You’ve done all the things. You have the apps. You’ve enrolled in the courses. You’ve even travelled to Spanish speaking countries. You’re determined to master español, if it’s the last thing you do. But unless you’re regularly listening to natural spoken Spanish, like the kind
You’ve done all the things. You have the apps. You’ve enrolled in the courses. You’ve even travelled to Spanish speaking countries. You’re determined to master español, if it’s the last thing you do.
But unless you’re regularly listening to natural spoken Spanish, like the kind in movies, you might fall short of your goal.
This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard this advice or considered watching movies in Spanish to improve your listening skills. Maybe you’ve even tried watching one on Netflix before, got a few minutes in and realized you couldn’t understand anything. Well… not as much as you’d like, anyway. And so you turned the movie off.
You are neither alone nor a lost cause. I know because the exact same thing used to happen to me! Since then, I’ve experimented with different strategies to watch movies in Spanish and found lots that work.
Whether you’re new to watching movies in Spanish or have tried several times before, this article is for you. You’ll see that you can improve your Spanish by watching movies, and I’ll give you some tools to help you do just that.
In this post, you’ll find a list of the 49 best movies in Spanish, and where to find them, so you can improve your listening skills from the sofa. Below the list of movies, you’ll also find the ultimate guide to watching your first movie in Spanish, including:
- How to choose the right Spanish movie for your level and tastes.
- What to do if you don’t understand? Get tools and strategies that will help.
- To subtitle or not to subtitle?
- Study techniques to boost your vocabulary, speaking and pronunciation with films.
We’ll get to the movies very soon, but first, why should you watch movies in Spanish?
4 Great Reasons to watch Movies in Spanish
Have you ever met a Spanish learner who can read and write but struggles to understand conversations between natives? You might have had this same experience yourself!
It’s normal to invest time and energy into things that cause the least amount of stress and discomfort, like reading, but this strategy doesn’t always serve you.
If you’re truly committed to speaking Spanish, you have to put a lot of work into your listening skills. Watching movies in Spanish can help you learn how native speakers talk and overcome the obstacles that get in the way of understanding at first, like fast speech, slang and different accents.
Another way you can benefit from watching movies in Spanish is vocab, vocab, vocab! There is no better way to be exposed to so many Spanish words. Paired with the visuals, it becomes easier to pick up vocabulary in context, which will help you remember it more easily.
Perhaps most importantly, movies in Spanish immerse you in the Spanish speaking world. You can get to know cultures, environments, time periods, and learn more about the language, its variations and the people who speak it. All from your sofa!
Lastly, watching movies in Spanish is a lot more fun than sitting in a classroom: all you need to do is open Netflix, get comfy, bring a snack and press play.
So you’re on board but you may be thinking, “Why are you emphasizing watching movies in Spanish? Does it really matter if I choose to binge watch a television series rather than diving into a movie?” If you’re more of a series person, they can work just as well, in fact, you can find a post on the best TV shows to learn Spanish here.
But one of the things I like about movies in Spanish is that it takes way less time to watch a movie than it does to get through a television series. Which makes it easier to watch over and over and learn through repetition.
If you’re into movies like I am, you’ll find lots of great Spanish language ones to choose from. Here’s a list of the 49 best movies in Spanish. Most are on Netflix, and there are a few bonus ones at the end that you can find in different places.
32 Best Movies in Spanish on Netflix
1. El laberinto del fauno/ Pan’s Labyrinth
This classic follows the adventures of a young girl in Spain after the Spanish civil war. She comes across an abandoned labyrinth that leads to a magical realm. As she enters a mythical world that is just as disturbing as it is captivating, you can’t help but feel like you’re embarking on this journey with her. But this isn’t your typical fantasy movie and it’s definitely not suitable for young children. Where Alice in Wonderland brings childhood fantasies to life, Pan’s Labyrinth subverts them by treading the line between fantasy, horror, and reality.
