We know that when it comes to cinema, Americans love themselves some sequels, superheroes and animated talking animals. Look no further than 2016’s U.S. box office which was ruled by Rogue One, Finding Dory, Captain America: Civil War and The Secret Life of Pets. And since Hollywood is such a global phenomenon, these films tend to perform well overseas as well.
But what of local fare? What national flicks attract the biggest crowds in their respective countries? Thankfully, our friends at LatAm Cinema took it upon themselves to track these box office successes. If you’re curious, you can check the list below which ranges from the gargantuan Brazilian hit that became that country’s record-breaking project all the way down to the unassuming Nicaraguan education documentary that nevertheless attracted enough crowds to crown itself champion in the Central American nation. Here’s one thing you’ll learn by looking at this list: Latin American audiences will flock to broad comedies. That makes watching out for the anomalies, which include a musical, a Biblical epic, and even a pair of horror films, all the more thrilling, and leaves you wishing some of these made it to the States (or to Netflix, at least).
H/T Cinema Tropical
Os Dez Mandamentos: O Filme
Brazil: 11.3 million spectators
A cinematic retelling of four Biblical books (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), The Ten Commandments: The Movie centers on Moses’ story from a young adopted baby to leader of the suffering people of Israel. It is also, as its title suggests, an adaptation of the massively successful Biblical Brazilian telenovela of the same name that was produced by Rede Record in 2015. The epic story is told here with the type of sweeping production values you’d expect from a big budget blockbuster, with lavish costumes, sweeping sets, and a slew of special effects that make sure this is a Biblical spectacle unlike Brazil had ever seen. It’s no surprise it became the highest grossing Brazilian film ever
¿Qué Culpa Tiene el Niño?
Mexico: 5.9 million spectators
This romantic comedy stars How To Get Away With Murder‘s Karla Souza, the reigning queen of Mexican box office. Taking a page out of Knocked Up, ¿Qué Culpa Tiene el Niño? follows Maru, a young woman who gets pregnant after a one-night stand at a wedding party. After tracking down the father, an immature young bachelor (the sexy Ricardo Abarca) who is most definitely a step down from what her wealthy parents had envisioned for the Maru, she decides to get married because, what could possibly go wrong, right?
Me casé con un boludo
Argentina: 1.9 million spectators
There really is nothing quite as dazzling as a dashing movie star, especially when they’re playing a dreamy ideal of a man. You could see why up and coming actress Florencia (Valeria Bertuccelli) falls so deeply in love with A-lister Fabián (Adrián Suar) while they’re shooting a film together. But when they rush into marriage and she begins to see Fabián out of character, she begins to fear she’s married, well, un boludo (an idiot). Turns out he’s quite conceited and, devoid of a script, can’t quite put his ego aside to nurture what could be a lasting relationship. Can he find a way to woo Florencia back without first driving her insane? If his increasingly absurdly hilarious attempts are any indication, playing a good husband may well be Fabián’s most challenging role to date.
Chile: 1.2 million spectators
This raucous Chilean comedy follows Pía (Paz Bascuñán), a woman who, after visiting a Chinese doctor to settle a pain in her chest, finds herself unable to filter her thoughts. Everything she would usually bottle up—her frustrations with her partner, with her boss, with strangers on the street—suddenly flows out of her. This being a comedy in the vein of Jim Carrey’s Liar, Liar, Pía soon finds out that while this newfound honesty is liberating, it also comes at a price.
Uno al año no hace daño 2
A sequel to the very successful Uno al año no hace daño, this second entry continues that mockumentary’s mission to find out whether Colombia is, in fact, a country of heavy drinkers. Journalist Marcos, alongside his cameraman seek to offer audiences an accurate documentation of that most tired of excuses Colombians use when they drink too much: una vez al año no hace daño (it don’t hurt much if it’s just once a year). Following the antics of those living in Barrio las Delicias, Marcos is this time focusing on various raucous celebrations like Halloween and Mother’s Day to show what drunken Colombians really look like. Basically, this comedy is an excuse to see the hilarity that ensues when everyone in town gets wasted at the same time.
Locos de amor
Peru: 1.2 million spectators
Locos de amor is not a film you see every day. It is a homegrown jukebox musical centered on a group of middle-aged women. Featuring songs straight out of your mother’s CD collection (including those by Pimpinela, Perales, Montaner, and Mocedades among others) this Peruvian flick is an anthology of sorts, following a number of women dealing with heartbreak, betrayal, and the growing pains of maturity. More Mamma Mia! than La La Land, Frank Pérez-Garland’s joyous musical numbers (staged in outdoor parks, inside shopping malls, and in parking garages) lift up this celebration of female friendship that nevertheless hints at the melancholy that we all face when experiencing the passing of time.
Venezuela: 317,544 spectators
Starring Venezuelan pop star Jesús “Chino” Miranda El malquerido is a biopic of Felipe Pirela, “the bolerista de América.” Telling his story of how a young kid growing up in Maracaibo became one of the most successful Latin American singers of his era, Diego Rísquez’s film glosses over most of Pirela’s life. Set against beautiful backdrops of mid-century Venezuela and using interviews as a framing device, El malquerido dives deep into Pirela’s lurid personal life, including his marriage to a teenager and their later messy divorce proceedings during which she accused him of being gay.
¿Pa’ qué me casé?
