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24 Extraordinary Movies Set In Europe That Will Inspire You To Visit!

24 Extraordinary Movies Set In Europe That Will Inspire You To Visit!

Europe has a lot to offer both national and international filmmakers with exquisite natural and urban landscapes, a rich cultural tapestry – and various state-organized film tax credits and incentives programs. So it will come as no surprise that there are so many unforgettable movies set in Europe...

If there’s one place that has been historically venerated and looked up to by the whole world, it’s Europe. The birthplace of most of the things that we think of as the best humanity has to offer: cuisine, arts, architecture, philosophy and science.

What makes Europe so special is the fact that such a wide array of cultures, each of which has so much to offer, have lived in close proximity to each other. This has made Europe a boiling pot of ideas and traditions, all of which have taken different forms in different countries. In sum, it’s a place worth exploring.

24 Extraordinary Movies Set In Europe That Will Inspire You To Visit!

And what better way to explore the birthplace of something so wonderful as cinema, than through movies? These films will take you all around Europe, from its most popular spots to some of the most unknown. Like the continent’s history, some of them are happy, some are sad, and some are just plain unique. Even after years and years of writing about Europe, there are things that words just can’t capture. That’s what cinema is for.

Watching a good movie is the best way to get inspired and choose your next destination. It is the reason we have assembled various lists of the best films shot in some of our all-time favorite travel destinations: Barcelona, Dubai, South Africa, Thailand, and New York City (among others). There are things that a photo alone can’t capture. We are human, and we need movement: the waves crashing against a crowded Riveria beach, the mist creeping into a mountain valley, and people walking side by side through a historic medieval town.

These are things that are better experienced with movement. These are things that belong in movies. And these things can be found in Europe.

Movies set in Europe - Best European films

The films in this list of movies set in Europe paint a picture of a complex region filled with gorgeous sights and diverse voices – yet a deep history and frequent conflict. With this, we hope to help audiences step into the often-contradictory world of Europe and experience the scenery, subcultures, and different dynamics that make Europe what it is today.

Be forewarned that not all of these films are happy – tragedies and misery are as unavoidable in cinema as they are in life – be we promise that each one provides panoramic vistas and thought-provoking narratives from this tantalizing country…

Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, or elsewhere.

You can get one month free of Amazon Prime (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.

Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best. 

While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.

Movies set in Europe - Best European films
Movies set in Europe - Best European films
Movies set in Europe - Best European films

Det Sjunde Inseglet (1957)

Det Sjunde Inseglet / “The Seventh Seal” is a 1957 film written and directed by Swedish author Ingmar Bergman. It is considered a classic within film culture and one of the films that established Bergman as one of the most acclaimed and influential filmmakers in film history.

It tells the story of Antonius Block, a knight who returns to Sweden after fighting in the crusades, to whom Death appears; Block challenges her to a game of chess, betting on her life. During breaks in his game, he continues to travel with his squire, observing how the Black Death epidemic has terrified the population and meeting various characters along the way: a painter who makes frescoes depicting the Dance of Death, Jof, an itinerant theater actor who travels with his wife and son, a girl condemned to die on the stake for satanic practices, a theologian who now dedicates himself to usurping the dead victims of the plague and a group of flagellates who march through the villages announcing the end of the world, the punishment of the Plague that God has imposed among others.

 Ingmar Bergman’s cinema is characterized by always being deep, technically masterful, and intellectually stimulating. We will hardly be able to find a film among his extensive filmography that does not manage to remain engraved in our memories.

La Dolce Vita (1960)

There are three great turbulent forces in life, which manifest as an attractive whirlpool that traps human beings in chaotic spirals. In traditional Christian symbology, somewhat discredited by modernity, they are the devil, the world and the flesh, the three enemies of man: the malice of licentious reasoning, the attraction of riches and material things, and the sweet enchantment of overflowing sexual energies.

When you live under the attraction of these forces, you enjoy la dolce vita, a space without compromises, in which the severe admonitions of normality do not apply, since you live according to the moment, with a full disposition to take advantage of opportunities, without paying much attention to the consequences.

We all carry those dolce vita instincts within us, albeit restrained by social norms and fears of public performance, of making a fool of ourselves. Federico Fellini has shown in his famous film La Dolce Vita what is experienced during a series of frenetic days and nights, in which everything that can happen to a person who allows him to be dragged by the whirlpools of life happens.

