The Ultimate Guide for Learning Spanish with Movies
+ 25 Short Films, Movies, Documentaries and Series
Learning a new language by reading books and memorizing grammar rules can get real boring, real quick.
Spicing up and improving your Spanish skills by watching your favorite movies or series is an excellent way to gain that motivation that keeps you going. Spanish movies are ideal additions to broadening your existing language skills in a quick and easy way, regardless of your Spanish proficiency level.
Here we have created a complete overview of how you can utilize Spanish cinema in the most effective and entertaining ways to help improve your overall knowledge of Spanish language.
- Why watch Spanish movies?
- How can you learn from Spanish movies?
- What should you watch?
- Best movies to learn Spanish: Beginners (Level A1-A2)
- Best movies to learn Spanish: Advanced (Level B1-B2)
- Best movies to learn Spanish: Professional (Level C1-C2)
- Which online platforms can you use?
- Learn Spanish in Real Life
Let’s see how it works!
Why Watch Spanish Movies?
Improve your vocabulary
Watching movies in Spanish is a great way to improve your language skills, by taking the words and phrases you’ve learned in class, and hear them in a different context. This will allow you to expand your vocabulary while understanding how it’s used in real-life situations.
Make learning easy and memorable
Sure, it’s not easy to learn a new language, but by watching your favorite movies and series in Spanish, you can more easily memorize new words and phrases. Because you already know the plot and storyline of the movie, you can then turn your focus to learning the language. By taking the reins you can also decide the speed of your learning, as well as how often you want to learn.
And, who knows? Maybe one day you will need the phrases you learned in Breaking Bad or Narcos.
Practice your listening skills
Remember when you heard Spanish for the first time? You probably noticed this language is a little faster than others.
By hearing different dialects of Spanish, you are able to practice your listening skills, learn the right pronunciations and get used to the natural flow of the language.
There is no doubt in the entertaining factor of this method, but what’s even better is that our brains learn extremely fast when they’re having fun. That means our reward-system mechanisms will absorb knowledge like a sponge while watching Spanish movies.
How Can You Learn From Spanish movies?
Yes, this method of learning has a big entertainment value, but don’t just watch these Spanish movies for fun. Staying motivated is important here, so remember to actively study the movie or show you are watching by paying attention to the words being spoken and how to use these words in several situations.
Effectively learning Spanish through movies can be divided into 3 steps:
- Watch Spanish movies with the subtitles in your native language. While this isn’t the best way to learn new vocabulary, it is a great starting point to help you get a better feel for the movie.
- Change the subtitles into Spanish. Now you can hear and see the words at the same time, which makes it easier to understand them in context and is a more effective way to learn.
- Turn the subtitles off. You might not understand everything at the beginning, but after repeat viewings, you’ll be able to memorize the words and phrases.
And before you know it, you’ll be able to watch Spanish movies without any problems.
What Should You Focus On?
- What is the organic flow of the conversation? Learn by seeing natives talk to each other as this is essentially different than the conversations you would have in a classroom.
- Give a clear message to your listener. You don’t want to sound like a robot repeating the sentences you’ve have learned from a textbook, so here you can learn how to switch up some words and change their order. But be careful! Switching up the wrong words can change the meaning entirely.
- Spanish is not the same everywhere. From city to city, country to country, the dialects can change significantly, so pay attention to which dialect the movie is set and be aware of its differences.
- Don’t worry if some aspects of grammar are a little too advanced for you. By watching Spanish movies, you’ll see how sentences are built and will be able to follow the same principles for your own conversations.
- Break the movie down
- It can be overwhelming to watch a whole Spanish movie and study it in one session. So why not divide your work? Work on a couple of scenes or segments of the movie so the language can be absorbed more effectively.
- Get rhythm!
- Repeat it! Watch these movies over and over again to help you memorize and learn more Spanish words. Watching a movie once won’t have the same effect, so if you really want to boost your Spanish proficiency, keep playing that movie on repeat.
- You have to commit!
- As you repeat your favourite Spanish movies, start talking along with the characters and copy their body language while speaking. This will help you learn the pronunciations and keep you engaged while watching.
What Should You Watch?
