The Best Spanish-language Movies of All Time, According to Critics

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The Best Spanish-language Movies of All Time, According to Critics Y Tu Mamá También by IFC Films

What comes to mind when you think about Spanish-language cinema? The vibrant colors of Pedro Almodóvar? Guillermo del Toro's intricate, gothic fantasies? Or the fast-paced, violent world of Amores Perros? Spanish and Latino cinema has a long and diverse history which has been somewhat overlooked by the Anglophone world, but it is well worth exploring.

Some big names have been a driving force in Spanish-language cinema. Spanish director Luis Buñuel was the first director to make international waves, combining his motherland's strong culture of surrealism with an avant-garde sensibility throughout the 20th century.

The repressive Franco regime, which gripped Spain from 1939 to 1975, put a damper on Spanish cinema for much of the 20th century; Buñuel spent many of those years in Mexico. To avoid censorship, movies from that period tend to allude to the fascist dictatorship through metaphor. The gentle 1973 movie The Spirit of the Beehive uses the psyche of a young girl to explore the isolation and anxiety of life under Franco.

Spanish cinema exploded back into life after Franco's death. Leading the new wave of sensual, gender-bending cinema was Pedro Almodóvar, who drew international praise for films like Talk to Her and Volver. His work helped make a star of another one of Spanish cinema's icons, Penelope Cruz, who went on to find Hollywood success when she became the first Spanish actress to win an Academy Award.

At the same time, Mexican cinema was coming to the fore with movies such as Amores Perros and Y Tu Mamá También, both of which star Gael García Bernal. Mexican director Guillermo del Toro made waves with his elaborate, neo-Gothic films Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth, and has continued to make movies in both English and Spanish.

Over the last two decades, other Latin cinema gems have emerged. 2004's Maria Full of Grace examined drug smuggling in Columbia. 2016's Embrace of the Serpent shone a light on remote tribal life in the same country. Another recent Spanish-language smash was 2015's The Clan, which told the real-life story of the Argentine Puccio family, known for their criminal activities involving kidnap and murder.

With this emergence of a vibrant, exciting new talent from South America, Spanish-language cinema is in the best place it's been for years. Using data from critical review aggregation websites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, as well as user-submitted reviews from IMDb, we've listed the 50 best Spanish-language feature films of all time, according to critics.

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50. Pellet (2000). Directed by Achero Mañas. Total score: 71.7% Metacritic score: 70. Rotten Tomatoes score: 72. IMDb score: 73. Summary: El Bola, a 12 year old boy a.k.a. "Pellet" is a 12 year old boy raised in a violent and sordid environment. Embarrassed by his family life, he avoids becoming close to classmates. What the critics said about Pellet: "At once subtle and visceral, the film never succumbs to the trap of the maudlin or tearful, offering instead with its unflinching gaze a measure of faith in the future"—Village Voice Film Movement
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49. Sleep Tight (2011). Directed by Jaume Balagueró. Total score: 71.7% Metacritic score: 70. Rotten Tomatoes score: 73. IMDb score: 72. Summary: You wake day after day to the comfort and security of your home. But how safe is it really? What the critics said about Sleep Tight: "A nifty little thriller that dances on the boundary between plausible and preposterous"—NPR Filmax Entertainment
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48. The Flower of My Secret (1995). Directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Total score: 72% Metacritic score: 75. Rotten Tomatoes score: 70. IMDb score: 71. Summary: Leo Macias writes sentimental novels with great success but hidden under a pseudonym, Amanda Gris. She is unhappy with her professional life and with her husband, a soldier working in Brussels and Bosnia that is never at home. She will try anything to change her life. What the critics said about The Flower of My Secret: "An intimate, beautifully wrought work, it reflects a new maturity in Almodovar's work and is one of his best pictures"—Los Angeles Times Sony Pictures Classics
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47. The Clan (2015). Directed by Pablo Trapero. Total score: 72% Metacritic score: 73. Rotten Tomatoes score: 73. IMDb score: 70. Summary: The true story of the Puccio Clan, a family who kidnapped and killed people in the 80s. What the critics said about The Clan: "A mordant if unwieldy thriller examining how evil not only becomes the norm, but a virtue"—Boston Globe Pablo Trapero
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46. Broken Embraces (2009). Directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Total score: 72.7% Metacritic score: 76. Rotten Tomatoes score: 70. IMDb score: 72. Summary: Harry Caine, a blind writer, reaches this moment in time when he has to heal his wounds from 14 years back. He was then still known by his real name, Mateo Blanco, and directing his last movie. What the critics said about Broken Embraces: "While it may not be Almodóvar's greatest work, it still stands well above most other films in terms of intrigue, intelligence and innovation"—Detroit News Sony Pictures Classics
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45. [Rec] (2007). Directed by Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza. Total score: 73% Metacritic score: 69. Rotten Tomatoes score: 75. IMDb score: 75. Summary: A television reporter and cameraman follow emergency workers into a dark apartment building and are quickly locked inside with something terrifying. What the critics said about [Rec]: "A brilliantly staged early scare signals that the safety rails are off and, despite an unexpected, last-minute swerve into the supernatural realm, the edge-of-the-seat tension is sustained to the very last second"—Time Out Odeon Sky Filmworks
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44. The Skin I Live In (2011). Directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Total score: 73.3% Metacritic score: 70. Rotten Tomatoes score: 74. IMDb score: 76. Summary: A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession. What the critics said about The Skin I Live In: "Few filmmakers are more assured or alluring, even when we fear we're following a monster"—St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sony Pictures
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43. The Age of Beauty (1992). Directed by Fernando Trueba. Total score: 73.5% Metacritic score: n/a. Rotten Tomatoes score: 75. IMDb score: 72. Summary: A 1931 Spanish military deserter finds himself on a lonely farm until the farmer's four daughters pay a visit and he falls for all of them. What the critics said about The Age of Beauty: "It's fairly inoffensive and intermittently charming"—Chicago Reader Fernando Trueba