Thanksgiving is hands down the best American holiday. It’s an entire day that is dedicated to gluttony. Overeating is not only encouraged, it’s considered a vital part of celebrating the Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, and all that other stuff. Anyway, back to the eating. Latinos love to eat and celebrate and be merry just like everyone else, but our Thanksgivings are a little bit different. We feast on turkey and tamales, stuff ourselves with pumpkin pie and flan, and sip on pitorro while abuelita naps on the couch in a post-pavo food coma.
Regardless of how you spend your Thanksgiving, here are some Latino films you can watch on Netflix while recovering from your turkey hangover. Whether you’re breaking bread with your parents, nieces and nephews, abuelos or roommates — we’ve got you covered. Check out our handy rating system to make sure you don’t end up watching any sex scenes with your parents (awkward!) or freak out the little ones sitting at the kids table.
UPDATE 11/17/2016: Many of the films on this list are no longer streaming on Netflix. Check out our brand-new, updated list:
Cidade de deus
Watch this with your parents, roommates, or grown up cousins. There’s lots of drugs and violence, not too much sex though. – Rated R
Like the plucky little chicken that escapes death despite all odds in the film’s opening scene, so do a lot of the street kids depicted in Cidade de deus (City of God) get by on bravado and dumb luck in the tough favelas of Brazil. But mostly they die since their guns are not the make believe ones of child’s play but the real deal on the mean city streets of Cidade de deus, an incredibly rough favela on the edge of Rio. Rocket, a budding photographer whose way out lies in his camera rather than the gun, narrates the story of the gangs of children and youth he grows up with, armed to the teeth, who thieve and threaten their way through daily life to survive in a place that holds no other options. Ignored by the cops and social services their lives and livelihoods grow harder as petty pot dealing turns to major drug trafficking and the stakes get higher. With clever narration by Rocket that works in counterpoint to the violence onscreen, a soundtrack that makes shootouts seem like dance sequences, and virtuoso editing and cinematography that shows the Carnival-like craziness of these little kids larger-than-life lives of crime, Cidade de deus is a hyper-original epic of tragic proportions.
It’s a relatively family friendly story of immigrants searching for the American Dream. Follow it with a “things I’m thankful for” discussion and you’ve got a picture perfect kumbaya, feel-good Thanksgiving. – Not Rated
Mariana (Paola Mendoza) followed her husband to New York after living on her own in Colombia for years. Not long after his family arrives, Antonio breaks the news that he got a new job in Miami and is moving. Days pass and Mariana begins to run out of money. She leaves him messages but he doesn’t call back. It becomes clear that Antonio is gone for good and Mariana is left to care for her kids, alone. It’s no surprise that Mendoza’s performance is relatable, sympathetic, and thoughtful. The film tells her life story and the role of Mariana is based on her own mother. It’s a film that shows exactly what New York can be: terrifying, crushing, and sometimes too much to bear but full of promise, opportunity, and new beginnings. It’s a place where a nightmare situation can become an American dream come true. Entre Nos is inspiring and uplifting, exactly what a movie should be.
Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos
The rise and colossal fall of the New York Cosmos, the team that brought Brazilian soccer superstar Pelé to America, as seen against the backdrop of New York in the 1970s. Steel-willed Cosmos owner Steve Ross made it a priority to bring soccer to the forefront of American popular culture, but with the sport’s new-found higher profile in America came a new set of problems: drugs, greed, and plenty of behind-the-scenes drama.
Chico y Rita
There’s drinking, sex, and violence but it’s all animated. It definitely fits in the cartoons for grown-ups category but are your kids/nieces/nephews/little cousins really going to be traumatized by drawings of a naked lady? We’ll let you decide. – Not Rated
This Spanish-directed, Oscar-nominated film made waves in 2010 for its mature subject matter and beautiful animation. Told largely in flashbacks, Chico y Rita tells the story of Chico, a talented piano player in pre-revolutionary Cuba, who falls in love with the beautiful Rita, a budding singer. Their relationship is tested again and again as their careers take them from Havana, to New York, Paris, Las Vegas, and more. If the slick visuals and heartfelt story don’t do it for you, hopefully the music from Bebo Valdéz and the epic trip through the history of Latin music in the United States will. Seriously, Chico and his friend even get to play Forrest Gump to Chano Pozo’s murder. They play with Tito Puente. Chico’s song gets covered by Nat King Cole. Chico y Rita is a great movie set within a history we don’t get to see enough of.
