15 Great Films You Can Stream to Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month

Happy National Hispanic Heritage Month—part two! To go with the A History of Hispanic & Latinx Representation in Film blog post I published last week to kick off this month's celebration, I wanted to compile a list of 15 great introductory films you can stream (right now!) and watch for NHHM that feature Hispanic and Latinx storytellers. I tried to compile an inclusive list in terms of genres, styles, filmmakers, and ease of streaming platforms, but this list is by no means comprehensive!


Feel free to leave your recommendations for positive representation of Hispanic and Latinx filmmaking in the comments because I'd love to watch them! I believe that one of the best and easiest ways to combat stereotyping and encourage positive, effectual change is by supporting authentic storytellers and their art.


 

The Ring (1952)

Director: Kurt Neumann

Starring: Lalo Rios, Gerald Mohr, Rita Moreno & Jack Elam

Where to Watch: Prime Video


A young American of Mexican descent (Rios) in East Los Angeles, California, uses the boxing ring to make a better life for himself and his family and learns as much about being a Latino in white society as he does about boxing.

DYK? The Ring is one of the first Hollywood sports-centered films that addressed discrimination against Chicanos.



 

Zoot Suit (1981)

Director: Luis Valdez

Starring: Daniel Valdez, Edward James Olmos, Rose Portillo, Charles Aidman, Tyne Daly, John Anderson, Abel Franco, Mike Gomez, Francis X. McCarthy, Alma Martínez, Lupe Ontiveros & Tony Plana

Where to Watch: Netflix | Prime Video


Mexican-American gangster Henry Reyna (Valdez) and others in his group are accused of a murder in which they had no part. They are then rounded up by the police because of their race and their choice of clothing. The gang members are thrown into prison and put through a racist trial. As Henry considers his fate, he has a conversation with El Pachuco (Olmos), a figure from his own conscience who makes him contemplate a choice between his heritage and his home country.


DYK? Zoot Suit received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical and was admitted to the National Film Preservation Board's National Film Registry for cultural significance in 2019. Director Luis Valdez went on to write and direct La Bomba (1987), a biopic about Ritchie Valens starring Lou Diamond Phillips in his first starring role a few years later.



 

Stand and Deliver (1988)

Director: Ramón Menéndez

Starring: Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Phillips, Rosanna DeSoto & Andy García

Where to Watch: HBO Max | Prime Video | YouTube

Los Angeles high school teacher Jaime Escalante (Edward James Olmos) is being hassled by tough students like Angel Guzman (Lou Diamond Phillips). But Jaime is also pressured by his bosses, who want him to control his raucous classroom. Caught in the middle, he opts to immerse his students in higher math. After intensive study, his students ace California's calculus test, only to learn that their scores are being questioned. They'll have to retake the exam in order to quiet the critics.


DYK? First-time writer and director Ramón Menéndez and his fellow UCLA Film School graduate, co-writer and producer Tom Musca, secured the movie rights to Jaime Escalante's story for one dollar. When the project was rejected by independent studios, the filmmakers financed the production with grants and endowments from institutions, including PBS.



 

El Mariachi (1992)

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Starring: Carlos Gallardo, Consuelo Gómez, Peter Marquardt, Reinol Martínez, Jaime de Hoyos, Edith Gonzalez, Ramiro Gómez, Jesús López Viejo, Luis Baro & Óscar Fabila

Where to Watch: Prime Video


El Mariachi (Gallardo) is a traveling guitar player with a modest desire to play music for a living. Looking for a job, he stops at a bar in a tiny town, where his simple, peaceful lifestyle is interrupted. Local hit men, expecting enemy assassin Azul (Martínez) to invade their town, believe that the visiting musician is the professional killer they are looking for. Unwittingly embroiled in vicious mob warfare, El Mariachi must shoot his way out of town if he is to survive.

DYK? El Mariachi holds the Guinness World Record for the lowest-budget film to make $1 million at the U.S. box office. With a stated production budget of only $7,000, this self-financed, self-produced film went on to make a total of $2,041,928 in cinemas worldwide after it was picked up for distribution by Columbia Pictures.



