Spanish-language movies and television shows that will hook me?
June 8, 2013 6:53 AM   Subscribe

I need to learn Spanish for my international-relations job. I've procrastinated for a long time. I'd really like to get hooked on some Spanish-language television shows and watch some quality Spanish-language movies to help me along. Not interested in anything dubbed. Not interested in anything too soapy, but it doesn't have to be highbrow. English-language entertainment I've enjoyed include The Good Wife, Homeland, the Office, and Pride & Prejudice. Please don't feel limited by this because I'm sure there is much more I would enjoy if I watched more TV. Anything with a good story should do the trick. I'd prefer Latin American Spanish, but mostly I'm just looking for anything that will suck me in.
posted by ihavepromisestokeep to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
If you like Pride & Prejudice, then you might enjoy Grand Hotel. It's been described as a Spanish Downton Abbey, so that gives you an idea of what to expect.
posted by afx237vi at 7:42 AM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, here is what is on Univision: telenovelas, sports, entertainment/variety shows, and news. Obviously, the telenovelas are pretty soapy. That being said, I think they are excellent for a language learner because the dialogue is accessible and the plot lines are easy to follow. I cannot say I am a regular viewer but it is something I go to when I want some Spanish input. You may wish to give telenovelas a chance.

You also might check out El Barco, which I think would fit your criteria. It is an adventure show.

BTW, having several languages under my belt, I recommend that TV/movies be the sauce rather than the meat of your language learning efforts. If I had to recommend a single resource to get one started, I would say Assimil, book and CDs.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:54 AM on June 8, 2013

The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos) is a great film that takes place in Argentina and deals with crimes from the Dirty War. Gripping film.

And Cell 221 (Celda 211) is a suspenseful action film that takes place in a Spanish Prison during a riot.
posted by brookeb at 8:14 AM on June 8, 2013

All the examples I can think of are for European Spanish, but here are some recommendations in case you don't mind our funny accents. :)

Radiotelevisión Española was churning out some pretty high-quality series until the financial crisis ate their budget, and there are plenty of back episodes available online. My personal favourites are "Cuéntame cómo pasó", a historical drama that follows the story of a family in 70s - 80s Spain; "Gran Reserva", which is a bit like Dallas, but in Spain and with vineyards in the place of oil fields; and, if you want something less highbrow, "Águila Roja", which follows the adventures of a shaolin-trained warrior super-hero in 17th century Madrid (!).

On a different note, if you like Hell's Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares and such, you may be interested to know that Gordon Ramsay has a Spanish doppelganger in Alberto Chicote, the host of "Pesadilla en la Cocina".

Oh, and "Españoles en el mundo" also makes for pretty entertaining TV if you like to learn about foreign cultures. Basically, each episode takes the crew to a different country, where they interview Spaniards living there and follow them during their daily lives.
posted by doctorpiorno at 8:25 AM on June 8, 2013

Not exactly what you asked for, but mi vida loca is a choose your own adventure style of web tv show... thing. You are an american [?] who is visiting spain for reasons, and then - mystery!
posted by Acari at 8:59 AM on June 8, 2013

Here's a ton of translated Original English programs.

I think it's all pretty neutral translations which can be good for learning. Trying to comprehend the regional slang from movies is tough. I tried to watch the Colombian crime movie Rosario Tijeras (it's not like the telenovela) without subtitles. I couldn't do it.

The Simpsons seems to be relatively easy to follow and my Mexican friends say the translation is outstanding. I never figured that show could be translated.

I found a site like this with original Spanish language programming. I need to find it for myself. If I do I'll post it up here.
posted by Che boludo! at 10:34 AM on June 8, 2013

Y tu Mama Tambien is a fantastically enjoyable movie. Lots of slang.
posted by colin_l at 11:48 AM on June 8, 2013

Another suggestion in Iberian Spanish: probably the best television series I've watched in any language is Amar en tiempos revueltos. It's a telenovela whose timeline starts just before the Spanish Civil war and continues in the Franco dictatorship into the forties and fifties. The scene is a neighborhood in Madrid focused around a pub with characters from all walks of life and social classes. The level of acting is amazing and the writing is intelligent and the plot-lines often literary. It's a difference in kind compared to telenovelas I've seen from Columbia or Mexico. There are seven seasons worth of episodes online (my favorite is season 5.) I watched it when I was learning Spanish and it taught me an immense amount, not only about the language, but about the customs and history of Spain. The one thing that can be said against it is that that the plot can advance slowly and there is a certain amount of repetition. But for language learning, this is to the good.
posted by bertran at 5:57 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hulu has, for free, Los Hombes de Paco, which is funny and Isabel, which is about Queen Isabella. Both are really good.
posted by govtdrone at 4:09 PM on June 9, 2013

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