Learning Spanish through Netflix

My favorite Spanish language films streaming on Netflix

When I was translating for Latino immigrants, I practiced my rusty Spanish by watching movies. I learned different slang and dialects based on the time period or location of films set in Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Bolivia and Argentina. I’ve heard what life might sound like in rural Colombia, the streets of Mexico City and 1960s Argentina. Through Netflix, you can travel the world without leaving your couch.

“Amores Perros”

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Mexico. 2001. Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu. Screenplay: Guillermo Arriaga.

The film interweaves three different characters’ stories around one intense accident. It’s fast-paced, bold and emotional. A masterpiece of filmmaking. 

“También la lluvia”

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Spain. Set in Bolivia. 2010. Director: Icíar Bollaín. Screenplay: Paul Laverty.

Spanish filmmakers explore social issues of water scarcity and imperialism in present-day Bolivia. However, when the Spanish crew fail to listen to their Bolivian counterparts, history begins to repeat itself. 

“Como agua para chocolate” 

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Mexico. 1992. Director: Alfonso Arau. Screenplay: Laura Esquivel.

Based on the novel also written by Esquivel. A beautiful piece of magical realism set in Mexico at the turn of the 20th century. 

“Y Tu Mamá También”

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Mexico. 2001. Director: Alfonso Cuarón. Screenplay: Alfonso and Carlos Cuarón.

Two boys from Mexico embark on a road trip with Luisa, a beautiful, older woman from Spain. The trip, along with a twist ending, teaches them about sex, love and friendship.

“La Sirga”

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Colombia. 2012. Director, screenplay: William Vega.

Stark and haunting, this quiet film details the life of Alicia, a Colombian refugee, who goes to live with her uncle in the High Andes after her village is destroyed. It’s a low-key film, some say too slow, but I found it’s pace striking and deliberate. “La Sirga” proves Colombian cinema has staying power.

“El sueño de Valentín”

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Argentina. 2002. Director, screenplay: Alejandro Agresti.

Sharp but adorable Valentín dreams of becoming an astronaut in 1960s Argentina. He lives with his grandmother after his parents separate. As his family crumbles around him,Valentín uses humor and tenacity to make his world a better place.

“La Lengua de las Mariposas”

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BUTTERFLY TONGUES, (aka LA LENGUA DE LAS MARIPOSAS), Manuel Lozano, Fernando Fernán Gómez, 1999. ©Miramax Films/ Colection

Spain. 1999. Director: José Luis Cuerda. Screenplay: Cuerda, Manuel Rivas, Rafael Azcona.

The story revolves around the friendship between a shy Galician boy and his Jewish teacher before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The film is sweet and offers a glimpse of small-town Spain in the 1930s. However, the ending is abrupt and illustrates the haunting complexity of childhood regret.

Bonus film

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*Not streaming on Netflix, but this list wouldn’t be complete without the incomparable “Pan’s Labyrinth” by Mexican director, Guillermo del Toro.*

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Gracias por leer. Buen viaje!! 

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