8 Indonesian Movies to Watch for Indonesian Language Learners

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Learning a foreign language can be entertaining and exciting if you make it be! There are tons of fun and creative ways to learn a language. Watching movies is one of them. You will get to practice your listening skill as you improve your range of vocabulary words, phrases and expressions, and plus gain some cultural understanding about the country where your target language is spoken. Way to kill many birds with one stone, isn’t it?

For Indonesian language learners, here are some movie recommendations to spice up your language learning process.


This movie reveals the modern life of upscale Jakarta socialites who in reality are struggling to maintain their façade of perfection in front of their friends. The movie title Arisan refers to a social gathering where gossips are usually taking place. It is not common to find Arisan as a venue where people like to show off their accomplishments, status and material wealth.

You will be surprised to find in the movie (and real life) that many young well-educated Jakarta people like to use a mixture of English as part of their speech. This movie is perfect if you are already at Intermediate level of Indonesian or higher, as the characters in this movie tend to speak fast. You will also get to learn a lot of Indonesian slangs from this movie. Gain a cultural understanding of how typical a Arisan takes a scene and place from this movie!

Laskar Pelangi

The movie was made based on a novel (of similar title) by Andrea Hirata. It is about the dynamic life of 10 school kids and teachers who inspire them to dream big. Despite living in poverty with their socio-economic limitations, these kids continued to be hopeful for their future and kept pushing on. On the cultural level this movie will give you a glimpse of everyday’s lives and struggles of people living in poverty in Indonesia – a reality that many Indonesians are still facing today. Though the subject is grim, but it is presented with positive notes and moral messages, making this film suitable for people of all ages.

In the novel, Laskar Pelangi is the first book of a trilogy. It is followed by two others: Sang Pemimpi and Edensor. If you like to read, you may want to check out the novel as well to improve on your reading skill.

Daun di Atas Bantal

Daun di Atas Bantal translates to “Leaf on a Pillow” in English. This movie is based on tragic true story about the lives of three street children in Jogjakarta who all come from broken homes. They share the same dream, which is to rise above poverty and hope for better future. They all willingly to do everything they can in order to survive and to get by, including all things illegal such as selling marijuana.

Considering that many Indonesians are living below the poverty line, this movie does a good job in depicting harsh reality that Indonesian street kids have to face on a daily basis. But unlike Laskar Pelangi, this movie may not be a good fit to show to young audience, due to its uncensored portrayal of depressing lives of street kids in the film. If you feel like watching an Indonesian movie with a documentary feel about street kids in Indonesia, this movie is a perfect choice for you.

Ada Apa dengan Cinta

In English, the title of this movie translates to ’What’s up with Love?’ “Ada Apa dengan Cinta” features a female protagonist named Cinta (Love), which is quite a common female name in Indonesia. This movie belongs to a teen romance (chick flick) genre, and was very popular amongst Indonesian teenagers in the early 2000s. Due to the nature of the storyline,

get ready to hear and learn a lot of slangs and Indonesian pop culture references from this movie! Fortunately because of this movie’s huge success and popularity, you can easily stream this movie online. Turn on the movie’s Indonesian subtitle to help you as you expand your Indonesian vocabularies & expressions.

Habibie and Ainun

This romance movie features Indonesia’s third president, Habibie, as the main character, and Ainun, his beloved wife. The storyline is based on real life, adapted from Ainun’s memoir before she passed away in 2010. The story depicts Habibie’s youth, career and relationship with Ainun, before and after he became a president. The movie also highlighted Habibie’s visions for Indonesia and his accomplishments in the field of aero engineering.

This movie belongs to romance genre. It is a great movie to gain some perspectives on Indonesia back in 1960s as well as love story of well-educated Indonesian couples. Habibie and Ainun’s story wasn’t the norm of average Indonesians back in the olden days as they both came from privileged background, but nevertheless this storyline is touching as it portrays an ambitious and morally virtuous young man who is deeply in love for Ainun, and together they are navigating life’s ups and downs until life separates them. You have been warned that this movie is a good tear jerker movie.

Berbagi Suami

In English, this movie’s title means Love for Share. This movie is about 3 women living and navigating their lives in polygamy. The story is packed with satire and it revolves around 3 female characters: Salma, Esi, and Ming, who are representing 3 different ethnic, social and age groups.

Salma is an accomplished doctor, being the first wife, hanging on her marriage because of her son. Esi is a 30 year old Javanese woman, married her uncle who already had two wives because she felt that her uncle would be able to help her to fulfill her dream of being a make-up artist in Jakarta. Ming, a 19 year old Indonesian Chinese girl, who becomes a concubine to a man who was her boss.

This movie was written and directed in 2006 by Nia Dinata, a well-known Indonesian activist, with her controversial works surrounding the topics of polygamy and homosexuality. Love for Share is a significant movie for its movement raising the issue of polygamy in Indonesia. In 2008, there was a rally of Indonesian women advocating the nation’s ban upon polygamy and polygamous marriages. To date polygamy remains is a controversial issue in Indonesia and the practice is still deemed legal by the government. Love for Share or ‘Berbagi Suami’ received Golden Orchid Award as Best Foreign Language Film at the Hawaii Film Festival in 2007.

The Raid

The Raid is an Indonesian action thriller movie. This movie is significant for many reasons, for one, it is the first ever Indonesian movie entering the American box office list, and second, it is the cultural significance bringing Indonesian’s martial art, Pencak Silat, to an international audience. If you are into action movie, the Raid may be right up your alley!

Petualangan Sherina

Are you looking for Indonesian movie that are also appropriate for young kids, but is not cartoon? Other than Laskar Pelangi, Petualangan Sherina is also a good movie to watch with your kids. The movie title, Petualangan Sherina, translates to Sherina’s adventure in English. The storyline shares some similarities with Home Alone and is about how Sherina and her friend trying to find ways to escape their kidnappers. This movie introduces the values of friendship, bravery, and independence, which makes this movie perfect to watch for people of all ages.

So friends, how that you have 8 Indonesian movies from various genres listed, tell us what you plan on watching in the comments below! Have you ever watched an Indonesian movie before? What is it and how do you like the movie?

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