8 Best Movies to Watch In Catalan

Staff & contributors

Find the best Catalan-language movies to watch. These movies in Catalan are: highly-rated by critics, highly-rated by viewers, and handpicked by our staff.

Summer 1993 charts a formative summer in the life of young Frida (Laia Artigas), a brooding six-year-old who, having just been orphaned by AIDS, is sent from her home in Barcelona to live in the countryside with her uncle (David Verdaguer), his wife (Bruna Cusí), and their little girl (Paula Robles). Catalan director Carla Simón drew on her own childhood experiences for the film, making Summer 1993 feel intimately told. It’s shot from the perspective of its young protagonist and is guided by the unpredictable rhythms of memory: we experience Frida’s new life the way she might remember it when she’s older, via snapshots of moments that stand out to a child, like the day she spent amongst the chickens in a neighbor’s farm or the moment another kid asks her why she isn’t more visibly upset about her mother’s recent death.

That emotional enigmaticness is what makes Artigas’s naturalistic performance so absorbing: she never plays Frida in a predictable dramatic register, so much so that it’s easy to forget we’re not watching a documentary. The unexpected little ways her grief manifests itself — along with Simón’s assured, impressionistic directing — make this a profoundly heart-rending watch throughout, and especially so in its gut-punch of a final scene.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Bruna Cusí, David Verdaguer, Fermí Reixach, Isabel Rocatti, Laia Artigas, Quimet Pla

Director: Carla Simón

This movie is gentle and utterly chaotic, intimate and massive, beautiful and ugly... it tries to be so many things and somehow pulls it off. It tells two stories parallel in time, based on the real-life diaries of two European scientists who traveled through the Amazon in the early and mid-twentieth century. Their stories are some of the only of accounts of Amazonian tribes in written history. The main character and guide in the movie is a shaman who met them both. At times delicate to the point of almost being able to feel the water, at times utterly apocalyptic and grand... to watch this movie is to take a journey through belief systems, through film... and to be brought along by cinematography that is at times unbelievably and absurdly beautiful. Meditative, violent, jarring, peaceful, luminous, ambitious, artful, heavy handed, graceful... it's really an incredible film.

Genre: Adventure, Drama

Actor: Antonio Bolivar, Brionne Davis, Jan Bijvoet, José Sabogal, Nicolás Cancino, Nilbio Torres, Yauenkü Miguee

Director: Ciro Guerra

Done entirely in candid conversation and quiet walks around the city, End of the Century may at first come across like another mumblecore romance, but director Lucio Castro brings such a delicate touch to this story that every idle moment feels like it means the world. An unspoken longing hangs suspended between characters Ocho and Javi, and it's their little dance of disclosing more and more parts of themselves to each other that drives everything forward. And as the film reaches its miraculous third act, where hope and regret are articulated in such a painful—but kind—manner, it transcends its mumblecore inspirations and becomes its own vision of how our relationships change the way we grow.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Helen Celia Castro-Wood, Juan Barberini, Mariano López Seoane, Mía Maestro, Ramón Pujol

Director: Lucio Castro

Asif Kapadia, the genius of biopics who gave us Senna, is back with this documentary on an even bigger sports personality: Argentinian soccer player Diego Armando Maradona. Considered as possibly the best soccer player of all time, Maradona's footage on the pitch is pure wizardry, and you'll feel that way whether you are a soccer fan or not. But that's not the focus of this documentary. What happens outside the pitch is more interesting: from Maradona's modest beginnings to the passionate hatred (and love) that entire countries develop of him. And it doesn't make his story less interesting that during his time in Naples he was affiliated with the mafia.