Mercedes Sosa: The Voice of Latin America
It covers the highs and lows of her career, so there are some tough moments like when she’s running from Argentina’s violent dictatorship, but it’s pretty safe for all ages. – Not Rated
An intimate portrait tracing Mercedes Sosa’s forty year career as a folk singer, from her start in Argentina to her tours around the globe, this doc features emotional interviews with her family, closest friends, and collaborators together with archival footage of her most notable performances. Having sold millions of records, she attained worldwide commercial success all the while leading the charge to call out the dictatorship in her home country. As a member of the Nueva Canción movement, a group of Latin American musicians whose lyrics had strong political messages, she became known as the “voice of the voiceless.” Narrated by her son, this stirring portrait of her life and career gives an in-depth look at her start as a singer, her loves and heartbreaks, plus her motivations and inspirations. It’s a must-see for any Mercedes Sosa fan and a great introduction to her music for newbies.
Amor a primera vista
Serendipity has a funny way of proving itself in this cheesy albeit harmless Mexican romantic comedy about a mariachi singer who finds himself in a bizarre situation. When Rachel (Ramsey), a diplomatic consul for the U.S. Embassy, rejects the visa of musician Alejandro Fernandez (Camil), she has no idea she will soon run into the mariachi again when she needs help. After a night of drinking and passing out in the street, Rachel is saved by Alejandro, but does not remember that he is the same man she saw in her office days prior who was hoping to renew his paperwork and stay in the country with his daughter.
El Mar Adentro
Winner of the Best Foreign Language Film at the 77th annual Academy Awards, this real-life biopic tells the story of Ramón Samperdo (Javier Bardem), a Spanish writer and quadriplegic, who fought for almost 30 years to end his life own his own terms through assisted suicide. His story is told through two relationships he has: one with a lawyer who supports his campaign to die with dignity; the other with a local woman who hopes to convince him that although he can only move his body from the neck up, his life is still worth living.
For those who want a unique twist on a classic tale and aren’t afraid of the phrase “silent film.” Watch with the family, parents, kids, abuelos and all. – Rated PG-13
Based on the fairytale Snow White by the Brothers Grimm, this black and white fantasy film follows Carmen (Macarena García), a woman with amnesia who is trained by a group of dwarves to become a bullfighter. Set in the 1920s, director Pablo Berger says it’s a, “love letter to European silent cinema.” Blancanieves was Spain’s official entry into the 85th Academy Awards, but it failed to make the final short list for a possible nomination. It did, however, win 10 Goya Awards (Spain’s equivalent to the Oscars) in 2013, including one for Best Picture of the Year.
For those who like their comedies a little darker than usual, this one’s pretty safe for family watching. – Not Rated
Set in Montevideo, Uruguay, this comedy by director/writer Adrián Biniez sounds like director Christopher Nolan’s first film, 1998’s Following if it was written as a weird romantic comedy. In Gigante, security guard Jara watches cleaning lady Julia through the security cameras at a local supermarket and immediately falls in love with her. Instead of sharing his feelings, Jara decides to follow her around the city, watching her every move. Sounds more creepy than comical, but we’re sure there aren’t any restraining orders in this emo rom-com.
This documentary from the ESPN 30 for 30 series features the Mexican phenom known as Fernando Valenzuela (a.k.a. El Toro). Although he did not fit the conventional mold of a professional baseball player, Valenzuela stormed into Major League Baseball in 1981 to pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Fernandomania” began right from the start as Valenzuela, a left-handed pitcher from a remote Mexican village in the Sonoran desert, wowed baseball fans with his hard-to-hit screwball and unique approach to the game.
Big Ass Spider!
Fans of SyFy original movies like Sharknado and Chupacabra vs. the Alamo should love this horror comedy that pits a gigantic alien arachnid against the citizens of Los Angeles. After the monstrous spider escapes from a military lab, a group of scientists and an exterminator go after the eight-legged freak in an attempt to destroy the beast before it wreaks havoc on the city. As a B-movie creature feature, you probably could do a lot worse. Now, someone get the 50 foot can of Raid, please.
Casa de mi Padre
Spanish speakers will enjoy knowing they don’t have to read subtitles for a Ferrell comedy, but the bloody violence and language will be far too much for the niños. – Rated R
Parodying some of the overly exaggerated Mexican soap operas your abuela probably watches, this comedy actually features Will Ferrell speaking Spanish for the entire film. In the comedy, Ferrell plays Armando Álvarez, a Mexican rancher who gets in over his head when he falls in love with his brother’s (Diego Luna) fianceé (Génesis Rodríguez) and angers a dangerous drug lord known and Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal). Listen for Rodríguez’s father El Puma’s song “Whiter Shade” on the movie’s soundtrack.
From Dusk Till Dawn
Robert Rodríguez fans should squeal with delight, even when the story veers off course and switches genres faster than you can say “Santanico Pandemonium.” Kids will probably cry when Danny Trejo vamps out, so send them to bed after they eat their pumpkin pie. – Rated R
On the run from the law, two criminal brothers (George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino) decide to take a family hostage so they can get across Mexico’s border in their RV. When they make a stop at a cantina/club, their worst nightmares come to pass when they realize the establishment is filled with blood-sucking vampires who want nothing more than to rip the criminals and the family to pieces. In an attempt to survive the night, the fangless humans put together a collection of makeshift weapons to fight off the undead and hope the sun rises before their heads roll. Robert Rodriguez’s vampire western features stalwart Latino actors Danny Trejo (as Razor Charlie) and Cheech Marin, together with Mexican-born Salma Hayek.
