Best Chicano Movies
Imagining a list of the best Chicano movies isn’t hard to do. Unfortunately, there haven’t been all that many of them made and the ones that are really good tend to be unforgettable. If you haven’t seen the movies on this list, have a look and enjoy.
“Selena”(1997). This is the movie that birthed Jennifer Lopez’s career, both acting and singing. J. Lo sings all the songs herself in this biopic about the Tejano crossover star that was killed by a fan. Its depiction of the quest for the American Dream and proof that talent can cross all ethnic boundaries make it one of the best Chicano movies.
“Mi Familia”(1995). This drama about a multi-generational Mexican-American family features an all-star cast that includes Edward James Olmos, Jimmy Smits, Esai Morales and Jennifer Lopez in a small part. It explores the nuances of the Chicano experience in all of its up and downs and reaffirms key ideals of immigration and opportunity in America.
“Mi Vida Loca”(1992). This gritty drama tells the story of young Latina girls struggling to survive the harsh streets of the Echo Park area of Los Angeles. The girls in this movie have to do whatever it takes to get by and provide for themselves and their kids. Though not a Chicano, the film features Bruce Lee’s son, Jason Lee, in his first movie role.
“Blood In, Blood Out”(1993). A hardcore tale of gang life in the streets of East Los Angeles, this movie explains the street code as simple as its title. You get beaten and shed blood to join the gang and you get beaten (if you’re lucky), or get killed to leave the gang.
“American Me”(1992). This movie is one of the most brutal depictions of prison life and Los Angeles Chicano gang culture. Latino President-to-be, Edward James Olmos stars as one of the founding fathers of La Eme, aka The Mexican Mafia. This is one of the best Chicano movies ever for those that enjoy good crime dramas.
“Stand and Deliver”(1988). Edward James Olmos surfaces again in this biopic about Chicano teacher and role model, Jaime Escalante. The inspiring and uplifting tale about kids in East Los Angeles trying to overcome their circumstances in life also stars Lou Diamond Phillips.
“La Bamba”(1986). Lou Diamond Phillips stars in this biopic about Chicano rockabilly performer Richie Valens. This movie about a Chicano who falls in love with a suburban white girl and wants to be a rock a roll star is bound to give you that warm and fuzzy feeling.
“Born in East L.A.”(1987). Cheech Marin of “Cheech and Chong" fame stars in this comedy about a Chicano from East Los Angeles who gets deported to Mexico. There may be less smoking and a lack of the “munchies” than people are accustomed to when watching Cheech, but the laughs keep coming all the same.
“Zoot Suit”(1981). The World War II era Suit Riots in Los Angeles set the stage for this movie, another featuring actor Edward James Olmos. Originally a Broadway musical, the storyline revolves around the wrongful accusation of murder by a group of Chicano youths. The movie examines the racial tensions between Latinos and whites at a time when the United States was dealing with international aggression.
“Boulevard Nights”(1979). This was one of the first major movies to deal with Chicano life in East Los Angeles. Though it treads the now very familiar plotline of impoverished kids trying to make it out of the slum, it stands out as a cinematic representation of an ethnic group seldom seen on screen at the time of its release.