Belgium has a rich tradition of filmmaking that stretches back over a century, with influential directors such as Chantal Akerman, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, and Jaco Van Dormael making their mark on the international film scene.
Belgian cinema is known for its diversity and innovation, with a range of genres and styles represented, from social realism to surrealism, from documentary to experimental.
In this sense, Belgian cinema is a reflection of the country itself, with its complex history and unique cultural identity. Some of the most acclaimed and memorable Belgian films include “Rosetta” (1999), “The Kid with a Bike” (2011), “Man Bites Dog” (1992), and “Toto the Hero” (1991).
Best Belgian Movies
These are just a few examples of the many great Belgian movies that have been made over the years. Belgian cinema has a rich history and continues to produce unique and thought-provoking films that are well worth watching.
1. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels (1973)
“Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels” is a Belgian-French film from 1975, directed by Chantal Akerman. The film is a three-and-a-half-hour long character study that follows a single mother, Jeanne Dielman, over the course of three days as she goes about her daily routine of cooking, cleaning, and engaging in sex work to support herself and her son.
The film is known for its minimalist style and its meticulous attention to detail, as well as its feminist themes and its exploration of the monotony of domestic life. It is a challenging and thought-provoking work that invites the audience to examine their own perceptions of gender, power, and the nature of work.
“Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels” was well-received by critics and has become a landmark of feminist and avant-garde cinema. The film is known for its masterful direction by Chantal Akerman, as well as its powerful and nuanced performance by Delphine Seyrig in the lead role of Jeanne Dielman.
The film remains a testament to the power of cinema to challenge and provoke audiences, and to the importance of exploring new modes of cinematic expression. It is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential films of the 20th century, and continues to inspire and challenge filmmakers and audiences around the world.
- Delphine Seyrig (Actor)
- Chantal Akerman (Director)
- English (Subtitle)
- English (Publication Language)
2. The Music Teacher (1988)
“The Music Teacher” is a Swedish film released in 1988, directed by Kay Pollak. The film tells the story of a successful but emotionally distant music teacher named Marta, who is confronted with her own personal demons when she reconnects with a former lover and discovers that she has a long-lost son.
The film is notable for its exploration of themes of love, loss, and redemption, and its sensitive portrayal of complex characters. It features a strong lead performance by renowned Swedish actress, Viveka Seldahl, and an exceptional score by Swedish composer Björn Isfält.
“The Music Teacher” was well-received by critics and audiences alike, and is regarded as one of the best Swedish films of the 1980s. The film was particularly praised for its emotional depth and its ability to tackle difficult subjects with grace and sensitivity.
Overall, “The Music Teacher” is a powerful and moving film that speaks to the universal human experience of longing, regret, and the search for connection. It is a testament to the power of cinema to explore the depths of human emotion and provide a window into the human condition.
- The Music Teacher ( Le Matre de musique )
- The Music Teacher
- Le Matre de musique
- Patrick Bauchau, Johan Leysen, Jos van Dam (Actors)
- Grard Corbiau (Director) - The Music Teacher ( Le Matre de musique ) (Producer)
3. Toto the Hero (1991)
“Toto the Hero” is a Belgian-French-German co-production film from 1991, directed by Belgian filmmaker Jaco Van Dormael.
The film is a darkly comic fantasy drama that tells the story of Thomas, a man who believes that he was switched at birth with his neighbor, Alfred, and has spent his life plotting his revenge against him.
The film explores themes of identity, memory, and the nature of reality, as Thomas recounts his life story through a series of flashbacks and fantasies.
The film is noted for its inventive storytelling and visual style, as well as its strong performances, particularly by Michel Bouquet in the dual roles of the elderly Thomas and Alfred.
“Toto the Hero” was a critical success, winning multiple awards at film festivals, including the Caméra d’Or at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival. The film is considered a classic of Belgian cinema and an influential work of postmodern filmmaking.
- Michel Bouquet, Mireille Perrier, Jo De Backer (Actors)
- Jaco Van Dormael (Director)
- English (Subtitle)
- Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
4. Man Bites Dog (1992)
Man Bites Dog is a Belgian black comedy crime mockumentary film from 1992, directed by Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, and Benoît Poelvoorde.
