– spanish language kidnap mystery sees a traumatised reporter track down a missing girl. It’s unoriginal, cliché and low production quality. I’d love to offer some positives to balance all that out, but I can’t. Rubbish. Skip it.
Echo 3 S01 (TV)
– CIA action thriller is just a few missteps short of masterful; polished, slickly produced, and with top tier acting and cinematography, particularly from director Pablo Trapero. It comes off the boil towards the end, and there are a few too many contrivances, including at least one that’s borderline insulting, but as an overall package, this is stunning, edge of the seat stuff. I’m not really sure why everyone isn’t talking about it…
The Chalk Line (aka Jaula)
– while the premise is implausible and the obsessive, hysterical characterisation of the lead smacks of sexism, this is quite an engaging spanish language thriller, mainly let down by sloppy direction and a pervasive sense that it could have been so much better.
– emotionally compelling Spanish / French drama is borderline taboo as a 39 year old grieving mother becomes intimate friends with a 16 year old boy at a beach resort. Although it remains an interesting and engaging work and is disconcerting throughout, its characters never behave believably enough to deliver the emotional punch it intends.
A Man of Action
– sadly, this spanish language crime thriller feels a bit amateur hour, without much of anything to engage or excite the viewer. It’s not offensively bad, just dull.
The Beasts (As Bestas)
– Isabel Peña continues her streak of phenomenal work. She’s definitely my current favourite spanish screenwriter. This is an unsettling, powerfully realistic drama, beautifully shot by director Rodrigo Sorogoyen, who also has an impressive track record, May God Save Us and Riot Police in particular, and whose eye for composition bestows even everyday scenes with eerie beauty. It’s heavy going, bleak and uncomfortable at times, not for casual viewing, but definitely recommended.
The Photographer of Mauthausen
– mixed german / spanish language World War 2 drama details the efforts of a young photographer to secretly preserve evidence of crimes committed in the prisoner of war camp where he’s detained. It’s not particularly showy or remarkable, and definitely nowhere near genre leading, but it’s a heartfelt, engaging, and dare I say it, slightly uplifting story.
The Good Boss (El Buen Patrón)
– a black comedy with terrific acting. Javier Bardem is the CEO of a scales company trying to solve a series of increasingly tricky personal problems in the lead up to a competition. It’s a mostly lighthearted if scathing take on capitalism at the expense of human decency. There are no revelations, and it might prove forgettable, but it’s (sadness tinged) fun while it lasts.
God’s Crooked Lines (Los Renglones Torcidos de Dios)
– ludicrously twisty and (typically) hysterical Spanish language psychological thriller keeps you enjoyably guessing, but if it wasn’t so impossible to take seriously it’d be a borderline offensive depiction of both mental health patients and their doctors.
– Spanish language legal drama depicts the prosecution of former military commanders. Ricardo Darin is marvellous as ever, as are the whole cast. It’s an important piece of history told in an informative, compelling way, with wit and compassion, but it’s carried by the gravity of history and the weight of its performances rather than because the events themselves are especially cinematic or exciting.
Hierro S01 (TV)
– even as a fan of Spanish-language cinema, I couldn’t bring myself to finish this small minded and uninspired crime thriller, packed full of tired tropes and unimaginatively presented. Avoid.
The Endless Trench (La Trinchera Infinita)
– powerful spanish language drama depicts the extraordinary life of a man in hiding during Spain’s civil war and the years beyond. Surprising and illuminating.
Bajocero (Below Zero)
– thriller set inside a prisoner transport truck is mostly gripping while it lasts but proves forgettable. Javier Gutiérrez is excellent as ever, but as a whole, this doesn’t hold a candle to the best Spanish language crime thrillers.
New Order (Nuevo Orden)
– visceral and brutally graphic Mexican drama presents a violent revolution and the subsequent opportunism and corruption of the military. Though polished and indubitably impactful, this fast paced but horrific depiction is as hard to recommend as it is to stomach.
– arthouse in the jungle. It might be unique, but this twisted and faintly surreal observation of some child soldiers guarding a US hostage in Colombia is too slow, opaque and gratuitous. The political commentary, while clearly present, is hidden in so many layers of visual and non-visual metaphor that trying to make sense of it is like trying to decipher a bad dream. Maybe up someone’s street, not mine.
