Streaming services, more than ever, have made it easier for cinephiles to acquaint themselves with films from all over the world. When it comes to epic tales of thrill and adventure, nobody does it better than the Spanish. In recent years, they have introduced a certain contemporaneity to their cinema in addition to the gothic romances, thrilling action and avant garde surrealism, resulting in a growing industry that blends artful techniques of storytelling with relevant topics too. Here are some of the best Spanish films streaming on Netflix right now. How many have you ticked off your list?
1. Sunday’s Illness (2018)
An estranged mother and daughter meet after thirty years, as old secrets and new resentments come to the fore. Annabel (Susi Sanchez) is hosting a party where Chiara (Barbara Lennie) shows up, the daughter that she had abandoned thirty years ago. Illness, age, time and hurt have changed their relationship, and over the course of the ten days that Chiara asks to stay with Annabel, they both must figure out what they want from one another. The mother and daughter must now reconcile past hurts in the light of a new revelation made by Chiara. Meanwhile, time is running out. Watch the film for heart-breaking performances and the beautiful, cathartic closure of just what family means, and demands.
2. The Fury of a Patient Man (2016)
Made by Raul Arevalo, The Fury of a Patient Man is a revenge fantasy and thriller that revolves around two men – Curro and Jose. Caught between them is Ana, a single mother who is approached by Jose to get close to her criminal boyfriend Curro, and later forms a bond with him. Past grievances arise and the mystery of what lies between these two men takes over the film. Fast-paced twists and a clever story make this a must-watch. This dark tale is not all violence and cold vengeance, however; it is told with a focus on the despair and emptiness of retribution. If you like revenge flicks with a dash of fast-paced thrilling twists, this movie will tick all the right boxes for you.
3. The Endless Trench (2019)
The Endless Trench dramatizes the plight of the people during the Spanish Civil War, through the newlywed couple Higinio and Rosa. As a Republican and staunch critic of the Falangist government, Higinio fears execution and goes into hiding under the floor of his house with his wife’s help for what happens to be 33 years. As time passes, Higinio comes to view his isolation and fear as his life’s destiny. He is rendered unable to leave, even when the danger has passed. The film handles fear and isolationism of living under an authoritarian government in a very sensitive manner, and through Higinio, paints a profile of courage that reflects martyrs and political prisoners everywhere. The Endless Trench was Spain’s entry in the foreign film category at this year’s Oscars.
4. The Platform (2019)
In an unspecified dystopian world, people are confined to a tower with many floors, and the residents who are switched in between the floors every month, are fed via a platform that traverses the length of the tower. As people on the top floor get to eat as much as they can, this leads to conflict within the building. Caught in this fomenting fight are Goreng, a student, Miharu, a woman looking for her lost child and Trimagasi. Their ordeal to survive pushes them to the limits as they go to the very lengths of depravity to survive. The film is undoubtedly innovative, and a message of social justice and the gap between the rich and the poor is what makes the film so very relevant.
5. The Invisible Guest (2016)
Infidelity, suspense, betrayal and revenge are the themes to watch out for in this mystery thriller. When Adrian is arrested for allegedly killing his lover, Laura Vidal, he must come up with a way to prove that he is being framed. The answer might lie in a sordid secret involving him, Laura, and a car crash on a lonely road. As Adrian is caught up in a whirlwind of suspicion and murders, ghosts of the past who know of his misdeeds, come to haunt him. Watch this film for some well-executed twists and last-minute surprises that will pull the rug from under you. Interestingly, the film has spawned several remakes of many languages, most recently Sujoy Ghosh’s Badla.
6.Quien te Cantara (2018)
Lila, a celebrated but world-weary singer, meets with a fatal accident that leaves her with amnesia. With memories of herself and her skill fading quickly, Lila is brought into contact with Violeta, a young single mother who works in a karaoke bar and is a huge fan of hers. With Lila‘s much publicized comeback to the public due in a few months, Violeta must help Lila become herself again, but in the process, she is faced with the ever-tantalizing prospect of becoming Lila herself. The film raises questions regarding the very nature of self-conception. When does a person truly become themselves? Is it an act or a process? Watch this film for a dark exploration of fame, identity, womanhood and tenuous self-imagery narrated under the watchful eyes of director Carlos Vermut.
