Top 10 Essential Films in Spanish

by John Bascombe on Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Spanish Movies

Film viewing gives us the chance to experience the lives of others from the comfort of our own living room. Putting together a top ten movie list is not an easy task, because a list like this will inevitably be incomplete, and it won’t satisfy everyone’s tastes –it probably won’t completely satisfy anybody’s tastes.

In any case, we’ve tried to include films that learners can enjoy without needing too high of a Spanish level, and titles that Spanish teachers will find appropriate to show in class.

We hope you like our selection, and we apologize for those movies which we have unavoidably missed.

Los santos inocentes
1. Los santos inocentes (1984) The Holy Innocents

This film was directed by Mario Camus, a master of creating on-screen adaptations of literary works. It is based on the Miguel Delibes novel of the same name about a family of poor rural family in Extremadura, Spain during the 1970s. Performances from Alfredo Landa (who plays Paco) and Paco Rabal (who plays Azarías) are memorable. The movie takes an insightful look at Spanish society in the late Franco period.

El bosque animado
2. El bosque animado (1987) The Enchanted Forest

Based on the novel of the same name by Wenceslao Fernández Flórez, this tender and magical movie by José Luis Cuerda introduces viewers to rural life in Galicia, Spain in the form of a rousing symphony in which the forest serves as the nucleus of the story. Small but wonderful tales unfold here, about the characters that make the forest their home: a good-hearted bandit, a lost ghost who does not want to be alone, a young man who digs wells and is in love with a girl who immigrates to a big city… It's a mosaic of sensibility that will warm your heart.

Fernando Trueba
3. Belle Époque (1992)

This film by Fernando Trueba takes viewers back to 1931 Spain, a time when Spaniards were living the few days of their monarchy while looking ahead to the new era of the second republic (1931). A young soldier deserts the army and takes refuge in the home of an artist who lives completely isolated from the real world. The arrival of the artists' four daughters launches a series of humorous romantic encounters. The movie won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film.

La lengua de las mariposas
4. La lengua de las mariposas (1999) Butterfly

Also directed by José Luis Cuerda, this adaptation of Manuel Rivas' short story published in the book "¿Qué me quieres, amor?" is based in Galicia during the beginning of the Spanish Civil War (1936). Don Gregorio is a teacher who not only teaches his students how to read and write, he also shows them how to look critically at the world. The military's overthrow of the government will destroy the character and his vision of education.

El hijo de la novia
5. El hijo de la novia (2001) Son of the Bride

This Argentine picture from Juan José Campanella gives us the story of Rafael Belvedere, who after inheriting a restaurant from his father finds himself overwhelmed by new business responsibilities as his marriage begins to fall apart. Rafael's mother, who suffers from Alzheimers, will play a special role in his life when he decides to help her live her dream of marrying her husband in a church wedding.

Mar adentro
6. Mar adentro (2004) The Sea Inside

This Oscar winning film from Alejandro Amenábar is based on a true story. Javier Bardem also gives a memorable performance that earned him a Golden Globe award for best actor. It tells the story of a man who is left quadriplegic after a diving accident and later demands the right to die with dignity in Spain, where euthanasia is illegal. Two women come into his life and influence him in their own ways.

Diarios de motocicleta
7. Diarios de motocicleta (2004) The Motorcycle Diaries

Brazilian director Walter Salles based this movie on the travel journals of Ernesto Guevara (later known as Che). Guevara wrote the journals during a road trip he took with friend Alberto Granado across South America on a motorcycle with a sidecar. This journey of discovery offers the young doctor insight into the harsh conditions of life that many must endure, an experience that serve as early inspiration for Ernesto, who will later become the now legendary figure of Che Guevara.

Penelope Cruz
8. Volver (2006)

Pedro Almodóvar says that this movie tells the story of "three generations of women that survive the east wind, fire, madness, superstition, and even death, by way of goodness, lies, and limitless vitality". The dead grandmother who appears before the sister, the daughter who lives a meaningless marriage, and the granddaughter who observes everything with naïve wonder, will all form a chorus of voices that may seem at times surreal, but which demonstrates the strength of women who survive despite the circumstances.

Viggo Mortensen
9. Alatriste (2006)

Agustín Díaz Yanes directs Danish actor Viggo Mortensen (who speaks perfect Spanish given his long stays in Latin America) in this film adaptation of the Arturo Pérez Reverte novels that are based on the adventures of a Spanish soldier from the 17th century. This major production offers viewers a vision of 17th century Spain and it serves as a tribute to the paintings of Velázquez and some of Spanish history's most relevant figures.

También la lluvia
10. También la lluvia (2010) Even the Rain

Director Icía bolláin takes us to Bolivia in the year 2500 with a group of Spanish film makers who shoot a movie about the conquest of America and the brutality inflicted by the Spanish during that time. The harsh living conditions depicted in the film parallel the private lives of the actors, film technicians, and the director, who find themselves swept up in the Cochabamba Water War that shook Bolivian society in the first few months of the 21st century.

Keywords: spanish movies,movies in spanish,spanish films,spanish cinema,films in spanish


1 » Manfred Neilmann (on Friday, January 17, 2014) said:

Just a little correction concerning the movie "Diarios de Motocicleta": Walter Salles is a film director from Brazil, not Argentina!

2 » John Bascombe (on Friday, January 17, 2014) said:

Thank you Manfred for your correction. I've changed the text, which now describes Salles as a Brazilian director. Thank you for your interest and we hope you continue enjoying our blog!

3 » Marina (on Saturday, December 16, 2017) said:

Incluiría en la lista la "Ma Ma" de Julio Medem, a mi me pareció muy buena