Angst Essen Seele Auf (1974)

Angst Essen Seele Auf is one of the most representative films of the German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder and, therefore, of the new German cinema, the renovating current that was installed internationally from the 60s of the 20th century, and that had an important repercussion in Germany, to

Despite the fact that many of the films made in that country have had a much smaller distribution compared to that of other European cinematographic movements, such as the Nouvelle Vague or the New Italian Cinema. The film is inspired by a film by Douglas Sirk, All That Heaven Allows (1955), in which the protagonist, played by Jane Wyman, fell in love with her gardener, played by Rock Hudson, although in reality, the filmmaker himself admitted that he had shot the film in medias res of other more important works. The film won the Jury Prize at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival.

Fassbinder himself wrote the script, as we have already said, based on the aforementioned film by Douglas Sirk. The action of the film takes place in the Germany of an economic miracle, and the protagonist of the film is an old woman, played by Briggite Mira, who one day meets an immigrant from Morocco of a much more humble social class than the actor plays, El Hedi ben Salem.

The relationship between the two will begin to emerge, and how could it be otherwise in a film directed by the German, the entire community, with dramatic consequences, will mock them.

Elle (2016)

Paul Verhoeven and Isabelle Huppert star in a wonderful performance directing the film. And she will not leave you indifferent.

Michèle is raped in her house. After the assault, she cleans up the scene and gets on with her life. With this beginning, you can imagine that Elle is a movie that leaves no one indifferent, something that goes in her DNA. While preparing it, the director, Paul Verhoeven, wanted to do something “completely different” from what he had done before, and, although he wanted a 100% American film, at least the protagonist and the locations, he did not get it because it was considered immoral. The American public was not prepared for what Verhoeven had in mind.

In 2014, during the Cannes festival, it was described as an “extremely erotic and perverted” film and needed an actress to match. Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Carice van Houten were saying no to one project after another until Isabelle Huppert arrived, who accepted immediately. “She had no doubts about the integrity of the role. She is a very interesting character because she always goes against the predictable definitions of what it means to be a woman or what it means to be a man,” the actress told NPR.

Upon its release in 2016, critics openly praised it, and, unanimously, Huppert’s performance was considered the best of the film. As for the plot, as Catherine Bray wrote for Time Out, “it’s going to spark debate for decades to come.” There were those who saw it as an empowering film and a magnificent way to tell a story of rape and revenge, but also those who thought the opposite.

Dogville (2003)

Dogville shakes the viewer from the beginning, from the presentation of the town that gives the film its title, revealing an extremely minimalist setting more typical of a play. There is hardly any decoration or props, the limits of the houses are marked with white lines, without walls, and there are signs on the ground that provide information about the houses, where there is supposed to be a bush or a dog.

This unusual approach to the staging, which will be accompanied by the use of a handheld camera, with free and sometimes chaotic movements, seems to have the objective of distancing the viewer from the fiction that is being represented in the style of Bertolt Brecht, of making them aware at all times of the artificiality of the story, and force an analysis of the text, a reflection on the behavior of the characters (and their translation to the real world).

Another peculiarity of the film is its fairytale appearance. The pleasant voice of the narrator (John Hurt) presents the story, the place, and the characters as if it were a children’s story about hard-working and honest people who in bad times receive a gift practically from heaven – there are elements that lend themselves to religious reading.

Even so, from the beginning, it is anticipated that everything will end in tragedy; throughout nine chapters (and a prologue), we will abandon a naive and optimistic Frank Capra-style tale to enter a terrible and devastating parable about human nature. Grace (Nicole Kidman) is a mysterious stranger in Dogville who is wanted by both the mob and the police. The town, led by a young writer and philosopher (Paul Bettany), agrees to help her in exchange for the woman working for them. 

Los Santos Inocentes (1984)

Los Santos Inocentes directed by Mario Camus, is a brutal rural drama that convulsed the history of Spanish cinematography in 1984.

At the end of May of that same year, a big story broke in the Spanish media. In it, it was communicated that Alfredo Landa and Francisco Rabal had obtained an award that would change their lives. It was the Best Male Performance Award at the Cannes International Film Festival.

The Spanish writer Miguel Delibes signed one of his best novels in 1981. Three years later, it was adapted to the cinema by the filmmaker Mario Camus who, in my opinion, made the best film of his entire career. It is continually said that the film adaptations of the novels to the big screen leave a lot to be desired, and sometimes it is true. In this case, the film is so big that it may be above the literary work itself, a feat rarely seen in the cinema.