People learn Spanish for different reasons, which means there will be different recommendations based on how you want to use your Spanish.
If you want to travel around a Spanish-speaking country, we recommend you watch Spanish documentaries about that special destination. If you want to learn Spanish from the beginning, try watching a short movie on YouTube. And if you want to widen your knowledge and vocabulary list, that’s when you should take on your favorite Spanish movies or series.
But take note! You shouldn’t expect to understand every word of the movie. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to stick to a non-Spanish movie dubbed in Spanish as the translators of the movie have to stick to a certain storyline, meaning the spoken words are reduced to the basics.
But whatever your level of Spanish, our team of experts have compiled a list of both Non-Spanish and Spanish movies that are guaranteed to improve your understanding of the language.
Best movies to learn Spanish: Beginner (Level A1-A2)
Time for some nostalgia!
As you take on your journey of learning Spanish, we think one of the best ways to start out is to watch either movies of your childhood you love, or your favourite films!
Most of us have already seen famous movies like Lion King, Aladdin, Winnie the Pooh, Tarzan, Bambi, Hercules, Toy Story and all of us can relate to these movies. At first, this might seem weird but who would mind watching a film from his/her childhood with some fresh popcorn on the weekend for a nostalgic afternoon?
You already know the story, the lines, the context and it’s easy to focus on the language.
This actually applies to all of your favourite films – what you have seen a hundred times already. 🙂
Experiencing it is going to be surprisingly fun and you’ll learn and pick up words without noticing, unconsciously, at a warp speed, but it also takes time and effort.
If you are out of ideas, here are some more: Back to the Future, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jurrasic Park, Fight Club, Pirates of the Caribbean, Iron Man.
As much as we like learning from films, we have to say it’s not easy and possibly not the most rewarding way to start out learning a language.
Think of this quote: “When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.”
You may lose your motivation towards learning Spanish if you just jump into it. So first, we would advise watching these films in your native language with Spanish subtitles, and then change it up.
However, if you possess some Spanish knowledge already you might pick up some of the following films:
Best movies to learn Spanish: Advanced (Level B1-B2)
1) El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth)
Director Guillermo del Toros’ original Spanish movie follows the civil war in Spain, making it a wonderful choice to help with your Spanish vocabulary, learning “ser” and “estar“, as well as training in past and present tenses.
2) El otro lado de la cama (The Other Side of the Bed)
Emilio Martínez Lázaros’ romantic comedy follows the lives of two young couples. The vocabulary and sentence structures here are not overly complicated, and is well-suited for Spanish learners.
3) Tres bodas de mas (Three other weddings )
Follow the story of Ruth, who is invited to three of her ex-boyfriends’ individual weddings within the same month. Again, the vocabulary is very learner-friendly as most sentences are simply structured.
4) La comunidad (Alone among Neighbours)
In this black comedy about a murderous neighborhood, you will learn how to argue, get your opinions across, and state hypotheses in easy-to-understand Spanish.
5) Los peores años de nuestra vida (The Worst Years of our Life)
Here you will learn how to express feelings, moods, beliefs and desires, while following the story of two brothers who fall in love with the same girl. In addition, the use of “ser” and “estar” are often repeated throughout the film.
6) AzulOscuroCasiNegro (Deep Blue Almost Black)
Daniel Sanchez Arevalo’s film is ideal for learning the vocabulary of young people and to deepen your knowledge about the Spanish Society and its’ youth culture as this film deals a lot with many different types of relationships.
7) Hable con ella (Talk to Her)
A Spanish movie about the impossible love between a sensitive male nurse and a comatose ballet dancer will help you to expand your vocabulary and express your feelings.
8) Te doy mis ojos (Take my Eyes)
Rousing and dark, this story of a woman who find the courage to leave her abusive husband is ideal in helping you improve the tenses of Spanish language.
9) Ocho Apellidos Vascos (8 Names for Love)
This comedy about political activism will help you learn the cultural differences between northern and southern Spain, while also helping you to distinguish between linguistic differences.
Best movies to learn Spanish: Professional (Level C1-C2)
1) Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside)
This Spanish film is based on the real story of Ramón Sampedro, who fights for the right to euthanasia after becoming crippled in a devastating diving accident. Here you will learn the proper use of Imperativo, Subjuntivo and Pasado.
