Best Brazilian movies, much like their women, are hot and spicy and sometimes full of drama that you can’t get enough of.
Famous Brazilian movies are popular for their raw and authentic depiction of life, and existence in the country of Amazon.
They also represent hope and human will that can overcome the harshest of circumstances and make something great out of the most ordinary, at some the most devastating and helpless situations.
In this article we will explore top Brazilian movies that give us hope, resilience and a story to remember, to unite and learn from.
These are the movies that transcend any boundaries and show that life whether in the crime-filled favelas or in the most elegant of cities, is the same and humans differ yet only scanty.
Now without much ado, let us dive right in
City of God
Director: Fernando Meirelles Kátia Lund
Writers: Paulo Lins(novel) Bráulio Mantovani(screenplay)
Stars: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Matheus Nachtergaele
A pinch in the stomach, a masterpiece is the correct word to start the review process. This is a movie I could go on and on for a myriad of reasons. Yet I must abstain and do the review without spoilers.
Directors of the movie are Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund, and the writers are Paulo Lins, Braulio Mantovani. While the stars include people like Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Phellipe Haagensen.
City of God has 4 Oscars nominations and plethora of other awards and nominations grossing over 100.
This is a movie that is difficult to watch and even harder to take your eyes away once you start.
The movie captures the minds and the hearts of the audience from the start with its bitter reality that is unfortunately based on real events.
An exceptional world-building and characters arcs and themes make this movie not just one of the greatest Brazilian movies. It is so good that at times, City of God feels more like a documentary than a cinema.
Seeing the youth waste away their lives in an endless cycle of crime, gives you a new perspective, a new way to see life, one where you will be ever more grateful than when you just started watching.
This is definitely on the top of the top Brazilian movies. And anyone who has seen it will definitely fall in love with it. To call it the best Brazilian movie would be an undervaluing.
City of God is a forsaken neighborhood, a small that many natives believe was abandoned by god. Yet, perhaps it is the people who have forsaken God and lost all their faith. This is a movie that presents both theories and makes you lose your mind in meditation.
Central do Brasil
Director: Walter Salles
Writers: Marcos Bernstein, João Emanuel Carneiro, Walter Salles(story)
Stars: Fernanda Montenegro, Vinícius de Oliveira, Marília Pêra
Another one of the best Brazilian movies with one of the most unprecedented endings, and a unique beginning.
A movie about a cynical person who decides to adopt some boy whose mother dies in an accident he is not aware of. Together they share an amiable time, and an emotional journey in search of the father of that boy.
Central do Brasil is directed by Walter Salles. The writers are Marcos Bernstein, João Emanuel Carneiro, Walter Salles.
The cast includes people like Fernanda Montenegro, Marilia Pera, Cinicious de Oliveira. Central do Brasil has 2 Oscar Nominations and more than 50 other nominations.
In short this is a road movie with quite an emotional overtone. But when you look close, it exposes way more than that. It shows you what relationships mean to us the humans, and how much we need them.
The movie’s main role is played by Fernanda Montenegro who understands that this movie is not about an orphan who sets out to find his father, nor is it a movie about the dog-eat-dog life it pictures.
She understands that it is about a cynical woman who cares about nothing but her own life. Yet ends up subtly changing over to the kind side. The change is so subtle and hard to pinpoint a scene to.
In a sense this is what makes it perfect. It happens too often in life that we start a new habit not because of a single Eureka moment. But a series of aha or hm moments that we slowly shift over to the other side.
I don’t want to spill any more beans here. Just check out the movies hot in Brazil and you find this one on top, as one of the best Brazilian movies .
Director: José Padilha, Felipe Lacerda
Writers: Bráulio Mantovani, José Padilha
Stars: Sandro do Nascimento(archive footage), Rodrigo Pimentel, Luiz Eduardo Soares
Among the best Brazilian movies, you’re sure to find movies of various sorts including documentaries as well. Indeed, this movie is a documentary.
The directors of the Ônibus are Joe Padilha, Felipe Lacerda while the writers are Braulio Mantovani, Jose Padilha. The cast includes people like Maria Aparecida, Captain Batista.
However it is not one of those how galaxies work, kind of documentaries to inspire to know more and learn. This is the kind that makes you drop your mouth in awe, and say DaFuq kinda world we live in?
