At the 92nd Oscars, the big winner for Best Picture was given to the little movie that could: Parasite.
The South Korean thriller created a landmark moment when it became the first foreign-language movie to win Best Picture, beating Martin Scorsese’s crime epic The Irishman, Quentin Taratino’s love letter to old Hollywood in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Todd Philips’s mature take on the classic Batman villain Joker—all of which many saw as clear frontrunners.
The movie, written and directed by Bong Joon-Ho, also won the most awards of the ceremony with the titles Best Foreign Language Film, Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director.
Parasite has been sailing on a tsunami of positive word of mouth and critical acclaim since winning the Cannes Film Festival’s highest prize, the Palme d’Or. The film debuted in the United States in New York and Los Angeles last October, almost selling out. According to Business Insider, the movie earned a whopping $376,264 in that sole month. After expanding nationwide, the film went on to earn a total of around $35.5 million in the United States and amassed a worldwide total of around $165 million, The New York Times reports.
The runaway success of Parasite, the discovery of Joon-Ho’s other films by the mainstream public, and the advancement of digital distribution through Netflix and Amazon has opened a discussion about foreign-language movies. With streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, watching a foreign movie is as simple as touching a screen with one’s fingertip.
This year alone, Netflix has acquired the distribution of two Oscar nominees, the French animated film I Lost My Body and the Mexican epic drama film Roma. It also bought worldwide rights to the Senegalese and French award-winning movie Atlantics.
Amazon Studios has followed in Netflix’s footsteps, acquiring the rights of France’s Les Miserables and Brazil’s The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao. The company also distributed the 2018 Oscar-nominated Polish film Cold War and the 2016 Iranian film The Salesman. The latter got attention after the United States placed a travel ban on Iran that prevented the film’s director, Asghar Farhadi, from attending the Academy Awards and receiving the Best International Film award he won.
Not only have these streaming services acquired distributing rights for these international movies, but they’ve gotten licenses to temporarily stream films owned by other distributors. This creates a wealth of movies from all around the world waiting to be discovered.