Team FLC

Must-Watch Movies By Mexican Directors

You may already know why #TeamFreestyle loves ‘authentic materials’ … for their culturally-rich themes, the lyricism of language, the ability to learn from context while absorbing accent and pace of speaking, the list goes on. And yet only those most dedicated to their language goals incorporate them into daily routine!

Branching out to films in a new language? Here are some tips to boost your cultural currency with ease - read on for native speaker Abel’s top film picks (18+!)* from Mexican Directors.
*Disclaimer: Most of these films are rated R for mature audiences, reader discretion is advised.

Only one in the family learning a new language? Make or join a Netflix watch party! Here you can see Freestyle learners enjoying a movie while learning Spanish!
Why You Need to Watch Mexican Films:
The Mexican film industry produces outstanding directors who go on to become household names in Hollywood, ones who frequently win Academy Awards.

¿Lo sabías? Alejandro Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón, and Guillermo Del Toro comprise The ‘Tres Amigos’ - a nickname famously dubbed to the group, as they have won an astonishing aggregate of eleven Oscars since 2013.
The contemporary success of Mexican directors in Hollywood is a testament that movie-watchers need to take a deeper look at the best films Mexico has to offer, as this country consistently delivers quality content on the silver screen.

Amores Perros 2000 Rated R

This Academy Award Nominee for Best Film showcases Iñárritu’s cinematic genius and proves he is able to create instant classics outside of Hollywood. This feat is ever more impressive once you take into account the minute budget of $2.4 million USD, which brought in $20.9 million USD at the box office.

Amores Perros is oftentimes considered the ‘Mexican Pulp Fiction’ since it follows a multi-narrative cinematic style where three stories collide through one traffic accident. Each narrative follows an action-packed sequence that leaves you hooked, waiting to see what happens next. 

The film is based in Mexico City, Mexico, which provides viewers with a genuine insight into the capital’s socioeconomic and cultural workarounds. Viewers will gain cultural exposure with linguistic nuances – such as expressions and slang – from the lower, middle, and upper class of Mexico. The three narratives have a plethora of distinct characters that paint a picture of contemporary Mexico.  

Relevant slang words: Güey/WeyUsed to refer to any person without using their name. EX: ¿Qué tal, güey? “What’s up bro?”

Chido: Cool / great - used agreeing to a plan, showing excitement, and showing positive feelings about something
EX: ¡Esa banda toca bien chido! “That band plays really well!”

Here’s the Spotify Playlist to the movie’s soundtrack. We recommend starting with Lucha de Gigantes by Nacha Pop as it encapsulates the poetic chaos of this movie.  NB: Note there is significant violence in the film. For that reason, it is not endorsed by Freestyle. But it is highly popular in the target culture. For this reason we are including it. 

Y Tu Mamá También 2001 Rated R

This film covers the coming-of-age of two teens who take a road trip with an older woman after their girlfriends embark on a trip to Italy. The explicit sex and use of drugs warrant a warning to viewers, as the content is not extreme, but ever-present as defining characteristics of the film.

 Y Tu Mamá También uses every element in its capacity to highlight Mexico’s society, culture, and geography; purposefully showing the audience a Mexico that was going through major political change – as the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s seven decades of uninterrupted presidency had come to an end. The plot takes viewers to different scenes across Mexico; from Mexico City to a shanty town and to a beautiful virgin beach. The movie’s diverse elements make it a must-watch for those curious about Mexican and Latin American culture. Sit back, click play, and take a backseat in this journey across Mexico.

Relevant slang words: No manches: “No way” / “Are you serious?” - an exclamation used when having a conversationex. ¿No manches güey, por qué me traicionarías? “Are you serious? Why did you betray me?”

La neta: “The truth” - can be used in a questioning and exclamatory tone. Also when being honest with someone. ex: La neta, yo tomé la última cerveza. “Honestly, I drank the last beer.”

These two phrases carry lots of value in  Y Tu Mamá También because they represent the turbulent relationship between both protagonists.

El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth) 2006 Rated R

This winner of three Academy Awards is one of those generational movies all movie aficionados must watch. Unlike the rest of the movies on the list, this one is not based in Mexico, but in Spain. This however does not change the movie’s Mexican identity, as Guillermo del Toro (Director) and Alfonso Cuarón (Producer) – yes, two of the three ‘Tres Amigos’! – are integral parts of the film. Moreover, this film is a great example of the wide-spread use of the Spanish language, as 450 million people speak it globally.
 ¿Lo Sabias? Mexico (#1 with 121.9+ million speakers) and Spain (#4 with 42.9+ million speakers) are two of the most populous Spanish-speaking countries. Speaker data link. 

The film takes place in the early Francoist period, a couple of years after the Spanish Civil War. The protagonist, Ofelia and her parents - Captain Vidal and Carmen - move to a remote part of Spain. Vidal, a Fracoist, is tasked with hunting Spanish Maquis, the oppositionists of the Fracoists. Ofelia, in disbelief with her new reality, follows a bug down a path that sends her to the mystical world of Pan’s Labyrinth.  

The plot intertwines a controversial period in history and Del Toro’s love for the fantasy genre with such success that it creates a fascinating world not many films can replicate. This is amplified by the fact that the film has outstanding visual effects and purpose-driven characters.

Impactful quote:
¡Venga Serrano, sin miedo, que esta es la única forma decente de morir!  
Translation:Come on Serrano, without fear, this is the only decent way to die!

This quote from Captain Vidal resonates with meaning throughout the film, as neither Vidal nor Ofelia are afraid to die for what they believe in. 

Vámonos con Pancho Villa (Let's go with Pancho Villa) 1936 Rated R

One of the most important historic events in Latin American history, The Mexican Revolution sparked a series of regional governmental changes. Historically, the wealth was concentrated at the top with very few opportunities for upward mobility. Based on a novel, this anti-epic film focuses on the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Mexican revolution. Most importantly, it depicts Pancho Villa as a not-so-perfect protagonist. 

The movie’s portrayal of Villa as a less-than-ideal leader makes this movie unique as it gives viewers a different perspective of the oftentimes heroized Villa. Let’s Go with Pancho Villa is considered to be one of the best movies of Mexican cinema for its unorthodox description of an idolized figure by many, and for its revolutionary cinematic techniques. 

Relevant content:“Yo, Pancho Villa, fui un hombre leal que el destino trajo al mundo para luchar por el bien de los pobres y que nunca traicionaré ni olvidaré mi deber.”  English translation: "I, Pancho Villa, was a loyal man that destiny brought into the world to fight for the good of the poor and that I will never betray or forget my duty."

This quote, said from the man himself, has enough context for viewers to judge Villa’s mentality towards his cause. Understanding Villa’s mentality will help viewers understand the drastic actions he takes in the movie. 
Watching films is a great way to improve listening comprehension and learn new words in context. Team Freestyle recommended having a "watch party" with friends to discuss the film or attend one of our "Film trivia nights"! Create an account here to get access to free monthly events!