Thus, in parallel with your Spanish lessons, you will often be advised to try to get full immersion, as much as possible in a Spanish-speaking environment. You can for example start by watching movies in Spanish their original versions with or without subtitles. This is one form of learning Spanish without outside help.
Spanish cinema has enough to boast about.
From Pedro Almodóvar to Alejandro Amenábar, Spanish filmmakers have won the appreciation of film critics and audiences internationally, with a handful of Oscars to crown it all. So, if you are planning a weekend on your sofa with Hispanic looks, take the popcorn out and read this article!
Here is a selection of 20 films to start learning Spanish well!
In the last 10 to 15 years, Latin American cinema has produced films of a rare strength and captivating intensity. Undeniably, The Motorcycle Diaries, released in 2004, falls into this category.
Directed by Walter Salles and staging Gael Garcia Bernal and Rodrigo de la Cerna, this Argentinian film is a road movie set in 1952. It tells the story of an Argentinian medical student, Ernesto Guevarra.
The Motorcycle Diaries
At the age of 30, he decided to cross Latin America with his friend Alberto Granado. An initiatory journey that will allow Ernesto to become one of the most emblematic characters of the 20th century: Che Guevarra.
An exciting, historical and fascinating road movie that will allow you to work on your Spanish through South American words and expressions, as well as Argentine or Chilean accents. A must in Spanish-speaking cinema that will help you distract yourself between two Spanish courses.
Selected at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, Pan’s Labyrinth is a fantastic oddity signed by one of Mexico’s most illustrious directors, Guillermo Del Toro. And if Spanish-speaking cinema is above all famous for its social and psychological frescos, Pan’s Labyrinth is the perfect opportunity to try a more fantastic touch!
The film by Del Toro takes place in post-war Francoist Spain and features a little girl named Ofelia. The latter is designated as the princess of a subterranean world. The film never ceases to oscillate between fantastic account and film of war.
Pan’s Labyrinth navigates constantly between childish universe, a little in the manner of the World of Narnia, and an agonizing and heavy atmosphere. It’s a success that has attracted the public from all over the world. Obviously you’ll need to watch in original version or with subtitles to immerse yourself in a totally original universe, populated by soldiers and monsters.
Warning: this is a horror movie! Why not after all… Nothing prevents you from considering REC as a way to work on your Spanish language comprehension. Considering the catastrophic events, the vocabulary is obviously quite simplistic, which is therefore perfect if you’re a Spanish beginner.
REC is also a kind of reference in the field, if you do not know the film. Directed by Paca Plaza and Jaume Balaguero (Spanish) in 2007, REC has since become a saga, with 4 movies. When it was released in 2007, the feature film was a real success.
Why? Since he (re)launched a genre: that of the horror movie in embedded camera. This is also known as “found footage”, a genre created by The Blair Witch Project.
Here the action is located in Barcelona, accompanied by a journalist and a cameraman following night firefighters. The news report will bring them to a building where a strange virus is raging. They find themselves quickly quarantined by the authorities…
Spanish cinema is also (and above all) Pedro Almodovar. The Spanish director is so well known throughout the world that he sometimes comes to personify the Iberian cinema alone! It must be said that the cinema of Almodovar, through its many films, still marks the minds.
It is hated or adored, but it is recognized in any case as a special alchemy between absurdity, psychological thriller, sex, social comedy, drama… Talk to her is also a mix of all that.
Hable con ella
Directed in 2002, the film tells the story of two men, from their 1st to their 2nd meeting several months later, their history of friendship which will then come and especially of the two women in the coma on which they watch.
Of course, the original version or the subtitled version will allow you to deal with more intense and dense dialogues. Perfect for intermediate to advanced spanish speakers.
And yes, this film is worth the detour. You will understand better that it is important to learn Spanish. Notably for your cinematographic culture and to help you during Spanish lessons.
We are once again in the world of Pedro Almodovar, with one of his most famous movies: Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown! But while the previous film pours more into the agonizing and the doubt, Almodovar delivers here a real comedy. Directed in 1988, the film highlights two of the fetish actors of the Spanish director: Antonio Banderas and Carmen Maura.
Woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown is above all a comedy totally wacky. In the dialogues, in the crises of nerves precisely, but also in the costumes. The rhythm is sustained. The original version or the original version with subtitles will therefore allow young linguists of intermediate or advanced level to try out their Spanish ear to the humorous and energetic Almodovar.
Lets go back to a cinema closer to the thriller. Cell 211 is an excellent example of the good health of the 7th Iberian Art and the ability of Spanish cinema to export some of its films.
Released in 2009, Cell 211 tells the rather terrible and anguishing story of Juan, a newly employed high security prisoner. Anxious to do well, the main character decides to go to the prison one day before his big debut. That exact moment in which the prisoners chose to carry out riots and mutiny…
Wounded and abandoned by his future colleagues, he finds himself locked up with the criminals, who obviously do not know him yet. To save his skin, he must pretend to be one of their own.
Cell 211 is a very good thug movie, as they say.
