Are you planning a trip to Mexico? Are you a first-time visitor to Mexico? Not sure what to expect? You may have a general notion of the flavors and landscapes of Mexico, but there is so much more! Watch a few of the best Mexican movies before you go to Mexico to get a better feel of the diverse culture that engulfs this popular destination from coast to coast.
33 Best Mexican Movies to Watch Before Your Trip to Mexico
We’ve tried to include movies from Mexico in a variety of categories. So, if you are in the mood for comedy, drama, a documentary or even an animated film we have you covered. Of course, we included Mexican movies that focus on road trips and travel within Mexico.
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Best Mexican Movies of All Time
It wasn’t easy, but we narrowed down our top four favorite Mexican movies of all time. The below list contains a few of the best films about Mexico to watch to get inspired to travel to Mexico or before your next Mexico vacation.
Mexico has submitted fifty-four films for Oscar consideration over the years, and nine Mexican films have been nominated by the Academy for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
We did our best to find films that were filmed in Mexico as well as produced, directed, and played by Mexican people. Many broke barriers to become internationally famous.
Where possible I will link to Amazon Prime to watch the movies listed below.
1. Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) – 1992
This film directed by Alfonso Arau, is an original, romantic drama about impossible love and the importance that cultural tradition holds in so many Mexican families. If the story itself doesn’t captivate you, the mouthwatering food most definitely will! This film won ten Ariel awards and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
- Cast includes Marco Lenardi, Lumi Cavazos, Regina Torné, and Ada Carrasco.
- Directed by Alfonso Arau
2. Roma – 2018
Set in Mexico City, in a neighborhood known as “Roma” in the 1970’s, this film depicts the inequalities faced by domestic workers and the still-present hierarchy of the social system during the political disturbances of this era. The story follows the lives of an upper-class family, headed by the husband who is a doctor, his wife, their four children, and the maid, who is of indigenous roots.
Roma was nominated and won an impressive amount of awards. The film received 10 nominations for the 91st Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It won three Academy Awards including Best Foreign Language Film, becoming the first Mexican film to win this honor.
- Cast includes Yaritza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Nancy García García, Marco Graf, and Daniela Demesa.
- Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
3. Macario – 1960
This classic, black and white film, was the first Mexican film to be nominated for an Academy Award. This story, set in Colonial Mexico, follows a poor indigenous man who struggles to provide a daily meal for his family. His one simple wish, to one day eat a whole turkey all by himself, becomes possible when he encounters three men, who represent the Devil, God, and Death.
- Cast includes Ignacio López Tarso and Pina Pellicer
- Directed by Roberto Gavaldon
4. I Dream in Another Language – 2017
I Dream in Another Language (Sueno en Otro Idioma), a drama about forbidden love and a dying Mexican dialect, won six Ariel Awards in 2021 including for Best Picture (Ariel de Mejor Película); Mexico’s most prestigious film awards. It was also a Sundance Audience Award winner.
The story follows Martin, a linguist who travels to the rainforest of Veracruz, Mexico to try to record and understand Zikril, a fictional indigenous language that is dying in the region. However, upon arriving in the village where he will live for months he discovers that Isauro and Evaristo, the last two speakers of Zikril, have refused to speak to each other for the last 50 years because of a longstanding grudge.
- Cast includes Fernando Álvarez Rebeil José Manuel Poncelis Eligio Meléndez Fátima Molina
- Directed by Ernesto Contreras
Best Mexico Road Trip Movie
5. Y Tu Mamá También – 2001
This comedy takes you on a literal road trip through the backroad countryside of Mexico, when two teenage best friends of different social classes find themselves taking an impromptu trip with an attractive older woman they just met. Self-discovery, sex, and friendship are the main themes of Y Tu Mamá También. The characters are complex and believable and the filming feels natural and unrehearsed.
This cross-country road trip includes a the beautiful backdrop of rural Mexico, interweaving local culture, politics, and history at every turn.
- Cast includes Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal, and Maribel Verdu
- Directed By Alfonso Cuarón
Best Mexican Films about Travel
6. Alamar – 2009
This film is about a father of Mayan roots and his five-year-old son, who is a product of a short-lived romance with an Italian tourist. They take a trip to the beautiful coral reef, Banco Chinchorro before the boy is set to leave for Europe with his mother. This movie is notable for its beautiful scenes, the unbreakable bond between father and son, living side-by-side with nature, and unconditional love.
