Dutch movies have little to no exposure outside of the Netherlands. Even Dutch people tend to be very critical of their film industry, especially when they compare it to the mega flashy productions imported from Hollywood.
As a matter of fact, more than a third of all movies screened in the Netherlands are distributed by two major American studios, namely Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures.
Even though some Dutch directors such as Paul Verhoeven or Alex van Warmerdam have reached international recognition, Dutch cinema remains on a fringe on the international scene, even during the International Film Festival of Venice, Cannes or Berlin (“The Big Three”).
Is the lack of recognition justified or have our sense of cinematographic artistry been dulled by Hollywood blockbusters filled with special effects and multi-million dollars casts?
The best way to find out is to dive in deep into the Dutch cinema best motion pictures. Despite their relatively small industry, the Netherlands has produced hundreds of movies over the past 50 years but thanks to the Internet Movie Database and cinema critics’ reviews, we were able to narrow it down to the ten best Dutch movies you should watch:
Black Books was the most expensive Dutch film ever made, and also the Netherlands’ most commercially successful, with that country’s highest box-office gross of 2006.
The biggest movie ever produced in the Netherlands, Black Book tells the story of a Jewish singer who infiltrates the Gestapo Headquarters during the occupation of the Netherlands by the Nazis. The movie is based on a series of true events.
This drama thriller film was directed by one of the most famous Dutch directors, Paul Verhoeven. It received very positive reviews upon its premiere during the Venice Film Festival in September 2006.
The same month, it premiered on Dutch cinema screens and quickly became a huge success. It remains to this day the most commercially successful Dutch movie and it was voted the Best Dutch Movie ever in 2008.
This movie also marked the return of Paul Verhoeven in the Netherlands after a long Hollywood sting which brought him international recognition with movies such as Starship Troopers (1997) featuring Neil Patrick Harris or Hollow Man (2000) with Kevin Bacon, Josh Brolin and Elisabeth Shue.
Another movie by Paul Verhoeven, but this one dating to end of the 1970’s. Starring Hollywood famous Rutger Hauer, this movie, set during World War II, tells the stories of Dutch students who either decided to take arms against the Nazi invaders or to collaborate with them.
This film is important to the Dutch people as it illustrates the struggles many have faced during the war.
Upon its release in 1977, it became the most popular movie of the year with more than 1.5 million tickets sold.
This movie received the Los Angeles Critics Association Award for Best Foreign Film in 1979 and was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1980 Golden Globe.
This psychological thriller drama film directed by Alex van Warmerdam was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
It follows the story of a mysterious bunch of forest recluses, who, after being chased out of the woods, made their way to an upper-class suburban house. There, the leader of the group ask for some help but is violently rebuffed by the husband. Feeling intrigued and remorseful, the wife let him in while her husband is away.
The movie shows the growing influence of the group of misfits on the family whose home they slowly invade.
In the vein of Funny Games, directed by Austrian cinematographer Michael Haneke (and its shot-for-shot American remake version by the same filmmaker), this twisted Dutch thriller with beyond black humour and Hollywood worthy screenplay, will delight the fans of film noir.
This biopic of infamous Dutch singer and artist Herman Brood followed two previous movies depicting the rock’n’roll lifestyle of the artist: Cha Cha (1979) and Rock n Roll Junkie (1994).
The movie premiered on the posthumous 60th birthday of the artist, on the 5th of November 2006. The film is titled after the name that brought Brood to fame: Herman Brood & His Wild Romance.
Often nicknamed the greatest and only Dutch rock’n’roll star, Brood’s debut on the Dutch and international scene are the focus of this third biopic. The film delves in the evolution of the relationships between Brood and his entourage including his manager, his bands, and his girlfriend, Nina Hagen.
Marcel Hensema, who portrayed Brood’s manager, Koos van Dijk, in the movie, received the Golden Calf for Best Actor.
Read more about the best Dutch actors of all time.
The film had a budget of ƒ 5,000,000 (€2,300,000), at the time the most expensive Dutch movie ever. With 1,547,183 viewers, it was the most popular Dutch film of 1977 (by subscene)
This Dutch-Belgian production is based on the best-selling novel by Ferdinand Bordewijk.
