituality, and the human condition. Through a series of vignettes, viewers witness Rublev’s struggles, his encounters with fellow artists, patrons, and religious figures, and his quest for creative freedom amidst political and social upheaval. “Andrei Rublev” is celebrated for its stunning cinematography, intricate storytelling, and profound exploration of art, faith, and the role of the artist in society. Regarded as a masterpiece of Russian cinema, the film remains a powerful and enduring work that continues to captivate audiences around the world.

24. The White Ribbon (2009) – Germany

Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon” is a chilling and atmospheric drama that explores the origins of totalitarianism in pre-World War I Germany. The film takes place in a small village where a series of mysterious and violent incidents begin to occur, implicating the children of the community. With its stark black-and-white cinematography, deliberate pacing, and haunting score, “The White Ribbon” creates an atmosphere of unease and foreboding that lingers long after the credits roll.

Gun scene

Photo by Cottonbro studio

25. The Red Shoes (1948) – UK

Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, “The Red Shoes” is a visually stunning ballet drama that explores the sacrifices one must make for artistic perfection. The film follows young dancer Victoria Page as she rises to stardom in a prestigious ballet company, only to find herself torn between her love for the company’s impresario and her passion for dancing. With its dazzling Technicolor cinematography, innovative use of dance sequences, and haunting score by Brian Easting, “The Red Shoes” is a cinematic tour de force that captures the beauty and brutality of the creative process.

26. The Conformist (1970) – Italy

Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Conformist” is a visually stunning and psychologically complex exploration of fascism, conformity, and identity. Set in Mussolini’s Italy, the film follows Marcello Clerici, a young man who joins the fascist secret police and is tasked with assassinating his former professor. As Marcello grapples with his own desires and insecurities, he becomes increasingly entangled in a web of political intrigue and moral ambiguity. With its lush cinematography, intricate mise-en-scène, and Marcello Mastroianni’s mesmerizing performance in the lead role, “The Conformist” is a haunting and thought-provoking masterpiece.

27. Three Colours: Blue (1993) – France/Poland

Krzysztof Kieślowski’s “Three Colors: Blue” is the first installment in his acclaimed trilogy exploring the themes of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The film follows Julie, a woman who retreats into solitude and silence after the tragic death of her husband and daughter in a car accident. As Julie attempts to rebuild her life, she is confronted by memories of her past and the pain of her loss. With its evocative cinematography, haunting score by Zbigniew Preisner, and Juliette Binoche’s luminous performance in the lead role, “Three Colors: Blue” is a deeply moving meditation on grief, redemption, and the indomitability of the human spirit.

28. The Counterfeiters (2007) – Austria/Germany

Stefan Ruzowitzky’s “The Counterfeiters” is a gripping and morally complex drama based on the true story of Operation Bernhard, a Nazi scheme to destabilize the British economy by flooding it with counterfeit currency. The film follows Salomon “Sally” Sorowitsch, a skilled forger who is recruited by the Nazis to produce counterfeit money in a concentration camp. As Sally navigates the moral dilemmas of collaboration and survival, he must confront the horrors of the Holocaust and the complicity of his own actions. With its taut pacing, nuanced performances, and unflinching portrayal of the moral compromises of war, “The Counterfeiters” is a powerful and thought-provoking exploration of the human capacity for good and evil.

29. Yol (1982) – Turkey

“Yol” is a groundbreaking Turkish film directed by Yılmaz Güney and Şerif Gören, released in 1982. The movie follows the intertwined stories of five prisoners who are granted a one-week leave from prison. As they journey through various regions of Turkey, each character faces their own challenges, reflecting the complexities of Turkish society. The film offers a stark portrayal of social and political issues prevalent in Turkey during the early 1980s, including poverty, oppression, and the struggle for personal freedom. Through its raw and unflinching narrative, “Yol” delves deep into the human condition, exploring themes of morality, identity, and the quest for dignity. “Yol” received critical acclaim worldwide and won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, solidifying its place as a seminal work of Turkish cinema and a powerful commentary on the human experience.

30. The Lives of Others (2006) – Germany

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s “The Lives of Others” offers a riveting portrayal of surveillance and resistance in East Berlin during the Cold War. The film follows Stasi agent Gerd Wiesler as he is assigned to monitor playwright Georg Dreyman and his actress girlfriend Christa-Maria Sieland. As Wiesler becomes increasingly enmeshed in the lives of his subjects, he begins to question his loyalty to the state and the morality of his actions. With its taut pacing, nuanced performances, and thought-provoking themes, “The Lives of Others” is a powerful testament to the human capacity for empathy and redemption.

31. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) – France

Jacques Demy’s “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” is a dazzling musical romance that unfolds entirely through song. Set in the French port town of Cherbourg in the late 1950s, the film follows the bittersweet love affair between Geneviève, a young umbrella shopkeeper, and Guy, a garage mechanic who is called away to fight in the Algerian War. With its vibrant color palette, infectious score by Michel Legrand, and Catherine Deneuve’s luminous performance in the lead role, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” is a cinematic confection that celebrates the power of love and the poignancy of loss.

32. The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) – Spain

Directed by Víctor Erice, “The Spirit of the Beehive” is a haunting and atmospheric coming-of-age tale set in rural Spain in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. The film follows six-year-old Ana as she becomes obsessed with the 1931 film “Frankenstein” and begins to blur the lines between reality and fantasy. With its evocative cinematography, ethereal score, and subtle exploration of trauma and memory, “The Spirit of the Beehive” is a mesmerizing and deeply resonant work of cinematic art.

33. The Sacrifice (1986) – Sweden

Andrei Tarkovsky’s “The Sacrifice” is a profound and enigmatic meditation on faith, mortality, and the apocalypse. The film follows Alexander, a former actor turned philosophy professor, who makes a desperate bargain with God in an attempt to avert nuclear war. Shot on the remote Swedish island of Gotland, “The Sacrifice” unfolds at a deliberate pace, immersing viewers in a dreamlike world of symbolism and metaphor. With its stunning cinematography, haunting score, and philosophical depth, “The Sacrifice” is a challenging yet rewarding cinematic experience that lingers in the mind long after the final frame.

34. The Battle of Algiers (1966) – Italy/Algeria

Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, “The Battle of Algiers” is a gripping and politically charged docudrama that chronicles the Algerian struggle for independence from French colonial rule. Shot in a gritty and vérité style, the film offers a visceral and immersive portrayal of urban guerrilla warfare, with its electrifying set pieces and intense performances lending it a sense of urgency and authenticity. With its unflinching portrayal of colonial oppression and revolutionary fervor, “The Battle of Algiers” remains a timeless and essential work of political cinema.

35. The Tin Drum (1979) – West Germany

Directed by Volker Schlöndorff and based on the novel by Günter Grass, “The Tin Drum” is a surreal and satirical epic that follows the life of Oskar Matzerath, a young boy who refuses to grow up and instead communicates through the sound of a tin drum. Set against the backdrop of World War II and its aftermath, the film explores themes of innocence and corruption, complicity and resistance, in a series of episodic vignettes that span several decades. With its audacious storytelling, bold imagery, and fearless performances, “The Tin Drum” is a provocative and unforgettable cinematic experience that challenges viewers to confront the dark currents of history and human nature.

36. Persona (1966) – Sweden

Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona” is a haunting exploration of identity, intimacy, and the porous boundaries between self and other. The film follows nurse Alma and her patient, actress Elisabet Vogler, as they retreat to a remote island cottage for therapy. Through its surreal imagery and psychological complexity, “Persona” challenges viewers to confront their own fears, desires, and insecurities.

Couple in the cinema

Photo by Claudio Siracusano

37. The Decalogue (1989) – Poland

Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski, “The Decalogue” is a groundbreaking series of ten short films inspired by the Ten Commandments. Set in a Warsaw apartment complex, each episode explores moral and existential dilemmas faced by its characters, ranging from love and loss to betrayal and redemption. With its intricate narratives, complex characters, and philosophical depth, “The Decalogue” is a monumental achievement in cinematic storytelling that continues to resonate with audiences around the world.

38. Ordet (1955) – Denmark

Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer, “Ordet” is a transcendent and deeply spiritual exploration of faith, miracles, and the human condition. Set in rural Denmark, the film follows the Borgen family as they grapple with questions of belief and doubt in the face of tragedy. With its spare visual style, minimalist performances, and profound existential themes, “Ordet” is a cinematic meditation on the mysteries of life and the possibility of divine intervention.

39. L’Avventura (1960) – Italy

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, “L’Avventura” is a visually stunning and emotionally haunting meditation on love, alienation, and the search for meaning. The film follows a group of wealthy vacationers who embark on a yacht trip to a remote island, only to have one of their party mysteriously disappear. As the search for the missing woman unfolds, the characters grapple with their own desires and insecurities, revealing the emptiness and ennui that lurk beneath the surface of their privileged lives. With its breathtaking cinematography, enigmatic narrative, and existential themes, “L’Avventura” is a landmark of modernist cinema that continues to captivate audiences with its haunting beauty and enigmatic resonance.

