Who said learning a language had to be tedious and boring? Watching Spanish-language movies is a fun and effective way to improve your Spanish, especially your listening comprehension. We’ve compiled a list of the best Spanish movies to help improve your language skills.
When learning Spanish as a beginner, I recommend watching Spanish movies with English subtitles. For more advanced learners, it’s better to watch Spanish movies with Spanish subtitles. Eventually, you’ll be able to watch Spanish movies without any subtitles at all, which is even more effective!
Last Updated: 16/09/19
How to Watch the Best Spanish Movies with Spanish Subtitles
Ideally, you should watch the movie more than once. First with subtitles, then without. You probably won’t be surprised to find that many characters speak very fast, especially in Spanish movies. It may be easier to start with Latin American films because characters speak the Spanish language a bit slower.
American researchers have found that watching subtitled films in their original language is an effective way to improve comprehension (except for absolute beginners) when learning a language. Although most watch films to simply enjoy them, they can also be resources to help you learn.
Obviously, if you don’t know any Spanish at all, it’s best to learn basic vocabulary before watching Spanish movies. The spaced repetition system in the MosaLingua apps is a highly effective tool for learning vocabulary quickly. There is also pronunciation for every flashcard (yes, I’ll admit to some self-promotion, but it’s for the sake of learning! ;-))
Here is a short list of what I consider to be the best Spanish movies with English subtitles to help you learn Spanish. There’s something for everyone!
List of the Best Spanish Movies with Subtitles
I’ve taken the time to look up the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) links for you. IMDb is a page where you can find summaries, trailers, and more. I’ve also added the links to subtitles whenever possible.
Best Spanish Movies from Spain
[Volver – Spain – 2003 – Mystery/Drama – Trailer]
Of course, we have to start with films by Pedro Almódovar, the most popular Spanish director. The main characters in his films are often women. And the lead female role is usually played by Penélope Cruz, his favorite actress. Almodóvar is very well known in the Spanish-speaking world, often for his films being slightly crazy at times!
This Spanish movie is about three generations of women in Madrid who get through life as best they can. Truly a moving masterpiece!
Penélope Cruz plays the main character, dealing with her husband’s death. She struggles to pick up the pieces of her life and keep moving forward.
[Los Abrazos Rotos – Spain – 2009 – Thriller/Melodrama – Pedro Almodóvar – Trailer]
A writer who was a director before becoming blind attempts to deal with the trauma he has endured.
In the process, he tries to understand the changes he is going through 14 years after becoming blind and changing career paths from a director to a writer.
Watch the trailer:
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
[Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios – Spain – 1988 – Drama/Comedy – Pedro Almodóvar – Trailer]
A woman tries everything in her power to understand why her lover left her. And she goes as far as contacting his wife and child, who are even more surprised!
All About My Mother
[Todo Sobre mi Madre – 1988 – Drama film/Comedy-drama – Pedro Almodóvar – Trailer]
Esteban, an aspiring writer, tries to find out who and where his father is. It’s not an easy endeavor, because it’s a secret kept tightly guarded by his mother. This powerful film received many awards.
[La Mala Educación – 2004 – Crime/Drama/Mystery – Christine Gernon – Trailer]
This film dissects the effects of religious schools and sexual abuse.
Talk to Her
[Hable con Ella – 2002 – Drama/Mystery – Pedro Almodóvar – Trailer]
This critically acclaimed film is about two men who build an unusual friendship while caring for two women in comas. This is one of my favorite films. The cinematography and score are both amazing!
Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down
[Átame! – 1989 – Crime/Drama/Comedy – Pedro Almodóvar – Trailer]
A former mental patient who has recently been released takes a women prisoner in hopes of convincing her to marry him. It’s one of Antonio Banderas‘ best performances as a young actor.
Best Scary Spanish Movies
Pedro Almodóvar’s films aren’t the only best Spanish movies out there but they are some of the best Spanish movies. Spain produces and exports many horror films as well and they’re generally quite good!
[•REC] 1, 2 and 3
[[•REC] – 2007 – Horror/Action/Sci-Fi – Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza – Trailer]
This series was filmed from the point of view of a handheld camera, like Paranormal Activity. The unique angle contributes to the movies’ very realistic and dramatic scenes. It’s a great choice for horror film aficionados.
[El Orfanato – 2007 – Supernatural/Horror/Thriller – J.A. Bayona – Trailer]
A mother brings her family to her childhood home and its haunted surroundings. This movie has a lot of suspense and will keep you jumping out of your seat!
There is also an American remake of this film supposedly in production.
