I'm delighted to feature a guest post by Katie Porter about the best Spanish-language movies.
If you're learning Spanish and you've reached the intermediate level, then starting to watch movies in Spanish can be a fun way to complement your learning.
In this post, Katie will give you a few tips on how to choose which films to watch as a learner, as well as recommending some of her own personal favourites!
So over to Katie…
Not only are movies more entertaining than traditional language-learning methods, but they also allow you to develop thoughts and ideas about culture and context too, instead of just focusing on the language in isolation.
If you learn Spanish watching movies as an intermediate student, that can have a lot of benefits because the experience differs a lot from that of a classroom or learning with a tutor.
Here are some benefits of learning Spanish from movies:
Firstly, you get an overall experience of not just the language but also the cultural aspect of Spanish. This allows you to get used to the rhythm and sound of real language. And put them into context from the scene and surroundings.
Secondly, in movies, the language used is generally conversational. So you will be able to pick up words and phrases in the context of conversations. And be able to use them later on in real life
Thirdly, pairing learning Spanish from a book or course with movies in the language helps you create associations and pick up on words that you might have already studied as you hear them in the movie
Finally, movies keep you engrossed and captivated by the story. In order for you to understand the story, you need to make sure you pay full attention to the words and understand what’s happening. The plot of the movie will keep you motivated to actually pay more attention and put in that little extra effort to learn the language.
By the way, if you want to improve your Spanish listening skills so that you can understand fast-talking native speakers, then check out Spanish Conversations.
My conversations courses are designed especially for intermediate learners and teach you through my innovative StoryLearning® method.
The Spanish-language movies you select will play a vital role in how much you learn.
You need to select a movie that not only keeps your attention but takes you on a journey. The more of an emotional connection you have with the movie, the more you will put in that extra effort and actually learn Spanish by watching movies.
Another good option is to watch Spanish dubbed movies, preferably movies you have already seen in English. Watching dubbed movies, you’ve already seen in English will allow you to follow the story while also introducing you to new vocabulary and structures in Spanish.
However, for upper intermediate and advanced level learners, watching completely new movies in Spanish is probably a more suitable and fun exercise. At this level, you already have an extensive knowledge of the language and its vocabulary so you can truly understand the movie.
The challenge becomes adapting to different accents, learning new slang words, and adjusting to the speed of native-level conversation.
When selecting a movie, make sure you select the movie based on your level of Spanish.
As a beginner, it’s best not to start off with a movie that uses too many complex words or themes. Trying something too hard may completely put you off the experience and demotivate you.
Start with Spanish movies for beginners, such as animated movies or movies for children. The language in these movies is generally easier to understand and conversations are not too tough to follow. You can find plenty of Spanish animated movies on Netflix.
Build up towards more difficult films from there.
Later, as an intermediate or advanced learner, you can take on movies that are more complex in terms of dialogue.
Go into the experience with an open mind, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
You can’t expect to understand every single word you hear. Instead, focus on trying to get the gist of the story and follow along. Allow your mind to fill in the gaps in your comprehension based on the context.
Don’t pause the movie every time you hear a word you don’t understand to look it up. This defeats the whole purpose of watching the movie to experience the language in a natural way!
However, when you hear a word or phrase you feel is particularly important for your learning, write it down, and you can look it up afterwards.
Ok, ready? Here's a list of some of my favourite Spanish language films that are perfect for intermediate and advanced learners!
10 Best Spanish Movies For Intermediate Learners
Spanish movies are best suited to intermediate and advanced learners who will be able to understand and benefit from them.
If that’s you, then why not check out some of the best Spanish-language movies on this list?
These movies are sure to keep you glued to your seat, eager to watch more and learn more Spanish too! There aren't any new Spanish movies on this list, they're all classics that have won multiple awards. Many of them appear on “best Spanish movies of all time” lists.
El Laberinto Del Fauno is a dark fantasy film directed by the legendary Mexican director Guillermo del Toro. In English, it's called Pan's Labyrinth.
It tells the story of a young girl, the stepdaughter of a fascist army officer, who finds herself transported to a dark and mysterious yet captivating fantasy world.
It is chilling but provides a shocking glimpse into Spanish history – living in a dictatorship after the civil war. It truly is a must-watch.
This one’s worth the time and effort because with a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.2 on IMDB, there aren’t many better films in the dark fantasy genre, which del Toro somewhat created!
This is one of the good movies to learn Spanish thanks to an easy-to-follow storyline.
Amores Perros is Alejandro González Iñárritu’s directorial debut and focuses on three stories all linked by the same horrific car accident.
Iñárritu would later go on to win Best Director Oscars for both Birdman and The Revenant.
This is one of the most compelling Spanish-language thrillers of all time and received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
It also provides valuable insight into Iñárritu’s early cinematic style, allowing the film buffs among you to compare it to his current approach.
The movie was made in Mexico, is a great example of Mexican cinema, and gives you a change to get more accustomed to the Mexican dialect.