Genre: Fantasy, War
2. 7 años/ 7 Years
This Netflix Original follows four business partners who haven’t exactly been playing by the book. Now the consequences of their financial misconduct has come back to bite them, leaving them to make the most difficult decision of their lives. They must decide which one of them is going to take the fall and serve seven years in prison. This exciting drama is full of betrayal, secrets being exposed, and lots of suspense.
3. El hoyo/ The Platform
This film is Black Mirror meets The Hunger Games. Set in a vertical prison referred to as a “Vertical Self-Management System”, we see just how ruthless humans can become when it’s a matter of life or death. Or feasting versus starving, in this case. The inmates at this prison are forced to rotate among floors every 30 days which wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for one little issue: they’re fed via a platform that’s filled with food on the top floor, leaving those on the lower levels to eat the scraps of those above them. That’s if there are any left. Be prepared to sit on the edge of your seat (and occasionally cover your eyes) as you watch what happens when people are forced to fight over basic necessities.
Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror
A young girl attempts to contact her father’s spirit with the help of an Ouija board. Unfortunately, she ends up summoning demons instead.
Genre: Horror, Supernatural
5. Quién te cantará
When a nineties music icon loses her memory right before she is set to make her comeback, an obsessed fan has to help the beloved icon remember who she is. Which shouldn’t be a problem since she performs as the infamous singer every night at a karaoke bar. This movie brings the worlds of fandom and stardom together in a beautifully, yet slightly disturbing way.
Genre: Drama, Music
Taking place in Africa, this film follows the lives of a child embarking on a journey towards freedom, a coast guard who isn’t quite sure about his role anymore, and an environmental activist with a rocky relationship with his daughter. Through unlikely circumstances, they all cross paths causing their lives to change forever.
Region: Spain, Melilla (North Africa)
7. Y tú mamá también/ And Your Mother Too
What would a list of movies be if it didn’t include a coming-of-age story? This movie follows two seventeen year old boys whose summer plans involve going on the road trip of a lifetime. And to add a bit of spice to their adventure, they invite a beautiful older woman to partake in the festivities. Expect conflicts, epiphanies, and sexual tension.
Genre: Drama, Comedy
8. Despido procedente/ Dismissal
What’s worse than almost running someone over with your car? Giving them bad directions then proceeding to be stalked and harassed by them with no end in sight. This Argentinian comedy is full of shenanigans that will frustrate you and make you laugh out loud.
Region: Argentina, Spain
Manipulation is the name of the game in this Spanish comedy when a couple of con men attempt to secure millions of euros from the most unsuspecting victim- an elderly baker who also happens to be a lottery winner. This movie takes place on a cruise ship from Spain to Mexico but definitely isn’t your typical vacation story. Be prepared to laugh until your sides hurt as you see the lengths these men are willing to go to in order to fulfill their get rich quick scheme.
10. El hijo/ The Son
This movie is what you get when you cross an erratic pregnant woman, a paranoid husband, and a ton of terrible decisions. A couple with a baby on the way begins to have marital problems when the wife completely shuns her husband throughout her pregnancy. To make things worse, she doesn’t allow him to see the baby even after it is born. So he decides to take matters into his own hands…
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
This movie follows a successful businessman who has to learn the hard way that there are consequences to treating people unkindly. Overnight, he is forced to evaluate his selfish behavior when he loses his family, his job and his money. But redemption might still be a possibility for him. That is… if he humbles himself and finds value in the advice of a lowly janitor.
Region: Spain, Portugal
12. Soltera codiciada/ How to Get Over a Breakup
There are many ways to get over a breakup- crying, partying, throwing yourself into work. But in this Peruvian comedy, a young copywriter decides to blog about her journey as a recently dumped single woman. What starts out as a therapeutic endeavor ends up bringing her more attention than she could have ever imagined. Can she find a balance between new attention and old flames?
