Belgium is a country often taken for granted for many things and it has so much to offer, from its beautiful cities, and excellent chocolate to interesting cinematography. From thrillers to serious dramas, this cinematography is really worth mentioning and there are numerous movies that should find their place on your must-see list.
Regularly candidates for many various awards on numerous movie festivals and also several times nominated for an Academy Award, Belgian movies will definitely trigger your attention and make you search for more. This is the list of the 15 best Belgian movies of all time.
The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)
This is the movie which will be found on every list of the Belgian movies you simply have to watch. It is definitely one of the most remarkable and unforgettable stories in their cinematography. It is a difficult and heartbreaking drama about a couple who can’t be more different in each aspect of their life.
It was love at first sight between Elise and Didier, despite their visible differences. He is a talker, she is a listener, he believes in romance, but doesn’t believe in God and she is a religious realist. When their daughter becomes seriously ill, their love will have to overcome so much and it will be put on trial probably for the first time since they’ve met.
This movie is probably more famous because of its American remake, but this is the original and it gives the audience much more than its more talked about equal. We follow five close friends who share a loft where they bring their mistresses. One day they find the body of a young woman inside and since they are the only ones who have the keys to the flat, they immediately start suspecting each other of murder.
Slowly it becomes clear that they don’t know each other that well and that they have been hiding things not only from their spouses. Accusations, questions, and more secrets await us and the main protagonists of this intriguing and intense thriller whose atmosphere and overall tone will make you uneasy and uncomfortable.
Deux jours, une nuit (Two Days, One Night, 2014)
Marion Cotillard was nominated for an Oscar for the Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in this difficult drama about a woman who lives and works in Liege, Belgium. She is a factory worker who finds out that her colleagues have accepted a 1000 Euro bonus in exchange for her dismissal.
Sandra now has only one week to convince the workers who voted for her dismissal to change their minds and let her keep her job. Soon Sandra begins to understand their decisions since she realises that some of them are on the verge of poverty and these 1000 Euros would literally keep them afloat financially.
L’enfant (The Child, 2005)
Sonia and Bruno are a young, unmarried couple who spend their days without work, living on her benefits and the petty crimes he commits with a fourteen-year-old friend. After Sonia gives birth and gets out of the hospital, Bruno takes their son for a walk and comes to the conclusion that he will sell him to a black market adoption agency.
When Sonia finds out what he did she collapses and ends up in the hospital. Scared that Sonia might turn him to the police, Bruno decides to get his son back, but from this moment on, things start getting even more complicated when he realises that it won’t be so easy to regain Sonia’s confidence, get his son back, but also give up this amount of money.
La promesse (The promise, 1996)
Igor is a fifteen-year-old apprentice mechanic who lives with his low life father who lives off smuggling undocumented immigrants into Belgium. He is a mean man who takes advantage of these poor people, giving them shelter in unbearable conditions and paying them minimal wages for the work they perform on one of his buildings.
When the building inspector pays a surprise visit to Igor’s father Roger and finds a hidden immigrant, things slowly start to unravel. Igor will make a promise to the immigrant and his wife and this is when we will start to realise that he is nothing like his father, but that the immigrant’s wife’s values are somewhat different as well.
Le silence de Lorna (Lorna’s Silence, 2008)
Sokol and Lorna are two Albanian immigrants who live in Belgium with a dream of opening their own snack bar. But for that, they will need money and permanent resident status. Soon they will start making plans on how to achieve that and get in touch with different people who are all in need of something.
Claudy is a junkie who needs money for the drugs, a cigarette smuggler and a rich man Andrei doesn’t want to go back to his homeland Russia and Fabio is an Italian taxi driver who comes up with a great scheme that includes Lorna, Claudy and Andrei. But as it often goes with these things, this one will also start going awry.
Le gamin au vélo (The Kid with a Bike, 2011)
This drama follows the twelve-year-old boy Cyril who needs to adapt to his serious life situation. He has no mother and his father doesn’t want to have anything to do with him so he is sent to a clinic which he tries to escape but the caretakers take him to his father’s abandoned apartment. The next day the woman from the clinic, Samantha, brings him a bike and takes him with her to her apartment.
