So you’ve binge watched Narcos for the umpteenth time and you’ve scoped out every other Netflix genre down to its B-movie badness. Except one: International Movies. If you’ve been curious as to where to start watching movies with subtitles, but have no idea where to begin, here’s a handy guide to the Spanish language treasures, classics, and weirdo one-offs to stuff your queue with for the new year.
There are comedies starring the Chaplin-esque star Cantinflas or the more recent Adam Sandler-alum-turned filmmaker Eugenio Derbez. If you’d like to see your favorite show like Breaking Bad or Downton Abbey get the melodramatic novela treatment, Netflix has you covered.
From avant garde critiques of Mexican cinema to wacky telenovelas where your younger clone is trying to steal your man, here are the 12 Best Spanish Language Movies And TV Shows On Netflix.
12 Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
If you somehow missed Alfonso Cuarón’s lurid international hit Y Tu Mamá También, go back to 2001 for the raunchy roadtrip you’ll never believe scored him the director’s chair for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Two best friends (a young Gabriel García Bernal and Diego Luna) pick up an older woman (Ana López Mercado) for a trip to a supposedly unforgettable beach. But as in many other on the road movies, it’s all about the journey not the destination.
Stuck in a hot car driving through Mexican dessert takes its toll on the threesome, and their unspoken tensions, passion, and disillusionment leads to a haunting crash of broken relationships.
11 The Princess of France (2015)
This 2015 charmer perhaps stars one of the smallest cast lists you’ll find on Netflix. The Princess of France is about a small theater group as they recreate Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour Lost. The director becomes enamored with a number of the women in his cast and, surprise, drama ensues.
From its unconventional orchestral beginnings to various loving close-ups of fine art, Argentinian filmmaker Matías Piñeiro looks to mix the business of creating art with the pleasure of how we experience it. Considering the movie’s brief 75 minute runtime, it’s an impressive amount of attention paid to details outside the characters.
10 Güeros (2014)
Heading into slightly more experimental (but thrilling) territory, Güeros is both a scathing critique of the Mexican film industry and the youthful naivete of student protests. After a young boy is sent to live with his older, equally good-for-nothing brother as punishment, the pair fall into a series of scrapes and misadventures that make little-to-no sense but have very much to say about Mexico’s present day progressive and arts communities.
A touch of the absurd never hurt anyone, and the film carefully incorporates fantastical elements (like when a friend is bleeding in the backseat, the car is filling with chicken feathers instead of blood) to lighten its heavy critique on classicism, sexism and racism. Just don’t hurl the film’s title at anyone, it’s an insult meaning light-skinned elitism and cluelessness.
9 El Clon (2010)
Around the early 2000s, you couldn’t walk in a Miami mall without running into two things: Shakira-style Brazilian jeans and El Clon bracelets. The popular Brazilian telenovela about a man competing with his younger clone for the woman he loved was dubbed in Spanish and caused a ruckus as soon as it began. The breakout sensation inspired fans to wear the iconic ring and bracelet combo popular among the show’s characters.
Looking to recapture lightening in a bottle, the telenovela was remade in Spanish back in 2010 as a U.S. and Colombian co-production. Although the remake lacks the dramatic thunder of the original, but you can still get a sense of how this off-the-wall nightly drama captured millions of viewers.
8 Gloria (2013)
If you’re reading this and have no clue who Gloria Trevi is, please acquaint yourself with the Mexican Madonna. Like her sexy American counterpart, Trevi openly wooed controversy (until it landed her in jail).
The spunky movie made in her honor also tells of the darker side of her story, one that the tabloids didn’t talk about. Plucked from obscurity as a young girl to be groomed for the stage by an older male mentor, Gloria comes of age and must find her own voice after her abusive mentor-turned husband is busted by authorities for abusing other girls. The tumultuous Gloria is one of those movies that prove that the truth can be stranger than fiction.
7 The Vampire’s Coffin (1958)
Have you drained the Netflix horror section of all its blood? The Vampire’s Coffin may not quench your thirst like a solid [REC] movie (sadly, only [REC]3 and [REC]4 are available to stream), but it might just hit the spot for a Dracula rip-off.
