Movies about South America: 10 great films to watch


We look at 10 great movies about South America that offer context around the rich and colourful history of this great continent

A British education is one of the most valuable things one can have. It instils a broad knowledge of the world ranging from the sciences to the humanities. Unfortunately, in our pursuit for this breadth of knowledge, we lose much of the depth within individual areas.

The subject of history is a notable example. Pupils are taught about the world wars, the monarchy, the industrial revolution and even the history of irrigation (which is, ironically, rather dry), but learn very little about large swathes of the world, South America being a prime example. Most of us know the names of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, General Pinochet and Hugo Chavez, but can share very little beyond the basics.

Atlas & Boots’ trip across South America gave rise to some fascinating facts, prompting me to learn more about the continent. Naturally, watching movies about South America won’t form a 100% accurate or nuanced picture of the continent but it’s a great starting point. Here are some of the best films that offer context around the rich and colourful history of this great continent.

Note: ‘Score’ is taken from review-aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.

1.  No
Year: 2012
Country: Chile
Language: Spanish
Score: 93%

The Oscar-nominated true story of an advertising executive who designed a campaign to defeat dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile’s 1988 referendum.
2.  The Year My Parents Went on Vacation
O Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias
Year: 2006
Country: Brazil
Language: Brazilian Portuguese, Yiddish
Score: 83%

The tale of a young boy left alone by his parents on the streets of Brazil. Mauro adjusts to his new life against the backdrop of the 1970 World Cup and the tightening grip of military dictatorship.
 3. The Motorcycle Diaries
Diarios de Motocicleta
Year: 2004
Country: Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela
Language: Spanish, Quechua
Score: 84%

A coming-of-age road movie about revolutionary Che Guevara’s journey through South America and how it shaped his ambitions and ideals.
 4. Machuca
Year: 2004
Country: Chile
Language: Spanish
Score: 89%

As Chile drifts toward civil war, three young children try to bridge the chasm between their vastly different backgrounds and find themselves faced with moral tests far beyond their understanding.
5.  Bus 174
Onibus 174
Year: 2002
Country: Brazil
Language: Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish
Score: 99%

A documentary about June 12th 2000, the day Rio de Janeiro’s bus 174 was taken by an armed man who threatened to shoot all the passengers. Transmitted live on all Brazilian TV networks, the incident fast descended to tragedy.
6.  City of God
Cidade de Deus
Year: 2002
Country: Brazil
Language: Brazilian Portuguese
Score: 90%

Two boys growing up in a violent neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro take different paths in life: one becomes a photographer, the other a drug dealer.
 7. Missing
Year: 1982
Country: Chile
Language: English, Spanish
Score: 96%

When an idealistic writer disappears during the right-wing military coup in 1973 Chile, his wife and American businessman father start a desperate search to locate him.
8.  Pixote: The Law of the Weakest
Pixote: a Lei do Mais Fraco
Year: 1981
Country: Brazil
Language: Brazilian Portuguese
Score: 100%

Pixote, a 10-year-old runaway, is arrested on the streets of São Paulo. Following a stay at a local youth detention center, his life of petty crime escalates to violence and death.
 9. Aguirre, the Wrath of God
Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes
Year: 1972
Country: Modern-day Peru
Language: German, Quechua, Spanish
Score: 98%

In the 16th century, the ruthless Don Lope de Aguirre leads a Spanish expedition in search of El Dorado, the mythical city of gold.
 10. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Year: 1969
Country: Bolivia
Language: English, Spanish
Score: 89%

Two North American bank robbers flee to Bolivia when the law gets too close. We’ll admit it has little educational value but it’s great fun and offers a pretty accurate portrayal of Bolivia!

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Lead image: Dreamstime

Autor: Kia
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