Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with These Must-Watch Movies!
A short list of movies from Hispanic creators to put on your watchlist for the upcoming month!
Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15 and lasts through October 15. To celebrate, we want to bring you a (very short, very incomplete!) list of some movies 📽to watch that celebrate talented actors, musicians, and stories from Hispanic creators. If you love these movies, or haven’t seen them before, consider attending or scheduling a watch party through the Remarkist app, or head to our Discord to discuss with other fans (and any other movies you are watching for Hispanic Heritage Month!) We would love to hear 🗣 from you! (And if you’re looking for a list of TV shows to watch, this list should get you started!)
A classic favorite from 1997, Selena is the story of Tejano (Tex Mex) music superstar Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, her rise to fame, and tragic murder. Jennifer Lopez portrays Selena in the movie, which was her first leading role as an actress. She was the first Hispanic actress to earn over $1 million for a film. Lopez’s first album, On the 6, came out two years later in 1999, establishing her as a recording artist, and helping usher in the Latin pop music movement in the United States of the late 1990s. So it’s only fitting that she portrayed a singer 🎤 who gained huge fame for the same reasons earlier in the decade. Selena was a prolific musician, having released six albums with her family’s band, and five solo albums 💽. This film is beloved by her fans who keep her memory alive.
2. In the Heights
In the Heights is a musical written by Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), which was first staged on Broadway in 2008, winning four Tony Awards (including Best Musical). The film version was released in 2021. The story takes place over a few days in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City, which has a large Latinx population (and where the movie itself was filmed). Main characters Usnavi, Vanessa, Benny, and Nina have grown up in the neighborhood and struggle with the concept of home: is it the immigrant-rich streets of Washington Heights? Is it the promise of a gentrified high rise apartment downtown 🏙? Or is it the island 🏝 (Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico) of your ancestry?
3. West Side Story (2021)
A classic musical, universally beloved–for good reason: the Tony-winning West Side Story originally was staged on Broadway in 1957, created by Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, and a young Stephen Sondheim. Originally, the story was a take on Romeo & Juliet with the star-crossed 💔 leads hailing from opposing Jewish and Catholic families, but eventual rewrites reflected the turf battle between two warring Puerto Rican and white gangs. The original 1961 film, based on the musical, was a breakout role for Puerto Rican superstar actress, singer, dancer Rita Moreno–who also has a pivotal role in the 2021 remake. The newest film adaptation, directed by Steven Spielberg, is part homage to the original, part musical blockbuster. It launched the career of actress Rachel Zegler, who had never been in a film before. And actress Ariana DeBose is the first Afro-Latina queer woman of color to win the Screen Actors Guild Award and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the film. The remake thoughtfully tackles issues of race relations for a modern audience, highlighting issues that, according to Spielberg himself, seem “more relevant to today’s audience than perhaps it even was in 1957.”
This animated film from Pixar and Disney was an instant classic when it was released in 2017. The movie is inspired by the Mexican holiday, Día de los Muertos, or, Day of the Dead, celebrated on November 1 and 2. Coco follows the story of a young aspiring musician 🎵, Miguel, who accidentally lands himself in the Land of the Dead, where he enlists the help of an ancestor to help him get his family to lift a seemingly irrational ban 🚫 on music. What unfolds is a touching story about family that delves into some complicated issues: betrayal, loyalty, memory, and more. Overall, the movie is a celebration of this sacred holiday. The film features an all Latino cast, and won Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.
5. A 3 Minute Hug (Netflix)
This documentary film from 2019 is short, but powerful. In under thirty minutes, writer/director Everardo González shows audiences the May 2018 event, “Hugs Not Walls,” organized by the Border Network for Human Rights. The organization advocates for immigration reform. During the event, families and loved ones who are usually separated on either side of the Rio Grande (which separates El Paso, TX from Juarez, Mexico) are able to legally reunite for just a few minutes. The bittersweet film shines a light on the human toll of denied rights to asylum and deportation.
6. Real Women Have Curves
This 2002 film was actress America Ferrara’s acting debut, and features a mostly Latin-American cast. Entertainment Weekly said it was one of the most influential films of the 2000s, expanding a generation’s concept of beauty and values. Mexican playwright Josefina López wrote the original play 🎭 the movie is based on, as well as the screenplay. The film is the recipient of many awards, and was as critically acclaimed as it was loved by audiences. Body positivity is a concept prevalent in American culture today, but in 2002 the notion was groundbreaking, and set the stage for future representation in the stories we see in pop culture. The film delves into relatable generational conflict between mothers and daughters as well, and for this reason is still a favorite, over two decades since its release.
This 2021 Disney animated film is a delightful musical fantasy about a Colombian family, the Madrigals, whose members all possess a special power. All of them, except young Mirabel, who spends the film trying to figure out why while maintaining her ever-curious and positive spirit. Mirabel is the granddaughter of Pedro and Alma, who are forced to flee their home in Colombia during an armed conflict. While Pedro is killed in the attack, a candle 🕯 Alma is carrying becomes magical and forms Casita, an enchanted house that protects the family, in the magical realm of Encanto. It wouldn’t be a Disney musical without a deceased parent, but nevertheless, this film delves into complicated concepts of generational trauma and magical realism. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and the music, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, dominated the Billboard charts: “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” was everywhere! In addition to incredible storytelling and music, the film features an all-star cast, including Stephanie Beatriz, John Laguizamo, Wilmer Valderama, and more.
8. Book of Love (Amazon)
We love a culture-clash romance ❤️! When Henry, an English author of romantic novels, learns that his book 📘 is an unexpected hit in Mexico, his publisher convinces him to go on a Mexican book tour. When he arrives to meet his book’s Mexican publisher, he also meets Maria, the translator who has transformed his words into Spanish. As he meets audiences, he’s confused by their reactions to his book–until he finds out that Maria didn’t just translate his story, but actually re-wrote it as a steamy romance novel. Both must come to terms with the book’s newfound success: Henry must reconcile that the new version is more profitable than his, while Maria must watch Henry reap the benefits and praise of her own work. The film is an international co-production of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Mexico, and was filmed in Mexico.
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