30 Films to Keep Celebrating Hispanic Heritage
By Cody Downey
Click aqui para español- > 30 películas para seguir celebrando la herencia hispana
Hispanic Heritage Month ends on October 15th, but why limit the celebration of beautiful heritage and history? One of the best ways to explore our culture is through the media of film. Though the amount of Latino and Hispanic representation in Hollywood has been lacking, many films have focused on different parts of our life and history. From historical dramas to family comedies to stories during the Mexican revolution to the activist movements during the 1960s, these films show it all.
I have created a list of 30 films that include Latino and Hispanic representation. We will describe 5 movies per month. To make this list more interesting, I decided to stray away from the typical films that are usually suggested such as “La Bamba,” “Selena” and “Stand and Deliver.” I hope you find a new favorite and broaden your scope of films.
As you can see, there are plenty of movies out there focusing on Latinos and Hispanics and their experiences. This list doesn’t even cover everything such as the films of icons such as Rita Moreno, Jennifer Lopez, and Andy Garcia or films released outside of the United States. Make it a point to watch some of these films or maybe come up with a list of your own. Either way, find a unique way to honor our history and keep it alive.
Zoot Suit (1981) Directed by Luis Valdez
The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1983) Directed by Robert M. Young
Born in East L.A. (1987) Directed by Cheech Marin
The Milagro Beanfield War (1988) Directed by Robert Redford
El Mariachi (1993) Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Blood In Blood Out a.k.a. Bound by Honor (1993) Directed by Taylor Hackford
Mi Vida Loca (1994) Directed by Allison Anders
I Like It Like That (1994) Directed by Darnell Martin
My Family (1995) Directed by Gregory Nava
A Walk in the Clouds (1995) Alfonso Arau
Fools Rush In (1997) Directed by Andy Tennant
The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (1998) Directed by Stuart Gordon
Girlfight (2000) - Directed by Karyn Kusama
In the Time of the Butterflies (2001) Directed by Mariano Barroso
Real Women Have Curves (2002) Directed by Patricia Cardoso
Chasing Papi (2003) Directed by Linda Mendoza
Maria Full of Grace (2004) Directed by Joshua Marston
Goal! The Dream Begins (2005) Directed by Danny Cannon
Walkout (2006) Directed by Edward James Olmos
Nothing Like the Holidays (2008) Directed by Alfredo De Villa
The Perfect Game (2009) Directed by William Dear
A Better Life (2011) Directed by Chris Weitz
The Book of Life (2014) Directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez
Spare Parts (2015) Directed by Sean McNamara
Hands of Stone (2016) Directed by Jonathan Jakubowciz
Lowriders (2016) Directed by Ricardo de Montreuil
El Chicano (2018) Directed by Ben Hernadez Bray
Miss Bala (2019) Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019) Directed by James Bobin
Sergio (2020) Directed by Greg Baker
Here are the highlights for this edition:
Zoot Suit (1981) - Directed by Luis Valdez
In this adaptation of the play inspired by real-life events, Henry Reyna, played by Daniel Valdez, and his group of friends are wrongfully accused of murder due in part to the negative connotations surrounding their wearing of zoot suits, a common clothing choice of Chicanos during the 1940s. As the group fights to be freed, Henry battles with El Pachuco, played by Edward James Olmos, who serves as Henry’s conscience and the film’s narrator.
“Zoot Suit” brilliantly brings the story of the Zoot Suit Riots and the events that preceded it mixing music and drama to tell about this often forgotten part of history. The film helped Luis Valdez, now referred to as the father of Chicano theater in the U.S., grow his career as a director and go on to make other classics such as “La Bamba” and the 1994 “The Cisco Kid.”
My Family (1995) - Directed by Gregory Nava
After walking to Los Angeles from Mexico, tracing back his father’s journey, Paco Sanchez, played by Jacob Vargas, narrates the story of three generations of his family trying to make it in America. The Sanchez family goes through a series of trials from imprisonment, wrongful deportation to controversial love affairs throughout the years.
“My Family” features an all-star Latino cast with icons such as Edward James Olmos, Esai Morales, and Jimmy Smits as they help tell the tale of a Mexican-American family’s journey through fifty years. The film also helped propel the career of director Gregory Nava, who would direct Jennifer Lopez in films such as “Selena” and “Bordertown.”
In the Time of the Butterflies (2001) - Directed by Mariano Barroso
Minerva Mirabal, played by Salma Hayek, comes into conflict with Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, played by Edward James Olmos after she refuses his advances. Minerva and her sisters soon begin to join a group of Dominican revolutionaries known as the Butterflies.
Based on the true story of the Mirabal sisters, “In the Time of the Butterflies” helps tell the stories of these brave women and what they did to stand up to a dictator. The film also features singer Marc Anthony in the supporting role of Minerva’s first boyfriend.
Nothing Like the Holidays (2008) - Directed by Alfredo De Villa
As the Rodriguez family gets together for Christmas, matriarch Anna Rodriguez, played by Elizabeth Pena, announces to the family that she is going to divorce her husband Edy, played by Alfred Molina. Worried about what this will mean for their family, the Rodriguez children come together to enjoy what may be their last Christmas together while dealing with their problems.
“Nothing Like the Holidays” brings together an all-star Latino cast to present a Christmas story with tons of drama and heartfelt moments. Similar to the previous year’s “This Christmas,” the film takes a view of a different kind of family and how they approach the holiday.
Spare Parts (2015) - Directed by Sean McNamara
With the help of their engineering club advisor Fredi Cameron, played by George Lopez, a group of four students works together to compete in a robotics competition. Despite being underfunded and competing against bigger schools, the team doesn’t give up and works hard to get a chance at improving their lives.
“Spare Parts” is yet another underdog tale in the vein of “Stand and Deliver” replacing academics with robotics. This story based on real events features up-and-coming Latino actors as well including “The Baker and the Beauty” actor David Del Rio and “The Casagrandes” actor Carlos Pena.