As we mentioned in our blog post on 25 French Language Movies Appropriate for Students, movies can be a teacher’s best friend. Whether it’s leaving something for a sub to entertain your class, keeping your students engaged on a Friday afternoon, or giving your students the chance to hear a foreign language spoken in a native context, movies have the power to transport us into another world revealing insight into a foreign culture, historical period or imagined context that illustrates a particular lesson from your curriculum.
The Spanish-speaking world has created hundreds of amazing films over the years. Film studios in Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia and a variety of other Spanish-speaking nations have produced loads of films that tell captivating stories and portray their native cultures in an extremely vivid fashion. Due to cultural differences between Europe/Latin America and the United States, it can sometimes be difficult to find a Spanish Language movie with appropriate content for students (depending on your students and where you teach), so that’s why we’ve put together this list of 25 films Student Appropriate Spanish-Language Movies:
1. El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth)
In 1944 falangist Spain, a girl, fascinated with fairy-tales, is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the center of the labyrinth. He tells her she’s a princess, but must prove her royalty by surviving three gruesome tasks. If she fails, she will never prove herself to be the true princess and will never see her real father, the king, again.
2. La Misma Luna
La Misma Luna tells the parallel stories of nine-year-old Carlitos and his mother, Rosario. In the hopes of providing a better life for her son, Rosario works illegally in the U.S. while her mother cares for Carlitos back in Mexico. Unexpected circumstances drive both Rosario and Carlitos to embark on their own journeys in a desperate attempt to reunite. Along the way, mother and son face challenges and obstacles but never lose hope that they will one day be together again.
3. Casi Casi
Emilio is a normal teenager who somehow finds himself being sent to the principal’s office every other week. He has a crush on Jacklynne, the most popular girl in school, so he decides to run for Student Council President in order to impress her. After announcing his candidacy, Emilio discovers, to his horror, that Jacklynne herself will be running for office against him. Emotions fly high as campaign fever intensifies. Not wanting to lose his chance to win her heart, Emilio devises a risky plan that could come to a disastrous end if the tyrannous school principal gets wind of his scheme.
4. Vivir Intentando
When five girls accidentally become best-of-friends, they find themselves on an ambitious quest to fame. One is in it for the romance, another for the money, another for the fame, but all are doing it for the experience.
On 1969, in Argentina, the eight-year-old Valentin is a boy that dreams to be an astronaut. He is raised by his poor widow Abuela and is totally abandoned by his parents. His mother has apparently forgotten him, and his stupid father does not pay much attention to him. The smart, but needy kid misses his mother, and when his father introduces his new girlfriend Leticia, Valentin has a strong connection with her. Meanwhile, his grandmother gets sick, and the boy tries to resolve all his family problems using his persuasion and viewpoint of life. He also tries to approach Leticia about his great friend and master Rufo.
6. Historias Mínimas
Near the provincial town of San Julian, three vibrant characters undertake seemingly mundane journeys that turn out to be subtly life-changing. A lonely, fastidious traveling salesman quests for the perfect cream cake to win the widow of his dreams. A grizzly grandfather hitchhikes to town to find his forgotten lost dog and seek forgiveness. A poor young mother hopes to win the grand prize–a microprocessor–as a contestant on a TV game show. In the end, the three will get more or less what they set out for, but it will come to them in ways that they never expected.
7. Mi Abuelo, Mi Papá y Yo
This movie tells about three different kinds of love: teenage love, marriage love, and mature love, each one represented by three men: Óscar, Eduardo and Rubén, respectively. Óscar falls in love with his new neighbor, Elizabeth; Eduardo, Óscar’s father, loves Myriam, but they divorce when he realizes his wife doesn’t love him anymore; and Rubén, Eduardo’s father, is in love with an old ex-job partner, Esperanza Arias. These three men find out that love is sometimes an obstacle, and these three women find out that perfect men only live in women’s imagination.
8. Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios
Pepas’s lover, Iván, leaves her and she tries to contact him to find out why he’s left. In her search for Iván, she confronts his wife and son, who are as clueless as she is. Meanwhile; Candela, her friend, is afraid the police might be looking for her because of her Muslim terrorist ex-boyfriend’s, criminal activities. As the plot develops, it is revealed that everyone’s lives are more intertwined than they could have ever expected.
9. La Historia Oficial
Alicia Marnet de Ibáñez is a high school history professor and a well-to-do housewife in Buenos Aires, circa 1983, after the fall of the “junta militar” that had taken over the government since 1976. She has a husband, Roberto, who is a succesful lawyer and a five-year-old adopted daughter.
10. Diarios de Motocicleta
The Motorcycle Diaries is an adaptation of a journal written by Ernesto “Che” Guevara de la Serna when he was 23 years old. He and his friend, Alberto Granado are typical college students who, seeking fun and adventure before graduation, decide to travel across Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela in order to do their medical residency at a leper colony. Beginning as a buddy/road movie in which Ernesto and Alberto are looking for chicks, fun and adventure before they must grow up and have a more serious life. As is said in the film itself, it’s about “two lives running parallel for a while.” The two best friends start off with the same goals and aspirations, but by the time the film is over, it’s clear what each man’s destiny has become.
