15 Best Movies to Watch From Chile

Staff & contributors

This mortifying stop-motion fairy-tale is inspired by the very real horrors of Chile’s Colonia Dignidad: a cult colony turned torture camp under the Pinochet regime. Presented as colony propaganda, the tale tells the story of Maria, a girl who runs away from the safety of the colony into the forest and takes refuge in a house with two pigs. What transpires is a gut-wrenching allegory for the rise of fascism, colonialism, and white supremacy. 

The staggering animation which seamlessly shifts mediums from paper mâché to painted walls is a bewildering sight to witness. But it’s the synthesis of this boundary-pushing art and the underlying horrors it depicts, that make this stand as an unmissable cinematic event.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Fantasy, Horror

Actor: Amalia Kassai, Natalia Geisse

Director: Cristóbal León, Joaquín Cociña

Let's fight! I'm not a fan of "Into the wild" okay okay, calm down... Maybe we can fix this. Maybe we could watch "The Motorcycle Diaries" together. Watching this heartwarming movie, you will get the travel bug. I got it and I never got rid of it. I even want to go on a motorcycle tour through South America although I would have never dreamed of getting on a motorbike. Have fun with it. Oh and... this film is about the young Che Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado by the way.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Antonella Costa, Constanza B. Majluf, Cristián Chaparro, Erto Pantoja, Fernando Farías, Franco Solazzi, Gabriela Aguilera, Gael García Bernal, Gustavo Bueno, Jaime Azócar, Jean Pierre Noher, Jorge Chiarella, Lucas Oro, Marina Glezer, Mercedes Moran, Mía Maestro, Natalia Lobo, Pablo Macaya, Ricardo Diaz Mourelle, Rodrigo De la Serna, Sergio Boris, Sofia Bertolotto, Susana Lanteri, Vilma Verdejo

Director: Walter Salles

Rating: R

Documentaries about people suffering from dementia, Alzheimer's, or other neurodegenerative diseases will always occupy a bit of an uneasy space—how much consent can they really provide in their condition? At what point does presenting their struggles become exploitative? Maite Alberdi's The Eternal Memory doesn't entirely assuage these concerns, but it certainly knows better than to define its characters by the things that they lack. In fact, much of this film's romance comes from the image of Pauli and Augusto (who sadly passed away earlier this year) simply sharing space together, present in one another's routines even as the gap between their shared understanding grows. Their life is one populated by art and literature, which seems to act as both a cage and a liberating escape throughout their relationship.

In the times when Augusto's struggle with basic cognition is too severe, Alberdi doesn't look away, and the resulting footage is truly painful to watch. But it should be emphasized that Alberdi displays the same attentiveness to the couple's ordinary moments of quiet contemplation or married-life silliness without allowing them to be reduced into tragedy in retrospect. The film never tries to define their bond as either purely doomed or hopeful. For them, the mere possibility of love continuing to persist even in brief flashes is enough.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Augusto Góngora, Gustavo Cerati, Javier Bardem, Paulina Urrutia, Pedro Lemebel, Raúl Ruiz

Director: Maite Alberdi

As heartbroken as you will be after watching this movie, you will feel nothing but triumph in the main actor's debut role. This movie has very little hope to offer the viewer, except the small amount felt every time the main character, Marina, gets up again to fight another day. This film depicts grief in such a profound and personal way within a character who must remain relatively silent and alone most of the movie. You will quickly know why the film is called "A Fantastic Woman".

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alejandro Goic, Aline Kuppenheim, Amparo Noguera, Antonia Zegers, Bárbara Mundt, Cristián Chaparro, Daniela Vega, Eduardo Paxeco, Erto Pantoja, Fabiola Zamora, Francisco González Hermosilla, Francisco Reyes, José Antonio Raffo, Loreto Leonvendagar, Luis Gnecco, Marcial Tagle, Moisés Angulo, Nestor Cantillana, Nicolas Saavedra, Pablo Cerda, Pablo Greene, Paola Lattus, Paulina Hunt, Roberto Farías, Sergio Hernández, Trinidad González

Director: Sebastián Lelio

Rating: 15, R

After Jackie and Spencer, the dark satire El Conde is a surprise new entry in Pablo Larraín’s stacked filmography. Already, the film has prominent differences– it’s shot in black and white, starting with narration from an unseen and posh Englishwoman that makes the film’s events feel like entries in Bridgerton’s scandalous newsletter. The subject is far from the beloved wives of presidents and princes– it’s centered around a notorious Chilean dictator who remains unpunished for his crimes. However, as his fictional vampire version deals with his rightfully ruined legacy, El Conde proves to be a witty satiric twist to Larraín’s usual themes. Through familial squabbles over ill-gotten wealth, confessions and exorcism conducted by a nun, and certain foreign interventions, El Conde paints an everlasting greed that continues to haunt Larraín’s homeland.

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

Actor: Aldo Parodi, Alessandra Guerzoni, Alfredo Castro, Amparo Noguera, Antonia Zegers, Catalina Guerra, Diego Muñoz, Dindi Jane, Eyal Meyer, Francisca Walker, Gloria Münchmeyer, Jaime McManus, Jaime Vadell, Marcelo Alonso, Marcial Tagle, Mateo Iribarren, Patricia Rivadeneira, Paula Luchsinger, Stella Gonet

Director: Pablo Larraín

Rating: R

Inspired by the Spiniak case, Blanquita reimagines the infamous scandal through mirrored interrogations and disorienting viewpoints. Blanquita rewrites the original witness, whose fictional variant, in turn, rewrites the abuse faced by victims as her own. She is transformed from a clueless liar, into someone still a liar, but one that did so when every other possible witness has been discarded for being unreliable, for being too traumatized to go through the judicial process unflinchingly. The film takes on a provocative subject matter, at a time when real life sexual abuse allegations are treated with the same scrutiny Blanca faces. However, Blanquita does so in a way that gives its complexities the weight it deserves. It’s a fascinating thriller, a quandary that tests the idea of ends justifying the means… But it’s one that’s disturbing, given the consequences to each crime.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alejandro Goic, Alex Quevedo, Amparo Noguera, Claudio Troncoso, Daniela Ramírez, Hernán Lacalle, Jaime Vadell, José Luis Aguilera, Karen Bejarano, Laura López Campbell, Marcelo Alonso, Nelson Polanco, Nicolás Durán, Roberto Farías

Director: Fernando Guzzoni

The poetic title of this debut feature from Chilean filmmaker Francisca Alegría does not tell a lie: a cow does indeed sing. More than one, in fact, because the film uses an entire herd — plus a flock of birds and a school of fish — as a kind of Greek chorus to comment on human mistreatment of animals and the wider environment. The Cow Who Sang never approaches sanctimonious territory, gently weaving from these ideas an expansive and evenly empathetic worldview. The magical realism that allows the animals to speak is the same device that brings the long-dead Magdalena (Mia Maestro) back to life — and, as her family’s fraught history is gradually revealed, it’s movingly suggested that the objectification that the cows and the local polluted river are subjected to is part of the same culture of devaluation that marred the lives of Magdalena and her female descendants. If there’s one complaint to be had, it’s that the relatively short runtime limits the film's ability to really expound on its many threads — the bond Magdalena instinctively forges with her trans granddaughter, for example. Ultimately, though, its symbolic storytelling and emotionally articulate cast allow The Cow Who Sang to communicate much of its sweeping philosophy to profound effect.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alfredo Castro, Enzo Ferrada, Fernanda Urrejola, Leonor Varela, Luis Dubó, Marcial Tagle, Mía Maestro

Director: Francisca Alegría

Chile 76 takes place three years after the dictator Augusto Pinochet took over the country and cracked down on dissenting groups and rebels. There was political strife and unnecessary violence, but almost none of this plays out explicitly in the film. Instead, we mostly follow Carmen, who seems to be going through a crisis of her own, albeit an internal one. She lives a well-to-do life as she decorates a new house and volunteers at the church, but there is a deep-seated melancholia about her, which is maybe why she’s so drawn to Elias (Nicolás Sepúlveda). She exits her comfort zone and aids in his covert exchanges across town, perhaps because she’s genuinely interested in Elias’ cause, but possibly because she sees it as a way out from the humdrum of her privileged life. The beauty of the film is that it melds the personal with the political in subtle and interesting ways, allowing us viewers to draw our own conclusions to the matter.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alejandro Goic, Aline Kuppenheim, Amalia Kassai, Antonia Zegers, Elvis Fuentes, Ernesto Meléndez, Gabriel Urzúa, Germán de Silva, Graciela Tenenbaum, Julián Marras, Marcial Tagle, Mauricio Pesutic, Mora Recalde, Vilma Verdejo

