9 Mexican Movie Classics perfect for a Spanish crash course

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(Ahorita Ya).- Traditional textbooks, online classes, and language-learning apps often fall short in providing the cultural immersion and real-nuances that you will experience once your are in Mexico. These are the type of things that bring vocabulary and grammar to life. Mexican cinema offers more than just entertainment, many movies are like a dynamic classroom filled with linguistic and cultural insights.

Follow the authentic dialogues and expressions. Watch them twice (or more!), starting off with subtitles in your native language, then switching them to Spanish subtitles whenever you feel ready. Immerse in Spanish language through the lens of Mexican cinema. It’s a way to enhance your Spanish skills that I always highly recommend to students, when I was a teacher. In this blog post we will share 9 classic Mexican movies to help you practice the language, ánd to learn a bit more about Mexican culture and society. A win-win, don’t you think?

The Mexican Movie Industry

Way back in 1898, Mexico’s first silent movie Don Juan Tenorio marked the start of the Mexican movie industry. This was the beginning of an enormous amount of cinematic gems to come from Mexican directors and cast. Now, Mexican movies find their way in worldwide cinemas. Some examples of this:

  • Amores Perros (2000, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu)
  • Desierto (2016, directed by Jonás Cuarón)
  • Roma (2018, directed by Alfonso Cuarón)

It was in the 1930s to 1960s that Mexican cinema lived its Golden Age, with iconic figures starring such as Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, Dolores del Río, and María Félix. The innovative storytelling, diversity in genre and theme makes that Mexican movies gained worldwide recognition and fame. Most of us have heard names of filmmakers such as Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón. From dramas to comedies – Mexican film has it all and will show you a but of the complexities of Mexican culture, identity, and society.

Why Use Mexican Cinema for Spanish Practice

Levering Mexican movies for Spanish language practice is not merely about enriching your vocabulary or mastering grammer. It’s about immersing yourself in Mexican culture, history, and societal nuances. Film is a fantastic, engaging medium for this. Reasons to use Mexican cinema for your Spanish practice:

  • Cultural Context: Peak into Mexico’s social norms, values, traditions, and history. Movies often reflect cultural celebrations and everyday life in Mexico. A perfect (laid-back) way to learn!
  • Authentic Language Exposure: What you hear in movies, won’t be in general Spanish textbooks. Movies include idiomatic expressions, regional dialects, and slang. You will witness up-beat conversations as if you were on the streets in Mexico.
  • Diverse Genres and Themes: Whether you’re into thriller, drama, comedy, or fantasy – Mexican cinema has it all.
  • Enhance Listening, Conversation and Comprehension Skills: If you watch Mexican movies on a regular basis, you will soon improve listening, conversation and comprehension skills. Different speeds of speech and accents will help you in daily life in Mexico.

Practical Tips

Of course you are free to dive straight into movie platforms and pick the first Mexican movie that pops up. But if you really want to use Mexican cinema in your Spanish practice, these tips might come in handy:

  • Use Subtitles Wisely: If you’re a beginner, English subtitles can help you understand. Set a goal and transition to Spanish subtitles as soon as you feel ready for it.
  • Active Watching: Watch the movie when you feel energized and eager to learn. Don’t check in at 9PM and fall asleep after 10 minutes.
  • Choose the Right Movie: Choose a film that matches your Spanish proviciency level. Therefore, we divided our 9 top-picks in beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.
  • Cultural Immersion: Try to understand the cultural contexts and historical references portrayed in the movies. Speak to Mexican friends and families about it.
  • Post-Movie Activities: Talk to (Mexican) friends about the movies that you’ve seen. You could even keep a diary with summaries, of new words or phrases that you learned from watching them.

Our 9 top-picks

After many hours of watching Mexican movies, we chose 9 Mexican movies that will definitely enhance your Spanish skills and offer a glimpse into Mexican culture and society. Most of them can be found on Netflix, Amazon Prime, of YouTube. Netflix Mexico even has a category of “Mexican Movies”, check it out! You will find light-hearted film such as ¿Qué Culpa Tiene el Niño?, No Se Aceptan Devoluciones, Mirreyes Contra Godínez, and La Dictatura Perfecta.

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3 Mexican Movies for Beginners

We carefully selected these three Mexican movies for beginner Spanish learners, as they contain clear narratives and slow-paces dialogues. And of course, they offer a sneak-peak into Mexican culture!

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1. “Como Agua Para Chocolate” (1992, directed by Alfonso Arau)
This film is based on the similarly named novel by Laura Esquivel. It’s a magical realism story that takes place in early 20th century Mexico, revolving around the life of Tita. She is forbidden to marry her true love, Pedro, and expresses her feelings through cooking. If you’re into romance, drama, and magic, this movie will make your heart beat faster. It offers a glimpse into Mexican culture, traditions, and cuisine.

