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5 Spanish movies you NEED TO know!

For many viewers, Spanish cinema is mainly Pedro Almodóvar but in the filmography of this country you can find lots of noteworthy movies.

Dawid Myśliwiec

26 May 2023

spanish movies

For many viewers, not only those less initiated, Spanish cinema is mainly Pedro Almodóvar. And indeed, the filmmaker from Castile has been regularly delivering excellent works since the mid-1980s, thus popularizing the native cinematography. But in the filmography of this country you can also find other noteworthy films – here is a subjective list of five Spanish films that you need to know!

The Sea Inside (Mar adentro), 2004, dir. Alejandro Amenábar

The Sea Inside Mar adentro javier bardem

One of the most awarded Spanish films of the 21st century tells the true story of Ramón Sampedro, who was paralyzed after a failed dive and fought for the right to euthanasia for 28 years. Although he could take his own life at any time, he wanted to be legally allowed to end his many years of suffering. The hero created by Javier Bardem is an extremely inspiring figure who, despite his position, brings a lot of light and love into the lives of two women. A beautiful film, extremely important in the discussion about the moral aspect of euthanasia. Alejandro Amenábar’s drama was awarded, among others, with an Oscar, a Golden Globe and 14 Spanish Goya Awards (to this day it is a record result in the history of these awards).

All About my Mother (Todo sobre mi madre) 1999, dir. Pedro Almodóvar

All About my Mother Todo sobre mi madre

If someone had insisted on composing this five only from the works of the master Almodóvar, he would probably be able to defended this decision. Connected with Madrid for most of his life, the filmmaker has more excellent titles than many national cinematographies, but if you had to watch only one Almodóvar film, let it be All About My Mother. You will find everything we love Pedro for: sentimentalism, complicated interpersonal relationships, a journey into the past. A deeply moving story will make you cry your last tear. The film also stars three of Almodóvar’s acting muses: Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes and Penélope Cruz.

Death of a Cyclist (Muerte de un ciclista),1955, dir. Juan Antonio Bardem

Death of a Cyclist Muerte de un ciclista Juan Antonio Bardem

While neorealism celebrated artistic triumphs in Italy, Juan Antonio Bardem was creating his vision of social realism in Spain. The uncle of the aforementioned Javier Bardem is the most important creator of classic Spanish cinema, and The Death of a Cyclist is rightly listed among his best works. It tells the story of a university professor (Alberto Closas) and a well-to-do married woman (Lucia Bosè), who, returning from an intimate tryst, run over the titular cyclist with their car and – worse – flee the scene of the accident. Over the next few days, both struggle with remorse and their secrets become threatened. Death of a Cyclist is an excellent melodrama about morality and the consequences of bad decisions.

[Rec], 2007, dir. Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza

[Rec]

Some people will probably be surprised to see this item on the list, but in the last dozen or so years the Spaniards have firmly entered the horror cinema market, and [REC] is one of the best examples of the use of found footage in horror. The story is simple: a TV crew follows with a camera the firefighters going to an intervention in an old apartment building in the center of Barcelona. A simple emergency call turns into a fight against supernatural forces… Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s numerous sequels to the film are unlikely to be as good, but thanks to [Rec] and Juan Antonio Bayona’s Orphanage from the same year, Spanish horror has become a standalone brand.

The Spirit of a Beehive (El espíritu de la colmena), 1973, dir. Victor Erice

The Spirit of a Beehive El espíritu de la colmena

In the 1970s, over the course of several years, two outstanding films about the hardships of childhood premiered: (1976) by Carlos Saura and The Spirit of a Beehive. However, due to the fact that for some reason Saura’s film enjoys much more popularity and recognition, I bet on Eric’s work, equally excellent, but a bit more subtle. The full-length debut of the Basque director connects with the character of a minor actress Ana Torrent, who plays her six-year-old namesake in The Spirit of a Beehive. Fascinated by the story of Frankenstein, the girl gradually moves away from her family into the world of imagination, and all this takes place in 1940 in Francoist Spain ravaged by civil war. Erice beautifully combines here a depressing observation about the state of the country at that time with poetic, dreamlike visuals.

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Treat the above list as a kind of “starter pack” for people who are just starting their adventure with Spanish cinema. This is a subjective compilation of excellent, important or particularly interesting titles. What would your lists of Spanish films that you need to know look like? Be sure to share them in the comments!

Dawid Myśliwiec

Dawid Myśliwiec

Always in "watching", "about to watch" or "just watched" mode. Once I've put my daughter to bed, I sit down in front of the screen and disappear - sometimes losing myself in some American black crime story, and sometimes just absorbing the latest Netflix movie. For the past 12 years, I have been blogging with varying intensity at MyśliwiecOgląda.pl.

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