The Top Five Mexican Movies Of All Time

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No matter what country you grew up in, if you speak español, you’ve probably seen a ton of Mexican movies. Mexico’s movie industry has been one of the strongest in Latin America for a long, long time. Starting in the 1940s, while the U.S. and Europe were focused on fighting a world war, Mexico was churning out films in what became known as the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. Stars were born like Cantinflas (known as the ‘Mexican Charlie Chaplin’), María Félix, Dolores del Río, Pedro Infante and Tin-Tan. Then there was the reemergence of mexi-cine in the nineties and early millenium. This Nuevo Cine Mexicano brought us Like Water for Chocolate, Amores Perros and Y Tu Mamá También. And now there is a whole new crop of filmmakers which some have begun to call Generation Mex–like Pedro González-Rubio, Fernando Eimbcke, Gerardo Naranjo, Carlos Reygadas, and Nicolás Pereda–who are pushing boundaries, challenging stereotypes, and raising the international profile of Mexican movies. Needless to say it’s muy difficult to narrow down the list to just five films. But here are the Top Five Mexican Movies. ¡Ajuuuaa!

Los Olvidados
Director: Luis Buñuel
Year: 1950

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Though now regarded as a cinematic masterpiece Los Olvidados was not received well when it first screened in Mexico. Many felt its raw look at poverty was as insult to the country and it was pulled from theaters after three days. But, after Octavio Paz championed the film and painter Marc Chagall and writer Jean Cocteau showed their support it was submitted to the Cannes Film Festival where Buñuel was awarded the prize for Best Director. It then returned to Mexican theaters receiving a positive reception from audiences. Los Olvidados is the story of a group of kids in Mexico City doing everything they can to survive crushing poverty. After El Jaibo escapes from jail he is determined to seek revenge against Julián who he believes is responsible for his jail time.

Santa Sangre
Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Year: 1989

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Alejandro Jodorowsky is the master of weird. His movies have incited riots and have even been banned in Mexico. One of his most famous films, El Topo, was a cult hit in Los States even though the distributor could only convince the theater to show it at midnight. The success of the film prompted theaters across the U.S. to use the midnight screening format. In Santa Sangre Jodorowsky’s two sons play Fenix, a boy who grew up performing magic tricks in the Circo Gringo. Fenix is the child of a trapeze artist and a knife-thrower. Always at Fenix’s side is the dwarf Aladin and his best friend Alma, a deaf-mute mime. The film flashes forward and backwards revealing disturbing, beautiful and wildly bloody scenes of Fenix’s childhood and adulthood. It’s a crazy crazy film that confuses you and sometimes you might even want to turn it off, but at the end, you’ll realize it was so worth it.

Y Tu Mamá También
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Year: 2001

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This is the movie that started the world’s love affair with Mexico’s most famous acting duo. Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna try to romance a slightly older Spanish woman and take her on a road trip in search of a mostly made up beach called boca del cielo. Along the way they pass police checkpoints, see drug busts and traffic accidents, and drive past shanty towns–you see the real Mexico. It’s beautiful, sometimes violent, many are poor, some really really rich. Filled with the most awkward sex scenes in cinematic history and peppered with Mexi-slang it’s at this point a Mexican classic.

Temporada de Patos (Duck Season)
Director: Fernando Eimbcke
Year: 2004

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Flama and Moko are fourteen years old and are best friends. On a low key Sunday afternoon, they are left alone by Flama’s parents with some money for a pizza and video games to pass the time. Flama’s neighbor, Rita, wants to bake a cake and asks to use the oven. After the delivery guy arrives late, the boys refuse to pay for the pizza, but he refuses to leave until he gets the money. Then, the power goes out foiling their plans of playing video games. The four of them end up talking and learning more about each other than they ever would have had the power not gone out. Not a lot happens in this black and white comedy-drama but it uses humor and empty silences to makes its point–that when you take away all the modern day distractions, we are all just lonely people trying to make a connection with each other.

Year: 2009
Director: Pedro González-Rubio

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In an effort to create an intimate environment for his second film, Alamar, González-Rubio wrote, directed, shot and edited the picture himself. Set in a small house on stilts that sits above the crystal-clear blue waters of the Yucatan Peninsula, it explores the bond between a father and son as they share a fishing trip together. In this documentary, five year-old Natan travels from Italy to spend time with his long-haired father in Mexico who lives along the edge of the coral reefs on Banco Chinchorro. His dad, a Mexi-hippie who fishes by diving into the water with a spear in hand, exposes him to the beauty that sits below the surface of the crisp blue ocean. They spend their days catching fish, gutting them, cooking them, and eating them. They chase birds and try to avoid the alligator that sometimes comes around. They enjoy each other’s company in a world that is far removed from everyday conveniences and distractions. It’s a quiet and tender film that takes you to a faraway place–time slows down and the days blend into each other. You are transported–gently swaying in a hammock, listening to an old radio and the seagulls flying overhead.

Honorable Mention: The Pocho Award

Born in East L.A.
Director: Cheech Marin
Year: 1987

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Just like crunchy tacos, nachos, and burritos–Chicano films are not quite Mexican but still really good. There are so many Chicano classics: La Bamba, Stand and Deliver, Selena, El Norte, Blood In Blood Out, but Born in East L.A. is a special kind of film that is completely underrated. Yeah, it’s a slapstick comedy but it also makes insightful social commentary. Cheech Marin doesn’t get the recognition he really deserves–he not only wrote and directed the film, but also stars in it. He plays Rudy, a Mexi-American who doesn’t speak Spanish and gets accidentally caught in an immigration raid. Having left his wallet at home and not able to prove his citizenship, he gets deported to Mexico. While in Tijuana, he does anything he can to make money so he can pay a coyote to take him back across the border. He works at cheesy clubs that swindle gringo tourists and teaches some OTMs (people labeled by immigration officials as “other than Mexican”) how to act like vatos so they blend in when they get to California. Waas Sappening!