Como Agua Para Chocolate
Source: https://www.mexicodesconocido.com.mx/como-agua-para-chocolate-pelicula-novela-laura-esquivel.html

2. “El Libro de Piedra” (1969, directed by Carlos Enrique Taboada)
Although this is an old movie, it’s a Mexican horror classic about a young girl who becomes friends with a mysterious statue in the garden of her new home. This friendship leads to spooky occurrences… With a straightforward plot and a clear use of language, this movie is great for beginners to follow along while getting used to Mexican Spanish pronunciation.

3. “Nosotros Los Nobles” (2013, directed by Gary Alazraki)
We love this contemporary comedy about three spoiled children. Their father forces them to do something they’ve never done before: work. You can imagine the funny situations that result from this. The movie is a clear depiction of modern Mexican society with easy-to-follow dialogues, with some typical Mexican slang too.

3 Mexican Movies for Intermediate Spanish Learners

For those who are looking for more up-beat conversations and cultural insights for further immersion into Mexican Spanish, these 3 movies could help.

1. “Amores Perros” (2000, directed by Alejandro González Iñárittu)
This movie gained international recognition and multiple awards, as it reflects a compelling portrait of life in Mexico City. Filled with complex characters and dynamic dialogue, it weaves together three stories, linked by a car accident.

2. “La Ley de Herodes” (1999, directed by Luis Estrada)
This satirical political comedy is a must-see if you want to have a deeper understanding of corruption you might find in Mexico. It criticizes the political system, bureaucracy and corruption, and is filled with dark humor and irony. The language used is enriched with idioms that will give you an idea of Mexican society. We are sure that you will hear the expression “La Ley de Herodes, o te chingas, o te jodes” when you talk to Mexican friends. This movie explains the origins of this expression. Go for it!

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3. “Y Tu Mamá También” (2001 directed by Alfonso Cuarón)
Starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, this movie offers rich dialogues with colloquial language and slang. It’s a real taste of how Spanish is spoken in everyday situations in Mexico. Besides, the story is a cultural reference for understanding Mexico’s social and political nuances. Y Tu Mamá También is a coming-of-age drama that explores themes of friendship, sexuality, and the socio-political layers in Mexico. Follow two teenage boys and a woman on a road trip across Mexico.

Y Tu Mamá También
Source: https://www.espinof.com/criticas/y-tu-mama-tambien-lirico-viaje-al-corazon-herido-de-mexico

3 Mexican Movies for Advanced Spanish Skills

Advanced Mexican Spanish speakers and seasoned Mexico lovers might appreciate our last 3 choices, that provoke thought and present complex societal views, apart from being drenched with linguistic richness. They offer a great opportunity to refine your understanding of the Spanish language and immerse into the diversity of Mexican cinema.

1. “Los Olvidados” (1950, directed by Luis Buñuel)
This movie is a masterpiece of Mexican cinema. It presents a raw and realistic portrayal of impoverished youths in the slims of Mexico City. For sure, this one will offer a linguistic challenge because of its use of regional expressions and slang, and complex view of society combined with surreal elements.

2. “El Laberinto del Fauno” (2006, directed by Guillermo del Toro)
Another masterpiece, set in post-Civil War Spain. The story intertwines the real world with a mythical one, centered around a young girl. It’s a complex narrative that offers lots of metaphors and historical contexts. A must see for advanced Spanish learners.

El Laberinto del Fauno
Source: https://www.warnerbroslatino.com/es-pe/peliculas/el-laberinto-del-fauno

3. “Güeros” (2014, directed by Alonso Ruizpalacios)
Follow three university students during a period of social unrest in 1999 Mexico City in this black-and-white road movie. It’s filled with witty dialogue and cultural references, making use of Mexican slang.

Mexican Movies to Go See in Theaters

Are you already in Mexico and want to get out of your comfort zone? Visit a Mexican cinema such as Cinemex or Cinépolis and go see a Mexican movie (in Spanish, without subtitles!). These are some of your options (2024):

Embracing Mexican movies as part of your Spanish learning and cultural immersion journey offers more than just an improvement in language skills: it open a window to Mexican ways of life and besides, it’s fun! Each movie will show you a bit of Mexico, and you will soon find that you recognize bits when walking anywhere in the country.

To dive deeper into the cultural context, we invite you to explore the pages of “What the Mexpat”, a comprehensive book that offers insights to themes of integrating into Mexican culture and society. By critically thinking of your own contribution to this process of integration, you’ll not only bolster your understanding but also develop a thorough understanding of life in Mexico.

Embark on this cultural journey today, and let “What the Mexpat” be your guide to understanding Mexican culture and society. Available now for those who wish to deepen their appreciation of all that Mexico has to offer. It’s just a page turn away!

Source: Ahorita Ya