Using hospital wards and a wax museum as its setting, The Vampire’s Coffin is the strange monster mash of dramatic cinematography, campy elements and an unmistakable reach from beyond the grave to recapture the greatness of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula. Only the movie’s pulse never rises and its plot plods along at a slower pace than the monster movies of yore.
6 Rebelde (2004-2006)
Degrassi this ain’t. Oddly sexy for a drama set in high school, Rebelde nonetheless won over a generation of teens who thought Britney Spears’ Catholic school duds were too tame. Taking the time-honored tradition of forming a band in high school, the drama expanded to include more issues with family and disapproving faculty over the course of the series’ three seasons.
The actors playing students dreaming of pop stardom were actually members of the group RBD. Think of it as if S Club 7 hit Spice Girl fame while maintaining a popular TV show in prime time. Netflix added the first season of this popular Mexican novela this past summer. Get your dance moves and red jackets at the ready!
5 Mala Mala (2015)
There are a few Spanish language documentaries lurking about in Netflix, but this moving stunner is well worth the watch. Mala Mala follows the often ignored and persecuted transgender community in Puerto Rico. But beyond just a look at the political strife facing them, the movie’s various subjects discuss their gender identity and sexuality in frank details that’s culturally considered taboo.
The doc is shot beautifully, capturing both the glamorous and difficult sides to these trans women and men with intimate close-ups. We rarely see our stars from afar, instead the camera is almost constantly facing them or alongside them for the ride. The subjects of Mala Mala operate outside of the rigid confines of entrenched gender norms, machismo culture be damned.
4 Pepe (1960)
It’s not the best film from Cantiflas, one of Mexico’s most beloved comedy movie stars, film but if you’ve never given one of his movies a go, you might as well give Pepe a try. A tender-hearted ranch hand named Pepe (Cantinflas) follows his beloved horse to Hollywood. The stallion’s new owner, a director trope if there ever was one, recognizes Pepe’s talents with his new pet and puts him to work in show business.
A few famous American faces like Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Jack Lemmon, Zsa Zsa Gabór and Jimmy Durante make brief cameos in the 1960 movie. The film was Cantinflas’ follow-up to the popular Around the World in 80 Days, in which he costarred as Jean Passepartout), but it failed to catch on with its intended American audience.
3 Grand Hotel (2011-2013) / Metástasis (2014-)
Just like we repackage and remake foreign language hits, so do those foreign language markets. If you’re a Breaking Bad fan going through withdrawals, rejoice! The AMC series’ got a do-over as Metástasis in Colombia with even more of a cartel edge than its predecessor. Likewise, prim and proper Downton Abbey diehards may dig the spinoff Grand Hotel, which keeps the framework of secretive servants and naughty upper-class divas with a few twists.
Mexico may not be as steeped in aristocracy as England, but it’s in no short supply of wealthy landowners and Spanish-descended royalty to fill a hotel. Bonus points to the telenovela (which also airs on Telemundo) for incorporating a few murder mysteries to the mix.
2 Instructions Not Included (2013)
This schmaltzy unassuming comedy broke box office records and stunned industry watchers back in 2013. With practically no advertising and barely any reviews, Instructions Not Included earned such positive word of mouth that, even in the United States, it trumped 12 Years a Slave to be the top grossing independent movie of the year.
Eugenio Derbez struggled for over a decade to get his script about a man ill-prepared to be a father who finds himself in custody of a daughter he didn’t know existed. Instructions echoed many scenes from Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid and, like the classic, won over the audience to cheer for the unlikely duo to make unintended parenthood work.
1 Club de Cuervos (2015-)
Netflix struck gold with their first foray into creating original Spanish language programming. Club de Cuervos is all the soccer drama in and out of the locker room that found eager fans.
The Mexican comedy follows a renown soccer (sorry, fútbol) team in the aftermath of their team owner’s death and the unintended consequences of his early demise. Unlike Narcos, Club de Cuervos is all in Spanish, with the option to switch on English subtitles if you need ‘em. Now is the perfect time to add Season 1 to your queue, seeing as Netflix announced another rematch for the Cuervos last fall.
Have a favorite Spanish language TV show or movie available on Netflix not on this list? Let us know what we should stream next in the comments below.
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