13. Se busca papá/ Dad Wanted
When a preteen’s mother forbids her from participating in an upcoming BMX competition, she doesn’t despair. She just hires an actor to pretend to be her father. Is this a brilliant plan or a recipe for disaster?
Genre: Family-Friendly, Comedy
14. La tribu/ The Tribe
A successful business executive and the mother who gave him up for adoption come together in the most unlikely way in this heartwarming comedy. When Fidel Garcia Ruiz simultaneously destroys his reputation and his memory, his long-lost mother -and her street dancing crew- comes to the rescue.
This movie tells the story of Cleo, an indigenous housekeeper who lives with and works for an upper-class family in the Colonia Roma barrio in Mexico City throughout the 1970s. This movie analyzes the tension between the Indigenous people in Mexico and Mexican society through the lens of racism, classism, and sexism.
Three siblings leading dysfunctional lives come together after the death of their father to address the pending sale of their childhood beach house. As they alternate between fighting over and mourning the beach house, childhood memories begin to surface and they are forced to confront deeply rooted resentments. But can the very thing that seems to be tearing them apart bring them closer together?
Genre: Comedy, Drama
17. Durante la tormenta/ Mirage
When Vera Roy, a wife and mother, is able to go back in time and prevent the death of a boy who was killed 25 years ago, she realizes that no good deed goes unpunished. By saving a stranger’s life, she ends up altering reality so much that she is never married to her husband and has never given birth to her daughter. As she attempts to return to her original timeline, she discovers uncomfortable truths that cause her to rethink her life altogether.
Genre: Sci-Fi, Suspense, Drama
18. El hombre de las mil caras/ Smoke and Mirrors
Based on a true story, this movie follows a former secret agent who has been framed by the Spanish government and exiled. When he returns to his home country, he is hungry for revenge and smarter than ever. They’ll never know what hit them.
Genre: Thriller, Drama
19. Tarde para la ira/ The Fury of a Patient Man
This movie gives us a front row seat to how far a man is willing to go to avenge his murdered lover. And how long he is willing to wait for the perfect moment to strike. But when innocent people get caught in the crossfire, is a resolution possible for any of the parties involved?
Genre: Crime Thriller, Action
Years after her childhood friend goes missing in Patagonia, a policewoman decides to solve this mystery by investigating on her own. It doesn’t take long for her to discover that her own life is at risk, as well.
Genre: Suspense, Thriller
21. Como caído del cielo/ As If Fallen From Heaven
Mexican actor and singer, Pedro Infante, is fortunate enough to get a second chance at life but it comes with strings attached. Stuck between going to heaven or hell, Pedro is given the opportunity to return to earth in order to earn his way through the pearly gates. This proves to be more challenging than he expects when the body he’s given belongs to an impersonator who shares both Pedro’s love of music and his womanizing ways.
Genre: Musical, Comedy
22. No Estoy Loca/ I’m Not Crazy
Nothing can send a woman into a mental institution faster than being told that her husband and best friend are moving on with their lives- together and without her. When Carolina learns about the affair and her infertility on the same day, the grief seems too much to bear. However, her stint in a mental health clinic gives her the opportunity to do some much needed inner work. And she discovers that there’s more to her than she realized.
23. Lo más sencillo es complicarlo todo/ The Simplest Thing is to Complicate Everything
What’s a 17 year old girl to do when the guy she’s had a crush on for years gets engaged? If you’re Renata Alejandro, you’re going to take the most nonsensical route to get the betrothed couple to split up. This movie is a light-hearted teen comedy that is sure to get laughs (and maybe a few eye rolls).
Genre: Teen, Comedy
This movie follows a young couple navigating love and adulthood for the first time. As they struggle to find their footing in both arenas, their determination to succeed only strengthens. Until it doesn’t anymore. This relatable tale brings up feelings of nostalgia and empathy as early memories of young adulthood resurface.
