There are several different ways to practice Spanish: talking to native speakers, reading the news in Spanish, changing your language preference on your social media accounts, signing up for classes, or just plain old immersion. If a trip to Spain or Latin America is not in your foreseeable future, don’t fret. There are ways that you can practice Spanish without even having to put on pants! Get those minds out of the gutter, friends, we’re talking about Spanish films.
How can watching a film help me learn a language?
↠ There’s visual context, so you can pick up on clues such as facial expressions and body language.
↠ If you’ve already seen the film, awesome, even more context. But even if you haven’t you can watch the preview, or the trailer in order to better follow the plot. Think of it as Sparknotes.
↠ The characters speak naturally, quickly, and use a variety of expressions that aren’t limited to: Hello, How are you? I’m fine thank you, and you?
↠ Actors are dramatic. They over-exaggerate, so again, it helps you to associate certain words and expressions with specific moods, situations and contexts. If a man scream: “Esto no es mi hijo! Mi hijo está muerto!” Well, you know they’re not singing happy birthday.
↠ You can stop, pause, rewind, and watch it again without feeling pesado for asking people to repeat themselves.
↠ If you’re like me, you may get the nervous sweats. So, by practicing Spanish at home, watching films, not only are you entertained, you’re free to awkwardly repeat what you hear aloud, sweat when you mess up or don’t understand, pause the film and scour the interwebs for a translation, and most of all: you do this from the comfort of your couch, or bed. Pants optional.
Below, I’ve listed 10 Spanish Films to help you learn a second (or third) language. I chose them because they’re genuinely good films, but also because their plots vary in terms difficulty level, and for the variety of accents. It’s important to train your ears to recognize the nuances in the Spanish language. Just as Americans can tell a Texas accent from a New York one, well there’s a huge difference between Colombian (from Bogotá) and a Cuban accents.
El Secreto de sus ojos
It’s a crime drama filled with suspense, plot twists and winks at the Argentinian Dirty War.
La Lengua de las mariposas
This is a story about the sweet relationship between a young Spanish boy, and his teacher and as the story develops, we see just how the Civil War comes in and changes their lives forever.
Chico Y Rita
Country: Spain (Takes place in Cuba & US)
Genre: Animated film
This animated film is for the lovers of jazz music! It’s about a Cuban musician that falls in love with a singer. Their love story spans decades, and changes with the times.
También la lluvia
Country: Spain (Set in Bolivia)
It’s a star-packed film about a group of filmmakers who set off to Bolivia to make movie about Colombus’ landing and conquests in the New World; however, history repeats itself as we see the striking parallels between the original peoples of Bolivia, and the locals hired to “act” in the film (within a film).
La virgen de los sicarios
Country: Set in Colombia (Medellín)
Genre: Crime, Romance
This film is heavy, and it’s based off of the novel of the same title by Fernando Vallejo. It deals with homosexuality, love, drugs, and violence.
La mala educación
This film is for the thinkers and the creatives. Its main themes include: drug use, transxuality, sexual abuse within the Catholic church, and 1980’s Madrid sub-culture. Did I also mention it’s a murder mystery?
This story is so heartwarming and relatable. It’s about a nine year old boy with curly hair who is obsessed with making it straight like the images of singers and celebrities that bombard his television. This would be all fine, if not for his scared, paranoid working-class mother weren’t stricken by a crippling homophobia that causes her to react harshly towards her confused, and lonely son.
Genre: Crime Drama
This story is based off of true events surrounding a beauty pageant contestant in Baja, Mexico. This is what happens when the line that separates the police and the criminals gets blurry and spills into the daily lives of the citizens.
A petty thief tries to clean his life up upon learning that he has a terminal illness, all the while caring for his children and making sure their futures are as secure as possible. Javier Bardem is magical.
La belle epoque
Genre: Romance, Drama
This film is about a large family living in the Beautiful Era right before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The happenings of a large family of sisters in the Spanish countryside are funny, heartwarming, entertaining, and dare I say, even sexy at times.
There are so many more films that I’d love to add to this list, but here’s a great starting point!
Which of these movies did you like? What would you add to the list?
Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful life partner. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.