International TV Series to Binge Watch This Year
The streaming age has made it easier than ever to expand your small-screen horizons, with no shortage of worthwhile series emerging from every corner of the globe in recent years. There’s always something new to watch, though you may have to turn on the subtitles to discover something truly captivating. Here are six beloved TV series from around you’ve probably never heard of — but should watch anyway.
The Bridge (Denmark/Sweden)
No one does noir quite like the Scandinavians, and the drama on The Bridge is especially poignant, given its status as a joint production between Denmark's Danmarks Radio and Sweden's Sveriges Television. Beginning with a startling discovery on the Øresund Bridge, which links the two countries, the series stars Sofia Helin as a Swedish police detective across all four seasons (for a total of 38 episodes). In addition to airing in more than 100 countries, The Bridge has also been adapted in the United States, the United Kingdom and France (a joint production), Russia, Malaysia and Singapore, and Germany and Austria — with each version focusing on different international borders.
Fauda means “chaos” in Hebrew, an ominous title that this Israeli drama more than lives up to. Originally airing on the Yes Oh network domestically before being picked up by Netflix internationally, the series was developed by two former members of the Israeli Defense Forces and is based on their own experiences. Three seasons consisting of 12 episodes each have aired so far, with a fourth to follow, and major plot lines have touched on everything from pursuing a terrorist known as “The Panther” to conflicts on the Gaza Strip. In addition to numerous wins at the Israeli TV Academy Awards, including the prize for Best Drama Series, Fauda boasts a rare 100% "fresh" rating across all three seasons on the site Rotten Tomatoes.
Omar Sy is the rare actor to find as much success abroad as he has in his home country, starring in everything from Intouchables (for which he became the first Black performer to win the César Award for Best Actor) and Mood Indigo to X-Men: Days of Future Past and Jurassic World. He currently stars as professional thief Assane Diop in Lupin, which more than 70 million Netflix subscribers have viewed — a record for a non-English-language series until Squid Game came along. Taking its name from Arsène Lupin, a beloved character who was first introduced in 1905 by French novelist Maurice Leblanc, the show updates the legend for a captivating and entertaining modern show.
Please Like Me (Australia)
Australian comedian Josh Thomas created, starred in, and wrote almost every episode of Please Like Me, one of the most revered shows yet to emerge from Down Under. A dramedy based on Thomas’ own life, it vacillates between naturalistic depictions of everyday scenarios and surprisingly high-stakes drama — though always with heart and humor. After completing its four-season run on Australia's ABC2, the show was picked up by Hulu for international streaming.
Sacred Games (India)
The first Netflix original series to hail from India, Sacred Games is based on Vikram Chandra's mystery-thriller novel of the same name. It follows a troubled police inspector in Mumbai who receives a phone call from a crime lord instructing him to save the city within 25 days — which would be bizarre even if said gangster hadn’t been missing for the last 16 years. Lasting just 16 episodes over two seasons, the show earned critical acclaim both at home (where it won five of the 11 iReel Awards for which it was nominated) and abroad, even appearing on The New York Times list of the previous decade's best international TV series.
The World of the Married (South Korea)
Koreans take their television seriously, and they're hardly alone. K-dramas, as they're known, have proven highly popular worldwide as part of the Korean Wave, not to mention their widespread availability on streaming services that offer subtitles in numerous languages. None of these series have made a bigger impact at home than The World of the Married, which became the highest-rated drama in Korean cable television history when 28.37% of all viewers in the country tuned into its series finale in May 2020. With just 16 episodes and two specials, the tale of a married couple who can't help betraying one another — often with disastrous, even violent results — is also easy to catch up on.