Best Movies for Learning Spanish

In our last post, we told you about all of the traditional ways we’re trying to learn Spanish, like using books and online learning tools. Now we’re going to get to the fun part: movies. You can only study with books so much so whenever we can we fit in a Spanish-speaking movie. Sometimes the Spanish is so fast that we pick up only a word or two but hearing the words and seeing the translation in subtitles seems to be helping. Although I’m sure we’re learning Spanish with all of the films we’ve seen—both good and bad—some of them are really, really bad. Terrible acting, plots that don’t seem to go anywhere, silly love triangles, we’ve seen it all. Hence this post. Here are some of our favorite movies for learning Spanish.


Best Movie to Learn Spanish

    • Tambien La Lluvia– A film within a film, Even the Rain depicts the making of a film about Christopher Columbus. Set in the backdrop of Bolivia’s Cochabamba Water Wars. Watch trailer.
    • Y Tu Mamá También (And Your Mama, Too)- A carefree and sexy yet real life tale of two teenage guys and one older woman on a wild road trip through the Mexican countryside. Make sure to put the kids to bed before watching this one. Watch trailer.
    • María Llena Eres de Gracia (Maria Full of Grace)- A heartwrenching yet hopeful film about a young Colombian woman who becomes a drug mule. Catalina Sandino Moreno received an Oscar nomination for best performance in her leading role as Maria. Watch trailer.
    • Sin Nombre (Nameless)- An eye-opening drama that reveals, through the story of one Honduran family, the risks emigrants take for the chance of a better life. Watch trailer.
    • Diarios de Motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries)- A well-known film about Ernesto “Che” Guerva in the years before he became a revolutionary. Set on the road in South America. Watch trailer.
    • Pan’s Labyrinth– A sci-fi drama about a little girl who escapes the turmoil surrounding war-torn Spain through fairytales that become very real, at least to her. Winner of three Oscars. Watch trailer.
    • Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes)- An emotionally charged drama about the choices one man makes after becoming disfigured in an accident. This film, which was later remade for American cinema as Vanilla Sky, will puzzle and intrigue you with its blurring of lines between reality and dreams. Watch trailer.
    • **Cidade de Deus (City of God)- [Disclaimer: Okay, this one’s not in Spanish—it takes place in Brazil—but is a great film that will teach you about Latin American culture.] A fast paced film that follows the lives of two boys from a rough neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, one of whom becomes a drug lord and the other a successful photographer. Nominated for four Oscars. Watch trailer.

Two others we have yet to see are Volver (Return) with Penelope Cruz and El Regreso (The Return), which takes place here in Costa Rica.

That’s the round-up of our top Spanish movies. What are your favorites?

Post by: Jennifer Turnbull-Houde & Matthew Houde



  1. I liked “Hable can Ella” (Talk to Her), directed by Pedro Almodovar. Any of his films are really good! Enjoy!

  2. I am a huge foreign language film geek and have seen all of them except Ciudad de Jesus (I’ll use Spanish here ha). Totally agree that movies are a great way to booster language learning efforts.
    A few more if they’re on DVD/itunes (I watched them back in the day on VHS) I’d recommend
    -Ay Carmela
    (all having to do with the Spanish Civil War, I wrote my thesis about them 🙂
    Like Water for Chocolate (Mexican)
    Biutiful (Spain)
    Innocent Voices (about the El Salvordan Civil War, excellent but SO hard to watch)

  3. Aww Pan’s Labyrinth…such a good movie. Although Castellano Spanish is much more difficult for me to understand because of the accent. For a really bad movie to watch but great for practicing listening, Casa de mi Padre by Will Ferrell is perfect. He speaks in Spanish the whole movie so because he has an American accent, it’s easier for us to understand since it’s the same accent we have when we speak. The rest of them have Mexican accents. Don’t watch it for quality…just to practice haha. Gestacion is a Costa RIcan movie that is really really good and it helps you get used to the Costa Rican accent. Highly recommended!

    1. Samantha, thanks for the tip on the Will Ferrell movie. Don’t know how we missed that one- we love his movies because they’re so silly. And paired with the famous Gael García Bernal to boot. We’ll definitely check out Gestacion too, definitely good to hear the Costa Rican accent.

  4. Thanks for the nice tips, I recently saw Pan’s Labyrinth in spanish and liked a lot. Since my language skills are quite basic for now, I will also check out the others.

  5. Hello Jenn & Matt,
    I´m planning to go to Latein America in the next years. Right know I try to catch some phrases of my colluegues. That I´m getting more used to Spanish. Let´s see 😉

    1. Hi Sarah, yeah it takes a while but learning from other people is the best way so take advantage of your colleagues. You can always buy a phrasebook for traveling here to navigate at restaurants, airports, etc.- that’s what we did for years. Cheers!

  6. Hi there,
    I generally love your blog, but since I’m learning spanish this post is super helpful. I’m in CR right now, and your stories are really inspiring me to explore this beautiful country. I’ve started a blog to keep my friends and family updated on what I’m up to. Check it out if you have a minute:-)
    Tessa (from Montréal)

      1. Hi Tessa, glad you are enjoying our blog. Looks like you’re having quite an adventure yourself! There certainly are a lot of places to explore in Costa Rica. We’ve been moving around a lot these past few months and have seen a lot of the country but there are still tons of place we want to visit.
        Let us know if you find any other good movies for picking up Spanish. We’ve haven’t seen anything lately and could use some inspiration. Pura vida! – Jenn & Matt

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