Don’t Listen (Voces)
– Spanish horror rips ideas from so many other films I genuinely thought I was watching a remake and I just couldn’t place the original. Jump scares, blinking lights and radio interference: this is a grab bag of bad horror tropes. If you’ve a high tolerance for the uninspired or are new to horrors, you might like it.
Perdida S01 aka Stolen Away (TV)
– Spanish language soap-thriller is fast paced, easy (if frustrating) viewing and good practice for learners; as a show, I can’t recommend it. The plot is insane, the script and acting typically hyperbolic, and the direction completely rote.
The Innocent (El Inocente) S01 (TV)
– twisting thriller with a stellar cast starts strong then rapidly goes off the rails, stretching implausibility until it snaps and becomes straight up stupidity. A shame, as it seemed so promising, but shows like these – especially Spanish – never let realism get in the way of melodrama, and the standard suffers.
The Inmate (El Recluso) S01 (TV)
– enjoyably awful Spanish language prison thriller with a crazy and implausible plot, a terrible script, and editing that feels like whole chunks of the show were left on the cutting room floor. That said, the cast put in admirably hammy performances – with Flavio Medina as Peniche and David Chocarro as Santito both particularly riveting. They deserve much better roles. All in all, not worth it unless you’re a fan of this kind of shambolic telenovela melodrama. Shamefully, perhaps, I am.
– Contrasted with the full gamut of spanish-language cinema, this Havana based drama is certainly not knocking any crowns off, but it’s still a raw and characterful tale. The first two thirds are quite excellent and engaging, but the final third unfortunately falls a little short, if only because of its soaring ambition. Worth watching, though.
– uplifting spanish language sports film with a twist. Extremely funny, if a little too saccharine.
Tigers Are Not Afraid (Los Tigres No Tienen Miedo)
– in turns sweet and tragic, this is a macabre spanish-language fairy tale in the vein of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, where children interpret and internalise the violence of adults, in this case, human trafficking and drug gangs in Mexico.
The Heist of the Century (El Robo Del Siglo)
– this spanish-language bank robbery comedy is enjoyably lighthearted, but in some ways, the calibre of the crime deserves a more serious retelling.
La Odisea de los Giles (aka Heroic Losers)
– gentle and understated comedy epitomises everything I love about Latin American movies. Charismatic characters, sensitive and thoughtful direction, and of course, the beautiful language.
The Platform (El Hoyo)
– gruesome spanish-language horror begs for dissection and analysis as it portrays a hierarchical class system in a barren, despairing prison called The Hole. Excessively violent and graphic, and cursed with a frustrating ending, but still thought provoking.
Pain and Glory (Dolor y Gloria)
– Mournful Spanish-language drama is a beautiful if overly ponderous reflection on life and love and the sickness of nostalgia.
The Two Popes
– delightfully warm reflection on the transition from Pope Benedict to Pope Francis, featuring immense performances from both Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins, and a witty script.
Time Share (Tiempo Compartido)
– bizarre, surrealist drama sees a family forced to share a villa at a holiday resort. Something sinister is afoot, but it’s never exactly clear what. Confounding in all the wrong ways.
Green Frontier (Frontera Verde) (S01) (TV)
– Afraid to say I gave up on this after a few episodes. Beautiful scenery, but the pace is paralysingly slow, the script and premise both vague and unconvincing, and the lead actress is nearly devoid of emotion. Life is too short.
The Son (El Hijo)
– This film had so much potential. The premise is delightfully deranged, albeit not fleshed out enough, and the cast are strong, but it fails in its plodding execution, and unwillingness to assert any definitive plot details. Its implications and suggestions, whilst initially intriguing, grow irksome, and the open ending feels lazy rather than suspenseful. It’s a shame, because it hints at a much more successful thriller.
Even the Rain (Todavía La Lluvia)
– Engaging spanish language drama with a cast that is strong enough to warrant the viewing alone. Gabriel Garcia Bernal is always an extraordinary screen presence, and he’s wonderful here.
Todos Lo Saben (Everybody Knows)
– effective but unsatisfying Spanish drama that teases mystery then vexingly abandons it half way through. Worth watching for the excellent performances.
Mirage (Durante La Tormenta)
– This Spanish time travel thriller is engaging enough and fun to watch unfold, but its production feels low-fi and the story and acting are hammy.
– albeit low budget, this is a very good, original spanish sci-fi with tight editing and direction and convincing performances. Recommended.