The entire movie was filmed on atolls on the Banco Chinchorro, the largest coral reef in Mexico located on the Caribbean coast of Quintana Roo.
- Cast includes Jorge Machado, Roberta Palombini, Natan Machado Palombini
- Directed by Pedro González-Rubio
Best Mexican Drama Movies
7. Amores Perros – 2000
Amores Perros is a Mexican psychological drama film and the first installment in González Iñárritu’s “Trilogy of Death” that was followed by 21 Grams and Babel. It makes use of the multi-narrative hyperlink cinema style and features an ensemble cast.
The film is constructed as a triptych: it contains three distinct stories connected by a car accident in Mexico City. The stories centers on a teenager in the slums who gets involved in dogfighting; a model who seriously injures her leg; and a mysterious hitman. The stories are linked in various ways, including the presence of dogs in each of them.
- Cast includes Emilio Echevarría, Gael García Bernal, Goya Toledo, Álvaro Guerrero, Vanessa Bauche, Jorge Salinas, Adriana Barraza
- Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Best Mexican Movies About Cartel/Gang Violence
There is no shortage of really good Mexican Drug Cartel and Gangster movies. We’ve chosen two of the best Mexican cartel movies for you to start with.
8. Heli – 2013
This crime drama, tells the story of a young Mexican man named Heli, who lives with his wife and infant son, his father and his 12-year old sister. His sister becomes involved with an older boy, 17 years old, who proposes a plan to run away and get married so they may be together.
In order to make money, he decides to try selling some stolen drugs, which he hides in her house, unbeknownst to Heli. This leads to an unintentional involvement with local drug dealers and the gruesome murder of Heli’s father. This bitter tale about family, love, and the unforgiving brutality of the drug industry provides insight into how and why so many people fall into the trade. It’s one of the Mexican drug cartel movies that will stick with you long after you watch it.
- Cast includes Linda Gonzalez, Armando Espitia, Andrea Vergara
- Directed by Amat Escalante
9. La Libertad del Diablo (Devil’s Freedom) – 2017
This gripping documentary gives raw testimony direct from victims as well as the perpetrators of violent crimes in Mexico. La Libertad del Diablo delves deep into the psychology of the victim and criminal, as each explains why and how they became involved in the violent world of drugs, violence, and Mexican cartels.
From the haunting masks they wear to conceal their identities, to the sometimes heartbreaking events that lead to their decisions, this film is sure to evoke many emotions.
La libertad del diablo screened as part of the Hola Mexico Film Festival in Los Angeles.
- Writers: Everardo González, Diego Enrique Osorno
- Directed by Everardo González
Best Mexican Romance Movies
10. Frida – 2002
This film starring Selma Hayek as the controversial Mexican artist, Frida Khalo, and Alfred Molina as Diego Rivera, is a biography of Frida’s life, beyond her professional career. The movie dives into her unorthodox open marriage, romances with women, struggles with her health, severe pain from her surgeries, and a vivid social life that was seemingly immoral for the era in which she lived but fueled the passion in her artistic creations.
The film was filmed at the Churubusco Studios in Mexico City and in San Luis Potosi.
- Cast includes Salma Hayek, Mía Maestro, Amelia Zapata, Alejandro Usigli
- Directed by Julie Taymor
Best Mexican Horror Movies
11. Canoa – 1976
Based on true events that occurred in the small village of Canoa, near Puebla, Mexico in 1968, this film depicts the strong influence a single leader may have on his followers when fear is introduced. The local priest of this town, whose sermons often equate communism to the devil himself, convinces the townspeople that a group of university employees coming from out of town are evil and subsequently lynch them.
- Cast includes Enrique Lucero , Ernesto Gómez Cruz , Rodrigo Puebla
- Directed by Felipe Cazals
12. Cronos – 1993
The story begins in 1535 in colonial Veracruz, with an alchemist who creates a mechanism meant to grant eternal life to whoever possesses it. The timeline then jumps to 1997 when an antique dealer uncovers it hidden in a statue. Although he soon becomes to look noticeably younger, he is unaware that rumors abound, and treasure hunters will do anything to get their hands on it.
Cronos is del Guillermo del Toro‘s first feature film. It has since been recognized as one of the greatest horror films and Spanish language films of all time.
