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10 Best Spanish Movies

Spain is known as the country that spread the Spanish language, Christian religion, and European disregard for human rights to the Americas. But in the past decades, Spain’s additions to world culture have involved less gold hunting and more movies with compelling characters and the same five or so actors. 

Whether you’re looking to improve your Spanish or expose yourself to Spanish culture, watching these Spanish films will give you an insight into the life and culture of Spain.

1. Rec


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Year: 2007
Genre: Horror
Is Penelope Cruz in this movie?: No

This film’s story line was so compelling that they made an American remake the following year, called Quarantine. The story line revolves around a journalist and the residents of an apartment building who are, you guessed it, quarantined inside the building as the horrors unfold. I don’t know what’s more terrifying: the Spanish apartment building this horror movie takes place in, or the one I actually live in.

2. Abre los ojos


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Year: 1997
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Is Penelope Cruz in this movie?: Yes

This movie will make your brain hurt so good.  It will make you question reality, and want to see every movie ever made by Alejandro Amenábar. If you’ve never heard of this film, you’ve likely heard of it’s 2001 American remake Vanilla Sky.

3. La niña de tus ojos


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Year: 1998
Genre: Drama
Is Penelope Cruz in this movie?: Yes

Loosely based on the true events, this film tells the story of a Spanish film crew recording a movie in Nazi Germany. It peppers in dramatic situations such  as a Jewish contortionist and Dr. Goebbels falling in love with Penelope Cruz’s character.

4. El Mar Adentro


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Year: 2004
Genre: Drama
Is Penelope Cruz in this movie?: No

If you don’t already appreciate Javier Bardem’s acting ability, this movie is your chance. This Oscar-winning film tells the true story of a Spanish man who battled for the right to assisted suicide.

5. Tres Metros Sobre el Cielo


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Year: 2010
Genre: Romance
Is Penelope Cruz in this movie?: No

Based on an Italian book series, this movie and it’s sequel Tengo Ganas de Ti are Spain’s rough equivalent to America’s Twilight. The only real difference is that in this movie there are no vampires and the leading man is significantly less pale.

6. Tesis


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Year: 1996
Genre: Thriller
Is Penelope Cruz in this movie?: No

A classic thriller, this movie centers around a graduate student who tries to unravel a mysterious death as she writes her thesis. Like Abre los ojos, this film was also written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar.

7. El amor perjudica seriamente la salud


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Year: 1996
Genre: Comedy
Is Penelope Cruz in this movie?: Yes

This movie tells an adorable love story of two people who cross paths over several decades. The main character of this movie and I have a lot in common because we both love John Lennon and we’ve both had weird conversations with bellboys in Madrid.

8. El laberinto del fauno


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Year: 2006
Genre: Fantasy
Is Penelope Cruz in this movie?: No

This film is an interesting blend of historical fiction, fantasy, and incredibly gruesome images. The performances are amazing and this film is beautifully shot. This is a great movie for anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to have lunch with someone who has to hold their own eye balls.

9. El otro lado de la cama


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Year: 2002
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Is Penelope Cruz in this movie?: No

This movie is It’s a lot of fun and very easy to follow. If you like cheesy, predictable romantic comedy plots and tacky dance numbers , this is the movie for you. 

10. Volver


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Year: 2006
Genre: Comedy
Is Penelope Cruz in this movie?: Yes

This movie is directed by Pedro Almodóvar, one of Spain’s most successful and prolific directors. The comedic plot twists involve weird story lines that span generations and seemingly go beyond death.

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5 Responses to 10 Best Spanish Movies

  1. Mimi February 27, 2014 at 4:43 AM #

    Hi! I teach high school Spanish in the US and am always looking for films appropriate for ages under 17 – it’s too much of a hassle to get all the permission slips from 160 students so I can show an R rated film. I have a few I like to show, but what films do you recommend?
    Mil gracias!
    Mimi

    • p.t. June 9, 2014 at 2:43 PM #

      I think it´s a shame there is not a single film by Luis Buñuel listed here.

      El ángel exterminador, 1962

  2. J.Barreda April 20, 2014 at 12:20 AM #

    Teens in Spain love ” Tres metros sobre el cielo” and In Spain it is recommended from 12 years

  3. Jessica (Barcelona Blonde) May 27, 2014 at 9:37 AM #

    Haha I LOVE “Is Penelope Cruz in this movie?” I took a class on Spanish history through films a couple years ago and it was seriously always an Almodóvar movie or something with Penelope in it (or both, if you were lucky).

    Tesis is probably my absolute favorite Spanish movie. It is SO good!

  4. Revé August 24, 2014 at 10:24 PM #

    I used this as part of an English lesson last week. One of my students is a movie buff, so I asked for her favorite Spanish movies (frankly, she drew a blank at first lol) and we discussed this list :-)

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