Genre: Romantic, Drama
25. Solteras/ Ready to Mingle
After being dumped by the man she thought would be her husband, Ana decides to take control of her love life by joining a class that helps single women find a husband. This romcom follows her through a series of dates ranging from dismal to downright horrifying until she finds love where she least expects it.
Genre: Comedy, Romantic
26. A pesar de todo/ Despite Everything
When four sisters leading completely separate lives attend their mother’s funeral, the last thing they expect to find out is that the man who raised them is not their father. If that’s not enough of a shock, they are told that in order to receive their inheritance, they must find their biological fathers. This would be easier if their mother didn’t leave it up to them to sort out whose father belongs to whom. Will this scavenger hunt bring them closer together or push them even further apart?
27. Feo pero sabroso
This Colombian comedy challenges the notion that love conquers all when an extremely unattractive and bizarre man gets engaged to the beautiful Laura. Their families oppose the union so much that they are willing to take extreme measures to stop the two from getting married. Even if it means kidnapping the priest who is meant to marry them.
28. Septiembre, un llanto en silencio/ September
After his wife is murdered in a terrorist attack, a father struggles to raise his deaf daughter by himself in wartorn Guatemala. But this proves to be challenging in more ways than he could have expected, especially in a country that doesn’t provide many resources or opportunities for people with disabilities. As his daughter navigates childhood and enters adulthood, she must learn to find her own power and leave the protective bubble he has created for her.
When a fourteen year old boy who works with his father as an artisan stumbles across his father’s secret, their relationship is never the same. Taking place in the Peruvian Andes, this movie leaves no stone unturned as it examines the way toxic masculinity and homophobia can tear a family apart.
30. Mujeres arriba
When Teresa discovers that her husband has been unfaithful, she embarks on a journey of sexual liberation and self-discovery with her two best friends. However, as she grows more comfortable putting her own happiness first, she captures the eye and heart of a talented writer.
Genre: Romantic, Comedy
31. Vivir dos veces/ Live Twice, Love Once
After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Emilio’s daughter and granddaughter come up with the brilliant idea to reunite him with his childhood love before it’s too late. As they embark on this journey, the three of them get a new chance at life and realize that it’s never too late to start over.
Genre: Comedy, Drama
32. Más allá de la luna/ Over the Moon
This follows the story of Fei Fei, a young girl who is mourning the passing of her mother. Her grief intensifies when her father decides to expand their family. To add to the betrayal, her relatives insist that the stories her mother told her about the moon goddess, Chang’e, are not true. In an act of defiance, Fei Fei sets out to go to the moon and prove that Chang’e does, in fact, exist. Instead, she leaves the moon with a deeper understanding of love, loss, and letting go. This movie might bring tears to your eyes but don’t worry, you’ll laugh just as much. Although this is technically an American movie, the version in Spanish is just as enjoyable. Just remember to choose the dubbed option.
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Family-Friendly
Region: Created in US but features Spanish-Speaking actors such as Danna Paola
Bonus Movies in Spanish (Not on Netflix)
33. Coco (Disney+)
Coco is one of the few American movies that actually seems more authentic in Spanish. That’s because it takes place in a small village in Mexico and incorporates Mexican culture through the music, references, and imagery. This movie is about a young boy named Miguel who has an irresistible passion for music, which would be great if it weren’t for one little problem:his family has placed a ban on music that spans back several generations. Eager to get the heart of this ban and be allowed to sing to his heart’s desire, Miguel takes a journey to the Land of the Dead to find both his grandfather and favorite musician.
Genre: Family-friendly, Animation, Music
34. La misma luna/ Under the Same Moon (Prime Video, to rent or with Starz)
A young boy risks his life when he runs away from his grandmother’s home and illegally crosses the Mexican-American border in hopes of reuniting with his mother who moved to Los Angeles and is trying to create a solid foundation for the two of them. When his mother hears that her son has gone missing, she embarks on her own journey to find him. This movie provides a further look into the immigration process and the lives of migrant workers, while reminding us that love has no limit.