40. The Earrings of Madame de… (1953) – France

Directed by Max Ophüls, “The Earrings of Madame de…” is a sumptuous and emotionally resonant melodrama that unfolds against the backdrop of 19th-century Parisian high society. The film follows the titular Madame de… as she embarks on a tumultuous love affair with a handsome military officer, only to have her life unravel in a series of tragic twists and turns. With its elegant camerawork, intricate plot, and complex characters, “The Earrings of Madame de…” is a timeless exploration of love, desire, and the consequences of our actions.

41. The Last Emperor (1987) – Italy/UK/China

“The Last Emperor” is a visually stunning biographical drama directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, released in 1987. It chronicles the life of Puyi, the last Emperor of China, from his ascent to the throne as a child to his later life as a prisoner of the Chinese Communist Party. The film explores Puyi’s personal journey within the backdrop of China’s turbulent political landscape, from the opulence of the Forbidden City to the tumultuous changes brought about by the fall of the Qing Dynasty and the rise of communism. With lush cinematography, intricate costumes, and a captivating narrative, “The Last Emperor” offers a mesmerizing portrayal of history, power, and identity. It received widespread critical acclaim and won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

42. Cries and Whispers (1972) – Sweden

Ingmar Bergman’s “Cries and Whispers” is a harrowing and emotionally raw exploration of family, death, and the nature of suffering. The film follows three sisters – Agnes, Maria, and Karin – as they gather at their family estate to care for Agnes, who is dying of cancer. Through a series of flashbacks and hallucinatory sequences, Bergman delves into the sisters’ troubled relationships and repressed emotions, revealing the depths of their pain and longing. With its intense performances, claustrophobic atmosphere, and vivid imagery, “Cries and Whispers” is a profoundly moving and unforgettable cinematic experience.

43. Jean de Florette (1986) – France

Directed by Claude Berri and based on the novel by Marcel Pagnol, “Jean de Florette” is a sweeping and epic tale of greed, betrayal, and revenge set in rural Provence. The film follows the eponymous Jean de Florette, a hunchbacked peasant who inherits a plot of land and dreams of making it fertile, only to have his hopes dashed by his unscrupulous neighbors. With its lush cinematography, richly drawn characters, and timeless themes of perseverance and justice, “Jean de Florette” is a classic of French cinema that continues to captivate audiences with its beauty and poignancy.

44. The King’s Speech (2010) – UK

“The King’s Speech” is a historical drama directed by Tom Hooper, released in 2010. Set in the 1930s, the film tells the story of King George VI of Britain, played by Colin Firth, who struggles with a debilitating stammer. With the help of an unorthodox speech therapist, Lionel Logue, portrayed by Geoffrey Rush, the king endeavors to overcome his speech impediment in order to deliver important public addresses, particularly as the looming threat of World War II looms. The film explores themes of friendship, resilience, and the weight of duty, offering a captivating glimpse into the personal struggles of a monarch thrust into the spotlight during a pivotal moment in history. “The King’s Speech” received widespread critical acclaim and won multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Colin Firth’s portrayal of King George VI.

Dog at cafe

Photo by David Henry

45. Wings of Desire (1987) – West Germany

Directed by Wim Wenders, “Wings of Desire” is a lyrical and visually arresting meditation on the human experience and the nature of existence. The film follows two angels, Damiel and Cassiel, as they wander the streets of Berlin, observing the lives of the city’s inhabitants and offering solace to those in need. With its ethereal cinematography, poetic narration, and existential themes, “Wings of Desire” is a transcendent and profoundly moving cinematic experience that invites viewers to ponder the mysteries of life and the beauty of the everyday.

46. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – UK

“Lawrence of Arabia” is an epic biographical film directed by David Lean and released in 1962. Set during World War I, the movie tells the story of T.E. Lawrence, a British military officer who played a key role in the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. Lawrence, portrayed by Peter O’Toole, becomes deeply involved in the politics and conflicts of the Arabian Peninsula, forging alliances with Arab leaders and leading daring military campaigns. The film explores Lawrence’s complex character, his struggles with identity and allegiance, and the harsh realities of war in the desert. With stunning cinematography capturing the vast landscapes and memorable performances, “Lawrence of Arabia” is considered one of the greatest films in cinema history, earning critical acclaim and multiple Academy Awards.