Abre Los Ojos is a romantic drama starring Eduardo Noriega and Penélope Cruz.
It was directed by Alejandro Amenábar and centres around a handsome man who suffers a facial disfigurement in a horrible accident and deals with that together with the love of his life.
It won the Best Picture award at the Tokyo Film Festival and is very popular because it is an emotional, compelling, and heartwarming story.
The dialogue in this film is excellent. So it will allow you to better understand how the Spanish-spoken language works in real-life conversations.
Made in Spain, it will also help you practise understanding Iberian Spanish, as spoken in Spain.
Y Tu Mamá Tambien is a 2001 film directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who would later go on to win an Academy Award for Best Director for his work on Gravity (2013).
Cuarón was the first Mexican to win the Oscar for Best Director and Y Tu Mamá También was one of his early works.
It’s a raunchy comedy about two teenage boys who go on a road trip with an older woman.
The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Writing in an Original Screenplay. And is a genuinely gripping yet hilarious movie.
This is another Mexican film which makes it an ideal choice if you want to get used to Mexican slang and pronunciation.
Hable con ella is a film directed by legendary Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar. And stars musician Rosario Flores.
It is about two men looking after two other women who have suffered comas. And the friendship that forms between them.
It won an Academy Award for Best Writing in an Original Screenplay and is a heart-warming mystery that packs a punch.
This film is great for learners because it allows you to develop a better understanding of different niche topics in the language.
Hable con ella is another movie made in Spain. So if you’re learning Iberian Spanish, it’s a great option.
El hijo de la novia is a 2001 comedic drama starring Ricardo Darín, Héctor Alterio and Norma Aleandro.
It centers around the main character, Rafael, who suffers a mid-life crisis. After a minor heart attack, he's reunited with a boyhood friend who helps him to get his life back together again.
This one is as funny as it is emotional and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Another classic from Argentina, El secreto de sus ojos is a romantic mystery film from the same director as El hijo de la novia, and also stars Ricardo Darín.
It tells the story of a former legal counsellor who is still in love with his ex-boss. In addition, an unresolved case from his past still haunts him.
It is a truly gripping film that will give you an insight into some of the more complex vocabulary in the Spanish language.
8. Relatos Salvajes (2014)
This film literally translates to “Wild Tales” in English. The award-winning film by Argentinian director Damián Szifron explores the darker side of human behaviour and makes you think about the society we live in. In the movie, Szifron shows capitalism as a cage that makes people explode with rage at inappropriate moments.
It follows six different people and shows what happens to them when they decide not to behave in the way society expects them to. This theme makes for a great black comedy that is easy to follow, even if you aren't advanced in Spanish.
The critically acclaimed movie is easily one of the best Spanish-language movies to come out in the last decade; you should add it to your list!
9. Volver (2006)
A comedy-drama with an all-star cast, this movie follows the family of a working-class woman from a region south of Madrid.
The title means to return and is the story of what happens when one of the two sisters returns for a funeral. A lot of drama ensues as family secrets get uncovered and relationships become strained.
The movie premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006 and competed for the Palm d'Or. It received two awards at the festival and Penelope Cruz was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress (the first Spanish woman to be nominated for this award).
10. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
This is the true story of the journey Ernesto Guevara takes across South America with his friend Alberto Granado.
Ernesto would later become internationally famous as the Marxist guerilla Che Guevara. The film explores how Ernesto developed his worldview influenced by what he observed on his journey. He saw inequality and destitution, along with many other social issues he was previously unaware of.
This film is based on Guervara's real diaries from the trip during which the best friends travelled from Buenos Aires in Argentina through Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela.
The film is exciting and mesmerising as you see Ernesto's transformation from privileged city boy to budding revolutionary. You'll get to learn some Argentinian slang and marvel at the backdrop of the South American continent.
Time To Start Watching!
So there you have it – 10 must-watch movies from Spanish-speaking countries for intermediate Spanish learners!
Wondering where to watch Spanish movies? You should be able to easily find most of these Spanish movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Both of those streaming applications have a wide variety of movies and tv shows in Spanish. So don’t just stop with the movies on this list – look for others that interest you too!
Remember, while movies are a great way to pick up on a language, you can’t expect yourself to be an expert in a language by just watching movies.
Movies serve as an aid to the learning experience but can’t be your only resource.
You also need to read, speak and actually apply what you learn if you want to learn Spanish fast, which you can’t really do with a movie.
However, movies can be an effective tool to help you pick up new words, get used to different accents, and improve your listening skills.
Besides, they’re enjoyable, and that further enhances your learning experience.
So get the popcorn ready and ¡disfrútalos!
Katie Porter is an aspiring writer, movie lover, and part of the team at Seatup. In her free time, she enjoys exploring her home state Colorado and plays in women’s amateur rugby league.
Finally, if you're eager for even more Spanish movies, watch this video with my own personal recommendations: