19 Best Movies to Watch From TVE

Staff & contributors
A slow-burning Argentinian thriller about a retired legal counselor and the one case he investigated that just would not die, The Secret in Their Eyes is a taut and sharp mystery. As layers of mystery unfold, the story draws the viewer in and becomes entangled with the deteriorating political situation in Argentina. Notably, the film features a single-take 5 minute shot - a fantastic technical achievement and a testament to the directorial vision and skill.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Alejandro Abelenda, Barbara Palladino, Carla Quevedo, David Di Nápoli, Fernando Pardo, Guillermo Francella, Javier Godino, Jose Luis Gioia, Judith Buchalter, Liliana Cuomo, Mariano Argento, Mario Alarcon, Pablo Rago, Pedro Kochdilian, Ricardo Darín, Rudy Romano, Sebastián Blanco, Soledad Villamil

Director: Juan J. Campanella, Juan Jose Campanella

Rating: R

There are movies that leave you matured after you finished watching. You mature because you are forced to walk in someone's shoes and confront yourself with issues that you are not affected by. The Sea Inside is one of those movies –⁠ and won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for it. Directed by Alejandro Amenábar, who you might know as the director of The Others, it tells the true story of Ramón Sampedro's decade-long fight for the right to end his own life. After he became quadriplegic after a diving accident, he was confined to the same bed in the same room for 26 years, except when he visited the hospital. Not an easy subject to say the least but Amenábar helps the fascinating story along with stylish directing, while Javier Bardem delivers a stellar performance to go with it. Thanks also to Ramón Sampedro's sunny real-life nature, this heart-wrenching watch also has plenty of uplifting moments.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adolfo Obregón, Alberto Amarilla, Alberto Jiménez, Alberto Jiménez, Andrea Occhipinti, Belén Rueda, Belén Rueda, Celso Bugallo, César Cambeiro, Clara Segura, Federico Pérez Rey, Francesc Garrido, Javier Bardem, Joan Dalmau, Jordi Ballester, José Luis Rodríguez, Josep Maria Pou, Julio Jordán, Lola Dueñas, Lola Dueñas, Mabel Rivera, Marta Larralde, Tamar Novas, Xosé Manuel Olveira

Director: Alejandro Amenábar

Rating: PG-13

This is the latest Oscar-nominated movie by Spain's highest-regarded director, Pedro Almodóvar. It's his most personal work to date, being a slightly fictionalized account of his youth and then the last couple of years. He is mostly portrayed by Antonio Banderas, who was also nominated for an Oscar for this role; while another star performance comes from Penélope Cruz who plays his mother in the flashback scenes. Pain and Glory is about life in the arts: how a tormented artistic personality is formed, the days of focusing on work over relationships, and dealing with the consequences later in life. It begs the question: in Almodóvar's life, was the glory that got him to making as great of a movie as this one worth the pain?

Genre: Drama

Actor: Agustín Almodóvar, Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Asier Flores, Cecilia Roth, César Vicente, Constancia Céspedes, Esperanza Guardado, Esther García, Eva Martín, Fernando Iglesias, Julián López, Julieta Serrano, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Nora Navas, Paqui Horcajo, Pedro Casablanc, Penélope Cruz, Raúl Arévalo, Rosalía, Susi Sánchez, Xavi Sáez

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Rating: R

Whether or not you’re familiar with director Pedro Almodóvar’s body of work, Parallel Mother stands as a gorgeous melodrama, a striking story about motherhood and our ties to the past. On one level, it’s a simple but engaging drama about a misunderstanding that ensues between two women. But on another, it’s a deep dive into a nation’s cruel history, as well as an observation of people’s commitment to never letting that part of themselves go. 

The film references Almodóvar’s past films but it also works as a standalone, a perfect starting point for moviegoers interested in exploring his oeuvre. Of course, Penelope Cruz continues to be a powerhouse, each line delivery an emotional gut punch, while relative newcomer Milena Smit is stirring, a true revelation, as her director calls her.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adelfa Calvo, Agustín Almodóvar, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Ana Peleteiro, Arantxa Aranguren, Carmen Flores, Chema Adeva, Daniela Santiago, Inma Ochoa, Israel Elejalde, José Javier Domínguez, Julieta Serrano, Milena Smit, Penélope Cruz, Rossy de Palma, Trinidad Iglesias

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Rating: R

After receiving virtually unlimited funding from a wealthy businessman, Lola (played by the always excellent Penelope Cruz) sets out to mount an ambitious adaptation of a bestselling novel. To make her vision work, she employs renowned actors Ivan Torres (Oscar Martinez) and Felix Rivero (Antonio Banderas), knowing full well that their opposite philosophies in art and life will clash. What follows is a series of preps and rehearsals that play out like social experiments in their twistedness, which all in all speak to the outrageousness of film, art, and life itself.

