We are about right in the middle of Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month, so what better way to celebrate than to watch movies that embrace Latinx/Hispanic culture? Over the last decades, representation has slowly, but surely, increased but there’s still a long way to go. Films like Roma emphasize the importance of international storytelling and begin, what is hopefully, a trend of visibility for the community.
Below are 8 films essential for Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month. Make sure to check out HBO Max and Hulu’s Latino category to watch their featured selections as well!
1. La Misma Luna, Directed by Patricia Riggen, 2008
If you’re like me, you watched this movie as a Univision re-run and again seven years later in a high school Spanish class. Confession: the movie brought me to tears both times. La Misma Luna follows a young boy left behind in Mexico by his mother who crosses the U.S.-Mexico border in pursuit of a better life. When his grandmother dies, he goes on a long journey to Los Angeles to be reunited with his mother. Kate Del Castillo, Eugenio Derbez, and Adrián Alfonso bring tear-jerking performances that tell the powerful story of thousands of immigrants. You can watch the film through a Starz subscription or through rent or purchase on iTunes, Vudu, and YouTube.
2. Dolor y Gloria, Directed by Pedro Almodóvar, 2019
Named by TIME as Best Film of The Year in 2019 and nominated for two Academy Awards, my list would be incomplete without this gem. Renowned Director Pedro Almodóvar draws from his own life to tell the story of a film director struggling through writer’s block and the decline of both his health and his career. Featuring an acclaimed performance from Antonio Banderas as well as stars like Penelope Cruz and Rosalía, Dolor y Gloria is a must-watch for Hispanic Heritage Month. The film can be found on Starz or through purchase.
3. Y Tu Mamá También, Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, 2001
Widely seen as Alfonso Cuarón’s breakthrough, Y Tu Mamá También is a feel-good film that shows the coming-of-age and sexual exploration of two best friends on a road trip with a heartbroken woman named Luisa whose husband just cheated on her. The road trip is a defining, sexually-liberating moment for all three of them as they each explore their friendship while they travel through Mexico. While remaining one of Caurón’s most censored films, it’s a pivotal film in Mexican cinema with visually-pleasing cinematography and enjoyable screenwriting. The film is available on Netflix.
4. Roma, Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, 2018
The black and white film became one of the pivotal films of 2018 portraying the story of Cleo, an indigenous domestic worker played by first-time actress Yalitza Aparicio. Roma details the influence that domestic workers have in families as Cleo becomes a motherly figure to the four children in the household and a support-system for Sofía, the matriarch of the family. Not only did this film break records at the Academy Awards, but it also improved visibility being one of the few movies that feature an indigenous character in a lead role. You can watch the film on Netflix.
5. Como Agua Para Chocolate, Directed by Alfonso Arau, 1992
Being one of my personal favorites because of its uniqueness and the performances, Como Agua Para Chocolate explores stereotypical gender roles and the politics of a matriarchal household through magical realism. Tita, the youngest daughter of the matriarch, is forbidden from marrying the love of her life because she must take care of Mama Elena until her death. Through Tita’s cooking, she shares her sorrows, frustrations, and lustful feelings for others to experience through the consumption of her food. It’s available on HBO Max and through rent or purchase.
6. Tesis, Directed by Alejandro Amenábar, 1996
The thriller film by Academy Award-Winning Director Alejandro Amenábar is about Ángela, an art school student who finds it in her to write her thesis about violence. As part of her research, she looks at snuff films of people being tortured and murdered. She finds that one of the videos is of a student who went missing two years prior. Intending to write her thesis, she instead finds herself solving a murder mystery only to discover out that the killer is even closer than she expected. Tesis keeps you on edge from start to finish as you follow Ángela doing the most to get her thesis completed. The film is available for rent on iTunes.
7. Pelo Malo, Directed by Mariana Rondón, 2014
The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival back in 2013, yet its themes continue to resonate with many issues today. The film focuses on a young boy living in Caracas, Venezuela struggling with his Afro-Latinidad, which he expresses through him attempting to straighten his “pelo malo,” a term used in Venezuela to describe Afro-textured hair. He begins to explore his gender and sexuality as well as he dresses up for pretend pageants. The coming-of-age film portrays the cultural beliefs on race and sexuality as the young boy grows up attempting to move through society as his true self. Pelo malo is available for free on Tubi.
8. Instructions Not Included, Directed by Eugenio Derbez, 2013
Knowing Eugenio Derbez from his popular sitcoms on Univision, it was impressive to see the way he broke into Hollywood with his directorial debut, Instructions Not Included. The film follows a socialite whose former romantic interest leaves him with a baby. He finds himself raising her for six years and grows a father-daughter bond he would’ve never expected. The heartwarming film went on to become the highest-grossing Spanish-Language film in the U.S. The film is available for free on Tubi.
Frida, Directed by Julie Taymor, 2002 -- A biopic focused on the life of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo
Selena, Directed by Dave Gruslin, 1997 -- The classic Selena Quintanilla biopic starring Jennifer Lopez