35. Voces inocentes/ Innocent Voices (YouTube, Available to buy DVD on Amazon and Ebay)
Shown through the perspective of a young boy named Chava, this movie shows the impact of the civil war that took place in El Salvador throughout the 1980s. This is a painful but insightful watch that brings attention to the ways that children are forced to participate in war and are also victims of military violence. Available on YouTube at the time the article was written.
Genre: Drama, War
Region: El Salvador
36. Cocote (Prime Video)
Upon returning to his hometown for his father’s funeral, a devoted Christian who works as a gardener discovers that his father has been murdered by a powerful person in their community. But that’s not the only disturbing news that he receives- his family now wants him to go after the murderer and avenge his father’s death. The last thing he wants to do is harm another person but as the situation intensifies, he may not have many other options.
Region: Dominican Republic
37. Qué León (Prime Video)
A young couple who happen to share the same last name have little else in common- least of all their social statuses. Jose Miguel is the son of a spare parts dealer while Nicole’s father is a successful businessman. Even though their fathers couldn’t be any more different, they are able to come together in their mission to split the lovebirds up. This young love story comes with more trials than Romeo and Juliet. Let’s just hope that no one gets hurt in the crossfire.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Region: Dominican Republic
38. La tierra y la sombra/ Land and Shade (Prime Video)
Nearly two decades after abandoning his family, a sugar cane farmer by the name of Alphonso makes the trek back home to visit his sick son. Back home, he is forced to face his wife while getting to know his daughter-in-law and grandson. Recognizing the error of his ways, Alphonso attempts to earn back his spot within the family and make up for lost time.
39. José (Prime Video)
This movie follows 19-year-old Jose who is trying his best to navigate life in a country infamous for its violent history. Safety is especially difficult for him to find as a young gay man in a devoutly religious society and household. He seeks solace and connection through the world of online hookups but his life is turned upside down when he meets a Caribbean migrant named Luis. Faced with new risks and opportunities, Jose embarks on a painful yet insightful inner journey.
40. Chico & Rita (YouTube and to buy on DVD on Amazon)
This movie explores romance through animation and jazz music reminiscent of the 1940s and 50s. A young pianist from Cuba and a beautiful jazz singer fall in love but being together comes with more challenges than either of them could have expected. Follow along and see how their passionate romance survives and evolves over the course of six decades. Available on YouTube at the time the article was written.
Genre: Drama, Romance, Animation
41. Yuli (Prime Video)
This movie chronicles the life of Carlos Acosta, a Black ballet dancer from Cuba and the first Black dancer in London’s Royal Ballet. As a child, he has dreams of being a football legend but his father has other plans for him. Mainly keeping him out of trouble. Although he is a talented dancer, the young boy despises ballet. After all, it doesn’t exactly make him the most popular kid on the playground. But with the right recognition, he sees his life transform as he is offered opportunities that expand beyond Havana and take him around the world. It’s exciting to see Acosta play himself as an adult in this painful yet heartwarming tale.
Genre: Drama, Biography, Inspirational
42. Zona sur/ Southern Zone (Tubi TV, YouTube, and to buy on DVD on Amazon)
Living in a bubble isn’t all that bad for this wealthy Bolivian family who reside in the part of town referred to as Zona Sur. Besides their servants who are part of the Aymaran indigenous community in Bolivia, they have little to no interactions with people outside their circle. Tune into this movie to see what happens when the bubble bursts and the indigenous people begin to realize just how powerful they are. Available on YouTube at the time the article was written.
43. Minuto final/ Final Minute (Prime Video)
After stumbling upon a homicide while he is off duty, police officer Leonardo decides to investigate the crime scene. It doesn’t take long for him to realize that something isn’t quite right about the scene, the motive and even the alleged assassin. When he bumps into his former boss, Leonardo discovers that this case is more personal than he is comfortable with.
