10 Foreign Television Shows To Binge Watch

A lot of riveting television series have been created overseas in recent years. Although they tend to fly under the radar of most North American audiences, these unique, well-written and well-acted shows are well worth attention by audiences outside of their home countries. As a bonus, they can help fill the long months in between the television viewing seasons back here in North America and make for a great weekend of binge-watching.

From crime thrillers to engaging political dramas, many of these shows have been critically acclaimed and won International Emmys and Golden Globe Awards. All of them feature very talented actors, including some that haven’t (yet) been recognized outside of their home countries. Some of these series are in English or at least have English subtitles. (Don’t let the prospect of watching a show in a foreign language scare you off: the distinctive stories and great acting will make it all worthwhile.) Some of the shows are available on popular streaming sites like Netflix, although others are only available on DVD. Either way, they’re worth hunting down so you don't miss out: after all, these series have been popular overseas for a reason.

10 Borgen ("The Castle")

Location: Denmark

Highly acclaimed, this smart Danish political drama follows the first female Prime Minister from the fictional Danish Moderate Party, Birgitte Nyborg (played Sidse Babett Knudsen) after she is unexpectedly elected Prime Minister. Exploring every corner of the tense world of Danish politics as well as a major underlying theme of the relationship between government and relentless attention by the press, the series is fast-paced and well written without resorting to the kind of sentimentality found in a lot of political dramas. Although Borgen centers on the fast-paced world of Danish and European politics, it also provides viewers with a glimpse into some difficult issues that the female Prime Minister faces in her personal life. From political battles to sexism in the press to struggles with her relationships at home, the inspiring heroine Birgitte manages to handle most situations with intelligence and finesse.

9 Broadchurch

Location: United Kingdom

This British crime drama stars David Tennant (of "Doctor Who" fame) as an experienced detective from the big city who is looking for a quieter life in the small town. Along with another detective, Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), he must investigate the murder of a young boy in the sleepy and picturesque rural town. Families in the community are also tied up in the mystery he is investigating. This “whodunit” style story has received critical acclaim.

8 Bron (The Bridge)

Location: Denmark/Sweden

This Scandinavian crime drama revolves around the work of two detectives, Saga (Sofia Helin) and Martin (Kim Bodnia). One of them is based in Denmark and the other in Sweden. The story explores the murder of a person who was found on a bridge halfway between the two countries. The investigation quickly becomes complicated especially when more people are discovered to have been murdered by the same killer. The two detectives must work together to investigate and find the killer in this baffling case. Despite being very different people personality-wise, over the course of the investigation, Martin and Saga develop a close working relationship. The series was remade in the U.S.; in the American version, the show is set on a bridge between the U.S. and Mexico.

7 The Fall

Location: United Kingdom

A familiar face to North American audiences, actress Gillian Anderson stars in this series that is set in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Anderson plays Stella Gibson, a senior police officer who has to investigate murders that have taken place in the Northern Irish city. The series also features another familiar actor, Jamie Dornan (who will star in the upcoming romance movie "50 Shades of Grey"), who plays the serial killer in the show. This isn’t a spoiler: this series is unique in that it unveils the killer right away and begins to explore the murderer’s life and who he is as a person.

6 Forbrydelsen (The Killing)

Location: Denmark

This is another Danish show that has received a lot of attention and critical acclaim: it has won BAFTAs, Emmys and was even remade for US audiences (“The Killing”) by AMC. The original Danish series, Forbrydelsen, is set in Copenhagen. The main character, Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl) is a Detective Chief Inspector and was planning on moving to Sweden when everything suddenly changed: she was forced to lead an investigation into a murder. Each season of the show has its own murder case, and the story is followed day-by-day with each hour-long episode portraying 24 hours of the investigation. Featuring stellar acting and beautiful scenery, it is no wonder the series has gained global notoriety.

5 Last Tango in Halifax

Location: United Kingdom

This British romantic drama is about two widowed people in their 70s who had been attracted to each other when they were younger but never expressed their feelings for each other before moving on to have families of their own. Now, decades later, they finally reunited online for the first time and plan to marry. Set in Northern England, the stories in this series also deal with drama that happens with their children and respective families. The show’s lead writer has said that she based it on many personal experiences, and a lot of viewers have praised the show for its positive portrayal of love at any age.

4 Luther

Location: United Kingdom

This critically-acclaimed crime drama (it has won a Golden Globe and earned several Emmy nominations) stars a fascinating and complicated London-based murder detective named John Luther (Idris Elba). The plot is compelling and unpredictable because Luther is obsessive and sometimes even dangerous - for instance, he turns a murderer into his close confidante. He always puts his job before everything else, leading to many difficult situations.

3 Moone Boy

Location: Ireland

This quirky and unique sitcom is actually semi-autobiographical of the creator, writer and co-star of the series, Chris O’Dowd. The show is about a young boy growing up in rural Ireland in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The boy has an imaginary friend who provides him with lots of insight and perspectives on life. The show highlights the boy’s active imagination and the many schemes he dreams up.

2 Les Revenants (The Returned)

Location: France

This supernatural drama series centers on the stories of zombies. It takes place in a small French community where several local people who were thought to be dead start to re-appear in their homes, alive and seemingly normal, and don’t realize that they died. Strange phenomena also occur in the town, such as power outages and weird marks appearing on the bodies of both those who are alive and who had died. This fascinating series has won an International Emmy.

1 The IT Crowd

Location: United Kingdom

This sitcom is about a group of technical support workers at a large, but obscure, corporation. The group is led by the smart but geeky Maurice (Richard Ayoade) and includes his two nerdy colleagues and their department manager. The show also occasionally focuses on some of the bosses of their company.  The group tends to be lazy and socially awkward, and together they have many adventures as they struggle to fit into work and social situations.

More in Entertainment