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10 of the Best Spanish-Language Movies of All Time

Did you know that Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world? That’s part of the reason why Spanish movies are so popular around the world. And let’s not even get started with Spanish actors. They simply rule! Be it Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez, Javier Bardem or Sofia Vergara, we have fallen for their accents and their spellbinding acting. While we can’t thank them enough for their contribution to world cinema, there’s only so much we can do – to come up with a list of Spanish movies if nothing.

The Orphanage

This mysterious tale is about a woman that brings her family back to her childhood home, which used to be an orphanage for handicapped children. However, things start to get weird when her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend. Unknown by many, this is one of the most interesting suspense/horror films I have ever seen. Screenwriter Sergio G. Sánchez does a wonderful job of balancing the thriller with the drama. The acting is very strong, and the directing, editing, cinematography, and music are amazing. The sound effects are particularly well made, effectively creating an immersive atmosphere.

Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan’s Labyrinth is without a doubt one of Guillermo del Toro’s most beloved films. The story takes place in Spain during the summer of 1944, five years after the Spanish Civil War, and follows the young stepdaughter of an army officer who escapes into a captivating fantasy world. The critically acclaimed film won three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. 

Todo sobre mi madre

Starring a young Penélope Cruz as a nun who is pregnant and HIV positive, Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother in English) is a 1999 drama written and directed by iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar. It centers around Manuela (Cecilia Roth), an Argentine nurse whose young son dies in a traffic car accident.

Roma

Alfonso Cuarón mined childhood memories to fuel this unforgettable movie, which turns an ordinary woman’s life into an epic—and reminds us that everyone is worthy of such cinematic treatment. Roma follows the day-to-day life of Cleo, played by breakout star Yalitza Aparicio, an indigenous live-in housekeeper who must negotiate her employers’ demands with her own life. Cuarón, who wrote, directed, and edited the movie, based the story on his real-life nanny, Liboria Rodriguez. 

Volver

Mothers and daughters, and the history they share, are the focus of this powerful movie from Pedro Almódovar. The legendary Penélope Cruz stars as Raimunda, a woman haunted—literally—by the ghost of her mother, Irene (Carmen Maura). Volver is a surreal story of intergenerational trauma; of lingering murder mysteries; and of the ties that bind generations of women together, and make them strong for 

Y Tu Mamá También

A high-pitched journey of raging hormones enkindled passion and a deep and ardent love for adventure. Alfonso Cuaron delivers and delivers emphatically a film that will remain in our watersheds for the rest of our lives. It is sexy and funny and hip and stylish, but above all, it is affecting and melancholic. In the end, you will be surprised by how a single film could manage to evoke so many emotions. But the ultimate shock will come when you will realize how can the guy who directed this can go on to direct one of the best space movies ever made.

The Platform

When The Platform dropped on Netflix, it immediately catapulted to the top of the streaming service’s Top 10 chart–and unsurprisingly. The conversation-starting dystopia takes place in a multi-floor building where a person’s position—either high or low—governs their access to resources. It’s a timely parable of income inequality. 

Maria Full of Grace

Seventeen-year-old Maria Álvarez works at a flower plantation in Colombia when she decides to quit to help support her family with a better paying job. While on the hunt, she gets offered a position as a drug mule—and, in desperation, decides to take it and swallow 62 pills to traffic into the U.S. The 2004 drama earned its lead actress Catalina Sandino a Best Actress Academy Award nomination.

The Motorcycle Diaries

Based on a true story, this 2004 biopic is about the journey 23-year-old Ernesto “Che” Guevara (Gael Garcia Bernal) took across South America in 1952 with his friend Alberto Granado (played by Rodrigo de la Serna—whom you might recognize as Palermo in Netflix’s La Casa de Papel). It’s a coming of age film that shows viewers how, exactly, Guevara became an iconic Marxist guerrilla commander.

Frida

Biopic of the bold and controversial life of artist Frida Kahlo. 

Set in Mexico City, this visually evocative film traces her lifelong, tempestuous relationship with her mentor, along with her illicit affairs with Trotsky and various women. 

Her forward-thinking artistic, political and sexual attitudes are explored as we witness a hard-drinking, passionate woman of the early 1900s, which earned an Oscar nomination for Salma.

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