By watching it in original version or with subtitles (ideal format for Spanish courses), you will also discover dialogues quite simple to understand and especially, a more common and coloquial vocabulary, slang or even very familiar. And yes, it’s also learning a foreign language!
Again this is a Thriller. The Secret in Their eyes is no less than the Oscar of the Best Foreign Language Film of the year 2010. This will help you realize what a masterwork it is. In this work of Jose Juan Campanella we find this intensity in the emotions that regularly we can find in Argentinian cinema.
Besides, it’s more or less the common theme of the film. Benjamin Esposito, policeman, investigated for 25 years on an unsolved murder. Obsessed that he is by the non-resolution of this affair, which deprived a husband of “pure love” of his wife. A story that will remind him constantly of his own, as he is the lover of his work colleague.
The Secret in Their eyes
25 years later, new elements will allow him finally to get on the track of the murderer. Interpreted masterfully by Ricardo Darin and Soledad Villamil, The Secret in Their Eyes is a police and love thriller that will leave you breathless.
Lets give place to the Colombian cinema now. Hispano-Colombian to be quite exact, which will allow you to work both their accents and their expressions. Inside is a rather intriguing film taking place in a huge isolated house.
It belongs to Adrian a conductor suspected of the murder of his former girlfriend. The latter moves Fabiana to his home, which, little by little, notices many abnormal phenomena. Angrily and very well played.
This Spanish film, released in 2004, is directed by Alex de La Iglesia. He directed Guillermo Toledo, Monica Cervera and Luis Varela. The Perfect Crime tells the story of a shopkeeper in a department store who kills one of his colleagues by accident. One of the saleswomen of the perfumery department witnesses the scene and takes advantage of all this to blackmail the seller, especially on the sexual level.
A comedy rather than a Spanish lesson, porque no? The inversion of the letters in the title of the film is voluntary and you will understand the reason when you watch it. You will have the opportunity to practice a very good Castilian by listening to Guillermo Toledo who plays the role of Rafael, the best seller of the shop and irresistible seducer, who conquers all the sellers of the ready-to-wear department.
We move from comedy to drama with this Spanish dramatic film directed by Alejandro Amenabar and starring Javier Bardem, Mabel Rivera, Celso Bugallo and Clara Segura in the main roles. Mar Adentro deals with the true story of Ramón Sampedro, who became quadriplegic after an accident and played by Javier Bardem. This Spanish film was awarded the Oscar for best foreign language film and the Golben Globe for best foreign language film.
Javier Bardem is poignant in the role of Ramon Sampedro, now quadriplegic and wishing to end his days.
He has also received 14 Goyas, Cinema Awards awarded annually since 1987 by the Academy of Arts and Sciences of Cinematography of Spain. They are the equivalent of French Cesar or American Academy Awards.
Why watch this movie? For the strong story between Ramón, who can move only the head since his accident, and Rosa, young worker full of joy and life who wants to help Ramón. A story about the end of life that is particularly resonant today when the debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide is popular.
“Prodigious, Javier Bardem handles the pathetic and humor of a finished accuracy. Powerful desire to live that releases this luminous death.” Said one of the reviewers of the site vodkaster.com
Film directed by Pablo Berger, this drama released in 2013 tells the story of Carmen, a beautiful girl whose childhood was marked by a mother-in-law. The action is located in the 1920s in southern Spain. Carmen will meet a traveling troupe of dwarf bullfighters who will integrate her in their troop and give her the nickname Blanca Nieves or Snow White in English.
“Sparkling visually, this film is declared as a lightly cruel poem, punctuated by the energetic flamenco of Alfonso de Vilallonga.” One can read about a review of Metro. In black and white, without dialogue, this Andalusian and silent version of Snow White remains to be discovered for its intensity, especially its gaze on the bullfight.
Film by Julio Medem, who was awarded at the beginning of his film career by the Goya of Best Director. After the death of her boyfriend, Lucia, who is a waitress in Madrid, disappears. She exiled itself on a Mediterranean island in order to recharge her batteries. In the calm of her exile, she rediscovers the troubled aspects of her former love relationship.
The main actress, Paz Vega, was rewarded by the Goya of the female revelation, which marked a turning point in her career and will then be worth to be noticed by a certain Pedro Almodovar who gave her a small role in “Speak with her”.
The most American Spanish films! Why? Because this film was written and directed by Woody Allen but was filmed in New York, Asturias and Catalonia! Do not hesitate to put it in original Spanish version to listen to Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. For Anglophones, you can also see it again in American version and fall under the spell of Scarlett Johansson, sensual blonde with a broken but so sexy voice.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona: a three-part love story told by Woody Allen, in the Catalan city.
The story of Vicky Cristina Barcelona (VCB) is located in Barcelona, where 2 Americans, Vicky (the beautiful brown actress Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) spend holidays, one to complete her master in Catalan identity and the other to change ideas after a break in love.
