Spanish movies have forever dominated Hollywood, starting from the references of Spanish culture in popular Hollywood movies, their lingo, food, customaries, and their people. From the beginning of time, we’ve seen Spanish movies evolve and adapt to the viewers’ expectations, right from their budget, production design, genres, the acting talent, growing presence in the Academy and the number of cult classics they’ve had so far. It won’t be a folly to state here that Spanish language movies are one of the most widely watched movies across the world, as it is also one of the most spoken and understood languages in the world.
As far as Spanish actors and actresses are concerned, Spanish cinema has given us many gems, right from Penelope Cruz, Sofia Vergara, Sara Montiel, Paz Vega, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Javier Bardem, Benicio Del Toro to mention a few of them, who also have had a significant impact on the world cinema, for these actors and actresses have worked beyond boundaries to bring forth their latent talent in many languages and dialects. Not only the people who’re in front of the screen but those behind the scenes have also made news too and have made it really big in Hollywood. We’ve heard names like Pedro Almodovar, Alejandro Amenabar, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro – many of whom have also won Academy Awards for their works.
From a regionality perspective, not all Spanish movies are based out of the country of Spain. These movies are mostly confined to the Spanish-speaking nations of the world – notably the South and Central American countries along with Spain, thus resulting in undying gems coming out of all of the countries’ film fraternities. One can now imagine the immense talent and potential these 22 nations have and the way they can impact the world’s pop culture as they have always been doing.
If you are looking to explore a different area of cinema, Spanish cinema is a great option. It is a great way to discover new actors or new filmmakers. Thankfully, Netflix has a great selection of movies from Spain, Mexico, and the countries of South America. From biographic dramas to horror movies to comedies to war movies, here is the list of really good Spanish language movies on Netflix that you can watch. You can also find many of these Spanish movies on Amazon Prime or Hulu. The list includes funny Spanish movies, scary Spanish movies, Spanish lesbian movies and Spanish romantic movies.
25. It’s Now or Never (2015) [Ahora o nunca]
“It’s Now or Never” is a Spanish romantic comedy that tells the story of couple Alex and Eva. After dating for several years, decide to tie the knot in the English country village where they first met. However, when all flights to England are cancelled, how will Alex’s extended family arrive in time for the wedding? Directed by Maria Ripoli, “It’s Now or Never” is an entertaining comedy that will leave you with a smile at the end. If you want to relax and laugh, this is it!
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24. Madre (2016)
Diana Prieto is pregnant and has to take care of her autistic son Martin. She is completely alone taking care of everything, while her husband spends some time working in Asia. When Luz, a gifted caregiver from the Philippines, steps in to help, Diana thinks her problems are solved. However, she begins to suspect that Luz is using voodoo to turn Martin against her. “Madre” is a truly great horror movie, filled with mystery and jump scares. Besides, the acting is wonderful.
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23. Toro (2016)
“Toro” is a gangster movie about the importance of family. We follow Toro (Spanish for “bull”), a former con man that has to save his brother and niece by going back to his old habits. But going back to the past has severe consequences. If you enjoy action and crime thriller, this film is a great choice. It not only has interesting characters but also great action scenes. Although it may be predictable at times, it has a lot of surprises along the way that will keep you entertained.
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22. Boy Missing (2016) [Secuestro]
A crime thriller centred around a boy named Victor, who is found roaming the streets by the law enforcement agencies, and who is deaf and mute. Turns out, he’s the son of one of the leading attorneys named Patricia. Victor then tells the police that he had been kidnapped by a man while going to school but he divulges no other details. The police detain a man who is the prime suspect, with an eight months pregnant wife, but has to release him citing lack of evidence. Patricia has to pull some strings by uniting with her ex-lover in order to bring the culprit to justice. ‘Boy Missing’ was widely appreciated for its dark undertone and the edge-of-the-seat experience.
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21. The Invisible Guardian (2017) [El guardián invisible]
Yet another thriller on this list, ‘The Invisible Guardian’ is the story of Amaia Salazar, a police inspector in Navarra, Spain, who was a former FBI agent. Despite her reluctance, she has to return to her hometown of Baztan, where a naked body of a 13-year-old girl has been found, with pieces of evidence that look similar to another murder that had taken place a few weeks ago. Apparently, Amaia’s place of birth has forever been riddled with superstitious rituals, cult practices and amid her fear that there might be a serial killer at it because a few more bodies are found. Her past is of no comfort either, as she had faced similar trauma as a child and her suspicion lies too close to her than she realizes. Not a nail-biting experience, however, ‘The Invisible Guardian’ somewhat appears like ‘Hannibal’ – the tv series.
