50 From 50: Closing Remarks

Last year, I made a film-based resolution to watch 50 movies from from 50 different countries (lots of caveats and rules for what qualifies, as enumerated in that introductory post). This is not the first time I’ve done a project like this (see also: The 1978 Project and 50 Under 50), and it’s become tradition to do a sorta post-mortem closing remarks of the project at the end. Of course, I finished this particular resolution in December, but with all the year-ending shenanigans, Movie Awards, and whatnot, I’m only now circling back to 50 From 50 to close it out with a quick recap and general thoughts on the experience.

For the record, I’ve been doing brief reviews of all movies throughout the year, and you can see them here: [Intro | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | 6WH Week 2.5 | 6WH Joko Anwar | 6WH Speed Round | Success!] and you can see the full list of films on Letterboxd. Anywho, let’s dive into the numbers and see if anything interesting pops out.


In terms of genre, there was perhaps more concentration than normal, especially around Action and Horror/Thrillers. Of course, the catch-all “Drama” category comes in at the top of the list, but that’s also because there’s significant overlap (i.e. a lot of those Action or Horror movies are also classified as Dramas). This does make a certain sorta sense, as foreign films that are easily accessible in the US tend to target more specific markets to garner a wider audience. It’s not entirely surprising that Comedy didn’t do quite as well, perhaps in part because Comedy doesn’t travel as well as Action or Horror. And, of course, it’s worth noting that I’m going off of Letterboxd’s preset genres, which has its own bias. Is “Crime” its own genre, or does it get lumped in with Action or Thriller? And so on.

Of course, I have my own biases, and it’s not an accident that Action and Horror are often well represented in my media diet in general. Indeed, for year-long projects like this, I’m sure the Six Weeks of Halloween marathon exerts a healthy influence (and 50 From 50 was no exception).

All that said, there is a wide array of genres represented in the 50 movies I watched. The only genres I didn’t hit were Animation, TV Movie, and Western. None of these are especially surprising, even if I could have easily hit at least two of those genres (if I had watched a Spaghetti Western or an Anime movie, for example), but by the time I thought of it, I had already progressed beyond the most obvious countries for those genres (more on this in a bit).

By Decade

While I did manage to squeeze in movies from 8 different decades, there is an obvious and pronounced recency bias in what I watched. This is at least partly due to a recency bias in what is widely available to watch in the US, especially on streaming. I did make a concerted effort to seek out certain movies though, and at least 3 movies on the list are not available on (legal) streaming in any form. Some of these are available on physical media (for example, Vinegar Syndrome put out a great release of Thriller that does not seem to have been picked up by any streaming service, even for rentals), but some are simply unavailable in any way except through… less reputable methods (i.e. Nokas). We’ll talk more about availability below, so I won’t belabor the point here, but despite the recency of most of the movies, there was still a fair sampling of older films…

The Map & Included Countries

This is perhaps the most filled map I’ve ever had for a single year, which is not especially surprising given the whole point of this project. The biggest surprise, though was that I didn’t end up seeing any movies from Ireland or New Zealand. Of course, both of those were excluded from 50 From 50 due to their presence in the Anglosphere, so maybe not entirely surprising, but it’s telling that I’ve already seen multiple movies from both of those countries here in 2024. The only country that I wanted to get to that I didn’t manage was Romania, which has a rich arthouse tradition, but I had trouble with availability (more on this below) and just ran out of time. While there were lots of the usual suspects (i.e. France, Japan, Italy, etc…) represented, I watched plenty of movies from unlikely sources that I probably would not have gotten to otherwise (i.e. Saudi Arabia, Senegal, etc…)

Miscellaneous Thoughts

As always, this sort of movie resolution was eye-opening, though certain issues kept cropping up.

  • One thing I think I underestimated at the start of this was the relative difficulty of finding qualifying movies. This is partly due to my own restrictions. Forbidding co-productions with Anglosphere countries really eliminates a wide swath of movies off the bat. In general, I tried to avoid movies with multiple origin countries, which restricts things further. You’d be surprised at just how many movies, even from countries with a strong film tradition, have multiple origin countries. I was not entirely successful in avoiding this completely, and in one case, I accidentally included a film that was a USA co-production (I maintain that when I watched it, it didn’t list this on Letterboxd, but that it changed later…)
  • Another thing that wound up frustrating me was that this resolution forced a wide range of countries, but didn’t particularly allow for deeper exploration of a particular country’s cinema. It was kinda weird to choose one movie to represent the country, and, like, I watched a bunch of shlocky movies that are probably not representative of a given country’s cinema as a whole. Of course, none of this meant I couldn’t continue to explore a given country’s movies further, but the focus on tackling a new country every week did cut down on that a bit. There were definitely some things I had planned for a specific country that got pre-empted by something else. For example, The Last Drive In showed a movie called Tigers Are Not Afraid, which ended up taking the Mexico slot that I had originally planned for the films of Carlos Enrique Taboada during the Six Weeks of Halloween.
  • I had originally made a rule that I would watch 20 movies from one qualifying country. This was meant to counteract what I just mentioned, but I would up not committing to one country and never got to 20 movies. That being said, I did get to 15 films from Italy and 12 films from Hong Kong (in both cases, I’m being a little more lenient and including movies with multiple countries of origin). Both were conscious efforts to increase foreign film watching, so I think that basically makes up for missing the 20 film mark.
  • Streaming availability was a primary driver of the mix of films described above. By far, the most useful streaming service for this exercise was… Tubi. A free, advertising supported service, it’s got a very wide selection, especially when it comes to genre fare. Surprisingly, Netflix was also a pretty good resource here. They actually have a pretty great selection of foreign films that you might not be aware of because the algorithm rarely puts it in front of you (except in some very specific circumstances). Amazon Prime was also a key resource, but it almost always is for something like this. Shudder also does a good job of curating obscure foreign horror films (yet another factor in the genre mix described above). Max actually has a pretty good portion of the Criterion catalog on their service, which was also very useful here.
  • Speaking of Criterion, it’s probably not an accident that a large proportion of the older films included on the list were Criterion releases. Of course, they also have a streaming service of their own, but it’s interesting that physical media purveyors like Criterion, Vinegar Syndrom, and Arrow are invaluable in making foreign movies more accessible to US audiences.

I found this whole exercise interesting and edifying, but I do think that perhaps it would be more valuable to do a deep dive into one country’s films rather than a shallow dive into many countries, as I have done here. I don’t have any current plans to start a new resolution, but if I wanted to do a foreign film based resolution, I would almost certainly narrow the focus to one country (and maybe even further by genre – Spaghetti Westers, Giallos, Anime, etc…).

Update: By popular demand, quick lists!

Best Movies

Best Obscure Discoveries

Ultimately, I probably didn’t need to split the list into two categories. It works as a top 10 (in no particular order). Also, I don’t usually like to spend time on “worst” movies from an exercise like this, but it’s pretty clearly Altered Skin. So there you have it. Onwards and upwards.

3 thoughts on “50 From 50: Closing Remarks”

  1. No best/worst picks from the exercise? Don’t leave us hanging! (Though I can see finalists for each from your past posts and Letterboxd ratings.)

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