Although the event it features takes place in Rio. The representation of the corrupt police force, and the multitude of characters with zero to none integrity and cronyistic behaviors is also a common cultural malaise of many other countries.
Thus, watching this documentary you start to root for the criminal a little bit and understand where he is coming from. This is what makes watching anything wonderful.
It is the fact that you are watching something with both side open and clearly depicted and shown in more colors than two.
The crash of motives of characters, the friction it creates is so damn tense and gripping that makes for a heck of a good meaningful watch.
Apart from the substantial understanding e.g insights into how awful and terrible it is to be homeless. And how unfair they are treated. It is hard to pick one side, of course, he broke the law.
But he was going to way before that happened. The same way the reaction of the police was in one way or another already predictable.
It is a traffic story of an invisible man who has no help from anyone. no one at all! ends up being lost forever in physical form as well.
The Second Mother
Director: Anna Muylaert
Writers: Anna Muylaert
Stars: Regina Casé, Helena Albergaria Michel Joelsas
We have been mostly reviewing the movies that produce more grief than enjoyment. Although, The Second Mother is also a drama, the movie still presents its tidbits of comedy to relieve the tension and provide enjoyable viewing.
Anna Muylaert takes the chair of director and the writer in this movie with stars like Regina Case, Michel Joelsas, Camila Mardila.
Off the start, the first thing to mention is how talent shows up here. It’s the talent of the Director Anna Muylaert. She has chosen to represent the classic divide in a new light.
That new light is truly something else. Although, it seems an age-old issue and one that is very familiar to a well-informed mind.
The characters are so well placed and acted, it is really hard to forget even after the flick. The narrative on the mother and daughter relationship on display is a thorough and climatic analysis with supporting arguments on each side.
From the title of the movie when you start watching the movie, you will start to guess who could be the Second Mother. But the longer you watch the harder it becomes to even just guess.
This is a movie that doesn’t try to solve any problems it shows. Things like the class, and socioeconomic divide, it only depicts a striking picture of its futility.
It is obvious this movie is a result of years of experience gathering in the industry. But also with a clear focus on one day making a great movie.
The proof of which is seen in the number of awards nominated and won by the movie and its cast.
The Neighboring Sounds
Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Writers: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Stars: Ana Rita Gurgel, Caio Almeida, Maeve Jinkings
Another movie on the study of social class and divide. But with an absolutely different tone and theme. It dives deeper into the characters and their study despite having many of them in the film.
First time director Kleber Mendonca Filho takes the directors chair and the writers as well. The cast includes people like Ana Rita Gurgel, Caio Almeida, Maeve Jinkings. The Neighboring Sounds won its fair share of awards and accolades and has a bunch of nominations too.
Many critics praise the talent of the dire first time director Filho who despite it being the first time did truly a great job. He is coming from short features and the whole movie sometimes feels like it is a multiple piece of small featurettes.
This is a movie that makes it feel like nothing is happening, constantly switching back and forth between the characters. However, simultaneously everything happens, with deep meaning as well.
You just need to watch out for it. The movie takes place in a so-called safe area of brazil. However it shows that even in the most safest places of Brazil. The idea of being a Brazilian makes it a whole lot less safe.
It is an interesting premise for a movie to show how the middle class suffers in a country, where the middle is considered to be something that the majority of the population strives for.
Although at times it feels empty and puzzling, and the plotlessness of the movie at times is a clear burden. The movie is a great piece of fable on the social strata and urban paranoia.
Brazilian movies seem to be heavy on the differences between the social structures, between the poor and the rich. As a critic, this is something that I came to know about apart from their excellence in moviemaking.
Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Writers: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Stars: Sônia Braga, Maeve Jinkings, Irandhir Santos
Aquarius comes from the same director who brought us the acclaimed The neighboring Sounds and equally good movie to watch
Kleber Mendonça Filho tries a bit of a different approach this time. In the previous it was the lives of many people whereas with this one it has a clear, main protagonist. Ronia Braga takes this role of the main protagonist. While the other actors in the movie include people like Maeve Jinkins, Irandhir Santos.
Aquarius was nominated for over 100 different accolades and awards including palm d’or of Canne. This is a great accomplishment both for the movie and the director.