Set in the 1920’s Netherlands, the movie revolves around Jacob Willem Katadreuffe, a young lawyer who struggled to make his way out of poverty and who is accused of the murder of a notorious bailiff, Dreverhaven. As is happens, Dreverhaven was Jacob’s dad, and the young lawyer will make his case by explaining the long and troubled history between the two of them.
Most of the movie was shot in the city of Wroclaw in Poland.
This movie received the Academy Award (Oscars) for Best Foreign Language Film at the 70th Academy Awards. However, it was not much of a commercial success, as it only grossed $713,413 at the box office for a $4.5 million budget.
Another movie by Paul Verhoeven! Based on the eponymous novel by Gerard Reve, the book was originally commissioned by the Dutch foundation Collectieve Propaganda van het Nederlandse Boek, an organization that promotes Dutch literature. Despite the foundation requirement that Reve does not include any queer scene in his book, he did.
The book was refused by the commision but ended being published anyway.
In the 1983 film, the horror scenes were amplified and the main gay affair was taken out of the adaptation only to be replaced by a very graphic sexual encounter, in a tomb with the main character, Gerard and the boyfriend of one of his former female lover.
The film is said to be a revenge against the critics that refused the book in the first place and it was also the last movie directed by Paul Verhoeven before he went to Hollywood and eventually came back in 2006 to produce Black Book.
You don’t need Dutch lessons to get these stories but it sure would help!
This is another Dutch movie adapted from a novel. It tells the story of twin German sisters, Lotte and Anna, who were separated at the age of six. Following the death of their parents, distant relatives fight over they guardianship and one of the twins is being raised in the Netherlands while the other stays in Germany.
One of the twins, Lotte, grows up in the midst of a loving middle-class family in the city of Amsterdam while her sister is raised in a poor Catholic family in rural Germany.
Just after reconnecting, WWII erupts, and once again the sisters are taken apart. The war only puts a bigger wedge in between them as Lotte falls in love with a young Jewish man while Anna marries a Waffen SS soldier.
The movie only grossed $1,563 in the Netherlands but it was much more successful on the international scene, making more than $5 million worldwide.
The fifth movie by director Paul Verhoeven to be included on our list is a love story. Based on another Dutch novel, the movie recounts the passionate relationship between an artist (played by actor Rutger Hauer) and a young woman (played by Monique van de Ven).
This film was the most successful movie in the Netherlands. The Netherlands Film Festival estimated that at least 3.5 million Dutch saw it, 26% of the population at the time.
Turkish Delight was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and it received a special Golden Calf Award for Best Dutch Film of the Century.
In 2007, it was entered into the Canon of Dutch Cinema.
Turkish Delight, starring Rutger Hauer, was entered into the Canon of Dutch Cinema in 2007.
This technology thriller tells the story of Anna (played by Hannah Hoekstra), who, after blacking out on a heavy drinking night, wakes up to find out that a new app has been installed on her smartphone.
Quickly the app named IRIS will start meddling with Anna’s life in a progressively destructive way.
This movie only received a limited release in Holland’s theatres, and it is only part of our list for the movie app created by the film crew as a second screen technology. During the screening, spectators could look at their phones for a unique point of view shots and additional information about selected scenes.
The last movie on our list is a drama who follows Berry, a low-life punk who likes to hang out with his friends. After meeting Thera, a slightly older strip-teaser, his world changes completely and their romance becomes his whole life.
Their love story takes them to Nam Kee, a Chinese restaurant in the heart of Amsterdam when they enjoy oysters for dinner. Shortly after Thera disappear and the movie focuses on Berry despair as he is confronted by silence and unrequited love.
Dutch cinema deserves a little bit more space under the spotlight. It offers a wide range of cinematography from documentaries, independent films and short films. Dutch movies are also known to be very liberal when it comes to sexuality and gore, reflecting the way of thinking and living of the Dutch society.
Anyone interested in learning more about Holland should take a closer look at the Dutch cinema.
Why rely on subtitles to understand these magnificent films? Find out where you can take Dutch courses London or in your city!