The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that celebrates and honors deceased loved ones. It is a holiday filled with many emotions celebrated in many ways depending on the family. Día de Muertos may include visiting cemeteries, music, food, making an altar, or just remembering a loved one. This holiday provides an opportunity for Spanish teachers to teach their students about another culture while also incorporating some fun film activities into their lesson plans. You can see other ideas for Día de Muertos in this blog post.
There are a few movies that teach about the Day of the Dead. Below are my favorites:
The Book of Life (2014)
This animated movie tells the story of Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart. Throughout his journey, Manolo learns valuable lessons about life and death. This movie is visually stunning and full of vibrant colors, making it perfect for a Día de Muertos lesson plan. (Maya y los tres was created by the same person if you want something similar) Since The Book of Life is a little older, not as many students have watched this film, which makes it perfect for class.
- The Book of Life Blog Post (includes character introduction slides)
- El Libro de Vida novice film guide
Coco is another great animated movie that teaches the importance of family, tradition, and remembering those who have passed away. The story follows Miguel, a young boy who dreams of becoming a musician despite his family’s objections. When Miguel accidentally finds himself in the Land of the Dead, he must find a way to return to the Land of the Living before it’s too late. Along the way, he learns important lessons about his ancestors and the true meaning of Día de Muertos.
- Coco in Spanish Class – blog post
- Coco guide from MCL Shop
- Coco TPT movie guide (both Spanish & English with key)
- Coco Freebie (character intro slides & post-viewing activities)
Day of the Dead Movies – What audio, subtitles & guide should I use?
I bought the DVDs from Target and they have options for both English and Spanish audio, as well as English and Spanish subtitles. (Be careful that many digital versions just have English). Here is how I typically used the movie in my Spanish classes. Please do whatever works best for you and your students to meet them where they are at.
- Upper-level Spanish – Spanish audio with Spanish subtitles. Spanish version of the guide.
- (pre-teaching and pausing to discuss and check for comprehension)
- Spanish 2 – Spanish audio. English version of the guide to check for comprehension.
- (English subtitles if with a sub or very early in the year, Spanish subtitles if watching with me pre-teaching and pausing to discuss)
- Spanish 1 – Spanish audio with English subtitles. English version of the guide.
- Exploratory – English audio with English subtitles. English version of the guide.
- (Using as a tool to discuss culture and the day of the Dead in Spanish).
The Day of the Dead Short Films
My favorite film to Movie Talk about Día de Muertos
A short video Day of the Dead Movie in English
El día de los muertos vs Halloween from Spanish Cuentos
A more advanced Day of the Dead video with dialogue in Spanish
The Day of the Dead Movie Alternatives
If for some reason you need an alternative to the film above, here are some ideas.
- Tierra Incógnita – a spooky show for Halloween, but without the connection to Day of the Dead
- Canela– an appropriate film set in Mexico if you are not allowed to talk about this holiday
- NEW Chupa – a 2023 film on Netflix set in Mexico – cute, appropriate & real people
- El camino de Xico – a cute animated, authentic movie from Mexico
- 15 Appropriate movies for Spanish class – all my top suggestions
- Hispanic Heritage Month Movies for Spanish Class
- Spanish Class Documentaries
- Editable Movie Guide Bundle for Spanish Class Culture Authentic Listening
- My Movie Guide Bundle on TPT
More Day of the Dead resources for Spanish Class
To expand this movie into a deeper Día de los Muertos exploration, check out the resources below.
- Día de Muertos Songs for Spanish class
- Day of the Dead – Find Someone Who – Personalized questions about vocabulary related to the holiday.
- Para Empezar – Day of the Dead – Class starters for 3 weeks around the holiday.
- Cultural Reading: Mexico & Día de los Muertos – Novice reading to introduce Mexico and the Day of the Dead
- Finally here are all of my resources together in a Muertos Bundle.
- My Coco Pinterest Board
- Halloween Dance Videos
These are just a few of my favorite movies to teach about Día de Muertos. Do you have any other recommendations? Share them with us in the comments below!
The Best Movies to Teach the Day of the Dead in Spanish class was originally published on 10.10.22 & most recently updated 10.16.23