44. From Core to Sun (Prime Video)
This documentary follows Millán Ludeña who is determined to set a new Guinness World Record. His goal? To connect the closest point to the center of the Earth with the closest point to the Sun. And he’ll do this by going approximately 3,500 km underground and running a half-marathon. That doesn’t sound too bad until you take into consideration that the temperature is 42 degrees celsius with 80% humidity. But that’s not all. After he completes the first half of his quest, he will run up to the peak of Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador.
45. La casa del fin de los tiempos/ The House at the End of Time (Prime Video)
It’s the year 1981 and Dulce is living in a haunted house with her husband and two sons. After her family is mysteriously attacked, she is found guilty of murdering them and sentenced to 30 years in prison. After being released, she is sent back to the house that has caused her so much torment for decades. But this time, she is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery.
46. Pelo malo/ Bad Hair (Prime Video)
Nine-year-old Junior is obsessed with straightening his curly hair. His mother is disturbed by this desire because she thinks that this is not a healthy obsession for a boy to have. Her fears transform into homophobia which causes the two of them to clash.
47. Viaje (Prime Video)
Be prepared for your heart to melt as you follow the story of Luciana and Pedro. After meeting at a costume party, they become infatuated with one another. Their lovers’ high takes them on an adventure through the Costa Rican forest. The backdrop of the natural scenery deepens their connection while the black-and-white cinematography brings an old-school feel to the movie.
Region: Costa Rica
48. La Yuma (Prime Video)
This movie is all about breaking conventions and not just because it was the first full-length film from Nicaragua in 20 years. Yuma is a teenage girl growing up in the slums who is determined to rise above her circumstances by becoming a professional boxer. No matter how hard life gets, she refuses to let her gender or economic class limit her. You’ll walk away from this movie feeling like anything is possible.
Genre: Drama, Action
49. Chance (Prime Video)
Two housekeepers seize the opportunity to come into riches when they hold their employers hostage and demand a hefty ransom.
Genre: Comedy, Drama
How to Watch your First Movie in Spanish: 7 rules
Rule 1: Choose the right Spanish Language Movie
Where to start? Does it matter which movie you choose?
The most useful advice I can give you about choosing a movie in Spanish is to watch what you enjoy! If you love romantic comedies and despise action movies, it won’t benefit you to suffer through the latest spy movie. You need to watch something that will hold your attention. If you’re not able to stay awake throughout the film, you’ll struggle to find the motivation you need to understand what they’re saying in Spanish.
Now that you know what kind of film you’d like to watch, you need to make sure you’re watching a movie that is appropriate for your level. If you’re in your first year of learning Spanish, watching a movie full of medical jargon will probably be too intense for you.
If you’re new to learning Spanish yet still want to indulge in Spanish-language media, I would suggest watching films that are geared towards young children. You still may struggle to understand most of what’s being said but they tend to talk slower, use less slang and incorporate songs to help with language development.
Another suggestion is to watch your favorite movies dubbed in Spanish. Ideally, it should be a movie that you’ve watched hundreds of times before and know like the back of your hand. Your familiarity with the film will help you pick up on what’s being said and you won’t get frustrated because you already know what’s going on.
For intermediate Spanish speakers, most movies will work for you. Even if you don’t understand everything, you should be able to pick out enough words to get a basic understanding of what’s going on.
For more advanced Spanish speakers, I would suggest really challenging yourself. Perhaps you have no issue making it through most movies by now however, if you really want to expand your vocabulary, you can watch movies in a dialect that you’re not very comfortable with or watch movies that use jargon that’s completely foreign to you (such as legal or medical terminology).
Spanish is an extremely diverse language. No two countries speak it the same way and some regions have differences in even the most basic things, like how to say “you”. If you’re attempting to learn a specific dialect (think European Spanish vs. Caribbean Spanish) or wish to interact with a certain nationality (such as Mexican people if you live in California), it helps to choose films from these regions. Not only will you become more familiar with the regional vocabulary, but if you watch enough of these movies, you’ll also come to understand the accents with ease.
