Watching films is a great way to learn a new language. Just sit back, enjoy the story and let the language wash over you.
If you’re learning Spanish, you’re in luck! Between Spain, Mexico, Argentina, and all the other countries of Latin America, there is an extremely rich array of films in the Spanish language that you’re just going to love.
To get you started, we at Memrise have put together a list of 22 of our favourites that you must absolutely watch!
1. EL LABERINTO DEL FAUNO
English: Pan’s Labyrinth
El laberinto del fauno is one of the most successful Spanish language films ever made. A joint production between Mexico and Spain, this film is set in Spain in 1944, five years after the Spanish Civil War. The story is based on several different myths and fairy tales, that serve as a complex and hard-hitting allegory for life under Spain’s fascist regime.
2. Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN
English: Y Tu Mamá También (Sometimes: And Your Mother Too)
Arguably, there is no greater coming-of-age story than this. Two teenage boys (played by Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal), embark on a road trip with a woman in her late 20s (Maribel Verdú), set to the backdrop of the political and economic upheaval of modern-day Mexico. The film is infamous for its explicit sex and drug use and was opened in the US as a limited release under its Spanish name, earning $2.2 million in its first weekend in June. That made it the largest box office opening in Mexican cinema history.
3. LA PIEL QUE HABITO
English: The Skin I Live In
La piel que habito is a psychological thriller by the Spanish cinematographic giant that deserves a film list all to himself: Pedro Almodóvar. It tells the story of a plastic surgeon who is developing a special type of artificial skin that is resistant to insect bites and burns, and his test type: a young woman he keeps captive on his estate against her will.
4. MAR ADENTRO
English: The Sea Inside
Starring Javier Bardem, this film written by Alejandro Amenábar was the Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s based on the true story of Ramón Sampedro (played by Bardem), who was left quadriplegic after a motor accident and his 28-year struggle and campaign for the right to end his life.
5. EL FLOR DE MI SECRETO
English: The Flower of My Secret
This is a slightly lesser known Almodóvar film, but arguably it’s one of his best. It follows Leo Macías (Marisa Paredes), a depressive and alcoholic popular fiction writer living in Madrid, who writes under the nom de plume of Amanda Gris, and her difficult relationship with her absentee husband Paco (Imanol Marias), a military man based overseas who is emotionally and physically distant.
6. CANSADA DE BESAR SAPOS
English: (Unreleased) “Tired of Kissing Frogs”
Don’t let the fact that this is a super cheesy chick-flick put you off! Cansada de besar sapos is the story of Martha (Ana Serradilla), an attractive 27-year-old interior designer and the search for her prince charming, with all the joys and disappointments that she encounters along the way.
7. TEMPORADA DE PATOS
English: Duck Season
This Mexican classic is about two 14-year-old kids, Flama (Daniel Miranda) and Moko (Diego Cataño), who’ve been friends since childhood. Left to their own devices one afternoon when Flama’s mother is not at home, Moko comes round to play video games, order pizza, and enjoy being home alone. But then the power goes out…
8. ELSA Y FRED
English: Elsa and Fred
This touching movie is the story of Elsa and Fred, two elderly neighbours and their unlikely love affair. Fred retires to an apartment in Madrid, where he meets Elsa who is of a similar age but from Argentina. Elsa is a chronic liar and a life lover. The two fall in love and Elsa teaches Fred how to “live life and not death”. In 2014, this movie was remade into the US blockbuster Elsa and Fred.
9. EL BAR
English: The Bar
The latest film to hit Netflix, El bar is a Spanish thriller directed and co-written by Álex de la Iglesia. A group of people are trapped in a bar in Madrid. Every time one of them tries to leave, they are shot by a sniper. The atmosphere becomes unbearable as tensions rise and people’s true colours emerge.
10. RELATOS SALVAJES
English: Wild Tales
Violence and vengeance are the common themes uniting each of these six stand-alone short films, all written and directed by Damián Szifron. A man gathers everybody who’s ever crossed him on one plane that he’s flying. A road rage incident erupts into an explosive row. A parking fine and the corruption of local government ruin one man’s life and push him to drastic action. A politician tries to cover up for the disastrous consequences of his son’s drunk joy riding. And a wedding doesn’t go quite to plan. Relatos Salvajes will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish!