47. The Hunt (2012) – Denmark

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg, “The Hunt” is a harrowing and provocative drama that explores the devastating consequences of false accusations and collective hysteria. The film follows Lucas, a kindergarten teacher who is falsely accused of molesting a young girl, as he becomes the target of suspicion and hostility from his community. With its raw emotional intensity, searing social commentary, and Mads Mikkelsen’s riveting performance in the lead role, “The Hunt” is a powerful and thought-provoking exploration of innocence, guilt, and the fragility of reputation.

48. Viridiana (1961) – Spain

Directed by Luis Buñuel, “Viridiana” is a provocative and subversive satire that explores the hypocrisies and contradictions of religion and society. The film follows a young novice named Viridiana as she is summoned by her uncle, Don Jaime, to his estate after taking her final vows. However, once there, Viridiana is drawn into a series of increasingly bizarre and morally ambiguous situations, challenging her devout beliefs and exposing the darker impulses of human nature. With its sharp wit, surreal imagery, and incisive critique of Catholicism and bourgeois morality, “Viridiana” remains a daring and audacious work that continues to provoke and unsettle audiences.

49. The Secret in Their Eyes (2009) – Spain/Argentina

Directed by Juan José Campanella, “The Secret in Their Eyes” is a gripping and emotionally resonant thriller that explores the enduring impact of love, loss, and justice. The film follows retired legal counselor Benjamín Espósito as he revisits a decades-old murder case that continues to haunt him. As Benjamín delves into the past, he uncovers a web of secrets and betrayals that test his faith in the law and his own moral convictions. With its intricate narrative structure, rich character development, and powerful performances, “The Secret in Their Eyes” is a masterful blend of crime drama and human emotion that leaves a lasting impression on viewers.

50. Europa (1991) – Denmark/Sweden

Directed by Lars von Trier, “Europa” is a mesmerizing and visually stunning exploration of postwar Europe and the lingering shadows of history. The film follows an American named Leopold Kessler as he arrives in Germany to work as a sleeping car conductor on the newly established Zentropa railway line. As Leopold becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue and betrayal, he finds himself confronting his own complicity in the dark forces that threaten to consume him. With its striking black-and-white cinematography, inventive use of visual effects, and surreal narrative, “Europa” is a cinematic tour de force that challenges viewers to confront the ghosts of the past and the uncertain future of a continent in transition.


Photo by Francesco Ungaro

As we draw the curtain on our exploration of the top rated European films, it becomes evident that European cinema is not merely a collection of films but a reflection of the shared human experience. Spanning across borders, languages, and genres, these cinematic masterpieces have carved a permanent mark on the cultural landscape, shaping our perceptions and enriching our understanding of the world.

European cinema’s enduring legacy lies in its profound ability to capture the complexities of the human condition with unparalleled depth and nuance. From the daring experimentation of the French New Wave to the poignant existentialism of Scandinavian drama, each film on this list offers a unique lens through which to view life, love, and the human spirit.


Cinematic excellence of European film industry

At its essence, European film production commemorates diversity, innovation, and artistic excellence. It stands as a testament to the boundless creativity of filmmakers who fearlessly push the boundaries of storytelling and visual expression, urging audiences to confront uncomfortable truths and explore the depths of the human psyche.

These cinematic masterpieces serve as bridges that span continents and generations, transcending language and cultural barriers to forge connections resonating on a profound emotional and visceral level, which is depicted in the breathtaking European landscapes carefully selected by the top location scouting agencies. Whether delving into themes of love and loss, politics and power, or faith and redemption, the iconic European films have a remarkable ability to spark conversations and inspire introspection long after the credits roll.

Reflecting on the top 50 best European movies of all time, we are reminded of the heartfelt impact these films have had on our cultural consciousness. They stand as beacons of cinematic excellence, guiding lights that illuminate the path forward for upcoming generations of filmmakers and cinephiles alike.

In the ever-evolving landscape of the film industry, European cinema remains a vital and dynamic force, continually pushing the boundaries of creativity and innovation making use of the finest locations, film equipment and transport solutions. It embodies artistic integrity and cultural diversity, enriching our lives and broadening our perspectives on the world around us.

European cinema with its storied past, vibrant present, and its promising future will continue to inspire, enlighten, and captivate audiences for generations to come. It will be reminding us of the enduring force of storytelling and the deepest impact that film can have on our lives.