The biggest foreign film winners in Oscar history
It can be a hard road for international films at the Academy Awards. Only one has ever won Best Picture (despite being nominated multiple times), but success has been found in other major categories, including directing, screenwriting, and acting. Typically, foreign films are relegated to the Best International Feature Film category for Oscar recognition, but in 2020, Parasite made history with three major wins outside of the the foreign film category. In honor of its run at Oscar gold, we're taking a look back at the biggest wins from international films in Oscar history.
In 2020, Parasite made history with Best Screenplay and a Best Director wins for Bong Joon Ho, and in addition its win for Best International Film, became the first film not in English to win Best Picture at the Oscars in a very competitive year for the Academy's top award.
Cuarón may have missed the top prize for Roma at the 2019 Oscars, but he completed the "Three Amigos" trifecta when he won Best Director for the highly personal film (rounding it out after his fellow countrymen Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro G. Iñárritu won previously). He became the first director in Oscar history to win in the category for directing an international film.
This 1944 Swiss, German, and French film became the first foreign film to win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Swiss screenwriter Richard Schweizer took home the gold for this tale of World War II, making him the first person to ever win an Oscar for a foreign film. The category for international feature, then known as Best Foreign Film, wasn't even officially created until 1956.
The Red Balloon
This 1956 charming French fantasy of a young boy who finds a sentient red balloon earned its screenwriter the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. It's the only short film to win the Academy Award in that category — and the only short to be nominated for anything besides Best Live Action Short.
Divorce Italian Style
This beloved 1961 Italian comedy was a major hit when it came to Oscar nominations, earning three nods — for Best Director (Pietro Germi), Best Actor (Marcello Mastroianni), and Best Original Screenplay. It ultimately won only for screenplay, earning an Oscar for the three-person writing team of Ennio De Concini, Pietro Germi, and Alfredo Giannetti. Despite being based Giovanni Arpino's novel Honour Killing, it won in the original screenplay category. It follows the story of Ferdinando (Mastroianni), who daydreams about disposing of his wife so he can marry the cousin he's in love with.
A Man and a Woman
This 1966 French story of a young widow and widower who strike up a romance after meeting at their children's boarding school was an awards darling, winning the Palme D'Or at Cannes the year it was released (just like Parasite). Pierre Uytterhoeven won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the film, and it also won the top prize in the Best Foreign Film category.
Talk to Her
Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar won his second Oscar (and his first outside the International Feature Film category) for his original script for 2002's Talk to Her. The film follows two men who bond as they care for two women in comas. Highly regarded as one of the best films of its decade, it marked a then-career-high for Almodóvar.
Sophia Loren made history as the first actor to win an Oscar for a foreign language performance for her role in 1961's Two Women. Her Oscar success, which came for portraying a widow coping with war-torn Italy and her daughter's rape, catapulted her to a new level of international fame, making her one of the biggest stars of the 1960s.
Life Is Beautiful
Who can forget Roberto Benigni's Best Actor win for Life Is Beautiful? He was so excited he literally climbed over the chairs in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to accept the Oscar. Benigni also wrote and directed the 1997 tale of a Jewish Italian bookshop owner who tries to shield his son from the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps.
La Vie en Rose
Marion Cotillard became the first French actor to win an Oscar for a French-language role with her performance as legendary singer Édith Piaf in 2007's La Vie en Rose. She was the rare actress to earn the acting nod without her film also being nominated for Best International Feature Film. The win launched Cotillard to international fame and made her a bonafide Hollywood star.