Elite S01 (TV)
– glossy teenage trash with the usual spanish melodrama
Sunday’s Illness (La Enfermedad de Domingo)
– quietly affecting, understated spanish drama. Engrossing, but not remarkable.
Fariña (Cocaine Coast) S01 (TV)
– a spanish language narcotics soap opera, a telenovela in every respect but production values. The story is predictable, character behaviours stupid, and every episode follows the exact same formula: risk of arrest being averted by a litany of increasingly absurd coincidences, contrivances, and deus ex machinas. If it wasn’t for the love of the language, it’s unlikely I’d have watched past episode two, and all the warning signs are there in episode one. If you want an amazing thriller about drug trafficking, there are so many to choose from, don’t choose this one.
7 Boxes (Siete Cajas)
– fresh and exciting spanish language thriller exploring the chaotic events of one night in a Paraguayan market when a boy is asked to transport 7 crates of unknown merchandise across the town. Brilliant, fast paced and often funny, with a great soundtrack and creative camera work.
– fairly average spanish horror movie. Not scary in the least, so it fails on that point, but it’s no less entertaining, and some of the script is very humorous, particularly from Verónica’s younger siblings who do an admirable job treading the line between amusing and annoying.
The Warning (El Aviso)
– mercifully short and mostly engaging spanish thriller. Everything about it is either bog standard or subpar, and there’s little to really recommend it, but the story is intriguing enough to keep you guessing. The premise is never explained or justified and one can’t help but think a better film could have been made.
El Otro Hermano (The Lost Brother/ The Other Brother)
– Grisly Spanish crime drama, protracted but compelling if only to see how the whole nasty, twisted tale unravels. Very effective understated soundtrack.
Palmeras en la Nieve (Palm Trees in the Snow)
– Absolute balls. Eye-rolling and cringe inducing melodrama. Nauseatingly saccharine, self-indulgent, badly edited and painfully ponderous (with a runtime that’s an exercise in audience tolerance). Among its other crimes, it somehow depicts the Spanish as the victims of their own colonial era in Guinea. Quite the feat.
The Silence of the Sky (O Silêncio do Céu)
– affecting and unpleasant spanish language drama, too doleful to be enjoyable
Grupo 7 (Unit 7)
– Spanish language police drama about a corrupt police unit who terrorise the locals to make arrests and increasingly antagonise the community with violent results. Polished, but simply not engaging enough to recommend highly. Elite Squad and its sequel delivered the same concept much more convincingly and enjoyably.
The Motive (El Autor)
– Spanish psychological drama following a man who becomes so obsessive about writing his novel he manipulates his neighbours to engineer increasingly outlandish storylines. Mostly compelling but becomes increasingly absurd and farcical as it wears on. The ending is disappointingly prosaic.
Killing Words (Palabras encadenadas)
– average Spanish-language crime thriller
La Casa De Papel
– what starts as a trashy Spanish heist thriller turns borderline unbearable as the plot twists itself into a ludicrous, inconsistent and often nonsensical mess. Then after 13 absurd episodes, the season ends abruptly and unsatisfyingly. Unless season two is a work of utter genius, I cannot recommend this.
– often agonisingly difficult to watch, this spanish black comedy thriller is mostly unfunny, gratuitous, and poorly produced. One to avoid.
Mar de Plastico S01E01 (TV)
– spanish attempt at scandinoir falls flat with glossy casting, a tactless script and infuriatingly stupid plot oversights (generously not called ‘holes’)
– Perhaps the worst Spanish language film I’ve seen. Chaotic, badly scripted, acted, directed; a total waste of time. Baffled that Jose Coronado put his name to it.
To Steal From A Thief (Cien Años de Perdon)
– hugely disappointing, chaotic and superficial heist thriller. Engaging, but utterly devoid of substance.
Seven Years (7 Años)
– unexpectedly engaging single room, minimal cast drama. Sparks fly and intrigue grips even past the end.
Musarañas (Shrew’s Nest)
– unpleasant spanish horror, more menacing than gratuitous. Good film, if you like the unlikeable.
– slightly gratuitous spanish language cartel thriller. Oddly sparsely scripted, with the titular character cowering from bullets in lingerie for most of the film. Not recommended.
– suspenseful and interesting drama in part Germana and part Spanish. Slightly underwhelming but a good watch nonetheless.
– Disappointing drugs running thriller, especially following the brilliant Cell 211. Not Luis Tosar’s finest hour.