- Cast includes Federico Luppi , Ron Perlman , Claudio Brook
- Directed by Guillermo del Toro
13. Vuelven (Tigers are Not Afraid) –
Though not a typical horror film, this movie is unique in that the characters are all children. It’s a dark story about a street gang comprised of five young children, who do the unthinkable just to survive one more day. Estrella, at her naïve 10 years of age, wants nothing more than to find her mother that has been missing. Her wish comes true, but realizes her mother is dead and she joins the gang as an escape from her new reality. Directed by Issa Lopez.
2017 Mexican crime-fantasy horror film, with elements of magical realism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tigers_Are_Not_Afraid
- Cast includes Paola Lara, Juan Ramón López, Ianis Guerrero
- Directed by Issa López
Best Mexican American Movies
This category is given with honor to the “Mexico Trilogy ” from Robert Rodriguez.
14. El Mariachi – 1992
This movie has it all – crime, drugs, romance, music. El Mariachi is a Spanish-language, American independent, neo-Western film and the first part of the saga that came to be known as Robert Rodriguez’s Mexico Trilogy. It marked the feature-length debut of Rodriguez as a writer and director. The Spanish language film was shot with a mainly amateur cast in the northern Mexican border town of Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, Mexico across from Del Rio, Texas.
The film is also recognized by Guinness World Records as the lowest-budgeted film ever to gross $1 million at the box office
- Cast includes Carlos Gallardo, Consuelo Gomez, Peter Marquardt
- Directed by Robert Rodriguez
15. Desperado – 1995
With a much higher budget and better-known actors, Desperado is the sequal to El Mariachi. Antonio Banderas takes over the role of El Mariachi. The movie follows the mysterious guitar player as he seeks vengeance against the men who murdered his girlfriend.
Principal photography took place entirely in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, across from Del Rio, Texas.
- Cast includes Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi, Cheech Marin, Quentin Navarro.
- Directed by Robert Rodriguez
16. Once Upon a Time in Mexico – 2003
The third and final movie in Rodriguez’ trilogy is Once Upon a Time in Mexico. This movie continues to follow El Mariachi as he gets recruited by the CIA. Recurring themes of drug/cartel violence, retaliation, and romance.
The film locations for Once Upon a Time Mexico include Guanajuato City, San Miguel de Allende and Queretaro.
- Cast includes Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes, Danny Trejo, Enrique Iglesias, Cheech Marin, Ruben Blades, Willem Defoe
- Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Best Mexican Comedies
Below are a few of our favorite funny Mexican movies. Some are filmed in Mexico, some are filmed in Spanish, and others in English. All should make you laugh!
17. El Bulto – 1992
A dark comedy about the past; the present and the future. A young Mexican journalist falls into a coma and awakes twenty years later to find himself in a very different future than he would have imagined.
- Cast includes Gabriel Retes , Hector Bonilla , Lourdes Elizarraras
- Directed by Gabriel Retes
18. Nacho Libre – 2006
This is the story of a monastery cook who finds his life less than fulfilling. A longtime fan of “lucha libre”, he decides to become a Mexican wrestler in hopes of winning over the heart of a nun who has recently arrived at the monastery.
“Nacho Libre” was filmed entirely in Oaxaca, Mexico.
- Cast includes Jack Black and Ana de la Reguera.
- Directed by Jared Hess
Best Mexican Animated Film
19. Coco – 2017
This animated Disney film is about Miguel, a young boy with a passion for music and his family’s long-time ban on it. He must find a way to prove his talents but finds himself teetering between the real world and the mythical, colorful Land of the Dead. This movie is beautiful to watch, the music is phenomenal, and local traditions are portrayed in a fun, engaging way sure to educate and pique the curiosity of young and old alike.
‘Coco’ is a Pixar movie and was created as a love letter to Mexico. Coco has an all-Latino cast, it’s packed with references to Mexican culture, and it went right to No. 1 at the Mexican box office.
- Cast includes Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, and Jaime Camil
- Directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina
Best Mexican Western Movie
20. El Tunco Maclovio – 1970
This Western film is about a skilled gunfighter, Maclovio, who returns to a Mexican zone after being called on by a corrupt land-owner, Laura, to end the romance between her daughter and a farmer. His past in this region quickly begins to haunt him and he faces struggles in town as he soon realizes he is also the target of someone’s vengeance.