The film follows the story of a film crew who follow a charismatic and charming serial killer, played by Poelvoorde, as he goes about his daily routine of murdering innocent people.
As the film crew becomes increasingly complicit in the killer’s actions, the film explores themes of violence, voyeurism, and the ethics of documentary filmmaking.
The central character, played by Poelvoorde, is a disturbing and complex figure, at once repulsive and magnetic.
Man Bites Dog is known for its provocative and controversial subject matter, as well as its innovative use of the mockumentary format to explore complex themes.
The film received critical acclaim upon its release and has since become a cult classic of European cinema.
The film has been praised for its dark humor, its exploration of the intersection between reality and fiction, and its commentary on the role of the media in modern society.
Man Bites Dog is widely regarded as a groundbreaking and influential work of Belgian cinema, and one of the most significant mockumentary films ever made.
- Belvaux, Rémy, Bonzel, André, Chenut, Jean-Marc (Actors)
- Belvaux, Rémy (Director)
- English (Subtitle)
- Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)
5. Daens (1992)
“Daens” is a 1992 Belgian drama film directed by Stijn Coninx. The film is based on the novel “Pieter Daens” by Louis Paul Boon and tells the story of a Roman Catholic priest, Adolf Daens, who becomes a champion of workers’ rights in late 19th-century Belgium.
Set in the industrial city of Aalst, “Daens” explores themes of social justice, class struggle, and the power of organized labor.
The film depicts the harsh working conditions faced by the laborers in the local textile factories and the violent clashes between workers and factory owners.
It also highlights the struggle for political representation and the growing divide between the wealthy and the working class.
“Daens” was a critical and commercial success in Belgium and won several awards, including the Cannes Film Festival’s Grand Prix.
It is considered one of the most important and influential Belgian films of the 1990s, and a powerful testament to the ongoing struggle for social justice and equality.
6. Any Way the Wind Blows (2003)
Any Way the Wind Blows is a Belgian comedy-drama film released in 2003, directed by Tom Barman.
The film follows the lives of several interconnected characters over the course of one summer day in Antwerp, as they navigate through their personal relationships, dreams, and desires.
The film is notable for its eclectic soundtrack, which features a mix of Belgian and international music across a range of genres, including jazz, hip-hop, and rock. It also features a strong ensemble cast, including actors such as Frank Vercruyssen, Diane De Belder, and Eric Kloeck.
Any Way the Wind Blows is known for its innovative and non-linear narrative structure, which weaves together multiple storylines and characters in a way that is both playful and thought-provoking.
The film has been praised for its engaging and realistic portrayal of contemporary urban life, as well as its exploration of themes such as identity, sexuality, and creativity.
Overall, Any Way the Wind Blows is a unique and entertaining film that showcases the talent and creativity of the Belgian film industry.
- Rowell, Rainbow (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 07/06/2021 (Publication Date) - St. Martin's Publishing Group (Publisher)
7. The Memory of a Killer (2003)
“The Memory of a Killer” (original title: “De Zaak Alzheimer”) is a Belgian crime thriller from 2003, directed by Erik Van Looy.
The film tells the story of an aging hitman named Angelo Ledda, who is hired by a group of corrupt police officers to carry out a series of assassinations.
The film explores themes of aging, memory, and corruption, and is known for its gripping and suspenseful storytelling, as well as its masterful direction and powerful performances.
“The Memory of a Killer” was a critical and commercial success, and won several awards both in Belgium and abroad.
The film is known for its complex and multi-layered plot, as well as its nuanced exploration of the psychological toll of violence and the complexities of morality.
The film remains a landmark of Belgian cinema, and a testament to the country’s reputation for producing exceptional crime thrillers.
It is a powerful and thought-provoking film that challenges audiences to confront the darker aspects of human nature and the complex dynamics of power and corruption.
- Koen De Bouw, Werner De Smedt, Jan Decleir (Actors)
- Eric Van Looy (Director) - Hilde De Laere (Producer)
- English (Subtitle)
- Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
8. The Child (2005)
“The Child” is a Belgian film released in 2005, directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. The film tells the story of Bruno, a young man living in poverty who sells his newborn child for money to support himself and his girlfriend, Sonia.
