Tune in for 4 popular world movies that unexpectedly made it to the world film stage from small movie industry production studios. (Photo by NASA on Unsplash)

Now, for today’s blog, I am going back in time to recall world movies created between 2002 and 2008. This was the time of DVDs. No smartphones, no WiFi, and no Netflix, Amazon Prime, or NetFlix. Blockbuster Records was even still in business back then, while cable and satellite channels on which you could purchase movies on-demand were the fad.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. What we love about these movies is that they were made in places like Brazil, Thailand, and India outside of the realms of Hollywood and became hit movies globally.

Although we know Bollywood is huge, the movie I am referring to was actually a British movie production based in India, yet many of the actors are also well-known Bollywood stars. The reason this movie makes it onto the list is because the British film industry is not as large as Bollywood. With that said, British productions generally do well on the world stage. Have you guessed the movie I am talking about? Scroll down to see if you are correct!

Want to suggest other world movies that have made it big on the global stage? Please feel free to leave a comment! If not, we here at Filmzie hope we have enlightened you with some new and exciting movies to watch.

City of God (2002) – Rise of a gang in a Rio de Janeiro favela

City of God Trailer – Courtesy of Miramax Films YT Channel

The acclaimed 2002 drama ‘City of God’ offers a sobering look at the crime and hardship facing one community in Rio de Janeiro. Filmed in the Cidade de Deus favela, the movie spans the 1960s to the 1980s, tracing the rise of ruthless gangs and drug trade in the neighborhood.

We view the impact of violence and poverty through the eyes of Rocket, a young boy with dreams of being a photographer even as mob bosses like Li’l Zé seize power. As Rocket comes of age, the increasing crime affects those close to him in tragic ways.

With its gritty realism and superb direction by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, ‘City of God’ earned high praise and several Oscar nods. Yet the film remains most compelling for its street-level perspective on how even children get caught up in – and are damaged by – the cycles of violence plaguing their community. Rocket’s journey resonates as he tries retaining his humanity despite the cruelty around him.

Sparing no punches in its depiction of life in Cidade de Deus, ‘City of God’ offers a piercing look at how social problems perpetuate. The film reminds us that behind cold statistics are individuals struggling to survive and follow their dreams.

Awards: Once the movie hit the world stage via Miramax distribution with subtitles, it was an instant hit. It gained four Academy Awards. Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing – a complement to the Brazilian film industry.

City of Men (2007) – A friendship of two friends in a crime-ridden Rio de Janeiro favela

City of Men Trailer – Courtesy of Miramax Films YT Channel

City of Men is in some ways a follow-up to City of God. The 2007 Brazilian drama City of Men revisits the gritty setting of the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro, made famous by the film City of God. But while both movies explore life in these impoverished neighborhoods, City of Men creates its own voice by homing in on a more intimate, character-driven narrative.

We follow two teenagers, Laranjinha and Acerola, best friends who are trying to grow up in surroundings ruptured by poverty and gang violence. The film gives us front-row seats to their daily struggle of simply trying to survive and stay safe in a community where those things are not guaranteed.

Unlike the sprawling, decades-long crime epic depicted in City of God, City of Men focuses closely on just these two boys, bringing us into their world. We invest in their loyal friendship, their makeshift family dynamic, and their resilience in the face of missing fathers and limited options for the future.

City of Men paints an affecting portrait of wayward youth persevering to find themselves despite the chaos and danger all around them. Critics hailed the film for capturing the favela experience with uncommon authenticity and compassion. In the end, City of Men is a testament to bonds of brotherhood and the enduring human spirit able to surface even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Awards: OK, so not quite a record-breaker, but there was no way we could not mention City of Men after the original City of God was so highly acclaimed. With that said, City of Men did get mentioned at numerous film festivals, and it was highly rated by most movie critics.

Ong Bak (2003) – Muay Thai Warrior

Ong Bak Trailer – Courtesy of Magnolia Selects YT Channel

The reason this Thai movie stands out as one of the hit world movies is because it compares Tony Ja, the Muay Thai fighter, to Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Lee. That’s some achievement for a Thai movie made out of the blue. No one in Thailand expected this one to become a global hit. Especially for those who love Thailand and enjoy fighting sports.

The back story is that back in 2003, a little Thai martial arts movie called Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior became a surprise worldwide hit. It catapulted its star, Tony Jaa, to fame and put the ancient Thai fighting style of Muay Thai back on the map.

The film follows a young villager named Ting, who has some serious Muay Thai skills. He’s promised never to use them to hurt people, but when a stolen religious artifact causes a drought in his town, Ting heads off to Bangkok to retrieve it.

What follows is a thrilling quest as Ting fights his way through the criminal underworld to restore the missing artifact – the head of a statue called Ong Bak – and save his village. Tony Jaa does all his own crazy stunts along the way, showcasing the power and beauty of real-deal Muay Thai. Bones are most definitely broken in spectacular fashion!

What really struck a chord was the film’s breathless action sequences and authentic portrayal of Muay Thai in its homeland. Ong Bak set a new bar for the genre and put Thai cinema back on the map. It was not too shabby for a ‘little movie’ starring a total unknown at the time, who soon made it to Hollywood later down the line.

Awards: The movie won local awards in Thailand but not many overseas. Yet, this movie was exposed to millions of backpackers. Back then, there was no WiFi or Smartphone tech, so backpackers would huddle at a local movie shack on an island to watch The Beach, starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Ong Bak was also showing leasing to its global recognition.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) – A slum boy becomes a millionaire!

The movie Slumdog Millionaire came out in 2008 and has earned its place as one of the hit world movies. It’s a British drama directed by Danny Boyle that takes place in India. The main character is an 18-year-old guy named Jamal Malik. He grew up poor in the slums of Mumbai.

The movie shows how Jamal ends up being a contestant on the Indian version of the game show “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?” Through flashbacks, we learn how Jamal’s wild life prepared him to answer the tough questions on the show. A big part of Jamal’s story is his lost love, Latika, whom he separated from when they were young. Finding her again motivates Jamal to keep striving.

Critics praised Slumdog Millionaire for having a unique plot, cool directing, and great music. Actor Dev Patel also got props for his emotional performance as Jamal. The movie gave regular folks a peek into the hard lives of slum kids in India.

Awards: In the end, Slumdog Millionaire became a total surprise hit. It won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2009, plus seven more Academy Awards. It showed how Jamal’s quest for his love and fortune on a TV show made for an awesome underdog story that everyone could enjoy.

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