Top Latin American Movies

A friend from Australia asked me for a list of some great Brazilian and LA movies. This is what I’m sending her.

  • Cidade de Deus
    Brazil. Probably one of the best movies I ever saw. Very violent and based on real facts. Don’t miss it.
  • El Abrazo Partido
    Argentina. Beautiful. Simple and beautiful. The music matches perfectly all parts of the story. I saw it again this week, and it is still great.
  • Nueve Reinas
    Argentina. Very funny, and maybe one of the first of the new movie age from this country.
  • Central do Brasil
    Brazil. Outstanding drama that unfortunately lost Best Foreign Language Film in Oscar 1999 for Benigni’s La Vita è Bella. Central do Brasil deserved that prize.
  • O Xangô de Baker Street
    Brazil. Sherlock Holmes comes to Brazil to solve a case and gets enchanted by brazilian drinks, food and women, and almost loses its focus. This movie is useful for foreigners, and is good too.
  • Whisky
    Uruguay. Sad but very well done drama. In the end you won’t be sure if you hate it or love it.
  • Abril Despedaçado
    Brazil. The tough life of poor people in northeast of Brazil.
  • Machuca
    Chile. Social classes conflicts by the eyes of a child.
    • O Auto da Compadecida
      Brazil. A funny movie that is a summary of a TV series. Adventures of two guys fighting for survival in the most bizarre ways. It is an adaptation of a very important brazilian play from the 70’s that shows many social and folk aspects of our country’s culture. The soundtrack is wonderful, by Sa Grama, a group focused on a very special type of brazilian folk lyric music. Non-brazilians may find difficult to understand the beauty of this movie, but give it a try.
    • El Hijo de la Novia
      Argentina. A very beautiful drama.
    • Kamchatka
      Argentina. Dictatorship and revolution being seen by the eyes of a child.
    • Diários de Motocicleta
      Brazil, Argentina. The Che Guevara movie.
    • Pequeno Dicionário Amoroso
      Brazil. A romantic story, from A to Z.
    • Amores Perros
      Mexico. Just watch it.
    • O Quatrilho
      Brazil. A well done drama about italian imigrants in southern Brazil. This movie could be shorter. Lost Best Foreign Language Film in Oscar 1996 for dutch’s Antonia. Indeed Antonia is a far better movie.
    • Pantaleón y las Visitadoras
      Not really great but just to put Peru in this map. Its a cute movie.

    I am not an expert, and I’m probably missing a few movies. And hope to see more suggestion in the comments below.

    16 thoughts on “Top Latin American Movies”

    1. Indeed, ‘Lavoura Arcaica’ is an excellent movie, but anyway, your list is great!

      Surprisingly, you’re the first one I see mentioning ‘Abril Despedaçado’. Don’t forget that it’s a mix of Brazil’s porvety in Sertão and Kadare’s book of the same name ‘April Broken’ in english (that book is one of the best I’ve read ever).

      I don’t have a list myself, I’d have to think about that for weeks. But in this post:

      You’ll find a list of the 10 best Brazilian movies, according to some directors and critics.

      PS: Sorry for not adding the proper links, I’m too lazy for that. 😉

    2. For me, Lavoura Arcaica has extraordinary colours and landscapes, but has serious problems with its storyline.

    3. Acertou em cheio nas indicações, assisti praticamente todos esses filmes. Conheci “Machuca” através da minha namorada que é chilena, e é realmente um belíssimo filme, que, para mim, está no mesmo patamar de Cidade de Deus. Acompanho seu blog através do pandemonium, e já assisti suas palestras/seminários aqui em Brasília, e já tive a oportunidade de conversar com você em 2004 eu acho, num evento da IBM no Hotel Nacional, e recentemente pude assisir sua apresentação no evento de virtualização organizado pela novell.

    4. Avi,

      ‘Lavoura Arcaica’ the movie is based on Raduan Nassar’s book of the same name. The storyline is confuse because it follows André’s thoughts. Actually, he tells us the history and hence we’re limited to his interpretations and own view of what really happened.

      Other good thing about this movie is that it tries to follow the book rigorously, that’s rare, usually the director likes to add his/her own view.

      If you enjoy that kind of reading I suggest you to read Raduan’s book, he’s brazilian:

    5. Apenas uma pequena correção: Central do Brasil perdeu para o italiano A Vida É Bela (La Vita è Bella) no Oscar de 1999, e não para Antonia.

    6. Indeed, Lavoura Arcaica is very faithful to the book (which is one of my all-time favorites). I had the luck to see it in a movie theater along with the director and Raduan Nassar.

      They both mentioned how difficult is to film a stream of consciousness plot and still keep it understandable by non-readers. I think they did a great job, specially by keeping the poetic feel of the settings & situations.

    7. The Brazilian movie that lost to Antonia was “Quatrilho“, which wasn’t especially good except for its wonderful locations — my home town 😉

      Two films that might make it to the list would be —

      * O Bicho de Sete Cabeças
      * Lisbela e o Prisioneiro

      The latter is one of the most delicious comedies of all time for me, although its comedy does rely heavily on puns and idioms, so it might be less effective in other languages.

    8. Roberto, yes, I changed the text. I remember O Quatrilho as the first brazilian movie in the Oscar.

      Despite two beautiful songs in “Bicho de Sete Cabeças”‘s soundtrack, I wouldn’t include it in a top list, in my opinion.

      I have just put “Lisbela e o Prisioneiro” in my list to watch.

    9. “O homem que copiava” podia estar nessa lista. Mesmo tendo que admitir que eu mesmo só recentemente resolvi que talvez valesse a pena assisti-lo, na minha opinião é um filme que está acima da média e bem melhor que alguns mencionados. De qualquer maneira, muito boas as indicações.

    10. Como Água para Chocolate (não lembro se é um filme latino mas é um contexto latino…), A Casa dos Espíritos (idem), De amor e de Sombras (idem).

    11. Hi

      I dont know if it is a bit late for this, but she might like Y Tu Mama Tambien from Mexico with Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, Cama Adentro from Argentina, Love for Sale (Brazil) and The Orphanage (Spain). They all great movies from Latin America and Spain.


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