When Sonia discovers what Bruno has done, she insists that they try to get the child back, leading them down a dangerous and unpredictable path.
The film is notable for its raw and realistic portrayal of poverty, desperation, and the struggle for survival. It features a powerful lead performance by Jérémie Renier as Bruno, and was praised for its naturalistic style and powerful storytelling.
“The Child” won the Palme d’Or at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival and was widely regarded as one of the best films of the year. It is a thought-provoking and emotionally intense film that raises important questions about the value of life, the consequences of our actions, and the complexities of human relationships.
Overall, “The Child” is a powerful and affecting film that explores the darker aspects of the human experience with compassion and honesty. It is a testament to the power of cinema to move and challenge us, and is a must-see for anyone interested in contemporary European cinema.
- Dutch, German, English (Subtitles)
- French (Publication Language)
9. In Bruges (2008)
“In Bruges” is a British-American co-production film from 2008, written and directed by Martin McDonagh. The film is a dark comedy-drama that tells the story of two Irish hitmen, Ray and Ken, who are sent to the Belgian city of Bruges after a job goes wrong.
While waiting for further instructions from their boss, the two men explore the city and encounter a variety of eccentric characters, leading to a series of unexpected and violent events.
The film is noted for its sharp dialogue, dark humor, and strong performances by its cast, which includes Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes. It also features beautiful cinematography that captures the beauty and history of the medieval city of Bruges.
“In Bruges” was a critical and commercial success, winning several awards at film festivals and earning Farrell a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor. The film is considered one of the best dark comedies of the 21st century and an impressive debut feature for McDonagh.
- Polish Release, cover may contain Polish text/markings. The disk has English audio.
- Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, Brendan Gleeson (Actors)
- Martin McDonagh (Director)
- English (Subtitle)
- Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
3 Characteristics of Belgian Movies
Realism: Belgian movies often have a strong focus on realism and authenticity, portraying the everyday lives of ordinary people in a direct and honest way. This emphasis on realism can be seen in the subject matter, the visual style, and the performances of the actors.
Dark humor: Belgian movies often have a dark and irreverent sense of humor, often making light of serious or taboo subjects. This humor can be seen as a coping mechanism for dealing with the darker aspects of life, and is often used to comment on social issues and current events.
Multilingualism: Given Belgium’s complex linguistic and cultural makeup, many Belgian movies are multilingual, incorporating elements of both French and Dutch (Flemish) culture and language. This bilingualism adds a unique flavor to Belgian cinema, and often leads to interesting explorations of identity and cultural diversity.
3 Reasons To Watch Belgian Movies
Diversity: Belgian cinema is known for its diversity and experimentation, with a range of genres and styles represented. From social realism to surrealism, from documentary to experimental, there is something for everyone in Belgian cinema.
Unique Cultural Perspective: Belgian films often reflect the country’s complex history and unique cultural identity.
They explore issues such as language, identity, and national unity, providing a glimpse into the distinctive character of Belgian society.
Acclaimed Filmmakers: Belgium has produced many internationally acclaimed filmmakers, including Chantal Akerman, the Dardenne brothers, and Jaco Van Dormael.
Watching Belgian films offers a chance to discover the work of these influential and innovative directors, and to explore their unique visions and approaches to filmmaking.
Best Belgian Movies – Wrap Up
Belgium has a rich and diverse film industry, with many critically acclaimed and internationally renowned movies. From the existential dramas of the Dardenne brothers to the quirky comedies of Jaco Van Dormael, Belgian cinema offers a unique perspective on life, society, and culture.
Some of the best Belgian movies include Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), Man Bites Dog (1992), The Kid with a Bike (2011), Toto le héros (1991), The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012), and Any Way the Wind Blows (2003).
These films showcase the creativity and innovation of Belgian filmmakers, as well as their ability to explore complex and challenging themes with depth and sensitivity.
Belgian cinema continues to thrive and evolve, with new voices and perspectives emerging all the time. Whether you are a fan of drama, comedy, or something in between, there is sure to be a Belgian movie out there that will captivate and inspire you.