Best Latin American Movies of the 90s, Ranked


Over the years, Latin American cinema has emerged as a major force worldwide and has been able to thrive under the most unfavorable circumstances. In recent years, an increasing number of Latin American films have made their way to the most prestigious film festivals and the shortlists of every award ceremony. In fact, at this year’s Academy Awards, Argentina, 1985, one of Argentina’s latest productions depicting a major political and social event of the country, was selected as one of the nominees for Best International Feature Film.

The 1990s were crucial for the development of filmmaking worldwide, with the emergence of young filmmakers and new technologies that in a relatively short period of time revolutionized the way films were made. This was also reflected in Latin America, and during that decade, the region’s productions gained far greater recognition than they had achieved in previous years. This was partly due to the quality of these films and to the openness to address controversial topics more freely as different countries returned to democracy.

Moreover, the 1990s also saw filmmakers experimenting with different techniques and ways of telling their stories, which helped to arouse the interest of an even wider audience. Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil led the way during this period with productions that were both audience and critical hits. Here are the best Latin American movies of the 90s, ranked.



10 Pizza, Birra, Faso (Pizza, Booze, Smokes)

Pizza, Birra, Faso
Lider Films

Pizza, Birra, Faso is a 1998 Argentine film that, despite its extremely low budget, became one of the best films in the country’s history, as well as one of the masterpieces of its directors, Bruno Stagnaro and Israel Adrián Caetano. This award-winning production reflects the social reality of the country at that time through a group of young marginal friends who occupy a house and make a living out of petty theft and swindling. The group’s way of life is quite simple: whatever happens, there can’t be a shortage of pizza, beer and cigarettes. This movie boosted Argentine cinema enormously, and it is still considered to this day a fundamental piece of its history.

Related: What Is the Appeal of Argentina, 1985 for International Audiences?

9 El Evangelio de Las Maravillas (Divine)

El Evangelio de las Maravillas
Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografía

El Evangelio de las Maravillas is an Argentine, Mexican, and Spanish co-production that dives deep into the world of religion while reflecting on the power of church. This 1998 film directed by Arturo Ripstein presents Nueva Jerusalén, a very particular religious community that clusters in a corner of the city as they await the Second Coming of Christ.

This community only responds to its leaders, Papá Basilio and Mamá Dorita, but when the latter senses that she is approaching the end of her life, she picks Tomasa from among her followers to become her successor. The new prophetess of this group, however, is young and rebellious, and she takes advantage of the situation to impose some very unusual rules on the community.

8 Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate)

Fresa y Chocolate

Fresa y Chocolate was a milestone in Cuba’s history, and became its first production ever to be nominated for Best International Feature at the Academy Awards. This 1993 film, co-produced with Mexico and Spain, was directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío, and ranks among the first Spanish-language films to feature LGBTQ+ characters.

Starring Jorge Perugorría and Vladimir Cruz Domínguez, Fresa y Chocolate follows the budding friendship of two men who are completely different from one another: a liberal, gay artist and a communist sociology student who is full of preconceptions. This production based on the short story by writer Senel Paz met with great acclaim upon its release, and made its way to some of the world’s best-known film festivals.

7 Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate)

Como Agua Para Chocolate

Como Agua Para Chocolate is the most popular book by Mexican writer Laura Esquivel. In 1992, it was adapted into a film by Alfonso Arau and quickly became one of the country’s best movies. Starring Lumi Cavazos and Marco Leonardi, Como Agua Para Chocolate features Pedro Muzquiz and Tita de la Garza, two young Mexicans who are madly in love and want to pursue a future together.

However, their relationship is merely a forbidden love: according to her family traditions, Tita must remain single and take care of her mother Elena because she is her youngest daughter. In any case, Pedro is willing to do anything for Tita and agrees to marry Rosaura, her older sister, so that he can live close to his sweetheart and continue their relationship in secret.