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20. The Bar (2017) [El Bar]
A rather gripping thriller as far as its premise is concerned, ‘The Bar’ begins with and is set in a small bar in downtown Madrid. There’s a gunshot and two deaths occur beyond the front door of the bar, thus trapping everyone else within. The caveat is – if anyone tries to exit the place or moves closer to the door from the outside, the person is shot dead. Turns out, it is a secret government operation and one inside mole is responsible for everything that has transpired so far. The completely unrelated strangers in the bar must figure a way out and find out who the culprit is.
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19. 1898: Our Last Men in The Philippines (2016) [1898: Los últimos de Filipinas]
Set in the year 1898, when parts of The Philippines which were under Spanish occupation started falling into the locals’ control, owing to many factors. In one such attempt to save their falling territory, Spain sends a small troop of soldiers led by Captain Morenas and his deputy Lt. Cerezo to Baler, one of the last towns still under Spanish control. The local belligerents mostly attack during the night, which gives the troop their time to set up the local Church as their stronghold and lead the fight from there. Turns out, apart from the belligerents, the Spaniards also have to fight the harsh environmental conditions and heat, which they seemingly fail at.
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18. Retribution (2015) [El desconocido]
Carlos is a bank executive, who’s driving his kids to school. The entire family is in the car when Carlos gets a phone call on a phone that was planted in the car, unbeknownst to him. The stranger who had called him demands a sum of money unless Carlos wants the car to blow up. As he reaches the school and doesn’t let Marcos, his son, to disembark the car owing to the looming threat, he discusses the situation with a friend on the way, and his car gets blown into pieces as soon as their conversation ends. Carlos must find a way out to protect his family and remit the amount or to face the consequences. More or less, ‘Retribution’ doesn’t have a unique premise and we’ve seen this very rendition in many Hollywood flicks. Still, it makes for a thrilling affair as far as Spanish cinema is concerned.
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17. Nothing in Return (2015) [A Cambio de nada]
A heartwarming story of people belonging to different generations coming together, ‘Nothing in Return’ is the narrative of Dario, a 16-year-old boy who elopes from his home owing to his difficult relationship with his divorced single mother after being expelled from his school. He meets up with his friend Luismi, an overweight companion with whom he had a lifetime friendship, Caralimpia, a bike-scavenger who runs a bike shop with stolen parts, and Antonio, an old lady who drives around in a three-wheeler and collects and resells old furniture. Together, the group of four form an unbreakable bond, despite a gap of generations and coming from a very different mindset. ‘Nothing in Return’ is all about selflessness.
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16. You Will Know What to Do with Me (2015) [Sabras Que Hacer Conmigo]
A soulful love story, ‘Sabras Que Hacer Conmigo’ revolves around an epileptic photographer Nicholas who struggles a lot with his life as well as with his profession. Despite all of his qualms, he seemingly lives a normal, sedentary life. Enter Isabel, a confident young woman who lives with her mother and takes care of her, for she has no choice. Isabel and Nicholas begin a heartfelt affair, despite the different backgrounds they belong to and the different tastes they have, along with a varied perspective on each other’s life. Endearing love, carefree romance and experiencing a relationship like never before, Isabel and Nicholas set sail on a new journey altogether.
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15. Toc Toc (2017)
By the way, “Toc” here stands for “Trastorno Obsessivo Compulsivo” in Spanish, commonly called the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A funny premise at the outside, ‘Toc Toc’ begins in a waiting room of a renowned doctor’s clinic, where a group of random people have been given an appointment at the exact same time. Piling up on that, it is revealed that all of them have been suffering from the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in one form or another – like Tourette syndrome, Diogenes Syndrome, mysophobia etc. Turns out, the doctor’s flight has been delayed, thus increasing the level of panic among the patients. Together, they must find a common ground as they wait for their appointment.
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14. Don’t Blame the Kid (2016) [ ¿Qué Culpa Tiene el niño?]
Maru, on one unfortunate day, finds out that she’s pregnant. The father of the unborn child is none other than a lad she had a drunken one-night stand with a few days ago. Not only is he immature, but he is also unemployed and generally lives off others. Maru decides to move in with him, despite many people suggesting her otherwise. Although the first half of the movie focuses on how two behaviourally distinct people could have a one night stand and forget about it, the second half focuses on Maru’s processing of the shock and living along with a really immature person, whom she later grows closer with. The story and the performances are absolute winners of this affable flick.
