The 10 Greatest Foreign Language TV Series Ever!

Right back through the decades there have been occasional classics from around the world that have captured our imaginations, from the 1960s when The Adventures of Robin Hood and it’s enigmatic theme tune caught our fancy to the Danish drama Borgen that has recently become a firm favourite with every fan of intelligent TV.

The one difference we can pick these days though is that now we can handle subtitles! Yes it’s only really with shows like Borgen and The Killing that our international dramas haven’t been dubbed into English – sometimes though it’s the dubbing that has made the show even better. Take Monkey for example, the English language translations were almost completely freestyled into something very special by English adaptor David Weir.

Below we take a look at our top ten favourite international shows.


10. The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (France 1964)

Robert Hoffman starred as Crusoe in this fondly remembered black and white series but it was the theme tune we loved more.


9. Heimat (Germany 1992)

Heimat was an epic drama series that focused on life for the residents of one German village between the years 1919 and 1982. It was the kind of stuff that we hadn’t seen before from a foreign show and we loved it.


8. The Flashing Blade (France 1967)

Despite being made in the 1960’s every schoolkid of the 1980’s will remember the Flashing Blade (another show with an epic theme tune) as it was a regular part of many a Saturday Morning TV line up. It was a Musketeers style mish-mash of derring-do, sword fights and romance.


7. White Horses (Yugoslavia – Germany 1968)

The English theme tune On White Horses by Jackie lives long in many peoples memories but the series itself, which followed the adventures of a young girl and her amazing white Lippizaners, was extremely popular.


6. The Boat (Germany 1984)

Before Denmark took over the top spot it was Germany who could be relied upon for tense international drama and The Boat (which was directed by future Hollywood helmer Wolfgang Petersen) was a superb tale of a German Submarine crew during World War II.


5. The Water Margin (Japan 1975)

Before Monkey there was The Water Margin, a truly epic tale of 13th century knights fighting evil and corruption. David Weir of Monkey fame was also responsible for the English scripts for this.


4. Belle And Sebastian (France 1967)

This charming children’s series told stories of a boy and his dog in a small French village. Cult indie band Belle and Sebastian naturally enough took their name from this series.


3. Monkey (Japan 1979)

A brilliant theme tune, in fact two brilliant theme tunes – like The Sweeney Monkey had a high octane opening song (“born from an egg on a mountaintop”) and a melancholic closing theme (“In Gandhara, Gandhara”), incredible stories of buddhist monks, monkey gods able to summon clouds to fly on, epic fights against demons and more. Incredible!

The Killing

2. The Killing (2007 Denmark)

This is the series that started things off in the modern era, the very definition of Nordic Noir, it’s a dark detective series known as Forbrydelsen in it’s native Denmark and following Detective Inspector Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl) investigating various murders. A massive hit around the world and also gave rise to a well received US remake.


1. Borgen (2010 Denmark)

Another Danish smash hit, Borgen may well have taken its cue from shows like West Wing but surely an influencer of its own on the likes of House Of cards and it’s fabulous. A political drama that manages to keep it’s human heart, Sidse Babett Knudsen plays Birgitte Nyborg Christensen who becomes Prime Minister (or should we say Stats Minister) of the country following a surprise election. Around her is spin doctor Kapser Juul (Pilou Asbæk) whose ex-girlfriend Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) works for investigative TV show TV1 News. Borgen is the nickname of Christiansborg Palace where all of Denmark’s political activity takes place. The show was created by Danish celebrity chef Adam Price!

And remember this is our top ten, yours might be entirely different, although we can guarantee you will now be singing some of these theme tunes for the rest of the day!

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