Movies for Spanish class
It used to be that films were a taboo thing to use as a teacher. Teachers who use movies are sometimes judged as not actually teaching. If it is The Lion King (El Rey Leon) in Spanish like I watched every year in high school, maybe I get it. I have heard of schools that say teachers can not use movies at all for the reason of some teachers overuse them.
But, once I found culturally rich films that can enhance my instruction in Spanish, I realized it can be a win-win for everyone. Plus, for teachers with many preps, having a well-planned film unit can give teachers a much-needed break from providing input at every level, every day.
There are a lot of films out there that are perfect for upper-level students. (Such as The Ultimate List of Movies to show in Spanish class & 5 New Documentaries to show in Spanish class). So, I wanted to specifically focus on films for middle school or lower-level Spanish. I know when I taught middle school exploratory, we always watch a film at the end, since I did not have to give that group a final.
What Audio & subtitles for movies in Spanish class?
Depending on the group will decide which audio and subtitles I use. If you are using Nextflix, check out this post on how to change the audio & subtitles.
- Upper level – Spanish audio & Spanish subtitles
- Spanish 2 – Spanish audio & Spanish or English subtitles (depending on the purpose)
- Spanish 1 or Exploratory – Spanish audio & English subtitles
- Culture or nonlanguage class – English audio & no subtitles
What movies for Spanish class?
Here are films that I have personally shown in Spanish class and would recommend for lower-level students. This list was originally 5, but is now up to 10 films! (As with everything, please preview to make sure that it is something that would be appropriate for your school culture). You can find all of my movie guide resources here. I have sorted the movies below from the youngest age I would use the film with to the oldest.
First, this new movie is available on Netflix. My sons actually found this cute animated movie and I fell in love with the music and story. I have a brand new guide which can be found here. The film is set in Cuba and South Florida and has a positive Afro-Latinx representation. It has great music, including songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Gloria Estefan. Plus, the songs even change to Spanish if you change the Netflix audio! It is rumored to be based on the life of Celia Cruz (who I love!). Vivo is PG and animated, so it would work well for elementary all the way to high school. It would be perfect for Hispanic Heritage Month. Find more resources for the film in this blog post.
The newest animated Disney movie, Encanto, is set in Colombia with an all-Latinx cast. It is a musical with a strong theme of family and being yourself. There is a ton of culture from Colombia in the film, which I include in this blog post. Magical realism is a strong element in the film as well. It would be great for elementary all the way to adults. I have a film guide which can be found here. Plus you can get character introduction slides & extra cultural authentic resources here. The film is now on Disney+ & DVD.
Next, the movie everyone probably already knows about, but needs to be included, is Coco. This animated Disney movie is PG and works for elementary up to adults. The music and cultural connections are wonderful. It is the perfect Spanish 1 film. It has a cultural focus on The Day of the Dead, themes of family, and is set in Mexico. Find more resources for the film in this blog post. As a recap get my Coco movie Guide HERE & get my FREE character introduction slideshow plus post-viewing reading, speaking, and writing activity for Free HERE.
Also, this newer movie was actually created in Spanish in Mexico. It came out in Mexico last November but was just added to Netflix recently. I have a new guide which can be found here. It is rated TV-Y7, which means it would be appropriate for ages 7 and up. The film itself is animated and very rated G. At the same time, there are themes of the environment, including fracking, which would make for great high school or college level discussion with units on El Medio ambiente, global challenges, and climate change.
It is an authentic Spanish movie from Mexico, that is very appropriate, yet could go as deep as you want with relevant themes. I think this movie would work in elementary on up. Find more resources for this movie HERE.
Next, this newer movie is set in Spain and based on the characters from the classic children’s book. I have a guide which can be found here. It goes great with the book Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos and my level 2 class watched it after finishing the book. They did a speaking assessment to compare the book, new film, as well as original Disney animated short with the same name. It also goes great with any studies of Spain or Bullfighting. I think this movie would work in upper elementary on up. Learn more in this newer Ferdinand Blog Post.
Then, the newer live-action movie Dora and the Lost City of Gold or Dora y la ciudad perdida is a family-friendly adventure. I have a guide here that is in both Spanish and English, so you can use variations in every class you teach. If you want to turn it into a full film unit, check out many resources here. It goes great for students who were fans of classic Dora, with the themes of family and indigenous cultures of South America. I think this movie would work in upper elementary on up.
Also, a movie to teach about Mexico and the Day of the Dead, that is a little more lighthearted is The Book of Life. I have a basic guide for novice Spanish. Kara Jacobs has great materials for upper-level students. It is animated and would work with upper elementary on up. I love this movie and I know many other teachers do as well! You can find out more about using it here.
Also, the beautiful animated movie Pachamama is only found on Netflix that I have found. I have a guide here that is in both Spanish and English, so you can use variations in every class you teach. If you want to turn it into a full film unit, check out many resources here. It is the shortest film on the list at only 72 minutes. It goes great with the themes of indigenous cultures of South America and the environment. While the movie is animated, it is a little slower-paced and with a couple of scary elements, it would work best with middle school up
Additionally, Selena is the oldest movie on this list, but one of my personal favorites. I owned this movie far before I was even a Spanish teacher, and you can probably get the DVD for a deal or to rent it from your library. It is based on the real-life story of the late musical artist Selena Quintanilla Perez. I have a guide here that is in both Spanish and English, so you can use variations in every class you teach. It is great for a family or music unit, with themes of the Mexican-American experience. (It is PG, but due to her outfits and romantic elements, I would use it in middle school on up. There are more resources in this Selena in Spanish Class blog post too.
Another great film set in Mexico is Canela. Right now I can not find it to stream, but it can be purchased or rented on Amazon and Apple TV. I also have heard the movie is sometimes available on Pantaya. Otherwise, it can be hard to find a DVD copy to purchase. You may be able to find one at your local library if you ask. There are resources for the movie here. It is an appropriate movie that ties in many common Spanish 1 themes such as family, food, and the house while centering around the culture of Mexico and mole. Find more resources Here.
This documentary is set in the Dominican Republic & follows the story of 2 teen prospects for the MLB. It has tons of Afro-Latinx representation & pairs well with the book Felipe Alou. I personally used this movie for years, and my high school students (especially sports fans) loved it. It is a nice real people option that appeals to the hard-to-please boys. It is not rated, but I would say it is PG, with a couple of swear words you could skip if needed. Read more in this Pelotero blog post. Here is my new Pelotero Movie Guide!
Bonus! McFarland USA
Finally, this feel-good Disney sports movie is set in the United States but follows the story of Mexican immigrant high school students that run cross country. There are many connections to the Spanish class such as a quinceñera, tamales, migrant farming, the immigrant experience, and much more. It has a great positive message and my students have loved it. (It is a bonus since I do not have any resources to share for it).
Spanish Disney Movies & Shows
- Tierra Incógnita in Spanish class
- Ferdinand (Not Disney but currently on Disney+)
- The Book of Life (Not Disney but currently on Disney+)
Spanish Netflix Movies & Shows
*New! Tierra Incógnita
Bonus 1 there is a new Spanish language PG thriller from Argentina on Disney +. Different than many feature-length films, the eight episodes are only about 30-35 minutes each. If you want to show one or more episodes, check out many resources in this new blog post. There is a guide here for episode 1 if you want to try it out. The 34-minute first episode would be a great one-day sub-plan around Halloween. Plus check out Teaching TV Shows in Spanish Class.
Maya y los 3
Bonus 2 there is a newer animated limited series on Netflix. Maya y los tres is set in precolonial Mesoamerica. It is fantasy but brings in many cultural elements of the diverse cultures that lived on the land that is now Mexico. It has nine episodes that are only about 30-35 minutes each and would be appropriate for elementary-high school Spanish. If you want to show one or more episodes, check out many resources in this new blog post. There is a guide here for episode 1 if you want to try it out. The 32-minute first episode would be a great one-day sub-plan.