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Improving your foreign language skills through the arts of movies and tv shows is not only very fun – it is also very effective and useful.
Why learn a language through movies?
The themes that are featured in movies are often very telling of the things that are big issues in a country. In Brazil, there are many movies involving favelas and police squads. Now, this doesn’t mean everyone in Brazil lives in a favela, but these movies could not be made in for example Sweden. Romantic comedies tell a lot about the ways people see romance, what people see as the ultimate love story.
A lot of Western movies revolve around Christmas, and that is because Christmas is a very important celebration in Western culture.
Another important thing when learning a language is that it is the easiest way to be exposed to real speech. In comparison to most language courses, these conversations aren’t meant to perfectly match the words you just had to learn with spaces in between the sentences to have you process it. Much of what you will hear you won’t be able to understand and that is exactly why you should watch it.
The best thing is that you are exposed to the way native people speak without having to respond to it. You also have the ability to add subtitles, be it in your own language or the language you are trying to learn, or pause it and write things down. All of these reasons make movies and tv shows the perfect aid for your language learning journey.
So, without any further ado let’s get into the list. Here are 20 movies you must watch when you are learning Spanish.
1. Central Station (1998)
“Bitter former schoolteacher Dora (Fernanda Montenegro) supports herself by taking dictation from illiterate people in Rio de Janeiro who want to write letters to their families and then pocketing their money without ever mailing the envelopes. One day, Josue (Vinicius De Oliveira), the 9-year-old son of one of her clients, is left alone when his mother is killed in a bus accident. Reluctantly taking him in, Dora joins the boy on a road trip to find his long-missing father.”
2. City of God (2002)
City of God (Portuguese: Cidade de Deus) is a 2002 Brazilian crime film directed by Fernando Meirelles and co-directed by Kátia Lund, released in its home country in 2002 and worldwide in 2003. The story was adapted by Bráulio Mantovani from the 1997 novel of the same name written by Paulo Lins, but the plot is loosely based on real events. It depicts the growth of organized crime in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro, between the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1980s, with the closure of the film depicting the war between the drug dealer Li’l Zé and vigilante-turned-criminal Knockout Ned. The tagline is “If you run, the beast catches you; if you stay, the beast eats you”, a proverb analogous to the English “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.
3. To the Left of the Father (2001)
The story concerns a young man, André (Selton Mello), whose ideas are radically different from his father’s (Raul Cortez). The father predicates order and restraint, which enhance his own power under the mantle of family love. The son seeks freedom and ecstasy, challengingly signified, in the film, through his incestuous passion for his sister Ana (Simone Spoladore). When the son leaves home on the farm and moves to a seedy boarding house, his older brother Pedro (Leonardo Medeiros), is asked by their mother (Juliana Carneiro da Cunha) to bring him back. His return, however, will completely shatter the family’s confining life.
4. Foreign Land (1995)
Foreign Land (Terra Estrangeira), directed by Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas, is a story of fate, one of the foreign lands of the title. It’s a compelling tale accompanied by some great cinematography by Walter Carvalho and a fine choice of suitably melancholic fado tunes by José Miguel Wisnik. It is also something of a homage in a wider sense to the movement of people and the idea and importance of belonging… Foreign Land has some great scenes, beautiful imagery and fine performances (especially from Melo) and all in all it’s well worth rediscovering this early gem from one of Brazil’s most-in-demand directors, Walter Salles.
5. Carlota Joaquina: Princesa do Brazil (1995)
The film shows Carlota’s efforts to conquer her enemies and become a queen. It tells a summarized tale, mixing history with popular folk traditions, from her childhood until her suicide.
6. Love for Sale (2006)
Abandoned by her husband, a woman (Hermila Guedes) organizes a raffle with herself as the prize.
7. Linha de Passe (2008)
Motorcycle Diaries director Walter Salles Jr. helms this story of a band of brothers intent on getting out of the Brazilian ghetto in a Media Rights Capital production. Co-directing is Daniela Thomas, from a script she wrote with George Moura (Moro No Brasil) and Salles.
8. Behind the Sun (2001)
It’s 1910, and a feud over land has caused generations of deaths for two Brazilian peasant families. Now it’s 20-year-old Tonio’s turn to murder and be murdered; nothing, it seems, can break the cycle of violence.
9. Menino Maluquinho: O Filme (1995)
The adventures of a little, nutty boy of unique personality and traits who finds comfort at his grandfather’s farm, after his parents are divorced.