In this Spanish dark comedy, no one is spared from satire—from the idiosyncratic auteur down to the sell-out actor, all are parodied in equal measure, each of their egos broken down in great and hilarious detail.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ana Belén, Antonio Banderas, Daniel Chamorro, Irene Escolar, Isabel García Lorca, José Luis Gómez, Juan Grandinetti, Ken Appledorn, Manolo Solo, María Guinea, Mary Ruiz, Melina Matthews, Mónica Bardem, Nagore Aranburu, Oscar Martinez, Penélope Cruz, Pilar Bergés, Pilar Castro, Sue Flack

Director: Gastón Duprat, Mariano Cohn

Rating: R

Ever wondered how much your life will change when faced with the reality that death is about to come? That’s normal, and not nearly as life-altering as being told you only have a few more moments to live. Because of a terminal illness, Uxbal (Javier Bardem) is driven to this situation and tries to right his wrongs in the wake of modern Barcelona. This melodrama is supercharged by Bardem’s unearthly performance as the story’s only hero, demonstrating the selfless love of a destroyed and dying father to his children – paired with cinematography unlike any other, this film is exceptionally beautiful. Directed by González Iñárritu' (Babel, Birdman, The Revenant).

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adelfa Calvo, Ailie Ye, Alain Hernández, Ana Wagener, Annabel Totusaus, Cheikh Ndiaye, Cheng Taishen, Diaryatou Daff, Dunia Montenegro, Eduard Fernandez, Félix Cubero, George Chibuikwem Chukwuma, Guillermo Estrella, Hanaa Bouchaib, Isaac Alcayde, Javier Bardem, Jin Luo, Karra Elejalde, Luo Jin, Manolo Solo, Maricel Álvarez, Nasser Saleh, Rubén Ochandiano, Sophie Evans, Taisheng Chen, Tomás del Estal, Violeta Pérez

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Alejandro González Iñárritu

Rating: R

In this office comedy of errors, Javier Bardem plays Blanco, the titular boss, but whether he is actually good is what the movie wryly examines.

As head of a small manufacturing company, Blanco treats his employees intimately, going so far as make their problems his own. He believes this is why his company is nominated for an excellence certification, but as he waits for the possible award, cracks start to appear in his “work is family” facade as everything that could go wrong, starts going wrong. The Good Boss is an anxiety fest for Blanco to be sure, but a winning tragicomedy for us all.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Almudena Amor, Celso Bugallo, Daniel Chamorro, Fernando Albizu, Francesc Orella, Javier Bardem, Manolo Solo, Mara Guil, María de Nati, Nao Albet, Óscar de la Fuente, Rafa Castejón, Sonia Almarcha, Tarik Rmili, Yaël Belicha

Director: Fernando León de Aranoa

Rating: Not Rated

Remember the creepy blind nun from the Spanish horror film Veronica? While many nun-related horror films have nuns as its horror element, this time it’s the nun that gets spooked in Sister Death. The new release expands on her backstory, taking the story back in history, in her start as a novitiate in the former convent, a location that’s been changed after the terrors inflicted towards the nuns during the Spanish Civil War. While the film doesn’t delve that deeply, focusing instead on the slowly building up the film’s terror, there is something here about the hidden violence and covered-up trauma that still haunt the Catholic church in Spain, especially to those that have taken vows. Director Paco Plaza meticulously frames each terrific sequence with the isolating doubt in one’s faith that Narcisa experiences.

Genre: Drama, Horror

Actor: Almudena Amor, Antonio Duque, Arantza Vélez, Aria Bedmar, Chelo Vivares, Consuelo Trujillo, Luisa Merelas, Maru Valdivielso, Olimpia Roch, Sandra Escacena

Director: Paco Plaza

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

Film direction—at least in the traditional sense—is all about establishing control. In Even the Rain, however, the crew led by director Sebastian faces a problem larger than what they can manage when they become embroiled in a local conflict over water supply while shooting a period film in Bolivia. The situation escalates into a violent uprising between the residents and the Bolivian state forces, which then endangers the completion of Sebastian’s film.

Even the Rain exposes the hypocrisy of urban filmmaking, questioning its exploitative and selfish tendencies. “Some things are more important than your film,” the actor Daniel bluntly tells Sebastian in one scene. This meta-commentary extends to the audience and encourages us to reevaluate the importance we put into films, especially with regards to the current socio-political context.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Antonio Mora, Carlos Santos, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Dani Curras, Daniel Currás, Daniel Currás, Ezequiel Díaz, Gael García Bernal, Juan Carlos Aduviri, Karra Elejalde, Leónidas Chiri, Leónidas Chiri, Luis Bredow, Luis Tosar, Milena Soliz, Najwa Nimri, Pau Colera, Raúl Arévalo, Sonia Ovando, Vicente Romero, Vicente Romero Sánchez

Director: Icíar Bollaín

Rating: Not Rated

Incorporating traditional animation, Surrealist art style, and scenes from Luis Buñuel’s own films, Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles is a portrait of a brilliant yet eccentric artist who is stubborn in his ideals. The film is a series of dreams—visions from a life often disrupted by war and ideology—but is more structured and coherent than its inspirations, and striking in the commentary it makes on art. Within the film's story, Buñuel's character initially takes on a documentary project through a more dramatic and staged approach that separates him from his crew and his producer Acín. However, his nightmares stemming from childhood trauma eventually lead him to focus on the people he’s filming and advocating for. Historical yet surreal, highly political yet personal, this film is an apt celebration of a divisive artist.

