Our favorite international streaming originals on Netflix & HBO Max


Clockwise from left: Rilakkuma And Kaoru, Elite, Crash Landing On You, His House, and Made In Heaven (Screenshots)


Clockwise from left: Rilakkuma And Kaoru, Elite, Crash Landing On You, His House, and Made In Heaven (Screenshots)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

So many streaming services, so little time. With this week’s AVQ&A, we are once again uncovering some hidden streaming gems that you (and we) might have missed:

What is your favorite hidden streaming gem from a country other than the United States?

Like the version we did back in January, this refers to a streaming original you came across and enjoyed, but hasn’t received a ton of coverage. This time around, the movie or TV show must be produced by a studio outside the U.S., though it can be distributed by an American streaming service.

Rilakkuma And Kaoru, Netflix

Having watched 100 hours of Terrace House, Netflix is always eager to pitch me on anything from Japan, so I’d like to pass one of those recommendations on: Rilakkuma And Kaoru, a stop-motion animated series about a 30-something woman (Kaoru) who somewhat inexplicably lives with a giant living teddy bear (Rilakkuma), his little teddy bear friend, and a little chick. Kaoru deals with real world problems, like being under-appreciated at her job or watching her friends experience major life events ahead of her, and the lazy Rilakkuma serves as a helpful reminder that it’s okay to just give up on your problems and hang out with your animal friends sometimes. [Sam Barsanti]

3 / 9

Crash Landing On You, Netflix

Crash Landing On You, Netflix

Netflix’s Crash Landing On You is the perfect gateway for someone who wants to get into K-dramas. The ambitious premise of the show asks the viewer to suspend their disbelief… a lot. The main character, Yoon Se-Ri, is a fashion mogul who ends up across the border in North Korea after a freak paragliding accident; there, she meets (and subsequently falls in love with—duh, this is a K-drama) North Korean army captain Ri Jeong Hyeok. The romantic leads have great chemistry (they’re even dating IRL) and the ensemble cast is eccentric and hilarious. By the end of the series, you’re just as invested in the side characters as you are in the two leads. [Shanicka Anderson]

4 / 9

Made In Heaven, Amazon Prime Video

Made In Heaven, Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video’s Made In Heavena romantic drama created by Bollywood directors Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti—is a must-watch because of how poignantly it dismantles the “big fat Indian wedding” stereotype. Without losing its entertainment value, the show tackles cultural tropes of arranged marriage and dowry, addresses taboo topics in India like homosexuality, and throws a light on the class and caste differences in the society. The performances are exceptional, and the fashion and New Delhi scenery is bewitching, making the nine episode first season (with season two is on its way!) a breezy binge. [Saloni Gajjar]

Elite, Netflix

I’m not a murder-mystery-teen-drama person. I hate-watched Riverdale until it got too intolerable to be fun, and have steered away from Pretty Little Liars and other similar shows. But Elite became one of the very few shows that made me reconsider my distaste for the genre; it hooked me from the start. I won’t spoil anything except that it all starts with a murder mystery, but the whole show is a wild ride. Even when it pulls out the expected soapy tropes like messy throuples, forbidden love, socioeconomic class clashes, and even incest, this Spanish teen show manages to bring something fresh to the genre. The writing is great and the characters are nuanced, making this a teen drama you won’t feel like you have to label as a “guilty pleasure.” [Tatiana Tenreyro]

His House, Netflix

It’s a little out of season, but considering there’s a host of horror sequels out right now, why not check out one of the best original horror movies of last year: Remi Weekes’ terrifying His House. Born from the same satirical horror mold as John Carpenter and Jordan Peele, Weekes’ film follows a refugee family from South Sudan who moves into haunted public housing. Filled with grounded performances, a gut-punch of a script, and nightmarish visuals, both real and hallucinatory, His House is an unforgettable shrieker unlike anything else on Netflix. [Matt Schimkowitz]

The Head, HBO Max

Look, I have stumped time and again on this site for 3%, one of the most purely entertaining near-future sci-fi TV shows to grace streaming in the past half-decade. So despite a global phenomenon still flying under the radar in the U.S., let’s go with a different choice: Those looking for a fun murder-mystery whodunnit to replace the Mare-sized hole in their hearts could do worse than checking out HBO Max’s The Head, a Spanish-made but (mostly) English-language thriller. It does a neat twist on the locked-room drama: A small crew spends six months in isolation at an Antarctic Research Facility, but when the replacement team arrives in the spring following weeks of radio silence, they find a massacre. What happened? And who’s responsible? As the details unfold, each episode of this six-part gets increasingly intense, if a bit over-the-top. No one will mistake it for high art, but for pulpy, binge-watch fun, it really hits the spot. [Alex McLevy]

8 / 9

Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, Netflix

Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, Netflix

Midnight Diner existed in several forms before Netflix Japan snatched up the rights, but with Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories going straight to the streaming service, I feel confident calling it a “hidden streaming gem.” And that suits this modest show, set in a diner only open from midnight to 7AM that’s technically in Shinjuku, but feels more like an urban Japanese version of the legendary isle of Avalon. Adding to the place’s otherworldly quality is The Master, the proprietor and sole employee, who serves anything his customers might be craving at the moment and who observes the colorful characters who sit at his counter with kindness and bemused grace. Each episode focuses on the life and problems of a different patron, many of whom are denizens of the city’s seedy underworld; Midnight Diner isn’t as action-packed as that description might suggest, however, instead offering up gentle, humanistic portraits of outcasts in a society that doesn’t value their uniqueness—with a mouthwatering serving of food porn on the side. [Katie Rife]


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