11. MORIRSE ESTÁ EN HEBREO
English: My Mexican Shivah
Moishe dies at the age of 75, and his family gather in Mexico City to sit shivah – the seven-day Jewish mourning ritual. The Angel of Light and the Angel of Darkness watch over them, but are visible only to the camera, as each family member’s agendas and ulterior motives begin to emerge.
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12. OCHO APELLIDOS VASCOS
English: Spanish Affair
Six weeks after its release, Ocho apellidos vascos became the second biggest box office hit ever in Spain after Avatar. This light-hearted comedy about cultural differences in Spain shows how Rafa, a full-blooded Andalucian who has never left Seville, travels to the Basque Country for his love of a girl called Amaia, where a series of misunderstandings leave him forced to adopt eight Basque surnames and pretend that he is Basque in order to get his way.
13. OCHO APELLIDOS CATALANES
English: Spanish Affair 2
The sequel to Ocho apellidos vascos, this time the focus is on Catalunya. Rafa and Amaia have parted ways and she is now dating a Catalan called Pau. But for her father, who had made peace with the idea of his daughter marrying an Andalucian, this is a step too far. He leaves the Basque Country for the first time in his life and heads to Seville to find Rafa and convince him to win his daughter’s heart back.
Julieta is one of Pedro Almodóvar’s latest films, based on three short stories from the book Runaway by Alice Munro. Julieta is about the past, and how it has a funny way of cropping up again just at the right moment in the present to ruin your plans for the future. Julieta has amassed more than $22 million in the box office worldwide.
15. EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS
English: The Secret in Their Eyes
El secreto de sus ojos follows a non-linear narrative, and depicts a judiciary employee and a judge in the 70s, investigating a murder and rape case. The affair turns into an obsession for everyone involved in it. The film follows the characters 25 years later as they reminisce over the case, and rediscover the romance between them.
16. LA LEY DE HERODES
English: Herod’s Law
La ley de Herodes is a black comedy political satire film from Mexico, which attracted plenty of controversy and interference from the Mexican government at the time. It’s focus is on corruption in Mexico, and in particular the long-ruling RPI party. It was the first Mexican film to directly criticise and name the RPI party specifically. The Mexican Academy of Film gave it the Ariel Award for Best Picture.
17. EL INFIERNO
Following the lead of La ley de Herodes, El infierno is another political satire about drug trafficking, organised crime and the Mexican drug war. The protagonist, Benny, is deported from the US to his hometown in Mexico. Unable to find an honest job, he gets involved in the drugs trade, where his life becomes awash with cars, women and lots of money. But as he soon finds out, life in the drugs trade is not as flashy or as fun as it might look.
18. MATANDO CABOS
English: Killing Cabos
Matando cabos is one of the highest budget Mexican films of all times, with awesome action scenes and car chases. The film tells the story of Jaque (Tony Dalton) and “el Mudo” (Kristoff Raczynski) who have to find a way to get their boss home safe and sound, after finding him locked in his car in his underwear.
19. TODO EL PODER
English: Gimme the Power
Directed by Fernando Sariñana, this film is a comedy about corruption and crime. After being mugged so many times, a documentary maker starts investigating a policeman to find out who is behind these crimes. An unemployed actress helps him un unwrap a complicated web of corruption dedicated to crime.
20. EL EFECTO TEQUILA
English: The Tequila Effect
The Mexican Stock Exchange collapses, destroying the lives of millions of people in this film about the devastating consequences of the “December Mistake”.
21. BOMBÓN: EL PERRO
English: Bombón: The Dog
Set in Patagonia, Bombón: El perro is a neo-realist tale of a man and a dog. An unemployed man’s luck changes when he helps a woman on the highway, and is given a new companion: a dog named Bombón.
22. MUJERES AL BORDE DE UN ATAQUE DE NERVIOS
English: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Arguably this was Pedro Almodóvar’s breakthrough film, bringing him international fame and acclaim. Pepa’s lover, Iván, leaves her. As she tries to find out why, she confronts his wife and son, who are as clueless as she is. Meanwhile, her friend Candela is worried that the police are after her because her ex-boyfriend is a Muslim terrorist. They soon find out that their lives are more intertwined than they could ever have imagined…
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