10. Four Days in September (1997)
Four Days in September (Portuguese: O Que É Isso, Companheiro?) is a 1997 Brazilian thriller film directed by Bruno Barreto and produced by his parents Lucy and Luiz Carlos Barreto. It is a fictional version of the 1969 kidnapping of the United States Ambassador to Brazil, Charles Burke Elbrick, by members of Revolutionary Movement 8th October (MR-8) and Ação Libertadora Nacional (ALN).
11. Elite Squad (2007)
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (Portuguese: Tropa de Elite 2 – O Inimigo Agora é Outro; literal translation “Elite Troop 2: The Enemy is Now Another”; also known as Elite Squad 2) is a 2010 Brazilian crime film directed, produced and co-written by José Padilha, starring Wagner Moura. It is a sequel to 2007 film Elite Squad. It furthers the plot of a semi-fictional account of BOPE (Portuguese: Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais), the special operations force of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police, with a focus on the relationship between law enforcement and politics.
12. Underground Game (2005)
To find the woman of his life, man makes a game up: he enters a subway train wagon, picks a woman he likes and waits to see whether she’s going to take the same course and connections as he. If she is, he tries to make contact.
13. Quatrilho (1995)
The film follows the story of two Italian immigrant couples living in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in the early 20th century; Teresa (Patrícia Pillar) and Angelo (Alexandre Paternost) and Pierina (Glória Pires) and Massimo (Bruno Campos). While the couples struggle for survival in their new country, an unexpected love between Massimo and Teresa emerges. They fight against family and cultural traditions and head to a new destiny, leaving their partners behind. Quatrilho is the name of a card game in which the player has to betray his partner in order to win. It is also a reference to the Portuguese language word quatro, which means four. The film was also advertised as O Qu4trilho.
14. Lisbela and the Prisoner (2003)
Lisbela is a young woman who loves going to the movies. Leléu is a con man, going from town to town selling all sort of things and performing as master of ceremonies for some cheesy numbers, such as the woman who gets transformed into a gorilla. He gets involved with Linaura, a sexy and beautiful woman who happens to be the wife of the most frightening hitman of the place. The hitman finds out his wife’s affair and goes after Leléu, who has to leave in a hurry. In another town, he meets and falls instantly in love with Lisbela, who is engaged to Douglas, a hillbilly who tries hard to pass for a cosmopolitan Rio de Janeiro dweller.
15. Madame Satã (2002)
Loose portrait of João Francisco dos Santos, also known as Madame Satã, a sometime chef, transvestite, lover, father, hero and convict from Rio de Janeiro.
16. Chronically Unfeasible (2000)
A docudrama about the economic and social disparity between Brazil’s upper and lower classes, Chronically Unfeasible was filmed over a five-year period as a fictionalized documentary. Director Sergio Bianchi trains his camera on ineffective union organizers, street children who fight over their toys, police engaging in random acts of brutality, and a black maid who is humiliated by the bourgeois family whom she has known almost all her life. Central to the film are scenes that take place at a restaurant, where a snotty middle-class couple picks at their food, a manager tries to make something of her life, and a young waiter is fired for sleeping with his boss.
17. Ed Mort (1997)
A detective is hired by a mysterious woman to find her missing husband, a master of disguises, and important industry executive.
18. Mango Yellow (2002)
Mango Yellow (Portuguese: Amarelo Manga) is a 2002 Brazilian drama film directed by Cláudio Assis. It stars Matheus Nachtergaele, Jonas Bloch, Dira Paes, Chico Díaz, and Leona Cavalli as working-class people who engage in amorous and social encounters, with most of the action taking place in a hotel and a bar. The directorial debut of Assis, the film was partially inspired by his previous short film Texas Hotel. It was filmed on a low budget in the suburbs of Pernambuco.
19. Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures (2005)
A road movie about a German man who went to the North East of Brazil in the 1942 to sell Aspirin
20. Brainstorm (2000)
A trip to the mental institution hell. This odyssey is lived by Neto, a middle class teenager, who lives a normal life until his father sends him to a mental institution after finding drugs on his pocket. The marijuana cigarette is just the final drop that exposes the family tragedy. Send to a mental institution, Neto gets to know a completely absurd, inhumane reality in which the people are devoured by a corrupt and cruel institution system. The documentary type language used by the director give this movie a sensation of realty that increases even more the impact of the emotions Neto goes through. In the mental institution, Neto is forced to mature. The transformations that he goes through change this relations with his father.
What movies would you still add to this list?