 

My Family [Mi Familia] (1995)

Director: Gregory Nava

Starring: Jimmy Smits, Esai Morales, Eduardo Lopez Rojas, Jenny Gago, Elpidia Carrillo, Constance Marie, Jacob Vargas, Jennifer Lopez & Edward James Olmos

Where to Watch: Prime Video


A second-generation Mexican immigrant narrates his family history, beginning with the journey of his father, Jose (Vargas), across Mexico to Los Angeles where he meets Maria (Lopez) and starts a family. Each subsequent generation contends with political and social hardships, ranging from illegal deportations in the 1940s to racial tensions and gang fights in the '60s and '70s. Yet through it all, or perhaps because of it, the family remains strong.

DYK? Constance Marie and Valente Rodriguez would later work together again on the ABC sitcom George Lopez from 2002 to 2007.



 

Selena (1997)

Director: Gregory Nava

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Edward James Olmos, Jon Seda, Constance Marie, Jacob Vargas, Lupe Ontiveros, Jackie Guerra

Where to Watch: HBO Max | Prime Video


In this biographical drama, Selena Quintanilla (Lopez) is born into a musical Mexican-American family in Texas. Her father, Abraham (Olmos), realizes that his young daughter is talented and begins performing with her at small venues. She finds success and falls for her guitarist, Chris Perez (Seda), who draws the ire of her father. Seeking mainstream stardom, Selena begins recording an English-language album that, tragically, she would never complete.


DYK? The production used approximately 64,000 fans and extras, with 35,000 used to recreate the Houston Astrodome concert scene. Fans were compensated for their time with coupons for free Coke products.



 

And Your Mother, Too [Y tu mamá también] (2001)

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Starring: Maribel Verdú, Gael García Bernal & Diego Luna

Where to Watch: Prime Video


The lives of Julio (García Bernal) and Tenoch (Luna), like those of 17-year-old boys everywhere, are ruled by raging hormones, intense friendships, and a headlong rush into adulthood. Over the course of a summer, the two best friends, while living out a carefree cross-country escapade with a gorgeous older woman, also find connection with each other, themselves, and the world around them.


DYK? Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal are best friends in real life, having known each other since birth. Their parents were working together on a theatre production in Mexico at the time of their births. The two actors also acted together as children.



 

Real Women Have Curves (2002)

Director: Patricia Cardoso

Starring: America Ferrera, Lupe Ontiveros, Jorge Cervera Jr., Ingrid Oliu, George Lopez, Brian Sites, Soledad St. Hilaire, Lourdes Pérez, Josefina Lopez, José Gerardo Zamora Jr., Manuel Edgar Luján & Erica Moller

Where to Watch: HBO Max | Hulu | Prime Video | Youtube


In East Los Angeles, 18-year-old Ana Garcia (Ferrera) struggles between her ambitions of going to college and the desires of her overbearing mother for her to get married, have children, and oversee the small, rundown family-owned textile factory.


DYK? In 2019, Real Women Have Curves was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, which deemed it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."



 

Pan's Labyrinth [El laberinto del fauno] (2006)

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Doug Jones, Ariadna Gil, Álex Angulo, Manolo Solo, César Vea, Roger Casamajor, Federico Luppi & Pablo Adán

Where to Watch: Prime Video


It's 1944 and the Allies have invaded Nazi-held Europe. In Spain, a troop of soldiers are sent to a remote forest to flush out the rebels. They are led by Capitan Vidal (López), a murdering sadist, and with him are his new wife Carmen (Gil) and her daughter from a previous marriage, 11-year-old Ofelia (Baquero). Ofelia witnesses her stepfather's sadistic brutality and is drawn into Pan's Labyrinth, a magical world of mythical beings.


DYK? Having worked with him on Mimic (1997) and Hellboy (2004), Guillermo del Toro was determined to cast Doug Jones as the Faun and the Pale Man, telling him via email, "You must be in this film. No one else can play this part but you." Jones initially responded enthusiastically to an English translation of the script but was "terrified" to take the role once he learned the film was in Spanish, which he did not speak. Del Toro suggested learning the script phonetically, but Jones spent the five hours a day he spent in the makeup chair practicing his lines. While del Toro later dubbed Jones' performance with theater actor Pablo Adán, Jones' proper pronounciation made it easier for Adán to match his delivery.