[Tesis – 1996 – Mystery/Thriller – Alejandro Amenábar – Trailer]
While doing research for her thesis, Angela stumbles upon a snuff film and struggles with the events that follow. This movie had a lot of twists and turns and definitely kept my attention.
It’s not for anyone who is a bit squeamish, as the subject matter can be difficult to handle at times.
The Perfect Crime
[Crimen Ferpecto – 2004 – Thriller/Black Comedy – Álex de la Iglesia – Trailer]
This isn’t quite a horror film. Rather, it’s a very good, atypical black comedy. It’s even a bit subversive. I love this film.
It’s the story of an attractive salesman in a big department store who kills a rival colleague by accident. A saleswoman in the perfume section witnesses the scene and uses this knowledge to blackmail the salesman. If you like this film, there are other great movies by the same director, such as Common Wealth (La Comunidad).
Best Spanish Movies from Latin America
There are also some excellent Latin American films, a lot of which are Mexican. These are especially good for beginners, for the reasons I explained above.
Maria Full of Grace
This is one of the best Spanish movies for beginners because it switches back and forth between English and Spanish. It is about a pregnant Colombian teenager who becomes a drug mule to make some desperately needed money for her family, and the pursuit of the American dream.
[Paraiso Travel – 2008 – Indie/Drama – Simón Brand – Full Movie]
This is a great Colombian film. Although it maintains Colombian stereotypes (drugs, violence, and sex) it’s a fast-paced film. Trust me! You won’t get bored!
The Motorcycle Diaries
Based on a true story, this film depicts a young Che Guevara during his road trip through Latin America. It shows you a side of the revolutionary before he was revolutionary. At times funny and at times thought-provoking. The Spanish in it is spoken with accents from several South American countries, which a good test! It’s very eye-opening.
Watch the trailer:
Best Spanish Movies with Subtitle Files
Beginners and intermediate learners may find Spanish subtitles helpful when watching movies.
The Secret in Their Eyes
[El Secreto de Tus Ojos – Argentina – 2009 – Drama/Mystery/Thriller]
This is an excellent Argentinian film which depicts the events 25 years after a criminal investigation. This film is very well put together, clever and captivating. It brings together romance, revenge, and justice. I really enjoyed it!
[Nueve Reinas – Argentina – 2000 – Crime/Thriller/Drama]
This is another excellent Argentinian film. It’s a bit hard to follow because the characters use a lot of Argentinian slang and have rather thick accents. Which is why it’s helpful to have subtitles, even if your Spanish is pretty good. It’s the story of two con artists from Buenos Aires who team up to pull off a big scam.
[Y Tu Mamá También – Mexico – 2001 – Adventure/Comedy/Drama]
This is a very good Mexican film. The dialogue is sometimes a bit crude, but it will broaden your vocabulary! It’s dramatic and funny. It’s about two hormone-driven teenage boys who are fighting over the same woman.
That’s my list of the best Spanish movies I’ve seen. I know I’ve seen other good Latin American films, but I can’t remember the names of them. I’ll have to get my wife to refresh my memory sometime 😉
Where Can I Find the Best Spanish Movies with English Subtitles?
It’s not always easy to find the original version DVDs. You’re never really sure what you’re getting or if it will come with subtitles, even on Amazon!
So, sometimes you have to make do as best you can. Certain websites offer peer-to-peer movies and television series. For example, Hispashare has many recent films and series in Spanish, but to watch them you have to download them illegally, which we don’t recommend.
Where Can I Download Subtitles?
To find movie subtitles, you can use an excellent website called Opensubtitles.org. It has a huge collection of subtitles in many languages and it’s not illegal! Unfortunately, this site is becoming overrun by the public. But there are software programs that let you easily download all the subtitles that you want for free. The best one is called SubDownloader (http://subdownloader.net/).
How Do I Make the Subtitles Play with the Film?
You need to give the film file and the subtitle file the same name (but keep their respective extensions).
I recommend using VLC media player to watch the films with subtitles. This article gives step-by-step instructions on how to sync up your subtitle file with your movie, in case you’re having trouble.
Now, It’s Up to You!
If you know of any other great Spanish films, let us know about them in a comment!
I’m always looking for good Spanish TV shows and movies to watch. However, I’m not a huge fan of “telenovelas” (though if you are, take a look at this article of the best ones to watch!). So a friend suggested a Colombian crime drama called Sin tetas, no hay paraíso. There is also a Spanish version from Spain but I prefer the original Colombian version. You can find a list of more Spanish speaking TV shows here, a list that we’re constantly updating. Are there other Spanish films or Spanish TV shows with English subtitles that you don’t see on the list? Share them with us below and we’ll consider watching and adding them!
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