From the beginning of time, we’ve seen Spanish movies evolve and adapt to the viewers’ expectations, right from their budget, production design, genres, 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 among the most widely watched films across the world, as it is also one of the most spoken and understood languages in the world.
20. Toro (2016)
”Toro’ is a gangster movie about the importance of family. We follow Toro (Spanish for “bull”), a former con man who 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 thrillers, 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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19. 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 the 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 at the very outset. Watch it to find out more.
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18. Seventeen (2019)
‘Seventeen’ is a film directed by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, and is about a boy who lives in a youth detention centre. This boy in question, Hector, falls in love with a dog he sees at an animal rescue centre, and in order to locate it, he decides to escape from his confinement. We follow Hector as he goes through several obstacles on his way to locating this dog, all the while being accompanied by his brother Ismael. The visual effects of this film, along with the inherent warmth that it exudes, makes it a rather compelling watch.
17. 1898: Our Last Men in The Philippines (2016) [1898: Los últimos de Filipinas]
This film is 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 failing 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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16. Through My Window (2022)
Inspired by Ariana Godoy’s novel of the same name, ‘Through My Window’ is a teen romance film that stars Julio Peña, Clara Galle, and Pilar Castro. The Marçal Forés directorial follows Raquel, an ordinary young adult who is madly in love with her next-door neighbor Ares. Unfortunately, when her family learns about her feelings for him, they are extremely saddened by it and express their disapproval of any relationship that can potentially form between the two. But will it stop Raquel from following her heart and finally gathering the courage to open up about her feelings to Ames? In order to find out, you will have to watch ‘Through My Window.’
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15. Elisa And Marcela (2019)
One of the most important original films by Netflix, ‘Elisa And Marcela’ tells the story of the first-ever same-sex marriage of Spain. The two leading characters are women who first meet as friends, but soon realize that their relationship cannot be confined to mere friendship and that they are in love with each other. They manage to keep their emotions for each other a secret for 15 long years before finally one of the women dressed as a man, marries the other person, and gets the necessary documents for the same. The major problem of the film is its writing. It does not offer us emotionally engaging scenes which will make us fall in love with the protagonists. Because this is a true story, it has to be told in a way that audiences find it interesting to watch.
14. Who Would You Take to a Deserted Island? (2019)
When you are living among friends, you feel like you are at the top of the world and can achieve anything. However, the reality out there is not as nice, and will often put you in your right place. This is exactly what happens to the four friends, who are the central characters of this film. They have all been living together, but when they are about to face the world outside, they wonder what are the challenges that await them. The film boasts of fine performances from the actors, along with an interesting approach to the cinematography by director Jota Linares. He uses handheld cameras so that there is a certain level of intimacy which we can form with the characters, thus helping us to get lost in their stories in the process.
13. Toc Toc (2017)
“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 common ground as they wait for their appointment.
12. Amar (2017)
Starring María Pedraza, Pol Monen, and Natalia Tena, ‘Amar’ is a romantic drama film directed and written by Esteban Crespo. The film follows the intense love affair of Laura and Carlos, a young couple who are crazy for each other. Laura is eager to settle down with the love of his life and wants to break free from her mother’s control as soon as possible. She plans to get pregnant with Carlos, but things soon take a surprising turn, and just a few months later, the madly in love couple grow further apart from one another.
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11. 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 the 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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10. The Platform (2019)
Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s ‘The Platform’ is a social science fiction-horror film that stars Iván Massagué, Antonia San Juan, and Zorion Eguileor. The movie revolves around a prison that uses the Vertical Self-Management Center tower-style architecture to keep criminals. The system of feeding the prisoners is a bit strange as the food is provided from top to the bottom tier. Since the people in lower levels only get the leftovers, there is naturally a rift and jealousy between the criminals that is slowly creating a big conflict.
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9. 7 Anos (2016)
Picture this — a highly successful company, four founders with similar credentials, all four of them are blind, and massive tax fraud has been detected. ‘7 Anos’ deals with the dilemma of the right vs. the wrong and who should turn themselves in 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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8. Our Lovers (2016) [Nuestros Amantes]
Carlos and Irene accidentally meet each other at 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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7. The Invisible Guest (2016)
Featuring stand-out performances by Mario Casas, Ana Wagener, José Coronado, and Bárbara Lennie, ‘The Invisible Guest’ is a mystery film written and directed by Oriol Paulo. The movie revolves around a young businessperson who one day finds himself locked in a hotel room. Once he begins to take cognizance of his circumstances, he finds the dead body of her lover, who was probably murdered when he was unconscious. Now, the responsibility of proving himself innocent is on the shoulders of the protagonist, who hires a team of prestigious lawyers to defend him in court.
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6. Veronica (2017)
Written by Fernando Navarro, ‘Veronica’ is a supernatural horror film that stars Sandra Escacena, Sonia Almarcha, and Bruna González. The story revolves around an innocent teenage girl who decides to resort to desperate measures in the hopes of seeing her father again. She uses an Ouija board to summon his spirit, but things go horribly wrong in the process. She soon loses consciousness, and when she later wakes up, the protagonist realizes that evil demons have heard her calling and have therefore arrived.
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5. Mirage (2018)
Directed and co-written by Oriol Paulo, ‘Mirage’ is a mystery-drama film. The Adriana Ugarte and Chino Darín-starrer revolve around a young mother named Vera, who manages to save the life of a person in distress, unbeknownst to the far-reaching consequences of her actions. When the reality is altered because of the space-time continuum glitch, things soon begin to spiral out of control. Now, Vera finds herself in a very tricky situation where even the lives of her loved ones are not safe.
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4. The Perfect Dictatorship (2014) [La Dictadura Perfecta]
Depicting a power struggle in Mexico between the current President and Governor Vargas, ‘The Perfect Dictatorship’ uses 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 and you can stream it on Netflix right now.
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2. 100 Meters (2016)
An awe-inspiring true story that will move you to the core, ‘100 Meters’ 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. He then goes on to complete the contest, thus becoming the very first person with Multiple Sclerosis to do so.
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1. 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 were 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.
12. Roma (2018)
‘Roma’ is the film which helped establish Netflix as one of the most important film production houses in the world today. Director Alfonso Cuaron has made a lot of movies till date, but none of them is as personal and as emotionally engaging as this one. The story of the film is set around a middle-class Mexican family living in Mexico City who has a rather dedicated maid called Cleo. When the father of this family leaves suddenly one day, the mother has to bear the responsibility of raising the children on her own. We follow the lives of the family as the children learn to grow in the hostile political landscape of Mexico. Besides this family, the filmmaker also makes us understand the condition of the working-class woman with the character of Cleo. The one thing which will make you go back to this film is the wonderful love which is shared between this family and Cleo. The camerawork in this film, also done by Cuaron, is masterful.
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