 

Even the Rain [También la lluvia] (2010)

Director: Icíar Bollaín

Starring: Luis Tosar, Gael García Bernal, Juan Carlos Aduviri, Karra Elejalde, Raúl Arévalo, Carlos Santos, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Milena Soliz & Leónidas Chiri

Where to Watch: Netflix


Mexican filmmakers Sebastian (García Bernal) and Costa (Tosar), shooting a film in Bolivia about the conquest by Christopher Columbus, become embroiled in controversy when their film schedule runs up against the Cochabamba protests. With local natives rising against the privatization of their water supply. As more and more problems beset the production and the riots escalate, the tension increases between the crew members.


DYK? Even the Rain is dedicated to the memory of activist, historian, and writer Howard Zinn, who wrote The People's History of The United States (1980).



 

The Book of Life (2014)

Director: Jorge R. Gutiérrez

Starring: Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Christina Applegate, Ice Cube, Ron Perlman & Kate del Castillo

Where to Watch: Disney+ | Prime Video | YouTube

Manolo (Luna), a young man torn between fulfilling his family's expectations and following his heart, embarks on an adventure that spans three fantastic worlds where he must face his greatest fears.


DYK? The swirl in Manolo's hair is a tribute to the swirled hill from The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), one of director Jorge R. Gutiérrez's favorite films.



 

McFarland, USA (2015)

Director: Niki Caro

Starring: Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Carlos Pratts, Johnny Ortiz, Hector Duran, Sergio Avelar, Michael Aguero, Rafael Martinez, Ramiro Rodriguez, Morgan Saylor & Elsie Fisher

Where to Watch: Disney Plus | Prime Video | YouTube


Track coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) is a newcomer to a predominantly Latino high school in California's Central Valley. Coach White and his new students have much to learn about one another, but things begin to change when White realizes the boys' exceptional running ability. More than just physical prowess drives the teens to succeed; their strong family ties, incredible work ethic, and commitment to their team all play a factor in forging these novice runners into champions.

DYK? In real life, Coach Jim White retired in 2003 after twenty-three years of coaching.



 

La Llorona (2019)

Director: Jayro Bustamante

Starring: María Mercedes Coroy, Sabrina De La Hoz, Margarita Kenéfic, Julio Diaz, María Telón as Valeriana, Juan Pablo Olyslager & Ayla-Elea Hurtado

Where to Watch: Prime Video | YouTube

Alma (Coroy) is murdered with her children during a military attack in Guatemala, but 30 years later when former general Enrique Monteverde (Diaz), who ordered the genocide, is found not guilty based on a technicality, Alma returns to the world of the living to torment the man.

DYK? La Llorona was the first Guatemalan film to ever be nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. The film was also Guatemala's official submission for the Best International Feature Film category for the 93rd Academy Awards in 2021.



 

Mucho Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado (2020)

Director: Cristina Constantini & Kareem Tabsch

Featuring: Walter Mercado

Where to Watch: Netflix


Once the world's most famous astrologer, Walter Mercado seeks to resurrect a forgotten legacy. Raised in the sugar cane fields of Puerto Rico, Walter grew up to become a gender non-conforming, cape-wearing psychic whose televised horoscopes reached 120 million Latinx viewers a day for 30 years before he mysteriously disappeared.

DYK? In January 2019, after Lin-Manuel Miranda posted a photo of him and Mercado on his social media accounts, many long-time Walter Mercado fans were surprised after learning he was still alive, even after years out of the public eye.



 

Encanto (2021)

Directors: Byron Howard, Jared Bush & Charise Castro Smith

Cast: Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitán, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, Ravi Cabot-Conyers & Maluma

Where to Watch: Disney+


The Madrigals are an extraordinary family who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia in a charmed place called the Encanto. The magic of the Encanto has blessed every child in the family with a unique gift—every child except Mirabel (Beatriz). However, she soon may be the Madrigals' last hope when she discovers that the magic surrounding the Encanto is now in danger.


DYK? Bruno (Leguizamo) was initially named 'Oscar,' but his name was changed to better fit the song lyrics, "We don't talk about Bruno-no-no-no-no." Additionally, a legal snag over several real-life Oscar Madrigals led the filmmakers to change it.