I guess this is a question that probably only makes sense to Americans, doesn’t it? Is there any country whose home-grown film industry is so robust that you could go a significant portion of your life never seeing a foreign film? (India, perhaps?)
Anyway, I’m pretty sure the first movie I ever saw that was made for foreigners, by foreigners, and with foreigners was Raise the Red Lantern, which I saw in a Chinese class in nerd camp when I was, what, 12? 13? Something like that. I don’t know how it’s even possible to sit a bunch of early teenagers down for three weeks and cram Chinese into them seven hours a day, but at any rate it did require a break at some point, so our teacher showed us three Zhang Yimou movies - Raise the Red Lantern, Ju-Dou, and Red Sorghum. (Had no idea at the time that as far as I know none of these films had ever been seen in China!) Anyway, Raise the Red Lantern was the first one we saw and by far my favorite.
It wasn’t just the first movie I’d seen with subtitles or with foreign people doing foreign stuff (I’d seen movies like The Last Emperor, which had some subtitles and all but was made by and for Westerners, and I may have seen some British films that I’m unaware of), it was probably also the first “grown-up” movie I’d ever seen in the sense that there wouldn’t be anything in it to interest a child at all. At any rate, it’s been probably fifteen years since I’d seen it, and I still have a very rich impression of the film - it really made an impact on me.
When I tried to find it recently on DVD it had never actually been on DVD, and then it was but it went out of print, etc. Last night I finally got to watch it again (with some trepidation - what if it sucked?) and of course it was still a fantastic movie. Of course now I watch buckets of foreign and independent films, but that was my first one and it has a kind of special place in my heart.
So, what was your first foreign movie? Did it have Jackie Chan in it? Gerard Depardieu? Roberto Begnini? Spill!