Last month, when Bong Joon Ho, the South Korean director of the film “Parasite,” accepted the Golden Globe for best foreign language film, he teased American moviegoers that a whole world of wonderful cinema awaited them beyond Hollywood.
“Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” Bong said during his acceptance speech.
In the United States, foreign language films with subtitles rarely gain the traction that “Parasite” has. It won over both audiences and critics and raked in more than $35 million on its way to winning four Academy Awards on Sunday, capping a glittering awards season with a best picture Oscar. It was the first film not in English to take home the top prize in the academy’s 92-year history.
It was a seismic night for fans of foreign films in the United States, where moviegoers have historically preferred their popular films in English. And it left some wondering: Are those one-inch-tall subtitles still a barrier?
Even before “Parasite,” a thriller about the class divide in South Korea, took off, there were signs that things had begun to shift for subtitled entertainment in the United States. The film joined a small group of subtitled films that have broken through to mainstream success in Hollywood over the last two decades, like “Roma” (2018), “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006), “Amelie” (2001) and “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” (2000), a Chinese drama that earned $128 million, making it the highest grossing foreign language film in the United States.
Over the same period, as streaming services have replaced network and cable television, subtitles have also gained a stronger toehold on smaller screens, from cellphones to TV sets.
Read more: NY Times