11. Nueve Reinas
Early one morning, Marcos observes Juan successfully pulling off a bill-changing scam on a cashier, and then getting caught as he attempts to pull the same trick on the next shift. Marcos steps in, claiming to be a policeman, and drags Juan out of the store. Once they are back on the street, Marcos reveals himself to be a fellow swindler with a game of much higher stakes in mind, and he invites Juan to be his partner in crime. A once-in-a-lifetime scheme seemingly falls into their laps – an old-time con man enlists them to sell a forged set of extremely valuable rare stamps, The Nine Queens. The tricky negotiations that ensue bring into the picture a cast of suspicious characters, including Marcos’ sister Valeria, their younger brother Federico and a slew of thieves, conmen and pickpockets. As the deceptions mount, it becomes more and more difficult to figure out who is conning whom.
12. Te Presento a Laura
Laura is a girl who saves the life of a suicidal young actor. After that she’s dedicated to help him to overcome his crisis while at the same time together performing the crazy tasks that Laura has in a list of things to be done before she dies (which must be completed before the end of the month of April). During their time together something more than a friendship develops.
13. El Norte
Mayan Indian peasants, tired of being thought of as nothing more than “brazos fuertes” (“strong arms”, i.e., manual laborers) and organizing in an effort to improve their lot in life, are discovered by the Guatemalan army. After the army destroys their village and family, a brother and sister, teenagers who just barely escaped the massacre, decide they must flee to “El Norte” (“the North”, i.e., the USA). After receiving clandestine help from friends and humorous advice from a veteran immigrant on strategies for traveling through Mexico, they make their way by truck, bus and other means to Los Angeles, where they try to make a new life as young, and undocumented immigrants.
14. Viva Cuba
In a tale akin to Romeo and Juliet, the friendship between two children is threatened by their parents’ differences. Malu is from an upper-class family and her single mother does not want her to play with Jorgito, as she thinks his background coarse and commonplace. Jorgito’s mother is a poor socialist that is proud of her family’s social standing. She places similar restriction on her son. What neither woman recognizes is the immense strength of the bond between Malu and Jorgito. When the children learn that Malu’s mother is planning to leave Cuba, they decide to travel to the other side of the island to find Malu’s father and persuade him against signing the forms that would allow it.
15. Luna de Avellaneda
Long ago, a quirk of fate installed Roman Maldonado as a lifetime member of a Buenos Aires sports club. Now he’s understandably upset to learn that local business owners want to reinvent the club for new customers. As his marriage to Veronica deteriorates, Roman teams with pals Graciela and Amadeo in an effort to save the club. Despite his lack of experience, Roman proves a wily preservationist in this touching ode to community.
16. El Chanfle
The life of an untalented, but extremely kind waterboy who works for a Mexican soccer team, and how his life unexpectedly changed, when his wife falls pregnant.
17. Atlético San Pancho
The little town of San Francisco del Monte, birthplace of football in Mexico, is now a quiet and forgotten place. But Don Pepe, an old janitor from the town’s school, is trying to unite a group of kids into a football team, in order to give San Francisco del Monte the recognition it deserves. Their strength and love for the game will lead them to play a championship game, in the most important field of Mexico City: Estadio Azteca.
18. El Espíritu de la Colmena
In Castilla around 1940, a traveling movie theatre brings James Whale’s black and white film classic “Frankenstein” (1931) to a small village. Two young girls, Isabel and Ana, are subsequently determined to find the monster themselves.
19. Nosotros los Nobles
Three spoiled children who are cut off from their family fortune and forced to do the unthinkable – get a job.
20. El Hijo de la Novia
At age 42, Rafael Belvedere is having a crisis. He lives in the shadow of his father, he feels guilty about rarely visiting his aging mother, his ex-wife says he doesn’t spend enough time with their daughter and he has yet to make a commitment to his girlfriend. At his lowest point, a minor heart attack reunites him with Juan Carlos, a childhood friend, who helps Rafael to reconstruct his past and look at the present in new ways.
“A Matador’s Mistress” is a tragically eloquent dance of the cold brutality of uncommitted love and the high stakes of the Bullfight. Immerse yourself in the culture of Spain surrounding the age old traditions of the Matador. While the bullfight is controversial by today’s standards, the ancient art-form is depicted with unflinching realism. The story is of man against beast, the bullfighter’s zen, if you will; his nightly dance with death. A world-class lover enters his world; their code is their truth. Life being lived, edgy, relentlessly flirting with disaster, untamed, beautiful.
22. Los Tarantos
A boy and a girl from two rival Gypsy families fall in love.
23. El Bosque Animado
In the fantastic world of the “bosque animado” meet some people who have been transported to this place by a magic force. Now their histories cross one another.
24. El Extraño Viaje
Paquita and her brother Venancio, both single and childish, live in a small town near Madrid. Their bossy eldest sister Ignacia, also an old maid, dominates them. One night, Paquita hears her sister tell somebody about her intention to sell all the family wealth. Once the money is gathered, she wishes to travel to Paris with the mysterious person and get rid of her brother and sister. Paquita and Venancio are terrified…
Spain 17th century. Diego Alatriste, brave and heroic soldier, is fighting under his King’s army in the Flandes region. His best friend, Balboa, falls in a trap and on his death bed asks Diego, as his last desire, to look after his son Inigo and help him grow as a soldier. Alatriste has to come back to Madrid.
What are some of your favorite Spanish Language films that didn’t make our list? Let us know in the comments section below!