9 Movies That Celebrate Hispanic Heritage

Despite a historical lack of representation, Hispanic movies have gifted the world significant cultural milestones for years.

portrait of Crystal Onyema
by Crystal Onyema

Updated September 23, 2022

Edited by Lorraine Mumby
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9 Movies That Celebrate Hispanic Heritage
Image Credit: andresr / E+ / Getty Images

According to the U.S. Census, Hispanics comprise about 18% of the country's population. Yet, there is still a severe lack of representation in television and film. For example, in a study of 1,300 films from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, only 5% of films had Hispanic or Latino/a characters. Meanwhile, 79% of states have a higher number of Latino/as than in Hollywood films.

Latino/a communities in the U.S. deserve to see themselves portrayed in films much more than what's been offered. The representation should also extend into breaking stereotypes of the past. Historically, Latino/a actors have been cast as the “Latin Lover,” criminals, or the help.

Hollywood has been slow to create more positive Hispanic and Latino/a faces in American film. However, attention has started to turn this around for more positive portrayals. Check out our list of nine remarkable films that celebrate Hispanic heritage month. They can all be found on AmazonPrime Movies.

Real Women Have Curves

In this 2002 film, a young America Ferrera makes her debut role as Ana Garcia, a curvaceous young girl graduating from high school. Ana has dreams of a bright and fulfilling future.

Still, her overbearing mother, Carmen, keeps her from trying to attain those goals by pushing her to help keep their family business afloat and get married. The film's themes of feminism, body positivity and a strong Latino/a family will draw you in from start to finish.

Frida

Salma Hayek's realistic portrayal of the legendary surrealist artist Frida Kahlo earned her an Oscar nomination in 2002. The biographical Hispanic film covers Kahlo's life, starting from her unfortunate accident at 18 that gave her a lifetime of pain to her rise in notoriety for her obscure yet distinctive paintings.

Frida's fiery marriage with legendary Mexican artist Diego Rivera is also at the forefront of the film. The movie's themes match Frida's passionate and sorrowful paintings, leaving your eyes glued to the screen.

Coco

This adorable animated musical will have you singing at the top of your lungs. Based on themes of Dia de los Muertos and breaking generational curses, Coco follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel, who gets taken away to the underworld.

He meets his musician great-great-grandfather, Ernesto, who helps bring him back to his living family and dispose of their no-musician ban. Coco took home two Oscars in 2018.

Stand and Deliver

There's a reason why the film 1988 Stand and Deliver became preserved in the National Film Registry. Legendary Latino actor Edward James Olmos got nominated for an Oscar for his biographical role as Jaime Escalante, a dynamic math teacher at an underfunded and underperforming high school. Few give his misfit students a chance, yet Escalante does, teaching and eventually leading them to pass the Advanced Placement exams.

Apocalypto

Set in Yucatán, Mexico, around 1502, Apocalypto depicts how a young man named Jaguar Paw, a late Mesoamerican hunter, and his fellow tribe members become apprehended by an invading force. After the destruction of their village, they are brought on a difficult journey to a Mayan city as human sacrifices at a time when the Mayan civilization is in decline. This trippy 2006 classic gives lesser-known Hispanic and Latino/a actors like Rudy Youngblood the chance to shine.

Y Tu Mamá También

In this new-wave coming-of-age film, two best friends teens, Julio and Tenoch, embark on a spontaneous road trip with a twenty-something-year-old woman named Luisa. A take on the typical American roadie movie, the early 2000s film pays homage to the beautiful Mexican landscape.

A then up-and-coming Latino actor Diego Luna convincingly contributes to the film's clever plot on the theme of self and sexual discovery. The movie is available with English subtitles.

Go to BestColleges Hispanic Heritage Month hub to find more stories and resources.

Bajo la Misma Luna/Under the Same Moon

In this touching film, a single young mother named Rosario crosses to the U.S./Mexico border, leaving behind her young son Carlitos. After his grandmother passes away, Carlitos escapes his greedy aunt and uncle, who want custody of him so they can take the money Rosario sends him every month.

Carlitos starts his own journey to find his mother by dangerously crossing over into the U.S. The central themes of love and determination highlight the belief system of Hispanic heritage.

In the Heights

Produced by acclaimed actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, 2021's In the Heights is film adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name, embedded with themes of love, gentrification, immigration, and family.

The film narrates a street corner in the Dominican Washington Heights neighborhood in New York City. Despite personal roadblocks, each member of the community desires to pursue their sueñitos, or little dreams, for a better life.

Because of the pandemic, this film didn't get the shine it deserved and is a must-watch.

Selena

We can't have a Hispanic heritage month movies list without Selena. The groundbreaking movie from 1997 stars then-rising star Jennifer Lopez in the titular role of the Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla Perez. The beloved Latino veteran actor Edward James Olmos adds his magic touch as Selena's father, Abraham.


You'll learn about Selena's legendary rise to fame, her impromptu and passionate marriage to Chris Perez, and how a tragic betrayal unfolded into her untimely death.