This is an excellent documentary that distills 500 hours of footage into 2, giving you all you need to know about a character who captured the imagination of a big part of the world for decades. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alberto Bigon, Ciro Ferrara, Claudia Villafane, Corrado Ferlaino, Dalma Maradona, Diego Armando Maradona, Diego Maradona, Gonzalo Bonadeo, Maria Rosa Maradona, Pele

Director: Asif Kapadia

Rating: TV-14, TV-MA

On one level, Alcarràs is a story about land, about how inextricable it is to livelihood, about how ownership of it has bred conflict since time immemorial. Director Carla Simón emphasizes this even more by hiring actual Catalan farmers as the leads. We’re not just watching the Solés sing and fight for their land, but Alcarràs natives who are also very much at risk of losing what’s theirs in real life. The acting comes off as natural because it is. 

But on another level, Alcarràs is also a story about family, in particular about how family ties run so deep, they’re bound to coil around each other under the ground they’re rooted in. Like a family portrait come to life, Alcarràs shows us the beauty and the peril of loving your family and the legacy they leave behind as much as the Solés do. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ainet Jounou, Berta Pipó, Jordi Pujol Dolcet, Josep Abad, Xenia Roset

Director: Carla Simón

He may be out of office, but films about Donald Trump's racist and xenophobic immigration policies will continue to feel urgent for the ripple effect they've left on so many immigrants—and these films aren't just coming from within the United States either. A Spanish production, Upon Entry boils down a presidential term's worth of discrimination to just a few hours in the lives of a couple being interrogated at the airport. Directors Alejandro Rojas and Juan Sebastián Vásquez shoot in a style that almost feels like they're telling the story in real-time, with very few bursts of emotion and lots of quiet agonizing in the claustrophobia of windowless rooms. Every interaction is fraught with tension, as the couple, Diego and Elena, keep weighing if they should stand up for themselves or submit to the authorities' bullying.

The film eventually makes a bid for more drama by putting the couple's relationship and mutual trust into question, but this choice brings the movie dangerously close to validating the psychological manipulation used by the immigration officers. It momentarily loses sight of the bigger picture: that all this relationship drama is beside the point. Still, as a portrait of how discriminatory laws not only lock people out but tear them apart from each other, it's a potent, painful watch.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alberto Ammann, Ben Temple, Bruna Cusí, Colin Morgan, David Comrie, Gerard Oms, Laura Gómez

Director: Alejandro Rojas, Juan Sebastián Vásquez

Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem star in this mystery by Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian Oscar-winning director of A Separation and The Salesman. When Laura returns to her small Spanish hometown with her two daughters, she is greeted with the warm welcome worthy of someone who once was a loved member of the community. However, when an event concerning one of her daughters happens at a wedding, secrets come to the surface about her history that threaten the fabric of the whole village. Laura is masterfully played by Penélope Cruz, who seems to shift gears in this Spanish-language movie. Farhadi is outside of his usual territory, but he does what he does best: deliver a rich, thrilling family drama.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Barbara Lennie, Carla Campra, Eduard Fernandez, Elvira Minguez, Inma Cuesta, Iván Chavero, Jaime Lorente, Javier Bardem, Jordi Bosch, Jose Angel Egido, Mar del Corral, Penélope Cruz, Ramon Barea, Ricardo Darín, Roger Casamajor, Sara Salamo, Sergio Castellanos, Vicente Vergara

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Rating: R

Stereotypically made to look like one-note villains in many other films, the kinds of characters who lead Land and Freedom are rightfully depicted as people acting out of a desire for something constructive and good. Through director Ken Loach's trademark approach to no-frills storytelling, the complex ideologies motivating each of these factions against the common enemy (and against each other) are laid out with crystal clarity. In fact, the most exciting confrontations in the film aren't the skirmishes between the fascists and the revolutionary militias, but the debates held between allies, as they figure out the next best steps forward for every liberated person involved.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance, War

Actor: Angela Clarke, Daniel Muñoz, Eoin McCarthy, Francesc Orella, Frédéric Pierrot, Ian Hart, Icíar Bollaín, Jordi Dauder, Pep Molina, Rosana Pastor, Suzanne Maddock, Tom Gilroy

Director: Ken Loach