Los Santos Inocentes is a stark portrait of the backward Spain of the 1960s. In the Iberian country, at that time, some behaviors were more similar to the Middle Ages than to a situation typical of the 20th century. The story tells us about the life of a peasant couple and their children. The family works in a farmhouse in Extremadura under the orders of some latinfundistas of the time. The latter treat their workers as if they were animals, using fear as a weapon to control them.

Canino (2009)

Greek cinema is not exactly very lavish in titles that cross borders, at least today. But if there is one that has achieved it and with it, has become a praised and applauded film that leaves no one indifferent that is Yorgos Lanthimos’s ‘Canino.’

That after going through several festivals with notable success (Cannes, Sitges,…) and winning some awards, it came the billboard converted into an original bet, visually impressive, hard but stimulating, and full of questions that the viewer will take with them after the projection.

This is not an easy movie. One of those in which one lets oneself go with relaxation. He doesn’t pretend to. ‘Canino’ takes us to an underworld, to an isolated universe, to the bosom of a middle-class family with three children who live far from the outside world and its influences. Two daughters and a son are leaving adolescence and are physically mature but far removed from what is usual for people living in an influential environment.

An allegory directed with skill and self-confidence by Yorgos Lanthimos, in which echoes of Buñuel can be seen but also of Lynch or Haneke. Overwhelming images, scenes of violence and explicit sex, shot with great simplicity that tears any resemblance to placidity. Some scenes play with the most recalcitrant surrealism (the musical number is surprising), but they give rise to sublime moments that highlight its allegorical dimension, of a risky fable, but original for a story that, despite containing that surreal tone, we can well find ourselves in the news of any newspaper in any corner of the world.

Yorgos succeeds in giving the film a tone of enormous simplicity, with a simple but forceful staging. Fixed shots, no soundtrack, letting the daily chapters of this peculiar family drag us to their mission: not to leave us indifferent. They are addressing issues such as communication, family, innocence, education, and degradation that fly over the entire footage.

Kauas Pilvet Karkaavat (1996)

With his trademark irony and quirky sense of humor, filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki in Kauas Pilvet Karkaavat / “Drifting Clouds” tells the story of a married couple whose marriage and personal pride are tested by life’s hard knocks. As is often the case in Kaurismäki’s films, his characters are ordinary human beings, victims of twists of fate.

The couple is not used to taking risks and lives in a simple apartment in one of the many rental buildings. Ilona loses her job as a waitress at the Dubrovnik restaurant in Helsinki. Shortly after, she finds out that her husband Lauri has been fired from his job as a tram driver for a month. After a series of humiliations and defeats that lead the couple to a situation of strict survival, a kind of rainbow in the lives of both leaves us with a certain confidence in the modest hopes and aspirations of the working class.

At this time when job loss has become a universal threat, Kaurismäki has made a film of profound social significance that is also moving. And as always, what saves the cinema of this director, so faithful in his portrayal of the dark details of the misfortune of his protagonists, is that unique ability to retain a sense of humor, even in the most crushing moments of life.

Ladri Di Biciclette (1948)

People have the tendency to interpret reality according to existing mental schemes. We respond to situations by moving, the images are the cause of the movement, and all this is linked in a realistic way, which can be interpreted through established mental schemes.

The cinema does not escape this reactive chain and tends to be a topical cinema, an action cinema, in which the spectator reacts to the story that is told, moved by the images. Just as there is an optical mechanism that softens the disconnection between images and interprets them visually as a continuous action, so the mental scheme pre-constructed in the minds establishes the meaning of the topics and adjusts them to the existing mental images and interpretations.

But the everyday reality is very surprising if you look at it from a different point of view, more focused on the pure image and not so much on the automatic response that it suggests. Filmmakers, like painters, writers, and musicians, know this and have been playing, more and more daringly, with these spaces. One of these approaches is that of neorealism, which, quoting Bazin, is “a new form of reality, supposedly dispersive, elliptical, wandering or oscillating, which operates in blocks and with deliberately weak links and floating events”. Instead of representing an already deciphered reality, neorealism aimed to deal with ambiguity.

Ladri di biciclette / Bicycle Thieves is considered a classic of neorealism. In this beautiful work by Vittorio De Sica, the story of Antonio is told, a humble character in post-war Italy, who suffers the theft of his work bicycle, an object obtained with great sacrifices, thus losing his chances of bringing sustenance to the home.

His son, a tender and sensitive boy, matures by force in the company of his father, while he tries in vain to recover his bicycle. De Sica has masterfully crafted this simple story, the daily bread of poor people, creating impacts on the viewer, forcing them to ask themselves questions and decipher the complex realities faced by the unemployed and the marginalized.