This is not your typical “Charro” western but a Hollywood-style western filmed with Mexican actors. It was filmed in Chihuahua, Mexico
- Cast includes Julio Alemán, Juan Miranda, Mario Almada
- Directed by Alberto Mariscal
Best Mexican Documentaries
21. Flight of the Butterflies – 2012
This short documentary follows the journey of the Monarch butterfly’s migration, from Central Mexico to the United States, to Canada and back to Mexico. This movie took 40 years of research in its making. This film takes you alongside the butterflies, through the treacherously long migration, to the secret location they fly to each fall.
- Directed by Mike Slee
22. Hecho en Mexico (Made in Mexico) – 2012
This documentary/musical is a reflection of Mexican culture, presented by various Mexican celebrities, and their own testimonial of what it means to be Mexican. It’s interesting to see the diversity in music and regions, from the Northern border to the Caribbean coast, and to hear each persons’ perspective. Hecho en Mexico was partially created to promote tourism within its own borders.
- Cast includes Diego Luna, Kinky, Lila Downs, Molotov
- Directed by Duncan Bridgeman
Best Mexican Border Movies
23. Babel – 2006
Directed by Alejandro Inarritu, this movie follows four separate, but interconnected stories. This is the third installment of González Iñárritu’s “Trilogy of Death” series. The trilogy of films are known for action that is connected or influenced in invisible ways (also known as hyperlink films).
The story of Babel connects four groups of people on three different continents: two young Moroccan goatherds, a vacationing American couple, a deaf Japanese teen and her father, and a Mexican nanny who takes her young charges across a border without parental permission. These four interlocking stories are connected by a single gun and in the end, reveal a complex and tragic story of the lives of humanity around the world and how we truly aren’t all that different.
Babel was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, where González Iñárritu won the Best Director Award. Babel won the Golden Globes Award for Best Motion Picture for the drama category, and received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress for both Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi, winning for Best Original Score.
The Mexico scenes were filmed in Tecate, Baja California Norte, Sonora, and Tijuana, Baja California Norte.
- Cast includes Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and Gael García Bernal
- Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
24. Identifying Features (Sin Señas Particulares) – 2020
A mother travels across Mexico in search of her son whom authorities say died while trying to cross the borders into the United States. Identifying Features uses one shattered family’s ordeal to offer a harrowing look at the immigrant experience. At it’s core, it is a movie about the many immigrants who often go missing or die on their journeys.
This is a multi-award-winning Mexican border film that is beautifully filmed.
- Directed by: Fernanda Valadez
- Cast: Mercedes Hernández, David Illescas, Juan Jesús Varela
Best Mexican Action Movie
25. Purasangre (Pure Blood) – 2016
The story revolves around two brothers, a cousin, and two friends who plot a heist of a famed racetrack and casino. In order to avoid being caught, they decide to hide their stash for five years. When one of them fails to follow through, they all find themselves in danger of being caught.
- Cast includes Hernán Mendoza, Mauricio Argüelles, César Rodríguez, Adrian Vazquez, Paulette Hernández, Joaquín Cosío
- Directed by Noe Santillan-Lopez
Best Mexican Movies on Netflix
Netflix has a huge library of Mexican movies. Below are a few current favorite Netflix Mexican movies.
26. Como Caído del Cielo – 2019
To earn his place in heaven, legendary Mexican actor-singer Pedro Infante is sent back to Earth in an impersonator’s body to mend his womanizing ways.
- Cast includes Omar Chaparro, Ana Claudia Talancón, Stephanie Cayo
- Directed by José Pepe Bojórquez
- Genre: Comedy
27. Ya no Estoy Aquí (I’m No Longer Here) – 2019
In Monterrey, Mexico, a young street gang spends their days dancing to slowed-down cumbia and attending parties. After a mix-up with a local cartel, their leader is forced to migrate to the U.S. but quickly longs to return home.
- Cast includes Juan Daniel García Treviño, Xueming Angelina Chen, Leo Zapata
- Directed by Fernando Frias
- Genre: Independent Movie
28. Macho – 2016
A famous designer who’s always pretended to be gay finds himself in crisis mode when threatened with exposure as the woman-chasing straight guy he is.