Rule 2: Be Patient (It’s a Gradual Process)
So you’ve chosen the movie you’re going to watch. You have your favorite snacks and your glass of wine. You’re ready to dive in. But there are a few things you need to know before you get started. If you go in expecting the experience to mimic watching a movie in English (or whatever your native tongue is), you are almost guaranteed to become frustrated.
Remember, you spend all day every day listening to your native language – by the time you’re 18, that’s around 78840 hours!
It’s only normal that listening to movies in Spanish is going to feel very challenging at first. You’re going to need a different approach and a new mindset.
We live in a goal-oriented society. Everyone is obsessed with end results and even if you know how important it is to enjoy the process, you’ll probably find yourself staring at your Spanish learning GPS and asking yourself: am I in fluentville yet?
Don’t do it.
The beauty (and sometimes most frustrating part!) about learning a language is that it takes time. It requires you to come to terms with your shortcomings and to dedicate more energy to the process, rather than the end results.
You’re a human embarking on one of the most beautiful experiences known to man. You are allowing yourself to go deep into language, to communicate, to understand and to be understood by people who come from a different background than you. Why would you want to rush that?
Rule 3: Take Advantage of Not Knowing
In Zen Buddhism, there is a concept referred to as Shoshin or “Beginner’s Mind”. As the Zen monk, Shunryu Suzuki, explains in “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”, “The mind of the beginner is empty, free of the habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all the possibilities”.
See where I’m going?
Learning to do challenging things, like watching a movie in Spanish is one of the best opportunities you have to practice shoshin.
When you begin watching a movie in Spanish, you have to let go of all your negative mind chatter about what you already know, what you should know, and how the process should go. Go in with the intention to learn and don’t turn it into a self-criticism session.
Trust the process and yourself. You will begin to understand more with time.
Rule 4: Rewatch (And then Rewatch Some More)
A common mistake you might make when attempting to watch movies in Spanish is to only watch a movie one time before moving on to the next one. This method only prolongs and complicates the language learning process because there’s always too much new information to take in.
When you watch the same movie over and over, you’re building on what you already know: you can catch a little more each time and start to commit the words and phrases to memory.
In order to effectively improve your Spanish when watching movies, you need to watch the movie so much that you become one with the movie. You must bleed the movie. Okay, not really, but you get the point!
This is why I emphasize choosing movies in Spanish that you enjoy or that cover topics that you’re interested in. It will be difficult to commit to rewatching a movie if you didn’t even want to sit through it the first time.
Now you understand the importance of rewatching movies when learning Spanish, it’s time to learn how to properly watch and rewatch them. On the first watch, you should absolutely relax. Allow yourself to simply watch for context. You’ll pick up the specifics with time.
Soon, we’ll talk about some techniques you can use to dig into the Spanish language more each time you watch the movie. But first…
To Subtitle or To Not Subtitle? That is the Question
If you’re comfortable enough, I say test the waters and attempt to watch the movie without subtitles. You may understand a lot more than you think. You don’t need to understand every word but you should be able to grasp the basic plot.
If you find yourself completely lost or constantly pausing and rewinding, it is probably best for you to make use of subtitles. Avoid using subtitles in your native language. If you do need the assistance of subtitles to help you through a movie, make sure that they are in Spanish.
A common mistake people make is focusing more on the subtitles than actually listening to and watching the movie. Since language is just as nonverbal as it is verbal, true mastery requires picking up on tone and body language. Class, race, gender, and age influence the way that language is spoken and interpreted. If you’re not paying close attention, you can miss out on important details and end up using words or phrases in the wrong context.
When it comes to subtitles I prefer the training wheels approach. You start off with subtitles in Spanish (your training wheels). Next, you advance to watching movies without subtitles and attempting to understand the plot and most of what is happening. This is when you take the training wheels off and ride all wobbly as you get the hang of things. Finally, you graduate to watching the movie with no subtitles. This is when you get the hang of riding a bike. At this final stage, you can understand what’s being said even if your eyes aren’t pierced to the screen. You can pick up on jokes, sarcasm, and understand when language is being used formally versus informally.