This award-plundering documentary charts life on Brazil’s Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest landfill site until its closure in 2012, and the many people who make a living recycling waste there. Under the guidance of Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, the collectors create elaborate artworks using only materials they find on the landfill. These works are subsequently sold at auction in London, with the proceeds reinvested in improving conditions for the community. An uplifting tale of collectivism, sustainability and environmental protection, the fact that Moby recorded the soundtrack emphasizes the kind of film it is.
Cesar’s Last Fast
Over the last few decades, few people have been as instrumental in grassroots activism in the United States as Cesar Chavez. A champion of worker and immigrant rights, Chavez is a modern folk hero, with buildings, monuments, and even holidays named in his honor. A tireless and courageous campaigner, Chavez advocated pacifism, with extended periods of fasting a common tactic for raising awareness to the plight of the exploited and the marginalized. In 1988, Chavez embarked on one such fast in order to draw attention to the use of pesticides that were having severe implications on the health of agricultural workers. It is another compelling chapter in the life of a remarkable man.
Pecados de mi padre
You may think that being Pablo Escobar’s kid would be a real lark. Not so, according to Sebastián Marroquín, a.k.a. Pablo Jr. As the only son of the world’s wealthiest and most dangerous criminal, life was a struggle for the boy. When Dad was gunned down in 1993, Junior swore revenge against all those who had collaborated in his assassination, a somewhat reckless move that made him a potential target for corrupt police, paramilitary death squads, and rival cartels. The family fled to Argentina, changed their names, and tried to maintain as low a profile as possible. Still haunted by his father’s dark legacy, Sebastián reaches out to the families of men who were killed on the order of Pablo Escobar and asks for their forgiveness in this touching documentary.
One of the most successful Argentine films of recent years, Clandestine Childhood follows young Ernesto, whose left-wing militant parents are forced underground during Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ of the 1970s. Preparing to lead the resistance against the repressive military dictatorship, the entire family must adopt aliases so as to avoid detection, as many of their comrades are arrested and disappeared by the authorities. For Ernesto, the massive responsibility of protecting his family’s identity sits uncomfortably with the desire to behave like a normal kid. The film is partly based on the personal experience of director Benjamín Ávila, whose own mother, a member of the Montoneros revolutionary movement, was disappeared when he was just seven years old.
The Original Latin Kings of Comedy
A riotous comedy special covering topics such as being mistaken for the help, white kids being raised by Latina nannies, and what Mexican greeting cards would be like, The Original Latin Kings of Comedy dissects what it’s like to be a Latino in the U.S. Hosted by Cheech Marin and featuring some of the biggest names in Latino comedy – George Lopez, Joey Medina, Alex Reymundo and Paul Rodríguez – the show serves as a companion piece to Spike Lee’s The Original Kings of Comedy, replacing the black performers from Lee’s film with those of Mexican descent. The result is brash, provocative, and downright hilarious.
Watch this with friends. It’s not so kid-friendly due to bad language and a weighty plot. – Rated R
An ex-con tries to stay on the straight and narrow; it’s a well-trodden narrative which here gets transplanted to S.F.’s “low and slow” cholo headquarters: the Mission District. Che Rivera is a rehabilitated alcoholic and reformed criminal who nowadays gets his kicks cruising around town in his lowrider. His past mistakes mean he is eager to ensure his son Jes avoids going down the same path. But Jes has his own concerns (mostly about his sexuality), which will force Che to reassess his prejudices and role as a father. The film was commended for promoting a strong environmental message thanks to green product placement throughout and a plot that focuses on initiatives like converting lowrider engines to run on biodiesel (In California, even the cholos are green.)
This guy’s life was a 20 year marathon of globe-trotting, drinking, gun fights, women, bomb plots and hostage-taking, which is exactly why it’s makes for an awesome movie. Watch this with adults only. – Not Rated
This epic crime drama (told in a 3 part mini-series) following the adventures of one of the world’s most infamous terrorists/revolutionaries, Venezuelan national Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (more commonly known as Carlos the Jackal) was one of the biggest TV events of recent years. Édgar Ramírez oozes charisma as the title character, inhabiting the role of the Jackal from the early days in 70s Europe through to his capture over two decades later after being sold out by treacherous collaborators. In spite of being portrayed as something of a noble idealist, the real-life Carlos was less than impressed with this mini-series, claiming that it could prejudice any future trials and falsified history. “Showing hysterical men waving submachine guns and threatening people is completely ridiculous,” he riled. An element of myth making, perhaps, but one thing’s for sure: if Édgar Ramírez played me in the film of my life story, I’d be pretty damn pleased about it.