With many smaller arthouse theaters shuttering across the country, Netflix has emerged as one of the best places to catch foreign-language films, such as three-time Oscar winner Roma. But did you know that it's also home to a number of award-winning international television series? From chilly Scandinavian police procedurals to lush Korean historical dramas, these shows offer an insight into the genres that connect us — and the ones that are wholly new to American audiences. Here are 10 binge-worthy shows to start your global TV journey.
Netflix pro tip: Many of these series offer English-dubbed versions, which might automatically play when you click on the show. If you don't feel like reading subtitles, voila! But if you'd rather view them as originally created, just select the speech bubble on the bottom of the screen and select your preferred language for the audio track and subtitles.
The Series: Lupin (2021-)
The country of origin: France
The premise: At the turn of the 20th century, the British had Sherlock Holmes, and the French had Arsène Lupin, a gentleman thief and master of disguise who appeared in more than 50 stories. In this witty new thriller — which returned with five new episodes June 11 — Omar Sy stars as Assane Diop, a French-Senegalese man who uses the adventures of Lupin as inspiration to commit daring heists to avenge his late father, who was wronged by his wealthy employer. If you're a fan of French cinema, you'll recognize Sy from the touching 2011 film Intouchables, for which he became the first Black best actor winner in the history of the César Awards (France's Oscars).
Watch it if you liked: The BBC series Sherlock (there's a crossover being discussed!) and stylish French filming locations like the Louvre
Where to watch: Lupin
The series: Babylon Berlin (2017-)
The country of origin: Germany
The premise: Set during the waning days of the Weimar Republic, just before the Nazi takeover, this neo-noir thriller is a window into the glitz and grit of 1920s and ‘30s Berlin. Police inspector and World War I veteran Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch) transfers to Berlin to investigate the hijacking of a Soviet freight train; once there, he starts working with Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries), a flapper and police clerk who hopes to become the city's first female homicide detective.
Watch it if you liked: Cabaret, The Great Gatsby and film noir
Where to watch: Babylon Berlin
The series: Cable Girls (2017-2020)
The country of origin: Spain
The premise: With five seasons and 42 episodes, this Spanish period drama was Netflix's longest-running international series when it wrapped last year. Set in 1920s Madrid, the series — called Las chicas del cable in Spanish — follows four women who work as switchboard operators at Spain's first telecommunications company, as they navigate what it means to get a taste of independence in the era of flappers and suffragettes. It's a perfect blend of pointed historical commentary and a ton of girl-power fun with a surprisingly rocking soundtrack.
Watch it if you liked: Mad Men, feminism and vintage 1920s fashion (so many cloches!)
Where to watch: Cable Girls
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The series: Bordertown (2016-2019)
The country of origin: Finland
The premise: There's a particular genre of bleak and moody crime thriller that is so uniquely Scandinavian that it earned the name “Nordic noir.” Following in the snowy footsteps of hits like The Killing and The Bridge, the series stars Ville Virtanen, 59, as respected detective inspector Kari Sorjonen, who is something of a savant when it comes to solving crimes. Seeking a quieter life, he moves his family to a city near the Finnish-Russian border — but his plans are quickly foiled when a woman's body washes ashore.
Watch it if you liked: The books of Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbø, and moody mysteries like Mare of Easttown and Top of the Lake
Where to watch: Bordertown
The series: Call My Agent! (2015-)
The country of origin: France
The premise: Set at a Parisian talent agency, this comedic look behind the curtain of celebrity and moviemaking is filled to the brim with cameos from French celebrities — such as Juliette Binoche (57), Jean Dujardin, Isabelle Huppert (68) and Charlotte Gainsbourg — playing exaggerated versions of themselves. (An American icon, Sigourney Weaver, 71, makes an appearance in the fourth season.) The show is so popular in France and abroad that producers are currently planning a film, a fifth season, and British and South Korean remakes to join last year's Istanbul-set Turkish version.
Watch it if you liked: Series about the nature of celebrity, such as Entourage, The Larry Sanders Show and Extras
Where to watch: Call My Agent!
The series: Kingdom (2019-2020)
The country of origin: South Korea
The premise: If you have a strong stomach, you'll love this crazy mashup of zombie films and sageuk (Korean historical dramas). Set in the 16th century during the Joseon dynasty, the epic series follows Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon) as he tries to maintain power while a mysterious plague starts to ravage the countryside, leaving hordes of flesh-eating undead villagers to contend with. Between this show and the 2020 best picture Oscar winner Parasite, South Korea is turning out some of the world's most original entertainment.
Watch it if you liked: Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and palace intrigue
Where to watch: Kingdom
The series: Shtisel (2013-2021)
The country of origin: Israel
The premise: One of the biggest TV hits of the pandemic was Netflix's Unorthodox, a globe-spanning miniseries about a young Orthodox Jewish woman (played by Emmy nominee Shira Haas) who flees her arranged marriage and runs away to Berlin. If you want to learn more about this subculture, check out this Israeli series — which also costars Haas — about a Haredi (or ultra-Orthodox) family living in an internet-free neighborhood in Jerusalem.
Watch it if you liked: Sprawling family dramas like This Is Us
Where to watch: Shtisel
The series: The House of Flowers (2018-2020)
The country of origin: Mexico
The premise: Think of this delightfully campy and melodramatic show as a modern spin on the telenovela (or Latin American soap opera), with a healthy dose of dark comedy thrown in for good measure. The series follows the wealthy but dysfunctional de la Mora family, who own a flower shop and a cabaret — which both happen to be called La Casa de las Flores, or “The House of the Flowers” — and it tackles subjects such as race, class and sexuality in subversive ways that you might not expect from a traditional soap opera.
Watch it if you liked: Jane the Virgin and the films of Pedro Almodóvar
Where to watch: The House of Flowers
The series: Money Heist (2017-)
The country of origin: Spain
The premise: This 2018 International Emmy winner for best drama ranks as Netflx's most-watched non-English series of all time, and it's not hard to see why it has broad appeal: With flashbacks, time jumps and an unreliable narrator, this twisty crime drama follows a mysterious mastermind named the Professor (Álvaro Morte) who recruits a team of eight thieves to pull off high-stakes heists in the Royal Mint of Spain and the Bank of Spain. The team wears trademark red jumpsuits and Salvador Dalí masks, and the show is so popular that a number of real-life copycats have committed crimes while donning the same disguise!
Watch it if you liked: Ocean's Eleven and Robin Hood
Where to watch: Money Heist
The series: Sacred Games (2018-2019)
The country of origin: India
The premise: The first original Netflix series from India, this Hindi-language thriller is a pulse-quickening cat-and-mouse game between police officer Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) and gang lord Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). The action is set in motion when Singh receives a phone call from the gangster telling him he has 25 days to save the world.
Watch it if you liked: The Departed and Narcos
Where to watch: Sacred Games
Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine and his work has appeared in The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.