It is in the Catalan city that they fall under the spell of Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), playing the role of a painter who invites them to spend a weekend of fun in his beautiful house in Oviedo. Add the return of Maria Elena, ex-wife of Juan Antonio, played by the dark and beautiful Penelope Cruz and you will get a very sensual film. VCB received a Golden Globe Award in 2009 as Best Comedy.
Franco-Spanish film by Pedro Almodovar realized in 1999, Todo sobre mi madre will allow you to discover the Spanish of the Madrilenians. Nurse in Madrid, Manuela takes her only son, Esteban, to the theater to watch A streetcar named Desire. “Shocked by a revelation about his father, Esteban is the victim of a fatal accident.
The film is a tribute to this woman who will do everything possible to find the father of Esteban, who in the meantime has changed sex. The story of a woman ready for anything to overcome the death of her son.
Poor, amoral and atypical like many of Almodovar’s films, Todo sobre mi madre is a hymn for life and women, to whom the director dedicates a limitless passion. This great Spanish film was rewarded at the Festival of Vannes by the staging Award and by an Oscar for best film in foreign language.
Another great film by Pedro Almodovar featuring one of his fetish actresses, Penelope Cruz. This feature was part of the official selection of the Cannes Film Festival in 2006.
Volver is the story of Raimunda, played by Penelope Cruz, who lives with her companion Paco and her 14-year-old daughter. In the company of Soledad, his sister, Raimunda returns to her native village to look after their parents’ graves and visit their aunt Paula, who is losing her head a little. On their return to Madrid, Raimunda’s husband attempts to rape Paula, and she attempts to defend herself accidentally.
The magnificent Penelope Cruz is the muse of director Pedro Almodovar.
Volver is a declaration of love to women, to all women. For all those who learn Spanish, this film will be interesting for lively dialogues between characters that destiny has not spared. “Volver is thus bursting with buried dramas but burning with optimism. A concentrate of the universe of Almodóvar, for the humor, black and offbeat, for the science of narrative and for the love of women.” One can read in the critics of Télérama.
The latest film on the triptych devoted to Almodovar, The Bad Education features Enrique and Ignacio, two friends who have been raised in a religious school and who have been subject to the ill-treatment and abuse of a pedophile priest, Father Manolo. A theme unfortunately of actuality, without of course wanting to make generalities.
Pedro Almodovar is one of the greatest Spanish directors. His films are marked by the omnipresence of love and women.
The film takes place entirely in Spain, mainly in the cities of Madrid, Valencia and Alella. It depicts the young Gael Garcia Bernal, a Mexican actor, who has to assume a triple role of a brother mythomaniac, revengeful and a homosexual evil in his skin. This actor will also be revealed in the film Babel, alongside Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, directed by Innaritu.
Lets put dramatic comedies aside and go for a thriller directed by Alejandro Amenabar, also writer, actor and producer. In fact, it is the first feature film directed by Amenabar, which caused a sensation at the Berlin Festival and which won 7 Goyas.
Angela, a film student preparing a thesis on audiovisual violence, discovers in the course of her investigation that the snuff movies (films in which people actually die) exist indeed and that their authors are not very far from her…
A film forbidden for children under 16, to discover, before looking in the same genre, The Others, which received a huge commercial success thanks to Nicole Kidman. Tesis is quoted in the Top 25 of the best Spanish films.
Directed by Juan José Campanella and released in 2010, this drama takes place in Argentina in the Buenos Aires of the 1970s. Benjamin Esposito investigates the very violent murder of a young woman. The case is classified but has always obsessed him. He then decided to write a novel about this criminal story, which brought him back to the love he felt for his co-worker.
The opportunity to discover from the interior a country plunged in a “dirty war” after the return of General Peron in 1973 and the opportunity to hear Argentinian talk and to notice the differences between this variant of Spanish and the Castilian of Madrid! A comparative Spanish course, interesting to understand the differences between the two languages!
Let’s finish this selection with a second Spanish film, directed by Alejandro Amenabar (1988). Open your eyes has been the subject of an American remake that you may have already seen: Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz.
Are you attracted by Spanish culture in movies?
In Open Your Eyes, you will find Penelope Cruz, another director’s muse, at the peak of her beauty. A thriller worthy of Almodovar’s greatest films.
If you are passionate about the big screen, you can also complement your Spanish culture by consulting our article about the best books to learn Spanish.
Watching movies and series in Spanish has some assets:
Hear the correct pronunciation: Either how the word is formed and pronounced; we learn by hearing the word and imitating the tone and accent of the people we listen to.
Hear and understand the structure of sentences in Spanish. The more you expose yourself to a fluid dialogue, the more you increase your familiarity with the way sentences are built.
Allows to pay attention to the expressions and to note the local slang. Spanish is the official language in 21 countries. Each of these countries has its own dialect and occasional vocabulary. By accessing movies from these countries, you can hear accents, but more importantly, the use of words and street slang.
Enables you to deepen your learning of Spanish at a level that is accessible and inexpensive. When you do not live in a Spanish speaking country, it may be difficult to hear, speak or become familiar with the language. By watching movies, you can begin to bridge that social gap.