2) El secreto de sus ojos (In your Eyes)
Here you will learn to master the past tenses as you follow a retired detective, Benjamín Espósito, who writes a novel based on the unsolved rape and murder of a newly married woman.
3) Belle Epoque (Season of Love)
The film by Fernando Trueba is about a transpiring love that takes place before the Spanish Civil War. With it, you’ll learn about social structures and vocabulary embedded in historical Spanish context.
4) Todo sobre mi madre (All About my mother)
The tragic film of Pedro Almodóvar tells the story of a mother who seeks out her son’s father to tell him of the child’s existence as well as his death. But what she doesn’t know is that this father has since undergone a sex change operation. This Spanish movie will therefore extend your knowledge to subordinate clauses and colloquial language.
5) Relatos salvajes (Wild Tales)
This black comedy deals with various extremes of human behaviours throughout 6 continuous episodes, and is considered quite a challenge for Spanish speakers, putting your Spanish knowledge to the test.
Which Online Platform Can You Use?
We all know, use and love it! Hardly any rainy Sunday evening – and other days of the week 😉 – are passing without it. For more than 10 years, Netflix has become the biggest streaming platform you can find and offers an enormous amount of shows and movies. Netflix has more entertainment than you could ever possibly watch. You can watch it ad-free on your computer or TV, for less than 10$/month. It also gives the viewer the option to turn on or change subtitles, making it the perfect aide for learning Spanish.
But with our recent discovery, Netflix is opening up new dimensions for us. You won’t believe what we just discovered! Spoiler Alert: We tried it and can’t keep our eyes off the screen anymore.
Entertainment and Learning merge to create a sofa-based language school. You wonder what we’re talking about here? Then take a look at Language Learning With Netflix (LLN).
It is a Chrome Extension that transforms Netflix into a sofa-based language school. So you’re killing two birds with one stone. During your binge-watching of the new Game of Thrones season at the weekend, you’ll even learn Spanish in a very simple way. Take your Spanish to a new level!
LLN allows you to watch subtitled foreign language programmes in both the language you are learning and your own language. It also has an automatic pause function so that you can record what you just heard. It helps you absorb the language you want to learn quickly by allowing you to view two translations at once – an automatic machine translation that tends to be literal and a colloquial version created by a native speaker.
They created a special catalogue to help you find Netflix titles with high-quality subtitles in the language you want to learn. You can access the catalogue at any time by clicking the extension icon (once you installed it) by the address bar.
On the following screenshots, you can see how to use the extension. For all the beginners among us, it is recommended to choose a word rate of 300-800 words. If you are already an advanced learner then choose between 1500-2500 words. If you already know the language very well (felicidades!) then everything over 2500 words is suitable.
What would the world be without our favorite video-sharing platform? Everyone can create and upload videos for free, and it has become an indispensable video-watching platform over the years.
So if you’re looking for short Spanish movies and documentaries you can stream on YouTube, consider:
1) Ciutat Morta
Ciutat Morta looks at the events of February 4, 2006, in Barcelona’s old quarter, when a police officer becomes paraplegic after attempting to break up a party. Several people are arrested, and the lives of many forever changed in this harrowing short film.
2) Alivio the Movie (Spanish with English subtitles)
Three single mothers from different areas of Mexico attempt to heal painful memories of abuse through their work as nurses.
3) Ciudadano (Spanish with English subtitles)
A documentary about what it means to be Mexican, four Welshmen set off on a trip to Mexico with a limited budget and a malfunctioning camera to uncover the burning questions about life in Mexico.
You can also watch a small Spanish sitcom which is mainly marketed to middle school and high school language classes. Extr@ has only one season compiled of 13 episodes and Spanish subtitles are available on YouTube.
Learn Spanish in Real Life
If you want to take your knowledge off the screen and into reality, bring your Spanish to life at FU Academy in Tenerife and immerse yourself in a wide range of Spanish courses. Our teachers are looking forward to teaching you their native tongue, giving you the chance to not only watch Spanish life but live it in Puerto de la Cruz or Costa Adeje!