Genre: Animation, Drama, History

Actor: Fermín Núñez, Fernando Ramos, Gabriel Latorre, Javier Balas, Jorge Usón, Pepa Gracia, Rachel Lascar, Salvador Simó

Director: Salvador Simó

Rating: PG-13

Pedro Almodovar’s films tend to swing wildly between comedy/farce and melodrama/tragedy. Volver somehow hits the sweet spot right in the middle of all four genres, with an added dose of magical realism. It’s a total joy to watch, which is really saying something since the story touches on murder, adultery, incest, malignant tumors, ghosts, and Penelope Cruz’s derriere. But maybe that’s the magic of Almodovar’s films? He’s able to take dark themes and surround them with bright colors, warm characters, and screwball humor—and really, is there anything better than that?

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery, Romance

Actor: Agustín Almodóvar, Antonio de la Torre, Blanca Portillo, Carlos Blanco, Carlos Blanco Vila, Carlos García Cambero, Carmen Maura, Chus Lampreave, Concha Galán, Eli Iranzo, Elvira Cuadrupani, Fanny de Castro, Isabel Ayúcar, Leandro Rivera, Lola Dueñas, Luis Lattanzi, Magdalena Brotto, María Alfonsa Rosso, María Isabel Díaz Lago, Mila Espiga, Natalia Roig, Neus Sanz, Penélope Cruz, Pepa Aniorte, Valeria Vereau, Yohana Cobo, Yolanda Ramos

Director: Pedro Almodoóvar, Pedro Almodóvar

Rating: R

This historical drama opens with one of the most thrilling chase scenes in recent memory, as Higinio Blanco, the man at the center of the story, escapes government forces during the Spanish Civil War.

He goes into hiding that, without him realizing, would last 33 years. He would only emerge in a government amnesty in 1969, as would many like him across Spain.

Themes of love (Higinio was confined with his newlywed wife), solitude and fear are at the center of a story that remains thrilling even when it goes through the isolation years.

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Aitor Arregi, Antonio de la Torre, Antonio Romero, Belén Cuesta, Belén Cuesta, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Emilio Palacios, Enrique Asenjo, Esperanza Guardado, Francisco Franco, Íñigo Núñez, Joaquín Gómez, Jon Garaño, Jon Garaño, José Manuel Poga, Jose Manuel Poga, Jose Mari Goenaga, Marco Cáceres, Vicente Vergara

Director: Aitor Arregi, Jon Garaño, Jon Garaño, Jose Mari Goenaga

Rating: 16

The Cuban bolero, not to be confused with the Spanish dance, is a Latin ballad form that spread all throughout the Americas, and even the whole world, that mixed and mingled with and influenced jazz in the 1940s and 50s. Chico & Rita celebrates this music, as well as the nightlife that made these sounds possible, through a stirring star-crossed romance that recalls the typical inspiration behind these songs. There are moments that do falter– like the way Chico tries to woo Rita back– but the familiar, if slightly cliché, beats work in this animation through a unique, thick-lined art style, and of course, excellent music. It's no wonder it was the first Spanish full-length animated film nominated for an Oscar.

Genre: Animation, Music, Romance

Actor: Eman Xor Oña, Jon Adams, Ken Forman, Limara Meneses, Mario Guerra, Ray Gillon, Renny Arozarena

Director: Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal, Tono Errando

Rating: NR

The Platform is the closest thing to Parasite released so far. This interesting Spanish movie is about 90% a science-fiction drama and 10% a horror movie. It’s an allegory set in a future where prisoners live in vertical cells, and each cell has to wait for the cell above it to eat to get food. Depending on the floor where prisoners wake up, they might not get any food at all. This creates for disturbing situations that are hard to see as not representative of our modern societies.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alexandra Masangkay, Algis Arlauskas, Antonia San Juan, Chema Trujillo, Emilio Buale, Gorka Zufiaurre, Iván Massagué, Ivan Massagué, Mario Pardo, Miren Gaztañaga, Miriam Martín, Txubio Fernández de Jáuregui, Zihara Llana, Zorion Eguileor

Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia

Rating: TV-MA