7. The Giant (2017)
A story about the world’s tallest man is told through the lens of infinite unnerving humanism with just a touch of creepiness and sibling rivalry. A brother returns to town from war to find that his brother has turned into a giant, which he decides to turn into a circus act. Suspicion, resentment and a sense of betrayal test the brothers’ bond, as they go through disease, death, heartbreak and tragedy, finally redeemed by one’s loyalty to the other. It’s based on the life of Miguel Joaquín Eleizegui Arteaga, who suffered from gigantism and was known as ‘Giant from Altzo’. The film takes care to portray a heartbreaking story in a nuanced way, never settling for one-note heroes or villains. In director Aitor Arregi and Jon Garaño’s hands, The Giant is a tour de force of the darkest parts of human fragility, insecurity and loyalty.
8. Roma (2018)
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, Roma is an autobiographical retelling of the director’s own life and experiences growing up in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. It is told through the lives of Cleo and Adela, domestic maids who are employed by Sofia. The film follows them through ups and downs, and reaffirms the sheer love that exists between the three women, as well as breaking new ground for the portrayal of indigenous characters in films. One of the best movies of 2018, Roma won several awards and accolades, breaking ground in many aspects, and most importantly, centering crucial issues like women of color, economic disparity and right to abortion. Landing a whopping 10 nominations at the 2018 Oscars, it scooped awards in three major categories — Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography.
9. The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Directed by the iconic Guillermo del Toro, The Devil’s Backbone is a horror story with gothic elements, a mainstay of any del Toro film. It follows a couple of married caretakers, Casares and Carmen, who run an orphanage for children. They are accompanied by Jacinto and his fiancée Conchita. The arrival of a boy named Carlos and his gradual friendship with the local bully named Jamie at the orphanage brings up old secrets and a mysterious entity, who seems more tragic than malicious. Del Toro and cinematographer Guillermo Navarro give us beautiful, haunting visuals in a sorrowful story of loss told against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. One of the finest in the director’s filmography, The Devil’s Backbone stands among the greatest horror movies of the 21st century.
10. Beauties of the Night (2016)
Beauties of the Night recounts the lives of the top showgirls in 70s Mexico’s golden years — Olga Breeskin, Lyn May, Rossy Mendoza, Wanda Seux and Princesa Yamal. The documentary dares to look beyond the glittery façade of the lives of these five vedettes, turning it into a real-life look at women and their identities, especially those who have been defined by their physicality for much of their careers. The documentary doesn’t condemn them for their choices. Instead, it takes the time and attention to celebrate them as pioneers and cultural icons in their own right, who ruled the nightlife of the cities in their heyday. María José Cuevas’s debut work captures an intimate portrait of these women and their rise and fall from grace.
11. Errementari (2017)
Based on a Basque folk tale called The Devil and the Smith, Errementari is a horror comedy film that revolves around a blacksmith who holds a demon captive as revenge, and an orphan girl who later releases the demon. The story is set against the chaos of the First Carlist War in Araba. It’s equal parts funny and grisly, with everything going delightfully wrong, and one amazing blacksmith who even the devil is afraid of. Even the demon gets some moments of light-hearted fun. In our books, this makes the film a must-watch. Mining laughs from its wickedly delightful plot is what sets Errementari apart.
There we are! These are some of the best Spanish movies on Netflix to add to your watchlist! A fascinating and troubled history has plagued Spanish cinema. From the glory days of silent films to the Golden Age of Spanish filmmaking that witnessed the transition from silent films to sound films, followed by the Civil War, which brought to a halt all the gains made by the industry in the past fifty years. What came afterwards was censorship, scandal, a phase of hedonist modernism in the eighties’ and, at long last, a niche in the annals of international cinema. Spanish cinema has seen it all, and traversed a long way. Melodramatic romances and tales of chivalry and sentimentality told in a riot of color and sound have become modern-day iterations of heartfelt stories. With social commentaries and fantastical, surreal narratives, it is an apposite teller of its own ravaged history.
An avid reader and a life-long lover of blue skies, I like to spend my time with obscure poetry and dissecting films. Currently besotted with Maupassant, art history and all things Nolan, you can find me spacing out to Queen while I look for new things to obsess with.