There is so much to like about the movie, it is even hard to pinpoint one. But the start must be with the character of Braga whom she breathes literal fire and makes a person who lives with a genuine gusto for life.
The movie has all the subtle moments and the dialogue that makes so much sense a few senses later. The way the director organized it, it literally takes your breath away.
On the one hand, it is really great and impressive. On the other it sometimes feels like it’s a bit too long. The life she had in that apartment, how she had her kids and became widowed, the feats and the defeats and all the other details makes it “HOME” for her.
As we slowly get to know her. We start to understand that she is tougher than she looks and is ready to fight for her home.
Will she move out or not is something that you need to witness yourself watching one of the best Brazilian movies.
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
Director: José Padilha
Writers: Bráulio Mantovani(screenplay), José Padilha(screenplay), Rodrigo Pimentel(story)
Stars: Wagner Moura, Irandhir Santos, André Ramiro
Elite Squad 2 or as often known as The Enemy Within is the continuation of the aforementioned movie. Although the first one was also a good movie, it is hard to call it one of the best Brazilian movies. Thus. We are only talking about part two which is a lot better, and can be watched without watching the first.
The director Jose Padilha teams up with writers like Braulio Mantovani again to give us another masterpiece. The stars include Wagner Moura, IKrandhir Santos, Andre Ramiro.
This was the highest grossing movie of all time in Brazil. And it was one of the most famous Brazilian movies. Yet it was not even nominated for Oscars.
The movie excels at literally everything, the acting, the writing, the lighting, the story, the plot, ohh the plot is something, and especially the action.
The action scenes are short and meaningful. It is one of the best Brazilian movies with scenes full of action and fighting. But it is a movie that first makes you interested in the story, which in turn enthralls you in the action scenes.
It is a political thriller-ish action movie. But Jose Padilha understands that to make a good action, you need to make a good story that supports it.
A fast paced two hour feels like ten minutes. As things progress, there is not even a second wasted. Even so, there is still some feeling of familiarity with the story. The same story of corrupt police working with gangsters.
Elite Squad just does a better and glossier attempt at that story with better acting, writing, well everything else.
This is still one of the best Brazilian movies, no doubt.
A Dog’s Will
Director: Guel Arraes
Writers: Guel Arraes Adriana Falcão, João Falcão
Stars: Matheus Nachtergaele Selton Mello Rogério Cardoso
Among the top Brazilian movies that all Brazilians adore is “ A Dog’s Will”. This is a satirical comedy about two poor souls literally who cheat, steal and live to get by in life. The plot is something that reminds us of the 80 to 90s satanist references in pop culture.
Although the movie is from 2000, for us the millennials it seems like it was from that long ago. It is mainly due to the style, and the genre.
Guel Arraes of Brazil who is in his own way popular Brazilian directors gets some writing help from people like Adriana Falcao, Joao Facao, to produce this legendary and classic Brazilian movie A Dog’s Will.
In a sense this is a movie about the crusade of two poor souls in search of freedom and love and eternal bliss. For them, the bliss they seek is the few pieces of bread crumbles they need to get to the next day.
One of the aspects of the movie that I really liked is how big a role religion plays in poverty stricken suburban Brazilian north. But this concept couldn’t be better said or come closer to the ultimate truth that it is so not just in the Brazilian north but across the planet.
They have that right and many other aspects of poverty and how hard it could be to live there. Apart from the poverty and the hardships and the cheats they use, the movie delivered quite the fun if you are portuguese speaker.
It was very funny, which is true at some points of the movie even if you watch it with subtitles.
Director: Hector Babenco
Writers: Hector Babenco(story) Jorge Durán(story) José Louzeiro(book “Infancia dos Mortos”)
Stars: Fernando Ramos da Silva Jorge Julião Gilberto Moura
Pixote is a tragic story of street kids who led a life that no one should lead. The movie features the life of a a few boys whose lives were involved with crimes, drugs and prostitution.
The fact that the director took a real boy off the streets to play this role both speaks of how much the director wanted to tell the story but also how real those events are.
The director we are talking about is Hector Babenco, who also wrote the movie with another writer Jorge Duran.
