9 Best Movies to Watch In Tagalog

Staff & contributors

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

In Drive My Car, a widowed artist travels to Hiroshima for his latest production. There he meets a young woman enlisted to drive him around the area. They forge an unexpected bond and soon share pithy observations and long-buried secrets, which culminate in a touching scene of catharsis and forgiveness.

Not a lot is said in this three-hour film, but when words (and signals) are shared, they are always underlaid with simple but transcendent truths. Drive My Car is a gripping film that explores love and loss in its own quiet way, at once intense and intimate.

Forlorn longing envelops Days of Being Wild, where the act of dreaming is as valuable as its actual fulfillment. “You’ll see me tonight in your dreams,” Yuddy tells Su Li-zhen on their first meeting, and indeed, this line of dialogue sets the film’s main contradiction: would you rather trap yourself in the trance-like beauty of dreams or face the unpleasant possibilities of reality? Wong Kar-wai’s characters each have their own answers, with varying subplots intersecting through the consequences of their decisions. In the end, happiness comes in unexpected ways, granted only to those brave enough to wake up and dream again.

The Fabella Hospital in the Philippines is clearly overburdened and understaffed, and though it offers some of the lowest pregnancy delivery rates in the country, it remains unaffordable to most of its patients. It has been dubbed the world’s busiest maternity hospital because of this, and its boundless flurry of activity is what Ramona Diaz tries to capture in her cinéma-vérité film Motherland. 

What’s interesting and ultimately heartening about the documentary is that despite the difficulties the subjects face, they are always presented with warmth and humanity. We don’t observe them from a strict or stylized distance, but rather, we move with them when they laugh, befriend each other, worry about their babies, curse their partners, and eventually leave. Indeed, the film is a land of mothers, filled with their authentic stories before anything else.

At the height of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, a small Singaporean family scrambles to keep their middle-class status afloat. The parents shave their expenses and work extra-long hours, but their busyness causes them to neglect their misbehaved son. When his misdemeanors prove to be too much, the mother is forced to hire a stay-at-home nanny, and her presence (along with other external pressures) brings about a change in the house. Suddenly, everyone becomes a bit more aware of their limitations and potential, and from this, a shared empathy grows. In other hands, this story might come off as bare and forgettable, but under first-time-feature director Anthony Chen’s helm, Ilo Ilo comes to life in rich detail, thoughtful shots, and captivatingly natural performances. Despite its many heartbreaking scenes, the film rarely dwells in sentiment, and it's this restraint that makes Ilo Ilo all the more gripping to watch. 

Sunday Beauty Queen starts with a basic but startling fact: there are about 190,000 Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong. They toil for six days a week, with little breaks in between, but on Sundays, the one day they are given rest, they choose to take part in a fabulous beauty pageant.  

More than just a mere show, the pageant is a source of joy and relief for the migrant workers who, despite earning significantly more abroad than they would back home, are mired in a host of problems, including discrimination, loneliness, and underemployment. Because of the Philippines’ and Hong Kong’s stringent statutes, some helpers are also forced to go into hiding, unsure of who will protect them each time.

It’s to director Baby Ruth Villarama’s credit that the film feels both like a criticism and celebration of this migrant reality. She exposes the rotten system that forces these women to flee their country but doesn’t forget to highlight the humanity that keeps them going. This result of this deft balance is a story that is just as warm and exacting as any old home. 

There is no shortage of resources—be it books, films, articles, or interviews—about the atrocities Ferdinand Marcos unleashed on the Philippines. And yet, in the years since his exile and eventual death, his family has returned to power in the country, winning the hearts and (manipulated) minds of the masses.

In The Kingmaker, director Lauren Greenfield (who earlier directed the equally revealing The Queen of Versailles) exposes how this came to be, with a focus on the titular kingmaker herself, Imelda Marcos. It’s chilling how much of Imelda’s stated goals in this documentary, which spans five years, have come true. History repeats itself, and Greenfield skillfully and delicately captures the delusion, irony, and blatant corruption of a family dead set on owning a country, as if it were another luxury to purchase (or in the case of the Marcoses, pocket). 

Based on the short story “God Sees the Truth, But Waits” by Leo Tolstoy, The Woman Who Left is a film about people with nowhere to go. Set in 1990s Philippines, the film follows Horacia, an ex-convict seeking revenge on her former lover who masterminded her unjust 30-year imprisonment. Along the way, she meets various people—a hunchback balut vendor, vagabonds, and an epileptic trans woman, among others—all downtrodden in their own unique ways and united only by their nightly wanderings, with whom Horacia’s true nature is revealed and reconfigured with every encounter.

Lav Diaz’s signature slow cinema minimalism and sharp chiaroscuro lighting allow for a meditative experience, further enhancing the film’s immersive quality. Despite its bleak atmosphere, The Woman Who Left remains hopeful amidst moral quandaries, where things eventually fall into their rightful place, albeit in unexpected ways.

Unlike in many films about old people on the doorstep of death, the titular grandmother in this movie is excited to leave for good. But when her town insists on celebrating her bid to be named the oldest in the world, unresolved conflict among her descendants begins to resurface. Quiet and unabashedly sentimental, Lola Igna offers a uniquely offbeat perspective on death—one that starts from a place of contentment, and only gets more conflicted as more characters reveal how much still has to be said and done. It has all the charm of a low-budget Filipino film, made all the more poignant by Angie Ferro's authentic and deceptively layered performance.

Joy is a dutiful, overseas Filipino worker supporting her entire family back home. Ethan is a well-off bartender who has, time and again, put himself first before others. They couldn’t be any more different, yet in Hong Kong, their alien status and ambitious goals make them kindred spirits. What starts as a low-stakes bond quickly turns into an essential relationship, one that puts their personal commitments to the test. 

Hello, Love, Goodbye may appear formulaic at first, but it is heightened by a keen understanding of life overseas. It avoids romanticizing the migrant experience and sees it for what it truly is: a harsh but necessary means to an end. If this seems too severe, it’s also softened by an enchanting romance and some welcome comic relief in the form of the pair’s friends. Because of this nice mix, it’s no surprise that Hello, Love, Goodbye instantly broke domestic records and remains the highest-grossing Filipino movie of all time.