Even though Cyril likes it at Samantha’s, there are too many issues he needs to deal with and after one situation triggers him, he begins to change and slowly gets closer to a life of a possible delinquent.
Le fils (The Son, 2002)
Olivier is a carpentry teacher in a vocational school in Liege who is asked to accept a new student in his class, the 16-year-old Francis. He refuses it but starts spying on Francis since he feels a certain connection with the boy. Olivier has never recovered from the loss of his son and the separation from his wife and Francis knows nothing about his and Olivier’s connection from five years ago.
Slowly they start a bond which might result in a disaster since Olivier is still dealing with the hate towards the murderer of his son and the possibility of embracing this child from a broken him and an ugly past.
C’est arrivé près de chez vous (Man bites dog, 1992)
This is a black comedy crime mockumentary that follows a crew of filmmakers who follow a serial killer. They want to make a documentary about his horrific crimes. In the beginning, they are only bystanders, but eventually, they get caught up in all this twisted violence and step by step end up as accomplices.
But everything will go even more south from this moment on and the audience is going to start looking for a way to escape. The movie ends in a Tarantino style where no one is left alive, finishing off in numerous gruesome ways.
Ben X (2007)
This Belgian-Dutch movie is based on a novel which found inspiration in a true story about a boy with autism who committed suicide after being bullied. Teenager Ben is often bullied in school and in order to escape this world of abuse he turns to a virtual one, by playing an online game where he’s completely different from his real self.
But the bullying doesn’t stop in school and Ben decides to deal with it in his own way. In the meantime, he and his family found out he has Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. This movie shows the severeness of peer bullying and wants to point out the importance of different kinds of support for all the victims.
Rundskop (Bullhead, 2001)
This crime drama nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film takes to Limburg where we meet Jacky, a young cattle farmer who is offered a shady deal by an unscrupulous veterinarian. The deal includes a notorious West-Flemish beef trader. But the death of a police officer and a secret from Jacky’s past will start a chain of events with many unwanted consequences.
This movie deals with various topics, such as friendship, lost innocence and fate. It questions crime and punishment but also talks about a man’s destiny and the ways it can be reversed and changed.
De zaak Alzheimer (The Memory of a Killer, 2003)
This is an interesting action crime drama set in the Antwerp police force where we follow two main protagonists, Vincke and Verstuyft, one of the best detective teams there. They are faced with a disappearance of a top official and the murder of two prostitutes and soon they find a trail leading to a well-known assassin Angelo Ledda.
Ledda is not in shape anymore, since he is showing early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and has difficulty completing his contracts. This will lead to numerous unwanted situations which will end in Ledda’s revenge, several discoveries and Ledda’s sacrifice.
Any Way the Wind Blows (2003)
This comedy-drama is set in Antwerp on a warm June day where a group of people with not much in common end up in the same place for a big party that evening. We meet Nathalie and her brother Chouki, her boyfriend Walter and his ex Lara, the gallery keeper Firmin, the enigmatic Windman and a few more.
All of them dream of a different life and we are following their talks about their hopes and dreams. The film has already a cult status, especially due to its soundtrack, filled with electronica, rock and jazz music.
Le tout nouveau (The Brand New Testament, 2015)
This is a fantasy dark comedy which has already become a cult in Belgium. It talks about God who lives in Brussels with his 10-year-old daughter Ea. He is emotionally and physically abusing Ea, but also of similar behaviour to everyone else. He lives a life of a cynical writer and his daughter soon finds out how he has been mistreating humans.
She decides to rewrite the world, after getting fed up with the way he is treating her and everyone around her and decides to write a brand new testament and change the status quo. She needs to find six new messengers who will help her with this decision and in this endeavour.
This is a biographical drama about Salvatore Granata, a poor man who lives with his wife and daughter in Calabria in Italy. One day he decides to move to Belgium to start work in a coal mine as an immigrant worker. He thinks three years will be enough for him before he comes back for his family.
He changes his mind and decides to move his family to Belgium after only one year. But they will soon get to know the immigrant life, living in some kind of barracks, ignored by Belgian people and with very small wages. Salvatore’s secret connected to his work soon gets discovered and his son falls in love with Helena whose father is a racist and doesn’t want his daughter to go out with Italians.