- Cast includes Miguel Rodarte, Cecilia Suárez, Aislinn Derbez
- Directed by Antonio Serrano
- Genre: LGBTQ Comedy
Best Mexican Movie Classics
The golden age of Mexican cinema was between 1935 and 1950. During this time, the movie industry in Mexico reached one of the pinnacles of its history known as the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema.
What were the two films that set the stage for the Mexican cinema’s golden age? It’s widely accepted that the Fernando de Fuentes films Allá en el Rancho Grande (1936) and Vámonos con Pancho Villa (1936) set the wheels in motion for what would become Mexican cinema’s Golden Age.
But, heading back a bit further in time, to 1898, Salvador Toscano made the country’s first film with a plot, titled Don Juan Tenorio. During the Mexican Revolution, Toscano recorded several clips of the battles, which would become a full-length documentary in 1950 under the title Memories of a Mexican, assembled by his daughter.
29. María Candelaria – 1943
María Candelaria is a Mexican romantic film that takes place in Xochimilco in 1909. The story is about a young woman who gets married even though nothing seems as though is going right for her and her betrothed. She is a Mexican peasant who ends up posing for the same artist who doomed her mother with a nude portrait and because of this, the people of the town mistreat María Candelaria.
It won a Silver Ariel award for Best Cinematography and became known as one of Fernández’s best works, in which he portrays the indigenous people of Mexico with innocence and dignity.
It was a co-Grand Prize winner and Best Cinematography winner at Cannes.
- Cast includes Dolores del Río and Pedro Armendáriz.
- Directed by Emilio Fernández
30. Let’s Go with Pancho Villa (1936)
The Mexican Revolution is on its way when six brave peasants, known as “Los Leones de San Pablo”, decide to join Pancho Villa’s army and help end the suffering in their community by assisting in the struggle. After several battles and valiant heroics, the original group is eventually reduced to two. More heartache ensues in this classic.
- Cast includes Antonio R. Frausto , Domingo Soler , Manuel Tamés
- Directed by Fernando de Fuentes
31. Los Olvidados – 1950
Los Olvidados is a teen crime film that beautifully oscillates between surrealist symbolism and the profound pain of realism. Los olvidados provides insight into the lives of poor children surviving in a Mexico City slum who are subjected to all kinds of misfortunes. When it was first released, the film was panned by many critics but it ended up winning Best Director for Luis Bunuel at Cannes and is now considered to be a true classic of Latin American cinema.
Buñuel’s first film, Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) was a silent surrealist short film created in collaboration with artist Salvador Dalí and set him on a trajectory in the surrealist movement of the 1920s. Buñuel created films from the 1920s through the 1970s. He has been widely considered by many film critics, historians, and directors to be one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of all time.
Los Olvidados is the best way to start exploring this director and his films!
- Cast includes Alfonso Mejía, Stella Inda, Miguel Inclán, Roberto Cobo
- Directed by Luis Buñuel
32. La Vida No Vale Nada (Life is Worthless) – 1955
“La Vida No Vale Nada” earned Pedro Infante a Silver Ariel for Mexico’s best male performance of 1955. The story centers around an illiterate, alcoholic drifter, who has bouts with the bottle and interludes with several women of varying characters. But he will try to discover his reason for being in the world, seeing his life in retrospect and thus be able to find his destiny. “La Vida No Vale Nada” provides a showcase for the dramatic and vocal skills of the great Pedro Infante.
Pedro Infante Cruz was born in Mazatlán, Sinaloa. He was both a Mexican ranchera music singer and actor, whose career spanned the golden age of Mexican cinema. Pedro Infante was considered an icon of Mexican cinema and often compared to Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.
- Cast includes Pedro Infante Cruz, Rosario Granados, Domingo Soler, Lilia Prado
- Directed by Rogelio A. González
33. Viva Zapata! (1956)
The movie focused on the life of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata from his peasant upbringing through his rise to power in the early 1900s and his death in 1919. While Marlon Brando was the lead, on this list we’ll pay homage to Anthony Quinn.
Quinn was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, during the Mexican Revolution and was the first Mexican-born actor to win two Oscars in the same category (best supporting actor) for Viva Zapata! (1956) and Lust for Life (1956).
He was also nominated for best actor for Wild Is the Wind (1957) and Zorba the Greek (1964).
Viva Zapata! was directed by Elia Kazan and the screenplay was written by John Steinbeck.
What did we miss? What do you think are the best movies from Mexico? Let us know below!
Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.