Top 10 Spanish films

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TALK TO HER: Different views of loneliness.

With the Malaga Film Festival under way we have rounded up the all-time greats of Spain’s cinematic history and there is plenty to be proud about. 

1.   Talk to Her – Pedro Almodóvar

Benigno and Marco form a friendship while looking after their comatose girlfriends in a private clinic as their stories unfold in flashbacks. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers said about Almodóvar’s second Oscar win: “The actors are outstanding, illuminating four different views of loneliness. But it’s Camara’s tour-de-force performance that anchors the film that shocks and unnerves us”.

2.  Pan’s Labyrinth – Guillermo del Toro

The film is set in 1944 in post-Civil War Spain; a wary girl fascinated with fairy stories creates a fantasy world to escape the violence of her real life with her new stepfather, who’s a sadistic army captain. The hugely original film won three Oscars (three more nominations), three BAFTAs, and eight Goyas (six more nominations). Chicago Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert called it “one of the greatest of all fantasy films.”

3. The Sea Inside – Alejandro Amenábar

Paralysed from the neck down from a diving accident, Ramón Sampedro has been in the same bed for 28 years and wants to die. The film is the true story of the man who campaigned for euthanasia to preserve his dignity and humanity, and it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film with an amazing performance by Javier Bardem.

4.  The Spirit of the Beehive – Víctor Erice

Set in the Castillian countryside around 1940, the movie is seen through the inquisitive eyes of eight-year-old Ana, who after watching the film Frankenstein, becomes convinced there’s a monster lurking in the abandoned houses of her village. British film critic Derek Malcolm called it “one of the most beautiful and arresting films ever made in Spain, or anywhere in the past 25 years or so.”

5.  All about my Mother – Pedro Almodóvar 

This Oscar-winning masterpiece tells the story of a grieving mother looking for her transvestite ex-husband to inform him about their teenage son’s death. One critic described it as a “spectacular synthesis of everything that has always interested him – proud women, lovely boys, beautiful drag queens, grand movie stars, gorgeous frocks, wild wallpaper.” It is an emotional roller-coaster and the viewer is never quite sure what will happen next. 

6. Mondays in the Sun – Fernando León de Aranoa

The performances of Javier Bardem and fellow actor Luis Tosar in this film are a real tour de force in this moving and very real drama. The film starts with the message “This film isn’t based on a true story, it’s based on thousands.” It’s almost as if director Fernando León de Aranoa knew what was to come in Spain when in 2002 he depicted the harmful effects of unemployment on a group of shipyard workers in the north of the country. 

7.  Bad Education – Pedro Almodóvar

Almodóvar explores the intersection of fantasy, reality, memory, and storytelling in this fascinating metafictional revenge mystery. The film includes sexual abuse by Catholic priests, drug use, and transsexuality, with hints of autobiography. The characters get caught up in temptation, seduction, corruption, and obsession. 

8.  Pallet – Achero Mañas

Pablo is a 12-year-old boy living in Madrid who is streetwise but scarred. He is emotionally and physically damaged by the constant abuse of his father, Mariano – that is, until a new child enters his life and befriends Pablo. Gritty rather than emotional, the movie won Juan Jose Ballesta a Goya for best newcomer in 2000.

9.  The Orphanage – Juan Antonio Bayona

In the debut film of J A Bayona, a child goes missing in an abandoned orphanage, and his mother suspects his ghostly invisible friends. Produced by Guillermo del Toro, the film’s horror is not from blood or gore but from simple ominous camera movement, bumps and jumps and minimalist creepy music. 

10. Open your eyes – Alejandro Amenabar

A handsome, rich man falls in love with the woman of his dreams (Penelope Cruz) but is disfigured in a suicidal car crash by his ex-girlfriend, plunging him into an unexpected series of nightmarish plot twists. Directed by Alejandro Amenábar to great acclaim and was made into Hollywood remake ‘Vanilla Sky.’

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