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Top ten Mexican movies

March 23, 2013


Back in 2011, I wrote a post on the top five Mexican movies. Having had plenty of time to mull on the matter, I’ve decided it’s now time for a revised list of the best (i.e. my favourite) Mexican films.

1. Y Tu Mamá También (2001) – A modern classic, this road movie stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna as two horny teenagers from Mexico City who take a road trip to an invented beach with the aim of bedding a hot older woman from Spain.  Along the way, they drink and get stoned and remain entirely oblivious to the social injustice around them, in true modern Mexican fashion. Exploring the twin themes of sex and death, director Alfonso Cuaron uses some incredibly complicated long takes and coaxes fantastically natural performances out of his talented cast.

2. Rojo Amanecer (1989) – By far the most tragic and moving of any of the movies listed here, Rojo Amanecer tells the true story of the thousands of leftist teenage protesters who were massacred by the Mexican government at a square in Tlatelolco, Mexico City on October 2, 1968, just days before the Olympic Games began in the same city. The film, which all takes place inside one apartment, had to be shot in secret because even 20 years later the government, which had done its best to cover up the incident, still wouldn’t let anyone discuss it.

3. La ley de Herodes (1999) – The first of a trilogy made by Luis Estrada and starring Damian Alcazar tells the story of a naive but initially well-meaning member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) who is sent to govern a rural indigenous town in the mid-twentieth century and grows increasingly corrupt and authoritarian. The first Mexican film to explicitly criticise the PRI by name, La ley de Herodes is as funny and biting a satire as they come.

4. El Infierno (2010) – Timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution and the 200th anniversary of independence from Spain, the final part of Estrada’s trilogy is a hugely popular and tragically hilarious satire that tackles the violent world of drug trafficking which left over 60,000 dead during President Felipe Calderon’s term from 2006 to 2012. This time Alcazar plays Benny, a Mexican deported from the United States who soon becomes a big-shot narco working in a northern town for the iconic kingpin “El Cochiloco.”

5. Rudo y Cursi (2008) – Reuniting the stars of Y Tu Mamá También, this comedy by Alfonso’s brother Carlos Cuaron is a satire of Mexican soccer and celebrity culture, which also touches upon the narco culture that continues to dominate much of Mexican life in the 21st century. It is much better than Goal or pretty much any other football-related film.

6. Matando Cabos (2004) – A Mexican Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, this tale of a kidnapping gone wrong is fairly complicated but frequently hilarious. It features wonderful characters, some bitterly ironic twists and a high-speed car chase through Mexico City’s enormous Azteca stadium.

7. Amores perros (2000) – The movie that reinvigorated the Mexican film industry as the new post-PRI millennium was dawning, Amores perros is a long drama by Alejandro Iñarritu which combines three interlinking plots that revolve around a car crash in Mexico City and the characters’ treatment of their respective pet dogs. The film helped launch Gael Garcia Bernal’s career and may well have provided inspiration for 2004’s Oscar winning Crash.

8. El Mariachi (1992) – Famously made for just $6,000, El Mariachi was Mexican-American director Robert Rodriguez’s debut feature. A “tortilla Western” about a mariachi musician mistaken for an assassin with a guitar-case full of guns, it launched Rodriguez’s career and paved the way for big-budget Hollywood sequels Desperado (1995) and Once Upon A Time in Mexico (2003), which featured the likes of Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek and Johnny Depp.

9. La última y nos vamos (2009) – Although not as moving as Amores Perros, nor as funny as Matando Cabos (nor as violent as either of them), La última y nos vamos is still worth watching. Like the aforementioned films, it takes place in Mexico City and interweaves several different plotlines, following the adventures of three friends who go their separate ways on a night out.

10. Un mundo maravilloso (2006) – The second – and in my opinion, the weakest – of Estrada’s trilogy, Un mundo maravilloso is a lengthy but valid critique of the neoliberal doctrine that the United States has pushed in Mexico (a model that has now been almost universally rejected across South America after decades of poverty and authoritarian violence). Alcazar again plays the protagonist, this time a hapless vagabond who becomes rich after one of his drunken escapades is mistaken by the press for a political act of attempted suicide.

An honourable mention goes to teen comedy Paradas Continuas (2009) and religious drama El crimen del padre Amaro (2002), which both failed to make the top ten but are still well worth watching.

Have I forgotten your favourite Mexican movie? If so, leave a comment below.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2013 22:11

    Great list, really want to see Rojo Amanecer!

  2. March 23, 2013 22:14

    Cheers Dom! It’s a really great film, highly recommended.

  3. joe permalink
    March 24, 2013 02:29

    I like your list; however, nothing from the “Epoca de Oro?”
    How about Aventurera (admittedly a bit campy), or something by Bunuel during his Mexican period with his insider/outsider perspective like The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de La Cruz, or Susana?
    Let’s not forget the most beloved Mexican stars of the era, Pedro Infantes. “Nosotros, los pobres,” or “Tizoc,” which also starred Maria Felix. And finally, Cantinflas in “Ahi esta el detalle?”

  4. greg permalink
    April 15, 2014 00:14

    So is Damian Alcazar one of the biggest, most famous Mexican actors?

    • April 15, 2014 02:50

      Yeah he’s up there with the biggest contemporary actors in Mexico, although not as Hollywood as Diego Luna or Gael Garcia Bernal.

  5. lynda columbus permalink
    May 6, 2014 11:14

    Love mexico n their movies

  6. lalo permalink
    June 3, 2014 17:11

    I´m mexican and i think there are only modern movies, not from La Epoca de Oro. There are better movies


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