Director: Manuela Martelli

Nostalgia for the Light is a documentary about Atacama desert and the two activities that go on there: astronomers in ALMA space observatory examine the sky, and the relatives of murdered people dig the ground hoping to find their loved ones. The way the director compares these seemingly totally different topics (searching the sky and searching the sand) is pure poetry. It's a serious, but not depressing nor boring movie. All the interviewed people are amazingly relevant and have great insight. They made me feel like I want to get to know them personally. If you're looking for a detailed "for dummies" introduction about Chile, ALMA observatory or Pinochet's concentration camps, this movie is not for you. It's for viewers who want to learn to appreciate the beauty of life and history, and the surprising parallels they sometimes offer us.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Gaspar Galaz, Lautaro Núñez, Luís Henríquez

Director: Patricio Guzmán

This extremely unusual movie about the life of legendary Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (as in Jodorowsky's Dune) was financed by an Indiegogo campaign, giving his already unusual style full freedom. There are cardboard trains, ninjas, and disturbing sex scenes. It all serves to tell his life of growing up in a bohemian neighborhood in Santiago, Chile, going against his family, becoming a poet, and joining the Chilean avant-guard movement. Jodorowsky, now 91 years old, went on a 23 year hiatus before making this movie and its prequel, The Dance of Reality, both about his life.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, History

Actor: Adan Jodorowsky, Agustín Moya, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Alejandro Sieveking, Ali Ahmad Sa'Id Esber, Andrea Zuckermann, Bastián Bodenhöfer, Brontis Jodorowsky, Clara María Escobar, Jeremias Herskovits, Julia Avendaño, Leandro Taub, Lux Pascal, Luz María Yacometti, Matías Orrego, Pamela Flores

Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky

Rating: Unrated

A beautiful, poetic and disturbing ode to the waters of the Chilean archipelago from the perspective of the stars and planets, its Indigenous inhabitants, and the bodies of those who were disappeared into it under the Pinochet regime. As Patricio Guzman tells us and shows us, water has a memory and a voice. The opening sequence is like Salgado's "Genesis" photos but in colour and moving on the screen, absolutely breathtaking.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Adil Brkovic, Gabriel Salazar, Gabriela Paterito, Patricio Guzman, Raul Zurita

Director: Patricio Guzmán

Rating: N/A

The filmmakers behind this direct sequel to the Indigenous action thriller Sayen clearly learned from the mistakes of that first film: all the emotion that was missing then finds a new home here, as the titular protagonist finally gets to grieve what she's lost, in a way that's touchingly close to her cultural beliefs. Desert Road also ups the action considerably, this time borrowing liberally from desert-set films like Mad Max—the sun-drenched expanses of sand are somehow much more beautiful than the forests of the first movie. And Rallen Montenegro continues to refine this character's emotional depth.

Still, partially as a result of the fact that the first installment gave this sequel little to work with, Desert Road can't help but feel more ordinary and more distant from real-world struggles touched upon previously. The actual thrills in this thriller plot aren't particularly intriguing, as several subplots mash together without as much effect on the main plot as intended. At the end of the day, this still seems like it's been made with the action movie template in mind first, rather than having the story and characters lead the style of the storytelling.

Genre: Action, Thriller

Actor: Alfredo Castro, Álvaro Espinoza, Camilo Arancibia, Claudio Riveros, Claudio Troncoso, Enrique Arce, Eyal Meyer, Felipe Contreras, Francisca Gavilán, Jorge López, Katalina Sanchez, Mario Bustos, Nicolás de Terán, Rallén Montenegro, Roberto García Ruiz, Teresa Ramos, Víctor Varela

Director: Alexander Witt

, 2023

Sayen is the kind of film that ultimately feels like it was written by a focus group: ample representation for a worthy cause funneled into the sort of escapism that should theoretically hit the widest demographic possible. But even with its solid production values and a determined performance by Rallen Montenegro, the film lacks the emotional bite that a less corporate-driven project likely would've had. It's not that Sayen comes off insincere about the plight of Indigenous peoples in Chile; it's that its desire to appear sincere stops most of its good ideas halfway. The action isn't particularly thrilling, the story doesn't develop so much as it stretches itself thin, and its supposed representation begins and ends with some terribly obvious—borderline tokenistic—scenes and character types.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller

Actor: Alejandro Trejo, Álvaro Espinoza, Aron Piper, David Gaete, Eduardo Paxeco, Enrique Arce, Loreto Aravena, Rallén Montenegro, Ramón González, Roberto García Ruiz, Serge Santana, Teresa Ramos

Director: Alexander Witt