5 movies to watch for Hispanic Heritage Month 2023

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated annually in the U.S. from September 15 to October 15. It’s meant to celebrate Hispanic Americans’ contributions, history, and culture to the ever-expanding fabric of the United States. Many Latin American countries, including El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras, celebrate their independence on September 15, adding a new layer of meaning to the starting date.

Everyone can celebrate their Hispanic heritage as they see fit. Movie lovers can do so by watching films that capture the Hispanic experience through their cast, plots, themes, or a combination of everything. These films are excellent depictions of Hispanic communities, characters, and issues, making them ideal to learn more about these cultures, especially in a month as important as this.

American Homeboy (2023)

Illustrations of a man speaking into a megaphone and the Virgin of Guadalupe on someone's back in the poster for the documentary American Homeboy.
Image via Chela Media.

Directed by Brandon Loran Maxwell, American Homeboy is a 2023 documentary about pachuco and cholo culture. The film chronicles their origins going back over 100 years and features rare interviews with leading Mexican-American historians, academics, artists, activists, former law enforcers, and members of both cultures.

American Homeboy seeks to eliminate the stigma surrounding pachuco and cholo cultures. Like the best documentaries, it is informative, entertaining, and eye-opening, offering a new perspective on a topic most audiences might be familiar with but lack the proper tools to understand fully. An ode to Chicanos, American Homeboy is a powerful exploration of two movements that revolutionized pop culture.

American Homeboy is now playing in select theaters.

A Million Miles Away (2023)

Michael Peña as José in a spacesuit walking down a hall in the movie A Million Miles Away.
Daniel Daza / Prime Video

The prolific but underrated Michael Peña stars in the Prime Video original A Million Miles Away. The plot revolves around José, a Mexican-born migrant farmworker who becomes an engineer and astronaut as a crew member on Space Shuttle mission STS-128.

A Million Miles Away is an inspirational, feel-good biopic that does justice to its subject’s astounding life. Peña is reliably stellar in the leading role, aided by an impressive supporting cast, including the equally undervalued Rosa Salazar as José’s wife. A Million Miles Away is the perfect film for Hispanic Heritage Month; it celebrates its inspiring subject’s life and offers a rewarding viewing experience for audiences, making it among the best movies on Prime Video this September.

A Million Miles Away is available on Prime Video.

Real Women Have Curves (2002)

Lupe Ontiveros and America Ferrera as Carmen and Ana García looking in the same direction in the movie Real Women Have Curves.
Image via Newmarket Films

Before she became an Emmy winner with her lead role in the beloved comedy Ugly BettyAmerica Ferrera wowed audiences with her feature film debut, Real Women Have Curves. Directed by Patricia Cardoso, the film follows Ana García, a recent high school graduate struggling between her desire to attend college and her home life in a traditional Latino household.

Real Women Have Curves broke new ground in independent cinema. It was also a major milestone in representation, showcasing the struggles faced by young Latino women to succeed. The film offers a thoughtful and nuanced take on the traditional coming-of-age formula, showcasing the Latino experience and ending on a hopeful yet poignant note. Real Women Have Curves is the best kind of crowd-pleaser – a satisfying film that gets its message across without beating the audience’s head with it.

Real Women Have Curves is available on Max.

Stand and Deliver (1988)

Edward James Olmos as Jaime Escalante surrounded by his students in the movie Stand and Deliver.
Image via Warner Bros.

The great Edward James Olmos received his first and so far only Oscar nomination for his performance in the seminal 1988 drama Stand and Deliver. Based on the true story of teacher Jaime Escalante, the film tells of his efforts to inspire his rebellious students to take up calculous, leading them to impress everyone with their outstanding test results.

Powered by Olmos’ sympathetic performance, Stand and Deliver is a pivotal film for Hispanic representation. Following the same formula of countless underdog dramas, the film provides a rousing tale of overcoming obstacles, prejudices, and disbelief. Stand and Deliver remains highly influential; it inspired numerous films and became one of the first prominent films to put Latino culture front and center.

Stand and Deliver is available on Max.

Roma (2018)

A group of children and two women embracing on the beach in the movie Roma.
Image via Netflix

Four-time Oscar winner and eleven-time nominee Alfonso Cuarón directs the 2018 period drama Roma. The semi-autobiographical film follows Cleo, a Mixtec housekeeper living with an upper-class family in 1970s Mexico. Roma stars Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira, who earned Oscar nominations for their performances.

Roma is an intimate slice-of-life tale about a family and how multitudes can be contained in most everyday moments. The film paints an engrossing portrayal of life in Mexico at a time of heavy political unrest and societal change, putting an often underrepresented figure — an indigenous housekeeper — front and center. Roma was the first international film to win Best Director; it marked a before and after in modern Hispanic cinema and remains one of the best Netflix original movies, cementing the streamer as a legitimate contender in the cinematic landscape.

Roma is available on Netflix.

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