– Fast paced (perhaps too fast paced), drug cartel crime thriller charting Pablo Escobar rise and fall from power in Colombia. Sharp acting and excellent direction, it’s a minor pity that the script frequently borders on US propaganda. Terrific TV though.
Colosio: El Asesinato
– Fantastic spanish language crime thriller exploring theories surrounding the assassination of Colosio, the Mexican presidential candidate in 1994.
El Chapulín Colorado (TV)
– old school slapstick silliness in spanish.
El Gran Hotel (S01) (TV)
– gossipy, trashy, farcical – there is little to redeem this spanish period drama bar its language. If I wasn’t making an effort to learn spanish, I wouldn’t touch this with a barge pole.
La Isla Minima (Marshland)
– superb spanish thriller, dark and layered. Similar to True Detective in style and tone.
The Devil’s Backbone
– entirely in Spanish on this viewing, consequently it was a lot less impactful: my spanish leaves a lot to be desired!
La Habitacion del Niño
– the first half of this spanish B-movie is one of the most hilarious black comedies I have seen, whilst the second reverts to genre stereotypes and predictable twists. It’s a lot of fun though, and to some degree an original haunted house thriller.
Live Flesh (Carne Tremula)
– Well crafted Spanish drama from Almodovar. Excellent acting and solid plot. Filled with the usual Almodovar tropes and on the nose political statements though.
– one of the most boring Spanish films I have watched. Dreary and uneventful drama, not worth the time.
No Rest For The Wicked (No habrá paz para los malvados)
– outstanding and offensively underrated spanish crime thriller. Powerhouse acting and superb direction. Deserves further viewing.
– Excellent, brilliantly directed and shot macabre thriller with a twist that will genuinely surprise, albeit largely due to its implausibility. Unmissable spanish language.
Cronica de una Fuga (Buenos Aires, 1977)
– Intense and serious, perhaps too dry. Lacks the poetry and artistry of similar films, though remains a harrowing fly-on-the-wall spanish language drama.
La Cara Oculta
– Disappointing Spanish thriller that is engrossing but ultimately unrewarding.
– Engrossing and enjoyable spanish thriller that takes one too many twists and finds itself stranded, but remains a fun ride.
– Dry, slow burning neo-Western drama that is surprisingly affecting, particularly as it isn’t especially gripping. Sam Shepherd is good, and predominantly speaks Spanish throughout.
– One of the nastiest, most insidious, and repulsive Spanish films I have ever had the displeasure of watching. A solid pic, well directed, well acted and utterly horrible.
El Habitante Incierto (The Uninvited Guest)
– Hitchcockian spanish language thriller, full of intrigue, novelty and witty black humour. Utterly bizarre and all the better for it.
Before Night Falls (Antes que Anochezca)
– told episodically, this biographical drama isn’t easy viewing. It is slow and long and feels longer still. That said, it is well made and well acted. If you like poetic cinema, Javier Bardem and the melody of spanish, then this might hold something for you.
– Although frustratingly contrived, this is a controversial (and therefore exciting) tale set during the end of the Spanish inquisition, recounting the lives of an artist and two of his subjects as one epoch ends and another begins. Direction and performances are tight, but one can’t help but feel the script deliberately errs on the side of provocative and suffers for it.
Los Santos Inocentes
– A harrowing recollection of the lives of an impoverished family in Spain in the 1960s as they toil as underlings on a bourgeois country estate. Tragically historically accurate.
El Aura (The Aura)
– Intriguing spanish thriller. Compelling albeit peculiarly paced and with a few loose ends left trailing. Thoughtful cinema, but perhaps trying to tackle one too many strands for its own good. Recommended, but not highly.
Lucia y el sexo (Sex and Lucia)
– moments of artistry go some way to redeem what is otherwise a meandering, occasionally gratuitous mess of a film. This desnuda approach to filmmaking has perhaps scarred Spanish cinema somewhat.
The Spanish Prisoner
– A classic Mamet heist flick – totally underwhelming, devoid of any thrills or skillful twists. Watchable, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
– An excellent, mild and uncontroversial historical drama about the ad campaign that overthrew Pinochet in Chile. Great acting and a subtle, dry script make for compelling viewing.
– Haunting and unsettling, but just doesn’t quite cut the grade for usual Spanish horrors
The Secret in their Eyes
– groundbreaking spanish thriller with superb direction and acting
– spanish horror, fairly standard but some pleasant au frisson