Pixote has actors like Jorge Juliao, Gilberto Moura and the boy from the streets Fernando Ramos Da Silva
This movie comes after the “A Dog’s Will” movie simply because watching this is depressing and sad. If you watch the movie above first or at least before this one, watching the sad movie won’t affect too much.
However, either way this is a sad, very sad movie especially when you think about how true the story is and so many kids lived like this and still live.
Pixote feels more like a documentary than a feature film. The reason for that probably is the way it’s shot and how filmmakers made that way on purpose. It, although enhances our watch time, enhances the emotional bruise we have from that as well.
Because it is heartbreaking to see these kids acting all tough and hardened. But knowing that they are actually still kids with dreams and ambitions.
Being part of a pack of delinquent kids means there are hundreds of thousands of kids like this, all lost without a helping hand, or guidance for a better life.
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands
Director: Bruno Barreto
Writers: Jorge Amado(novel) Bruno Barreto Eduardo Coutinho
Stars: Sônia Braga José Wilker Mauro Mendonça
After that sad movie, the next best Brazilian movie you should add to your watchlist is Dona Flor and Her two husbands. It is a comedy movie from the 70s with an interesting premise which was conversational for its time.
Bruno BArreto directed the movie with writers like Jorge Amado and Eduardo Coutinho on this side. The stars include people like the legendary Brazilian actress Sonia Braga, who was not that legendary back then, and Jose Wilker, Mauro Mendonca.
Although the movie had received its fair share of criticism in the USA. It got nominations for a handful of prestigious awards and won quite a few.
This is a movie that was filmed with the fantasy ideal of many women. That is the idea of a bad boy who is usually a better sexual partner and good for mundane and worldly desires.
But a stable doctor or a provider type is better for the future and for the long-term. Modern society understands this dilemma many women go through in their life, when choosing a partner.
However it took place years before this could even exist in our fantasies. It teases the fantasy of how possible would it be to have two husbands one for just the sex and the other for provision.
Even though the movie is with a comedic tone in a light-hearted way. The concepts they feature is probably something that every modern girl has thought about at least once.
What makes it one of the best Brazilian movies is that it was one of the first movies to come out after the censorship was taken down.
So paying less attention to what it means for the Brazilians if you were to just enjoy for what it is, a comedy to laugh at, you are sure to enjoy your time.
Director: Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho
Writers: Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles
Stars: Bárbara Colen, Thomas Aquino, Silvero Pereira
Bacurau was included only because it is also one of the best Brazilian movies and is highly popular inside and outside the country.
This movie is an oddball of a movie to say the least, and the first. Explaining the movie would surely take a whole lot more adjectives than the word “Weird”. But it sums it up nicely.
It comes from the director and writer that made other movies from the list like Aquarious, and the neighboring sounds. The cast includes people like Barbara Colen, Thomas Qquino, Silvero Pereira.
The movie takes place in a small town called Bacarau in a more or less post-apocalyptic time with high degree of realism and higher degree of surrealism.
It is super difficult to categorize it as a movie set in the future. Because there are elements from the present and the past. But it is even harder to say it is in the present because there are flying saucers.
The movie presents with itself a hefty level of political allegory and biased negative outlook toward certain speaking nations. But it is not quite clear if it is so or not.
What is clear for certain is that you can’t never expect what happens next. This is definitely one of the best Brazilian movies that keeps you guessing .
No way to expect what happens next. Keeps going places where you don’t evenly expect. But it all fits into one plotline in a weirdly strange way.
The worldbuilding is awesome, with small sprinkles of details spread across the movie. So that you can pick them up yourself. The best example is when you see “Public executions to be held shortly”
I won’t reveal where that comes or at which point. You will just need to watch it carefully and find it on your own.
To wrap up
We have discussed 13 of the best Brazilian movies that are sure to leave an impression for a lifetime. We have some of the saddest movies like the Pixote to the weirdest of all like the Bacurau.
With all that variety we understood that the best Brazilian movies, much like the moves from any other place, are as good as any and sometimes way better than some.
I personally would recommend you watch all 13 of them, for they are handpicked and each leaves a certain kind of impression and the kind that will last. I was so impressed by how good and raw and gripping these movies were.
There are movies where the filmmakers chose to straight pick the people from the streets to play in their roles which shows how dedicated and determined they are in their craft to tell their story without any alternative motives or studios influencing their art-form.