The 5 Best Movies To Watch During Hispanic Heritage Month

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September 15 to October 15 marks the observation of National Hispanic Heritage Month. Back in 1968, the commemoration was initially just for one week after the initiative was proposed by George E. Brown, a Californian Congressman, with hopes to nationally recognize the Latinx and Hispanic experience after the Civil Rights Movement shined light on the various race and ethnicities identities of Americans (via History). Decades after Congress passed the public law to officially recognize a week in September as National Hispanic Heritage Week, George H.W. Bush declared in 1989 that National Hispanic Heritage week would now span for a month's time, from September 15 to October 15.

For those who don't identify as Latinx or Hispanic but would still like to learn about and celebrate the unique experiences of those who do, what better way than to leave it to professional storytellers? 

As representation in media has become an important cultural shift in recent years, since the 2000s, many filmmakers and Hispanic and Latinx cast members have come together to tell the different stories of growing up either as an immigrant in America or narrating characters' stories in their respective Spanish-speaking countries. And with the following movies we recommend watching this month, viewers can get a glimpse at the remarkable tales; some real, and some fictional, but all derived and created from Hispanic and Latinx people.

Real Women Have Curves (2002)

America Ferrera's first two movies "Gotta Kick It Up!" and "Real Women Have Curves" both depict experiences as a Latinx teenager, IMDb states. Though the 2002 Disney Channel film about a middle school Hispanic/Latina dance team gets a honorable mention, "Real Women Have Curves" was a breakout role for Ferrera — and for good reason. 

Ferrera, who has had a stunning transformation, stars as a Mexican American teenager living in Los Angeles straddled between what her traditional Mexican mother wants for her, versus the more contemporary life she envisions for herself. Award-winning female, Colombian-born director, Patricia Cardoso, leads the nearly all-Hispanic and Latinx cast in an emotional, memorable film that tackles everything from body image, growing into womanhood, and first-generation family dynamics. "Real Women Have Curves" will leave you both laughing and crying at the actors' portrayal that even those in other cultures can resonate with.

Stream "Real Women Have Curves" on HBO Max.

City of God (2002)

One of the magical aspects of watching great movies is the lasting impact it has on you years after, and that's exactly what "City of God" does. Based on a true story after the semi-autobiographical 1997 novel, the film centers around the lives of young gang members on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro (via IMDb). However, viewers should be warned that this isn't an easy watch, as it's riddled with sensitive viewing topics like drug use, gun violence, and trauma-inducing events.

Nonetheless, part of the film's brilliance is credited to Brazilian directors Kátia Lund and Fernando Meirelles who made the deliberate choice to hire non-actors from poverty-stricken areas of Brazil to give the film an all-around authentic feel (via IMDb). Though the film is a heavy one, there are many moments filled with heart, particularly expressed by one of the main characters who documents his life in the Brazilian slums by finding passion through photography. We recommend watching this on a day where a box of tissues can accompany you.

Rent "City of God" on Amazon Prime Video.

Under the Same Moon (La misma Luna) (2007)

Speaking of tearjerkers, fans of the film "Under the Same Moon," or in Spanish, "La Misma Luna" can testify that this film is not for the weakhearted. One Twitter user wrote, "'under the same moon/ la misma luna' is the only movie that can ever make me cry the way it does."

Directed by Mexican-born female filmmaker, Patricia Riggen, the film portrays the longwinded journey of a Mexican boy entering the United States undocumented searching for his working mother in Los Angeles after the death of his grandmother (via IMDb). Consisting of an entirely Hispanic and Latinx cast (including America Ferrera), the movie takes viewers on an adventurous ride that will leave viewers in awe at the way a mother's love for her son, and vice versa, knows no bounds. 

It also may be interesting for some to watch years before the U.S.-Mexican border wall became a polarized political topic. In fact, one Twitter user tweeted: "Looking at the Moon tonight reminds me of the movie bajo 'la misma luna.' Then it gets me thinking about all the children not with there parents cuz of f***ing ICE."

Stream "Under the Same Moon" on Amazon Prime Video.

The Infiltrators (2019)

While movies like "Under the Same Moon" depicts a fictional tale of a Mexican boy entering the United States undocumented, filmmakers Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera approached the subject of undocumented immigration detaining in a docu-thriller that was raved by critics upon its release, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

Winner of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival's Audience Award, "The Infiltrators" approaches a hybrid method of filmmaking in an innovative way with some parts scripted and reenacted, some parts documentary (via Infiltrators Film). Two members of National Immigrant Youth Alliance craft a plan to purposely get thrown into an immigration detention center (hence the film's namesake) in an attempt to get detainees out as a means to help stop deportation. Described as a "'prison break' in reverse," the film's subjects, and its viewers, are in for a rollercoaster ride of heart-pumping, unexpected obstacles and outcomes, sacrificing it all for the sake of human rights.

Rent "The Infiltrators" here.

Maria Full of Grace (2004)

The Colombian film "Maria Full of Grace" was co-signed by critics and viewers alike back in 2004 when the film first came out. Scoring an impressive 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, the crime drama still has viewers talking today. In 2021, one user tweeted: "Catalina Sandino Moreno is still a revelation in 'Maria Full of Grace,' 17 years later." The Academy must have thought so, too, because Sandino Moreno became the first actor in the Best Actress category to speak Spanish throughout a film (via IMDb). Oh, and did we mention this was her on-screen debut?

The film centers around Maria (Sandino Moreno), a pregnant, lower-class teenager living in Colombia who becomes a drug mule and travels to New York City in order to financially support her large family. Although the film is nearly a decade old, it still holds up as a film that speaks to the chase of the American Dream, and what one girl will try to do in order to get it.

Stream "Maria Full of Grace" on HBO Max.