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13. The Chosen Ones (2015) [Las elegidas]
A tale of troubled relationships, in a weird way, ‘The Chosen One’ shows Ulysis and Sofia in a relationship as the movie begins. Turns out, Ulysis’ family business is to get girls into flesh trade using Ulysis as a bait. Before knowing much about the family, Sofia finds herself deep into prostitution business and feels cheated. Ulysis’ father agrees to let go of Sofia only on one condition – that Ulysis will have to get another girl to replace her. Ulysis then honeytraps Marta and sets Sofia free feigning his love for her. Things aren’t as they were before and Sofia finds herself between a rock and a hard place.
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12. The Fury of a Patient Man (2016) [Tarde para la ira]
A thrilling drama at the outset, ‘The Fury of a Patient Man’ begins with Ana, a single mother who lives with her son, working as a bartender in a very mundane life. Her boyfriend Curro had been incarcerated eight years ago for robbing a jewellery store and is about to be released from prison. Off late, a strange yet gentle and friendly man Jose has been visiting her cafe and has befriended her, thus making her feel safe even though Curro is not alongside her. She’s stuck with two choices – make amends with Curro and lead a new life or to move in with Jose. She decides upon doing the latter, not realising what deep dark secrets Jose keeps in his closet.
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11. 7 Anos (2016)
Picture this – a highly successful company, four founders with similar credentials, all four of them are blind, and a massive tax fraud has been detected. ‘7 Anos’ deals with the dilemma of the right vs. the wrong and who should turn themselves out and save the other three. Flabbergasted by the lack of choice and an increasing conflict of interest, the four friends decide to hire a mediator who would assess who should take the fall out of the four of them and save the other three. Perhaps ‘7 Anos’ is the movie equivalent of how to correct a wrong with another wrong. Thoughts?
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10. Our Lovers (2016) [Nuestros Amantes]
Carlos and Irene accidentally meet each other over a coffee library. They begin a close friendship and start having small conversations and walks together, without falling in love. The conditions for their so-called “friendship” are simple – they won’t talk about their pasts, they won’t ask each other their birth names, they won’t contact each other by modern means of communication and they won’t fall for each other. However, later Irene finds out that Carlos is the husband of Maria, who was in love with Jorge, Irene’s boyfriend. Interestingly, Jorge has recently split with Irene citing his newfound love. Both Carlos and Irene have two choices – either save their existing relationships or form a new one together.
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9. Sexo, Pudor y lágrimas (1999)
A really complicated battle of the sexes, this epic movie has many characters and is the narrative of the entangled relationships among one another. Tomas has recently moved to Mexico and is currently visiting his friends Carlos and Ana who’re having marital problems. Incidentally, Tomas used to date Ana and tries to get closer to her when Carlos kicks Tomas out. Instead, Ana leaves and goes to her friends Miguel and Andrea’s house, who are also having the same marital problems. Meanwhile, Miguel is kicked out by Andrea and after some time, two opposing houses in the same street are having people of opposite sexes stationed together. A funny and serious affair, ‘Sexo, Pudor y lágrimas’ is a road less travelled.
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8. The Man with Thousand Faces (2016) [El hombre de las mil caras]
One of the highly rated and widely appreciated Spanish movies out there, ‘The Man with Thousand Faces’ is the telltale of Francisco Paesa, an ex-secret agent of the Spanish government who was also a banker, an arms dealer before he was hired by the ex-police commissioner Luis to hide 12 million pesetas which he had embezzled wrongfully. Paesa then, in cahoots with some of his old buddies, devises an evil plan to take the cash out and make a fool of the entire nation. Although a blend of fact and fiction, ‘The Man with Thousand Faces’ is an enjoyable thriller biopic which gives us chilling accounts of one of the biggest scams of the country.
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7. Like Water for Chocolate (1992) [Como agua para chocolate]
A movie set in the 1900s in countryside Mexico, a girl named Tita is born in a family. After her birth, her father dies, thus leaving Mama Elena, her mother and Tita is the youngest daughter of the family of four. As per a tradition, the youngest girl of the family never marries and takes care of her mother until her death. As Tita grows older, she falls for a man named Pedro, but because of the tradition, they can’t marry. Pedro then gets married to Tita’s elder sister and comes to stay in their house to stay closer to Tita. Her sister gives birth to Roberto, who is nursed by Tita as her own, but Tita is devastated when Roberto is sent away along with the family and he dies in Tita’s absence. Tita then falls for one Dr Brown, but later reunites with Pedro after the accidental death of Mama Elena. ‘Like Water for Chocolate’ has been regarded as one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful movies of the Spanish cinema.
