10 Best South American Movies

Monday, March 14 by Annette Smith

These 10 best South American movies play a significant role in the region’s culture. South American cinema is one of the most important in the Spanish-speaking world. These notable films were produced in several different Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela. They are arranged alphabetically by title.

  1. “Burnt Money.” “Burnt Money,” originally titled “Plata Quemada,” is an erotic Uruguayan film released in Argentina in 2000. The award-winning true crime drama follows two men who become lovers and, ultimately, infamous Argentine bank robbers.
  2. “Central Station.” “Central Station,” originally titled “Central do Brasil,” is a 1998 Brazilian drama. It highlights the relationship between a school teacher and an orphaned boy in search of his father. The award-winning film stars Fernanda Montenegro, Vinícius de Oliveira, and Marília Pêra.
  3. “City Of God.” “City Of God,” originally titled “Cidade de Deus,” is a 2002 Brazilian movie. The award-winning crime drama tells of two boys growing up in Rio de Janeiro–one a photographer, the other a drug dealer. The film stars Alexandre Rodrigues, Matheus Nachtergaele, and Leandro Firmino.
  4. “Kiltro.” “Kiltro” has the distinction of being the first martial arts movie produced in Chile. The 2006 film pays tribute to the North American action movies and martial arts heroes of the 1980s. Marko Zaror, Caterina Jadresic, and Miguel Angel De Luca star in the film.
  5. “Maroa.” “Maroa” is a 2005 Venezuelan movie that shows the cruelty and violence experienced by children living in the slums of Caracas, Venezuela. An Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, this movie stars Tristán Ulloa, Yorlis Domínguez, and Elba Escobar. 
  6. “The Motorcycle Diaries.” “The Motorcycle Diaries,” originally titled “Diarios de motocicleta,” is an Oscar-winning South American film. The 2004 biographical drama follows Che Guevara on a motorcycle road trip, during which he recognized his life calling. The Brazilian film stars Gael García Bernal, Rodrigo De la Serna, and Mercedes Morán. 
  7. “Nine Queens.” “Nine Queens,” originally titled “Nueve reinas,” is a South American crime thriller produced in Argentina. The 2000 film centers on two con artists determined to swindle a stamp collector by selling him counterfeit rare stamps. Ricardo Darín, Gastón Pauls, and Graciela Tenenbaum star in the film.
  8. “The Official Story.” “The Official Story,” originally titled “La historia official,” is a 1985 Argentine historical drama. An Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, it centers on a couple who discover their adopted child may be a victim of Argentina’s Dirty War in the late 1970s. The film stars Norma Aleandro, Héctor Alterio, and Chunchuna Villafañe.
  9. “Rodents.” “Rodents,” originally titled, “Ratas, ratones, rateros,” is a 1999 South American movie produced in Ecuador. A petty thief is changed forever by the arrival of his cousin, an ex-convict looking for some easy money. Simón Brauer, Alex Aspiazu, and Marco Bustos star in the film.
  10. “The Sacred Family.” “The Sacred Family,” originally titled “La sagade familia,” is an award-winning movie produced in Chile. The 2004 South American drama is an emotional movie about the lives and loves of a well-to-do Chilean family. Patricia López, Néstor Cantillana, and Sergio Hernández star in the film.
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  1. March 14, 2011 2:34 am


    News of the death last weekend at 88 of Alberto Granado will bring about the usual firestorm of comment from the extreme Right and Left, reasserting either Che Guevara’s unforgivably murderous nature or the wish to elevate him to some sort of secular celebrity sainthood. Neither response to Guevara is appropriate on the face of it, and especially in the context of the constant unchanging drum roll of both opinions, over and over since Guevara’s death 44 years ago. It’s astonishing that one man could engender so much repetitive cliché.

    Granado was Ernesto Guevara’s companion on the now-famous motorcycle trip the two men made in 1951 through many South American countries. It’s often been said that this trip was the event that introduced Guevara to the numbing poverty of so many people in these countries and the extraordinarily cruel treatment meted out to them by the various governments. His having observed all this at close hand fueled his move to the Left and his eventual friendship and political alliance with Fidel Castro. The 1959 Cuban revolution was, for good or ill, the singular stunning result.

    It is a surprise to discover how little is known of Che Guevara’s actual feelings, however. His diaries for the most reveal a doctrinaire Stalinist political stance, and not much else. Even when he was being pursued through the Bolivian countryside, hiding out from the Bolivian army, losing men every step of the way in a free fall to total defeat and his own destruction, the diary he kept of that time is so uninteresting, not to say boring, that we can conclude at least that this man was no writer. Most of the other writing about him is either academic history or political diatribe disguised as history and, therefore, just as boring.

    But Guevara made personal choices that must have hurt him terribly, whether he realized it or not. He left his five children for The Revolution. One heart-rending story about his relationship with his family is that of his visit one day with one of his little daughters in a Cuban pre-school, while having to remain so disguised that even she could not recognize him at all. His heart simply broke. On other occasions, he murdered people. He authorized the deaths of many more. He embarked upon a farcical adventure in Bolivia with little backing and no support from the Bolivians themselves. He was abandoned out there by Fidel and left to rot. Guevara’s writing in general and all the political stuff that has come out since his death contains very little of how he must have felt in his soul about all this.

    Maybe this is the territory that would be better suited by good fiction about Che Guevara. A major stage for discussions of the human heart, fiction may be the one place where we can get the truth about this strange, driven, violent man.

    (Terence Clarke’s novel A Kiss For Señor Guevara was published last year.)

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