It takes loads of practice to get to this point, but with enough repetition and patience, it’s possible!
Rule 5: If you don’t understand, use this tool to help
Watching movies in Spanish can be challenging for a couple of reasons.
- You don’t know the words.
- They speak too fast.
Luckily for you, there is a tool that will help you navigate both of these obstacles. If you walk away from this post with nothing else, you have to install a chrome extension called Language Learning with Netflix.
It’s a game changer because it lets you engage with the subtitles. If you’re struggling to understand what a word means, you can click on it and instantly see the definition. If that’s not compelling enough, Language Learning with Netflix also gives you the option to press the back key and listen to a line over and over again until it finally clicks. If you don’t want to leave your interpretation to chance, you can check what you understood by reading a whole-line translation in your native language.
Rule 6: Use fun study techniques
Even if you’re not at the stage where you understand enough to sit back and relax with movies in Spanish just yet, you can still use them to help you learn how Spanish speakers talk in natural conversations.
For example, you can boost your vocabulary by writing down words and phrases that you want to remember and reviewing them periodically, or putting them in a flashcard app such as Anki. You don’t need to add every word to your vocab list but if it’s a central part of the plot or a word you can see yourself using on a regular basis, make sure to jot it down.
And if you’re really serious about being able to hablar como un nativo, you actually have to practice speaking! Talking to other Spanish speakers can be intimidating but you can get just as much practice without ever getting out of bed. There are two ways that you can get more comfortable speaking español and improve your pronunciation with movies in Spanish.
- Pause and repeat. If you hear something that stands out to you, that is repeated throughout the movie, or that you feel you would need to know in real life, you can pause the movie and repeat the sentence until it’s second nature to you. You can use the rewind 10-second button or utilize the playback feature on the Language Learning with Netflix extension. The key is to practice your pronunciation and get comfortable saying the sentence so when you need to use it in real life, it rolls off your tongue!
- Have an actual conversation with the characters! This tip may seem a little wonky but I promise it works. Respond to what the characters are doing or saying but in Spanish. If the protagonist is asking for relationship advice, give it to them. If the food during the dinner scene makes your mouth water, let them know just how badly you want to try the dishes. Be as specific as possible. Not only does this strategy help you get more comfortable having conversations in Spanish, it pulls out the vocabulary that you already know. Not to mention, it’s so much fun. When else can you yell at someone for making a horrible decision in a cool accent and with no repercussions?
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or struggling to understand what’s going on, try watching the movies in 10 to 15 minute segments. That way you have fewer scenes to focus on and you can spend more time rewinding and dissecting.
Rule 7: Keep Practicing After the Movie
Your engagement with the film doesn’t have to end once the credits start rolling. Whether you’re still unsure about some parts of the plot or feel that you have a good grasp of the storyline, you can strengthen your Spanish language skills by getting involved in conversations about the movies online or in person. This will help you practice using some of the key words in the film and is an excellent way to consolidate what you learned.
One of the easiest and most exciting ways to engage with a film is through the communities that love them, hate them, and hate to love them. You can find forums on Reddit dedicated to specific movies, search hashtags on Twitter, read reviews online, or listen to people express their feelings about the movie on YouTube or podcasts.
If these methods aren’t cutting it for you, you can also do it the old fashioned way. Talk to people in Spanish about these movies. If you know any native Spanish speakers, that’s a great place to start, if not you can find a tutor on a site like italki and chat to them about the movie in your lesson. Alternatively, you can use apps such as HelloTalk and Tandem to find people who are willing to discuss the movie with you.
Over to You
Now that you have a better idea of how to ver una película en español, the next step is to simply get started. And please feel free to share your progress, additional movies in Spanish that you can’t get enough of, and useful tips in the comments below.