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6. The Perfect Dictatorship (2014) [La Dictadura Perfecta]
A power struggle in Mexico between the current President and Governor Vargas, ‘The Perfect Dictatorship’ is mostly dark humour, with satirical references and somewhat real-life antecedents, which are mostly subjective in nature. The movie begins with an unintended remark made by the Mexican President on national television while welcoming the US Ambassador. Television Mexicana, who had aired the remark, seek to cover it up by showing another sensational story featuring Governor Vargas and his alleged involvement in an embezzlement scandal. Vargas then bribes Television Mexicana and asks them to improve his image in front of the public. ‘The Perfect Dictatorship’ is a must watch Spanish movie you can watch on Netflix right now.
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5. Palm Trees in the Snow (2015)
Based on the novel of the same title by the author Luz Gabás, this film follows Killian, a young man that arrives in Equatorial Guinea in 1958 with his older brother. They both arrive to work on a cacao plantation but life (and love) happen. “Palm Trees in the Snow” is an incredible movie that Spanish colonialism and its impact. Besides having great camera work and sound effects, this film has a beautiful story supported by a great cast. If you choose this one, prepare yourself for a heartbreaking story.
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4. 100 Meters (2016)
An awe-inspiring true story that will move you to the core, ‘100 Metres’ is the story of a man named Ramon who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. As his condition worsens, he finds it difficult even to complete mundane walks across the street. He is duly informed that soon, he won’t be able to walk even a 100-meter distance. His wife Inma seeks the help of Manolo, who slowly and steadily motivates Ramon to start walking and soon Ramon joins the gym and makes good progress. As Ramon expresses his desire to participate in the prestigious Iron Man contest – 3.8 KM of swimming, 180 KM of cycling, and 42 KM of running, Manolo takes it upon himself to train him, despite Ramon’s reluctance but out of Inma’s request. Ramon then goes on to complete the contest, thus becoming the very first with Multiple Sclerosis to do so.
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3. Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
In Mexico City, two friends, Tenoch and Julio meet vivacious Luisa, the wife of Tenoch’s cousin Jano. When the three of them embark on a road trip, they learn a lot about life, friendship and each other. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, “Y Tu Mamá También” is masterfully directed by Alfonso Cuaron (director and writer of “Gravity” and “Children of Men”). Besides being a frank and open story about teenage discovery, the script has a good sense of comedy. It is an intelligent take on the “teen comedy” genre.
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2. The Invisible Guest (2016) [ Contratiempo]
When Adrian, an affluent businessman, is arrested for the murder of his lover, whose body was found by his side in a hotel room, Virginia, a veteran attorney is hired to make Adrian’s case – an impregnable defence to get him out of trouble. Laura, his now-deceased lover, was a photographer and they had been involved in a car crash resulting in a death, which too was evaded by Adrian at the behest of Laura. As Vanessa starts digging deeper, she finds out that apparently, Adrian might not be completely innocent after all, as opposed to what he claims to be. Skeletons from the closet often crop up in the movie and in this layered premise, trusts are broken and hidden secrets are revealed – one at a time. Easily one of the best Spanish language films on Netflix US.
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1. Coco (2017)
I have said this before and I’ll say it again – ‘Coco’ is by far one of the greatest Spanish movies ever made. In fact, the Spanish version is a lot better than its English counterpart, owing to better-localized lyrics, dialogues and ample fun moments the movie is rather known for. Regarded as one of Pixar’s best animation works till date, the movie revolves around Coco, a kid who has a penchant for music and who accidentally strums his great-great grandfather’s guitar out of an accidental happenstance. Turns out, soon after, he’s transported to the Land of the Dead, where the spirits of the dead reside. Each year, on the very day of his disappearance, people on the Land of the Living summon their loved ones with a blessing. To head back home, Coco must need a blessing and he’ll have to meet his great great grandfather before venturing into Land of the Living again. ‘Coco’ has a high emotional quotient and has the tenderness and love one hopes for while watching an animated flick. If you haven’t watched ‘Coco’ yet, now would be a good time.
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