6 La Vendedora de Rosas (The Rose Seller)

La Vendedora de Rosas
Sonata Films

La Vendedora de Rosas is one of the most important films in Colombian history, and besides making its way to international festivals, it became one of the country’s emblematic productions. Directed by Víctor Gaviria and based on both Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Little Match Girl and the personal story of a homeless girl the filmmaker met, La Vendedora de Rosas follows Mónica, a 13-year-old girl who makes a living selling roses on the streets of Medellín with some friends while trying to avoid a dangerous world brimming with drugs, prostitution and violence.

5 Cronos

October Films

The 1992 production Cronos marked the feature film directorial debut of Guillermo Del Toro, who also served as writer. This Mexican film that adapts the legend of vampires also features two of the director’s most frequent collaborators, actor Ron Perlman and Federico Luppi. Cronos introduces a peculiar device created by an alchemist many centuries ago that is designed to grant eternal life to its owner. This curious gadget goes from hand to hand until it reaches Jesús, an antiques enthusiast who quickly grows obsessed with it. But rumors about the item’s new location have reached Dieter, a dying businessman who is willing to do anything to claim it and live forever.

Related: Best Villains From Guillermo del Toro Movies, Ranked

4 El Mariachi

El Mariachi
Columbia Pictures

1992’s El Mariachi marked the directorial and writing debut of filmmaker Robert Rodríguez, who would go on to make a name for himself some years later with hits such as Spy Kids and Machete. The film also kicked off a saga known as the Mexico Trilogy that spanned two sequels, Desesperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, starring Antonio Banderas.

El Mariachi, starring and produced by Carlos Gallardo, follows a young mariachi who makes a living performing in different venues. The man’s life changes dramatically when he gets mistaken for a hit man who has just escaped from prison, something that draws him into a violence-filled adventure.

3 La Estrategia del Caracol (The Snail’s Strategy)

La Estrategia del Caracol

La Estrategia del Caracol is widely considered the best film in Colombian cinema history. This 1993 production, directed by Sergio Cabrera, features an ensemble cast led by Frank Ramírez, Fausto Cabrera and Delfina Guido and introduces the story of Casa Oliva, a property owned by a wealthy man whose tenants are ordered to evict without notice. Despite all the efforts of the property owner to remove the tenants, they are willing to go to great lengths in order to stay in the property.

La Estrategia del Caracol is a film inspired by real events that very quickly became a box-office and audience hit, winning at the Berlin International Film Festival and at the Biarritz Film Festival of Latin America.

2 El Lado Oscuro del Corazón (Dark Side of the Heart)

El Lado Oscuro del Corazón

El Lado Oscuro del Corazón is an Argentine movie from 1992 directed and written by Eliseo Subiela inspired by the poetry of Oliverio Girondo, Mario Benedetti and Juan Gelman. It follows Oliverio, a bohemian poet who walks the streets of Buenos Aires seeking the perfect woman for him while his world mingles with his favorite authors’ poetry.

This production stars Darío Grandinetti, Sandra Ballesteros and Nacha Guevara, and over the years has become a national cult classic. Nine years after its premiere, it was followed by El Lado Oscuro del Corazón 2 (The Dark Side of the Heart 2), a sequel featuring the main actors of the original cast.

1 Central do Brasil (Central Station)

Central do Brasil
BiM Distribuzione

Topping this ranking is Central do Brasil, a 1998 Brazilian film that was not only nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, but one of its stars, Fernanda Montenegro, also received a nomination for Best Actress. This Walter Salles film follows Dora, a cold and lonely teacher who works writing letters for illiterate people in Rio de Janeiro’s Central Station. Then, one day, she meets Josué, a boy who has just lost his mother in an accident and has no idea where his father is. The two set out on a journey across Brazil trying to find the man, unaware that this voyage is about to change both of their lives forever.

Central do Brasil is an extremely acclaimed film that was nominated at the Golden Globe Awards, British Academy Film Awards and Satellite Awards, among many, many other award ceremonies.

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