Dominican Republic: 232,000 spectators
Sometimes comedies need nothing more than a timely, quippy title to set the tone. Such is the case in ¿Pa’ qué me casé? which literally has its characters wondering “Why did I ever get married?” Roberto Angel Salcedo’s ensemble film mines divorce for its comedic gold. From hysterical women railing against cheating husbands to midday meltdowns about the prospect of dying alone, the laughs in this Dominican flick try to get at real anxieties about the rising divorce rate in the country.
Costa Rica: 116,800 spectators
What better way to try and rekindle a waning relationship than a road trip? Better to be heading to the beach than to continue yelling at each other in front of a couple’s counselor. That’s precisely the set up of Hernan Jimenez’s sunny Entonces nosotros which obviously mines a relationship in crisis once Diego and Sofía hit the road. On the way they meet one of Sofía’s old friends, Malena, who’s outspoken and willing to cut through the tension between them, making what was supposed to be a peaceful getaway into an all out (and hilarious) romantic brawl.
Historia de héroes
Honduras: 79,000 spectators
Sick of playing cards and hitting on women on the street, three slacker guys (Buchucha, Casaca, Buchaca) decide to enroll in the Honduras National Police Academy. Facing a strict regimen and a number of higher ups who see them as helpless cases, the three guys must band together to get through training in hopes of finally doing something worthwhile with their lives and make their families proud. Easier said than done, though seeing Buchucha, Casaca and Buchaca try their best leads to many a hilarious sequence that can’t help but recall the 1980s Police Academy flicks.
Gritos del Monday
Paraguay: 32,400 spectators
Remixing everything from The Exorcist and The Blair Witch Project to The Ring, this creepy horror film begins in the idyllic green and lush landscapes of Río Monday. A group of environmental engineering students are on a field trip. But during the night, Viviana (Solange Mendez Flores) hears a piercing scream that will come to haunt her. Once she finds the unsettling origin of the scream, she won’t be able to escape the presence that follows her once she and her schoolmates are back in the city. Sensing the abnormality in her daughter since the trip, Viviana’s parents alongside her friends hope to find what really happened back in the woods before it’s too late and they lose her altogether.
Panama: 22,700 spectators
This funny Panamanian comedy about a black housemaid that appears out of nowhere to fulfill every wish of her new employers, the Vinda family. Played with relish by nonprofessional actress Nilka Denny (who’d spent fifteen years in jail before landing this role), Dominga is a force to be reckoned with, spicing up the life of Diego Vinda and his wife and seemingly giving them the happiness they’d always dreamed of. But the appearance of a check puts her existence and her motivations into question. Mixing magical realism with a tropical poetic sensibility (not to mention plenty of humor), The Check is a film unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Marama – Rombai – El viaje
Uruguay: 13,000 spectators
Marama – Rombai – El Viaje delivers is an electric behind the scenes look at two of the most well-known cumbia pop musical groups in Latin America. Tracing the origins of both groups (driven by Fernando Vázquez) through to their breakout hit “Noche Loca” and their hectic touring schedule, the documentary is not really about the glitz and glamour of being on the road. Instead, in telling the story of these two still quite new bands, it focuses on what happens when what as a group made up of friends messing about turns into a wildly successful touring musical act, with all its frustrations and setbacks. And yes, in between concert scenes and laid back bus tour hangouts, fans of Rombai will get the full story of why lead singer Camila Rajchman ended up quitting the group back in 2016.
Bolivia: 11,700 spectators
Billed as the “first Bolivian horror movie,” La herencia follows Alan, a man living with many traumas. After a difficult childhood, he’s now dealing with a divorce and the loss of his child. And not very well at that: he’s involved in shady dealings and life of vice. On his 33rd birthday he gets a call from his mother who sounds scared and desperate. It’s when she shows up dead that things get creepy as Alan begins to have hallucinations of a goddess Osiris that threaten to disturb his world even more.
Otros 4 Litros
Guatemala: 2,600 spectators
Their friend had only one wish: to have his ashes scattered in Lake Atitlán and for his three friends to drink up the other 4 litres of the film’s title. And so, dutiful friends they are, Chente, Linares, and Mijo embark on one of those rollicking road trips that you immediately know will lead to funny hijinks. First up: they run over someone on the road. A cop no less! But since this isn’t I Know What You Did Last Summer, the film treats that minor bump and the subsequent mid-life crises of its core trio with the kind of broad gags and slapstick humor that characterizes Rodolfo Espinosa’s go-for-broke cine.
Sueños de birrete
Nicaragua: 2,200 spectators
Nicaragua is ranked among the 10th worst countries when it comes to education. Teachers and schools don’t have the necessary resources to make sure their students thrive. Camilo de Castro’s documentary Sueños de birreteis focused on four students (Oliver, Kerym, Virginia and Damaris) whose stories put into context the recent history of public education in Nicaragua and the challenges that face a country that doesn’t invest in its future.
Sin muertos no hay carnaval
Ecuador: no official data available
Looking at the social tensions in Guayaquil, Sebastián Cordero crafts this unflinching drama about the conflict between a wealthy young man and the 250 families who are squatting in the territory he’s just inherited from his father. Aiming for a sleek thriller aesthetic rooted in the broken down neighborhoods of Guayaquil, Cordero’s film reveals the violence and corruption that unfortunately echoes what the film’s English title promises us: “Such is the life in the Tropics.”