The Southernmost South American country, the huge and wonderful Chile hides remarkable cinematography that hasn’t been talked about enough. Outshadowed by its more popular neighbours, Chilean movies didn’t get too much attention, but they are worthy of watching and discussing.
Interesting and often with brave topics, Chilean cinematography offers us various genres where people are at the centre of attention. It deals with social and personal issues, and men’s and women’s relationships and simply give an excellent list to choose from. This is one of them, the list of the 12 best Chilean movies of all time.
Una mujer fantastica (A Fantastic Woman, 2017)
The first on our list is a great example of everything stated in the introduction to this article. It is a must-watch movie coming from Chile. It tells the story of Marina, a transgender woman and a singer at a nightclub somewhere in Santiago. We meet her and her much older boyfriend who after Marina’s birthday and a night off passions becomes very ill and soon dies at the hospital.
Marina will start questioning her unusual relationship with Orlando and her involvement in his death and ask herself if she is allowed to mourn him. She will begin to analyse herself and everything she’s done and ask herself if her actions were too much and if she could have done it differently.
This historical drama talks about a military dictator Augusto Pinochet who wants to have a referendum to see if he is to stay in power for another eight years. This movie was nominated for the Acadamy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film. It gives us a very good insight into the behaviour and actions of one of the greatest dictators of all time.
We follow a young and bold advertising executive, Rene Saavedra who is approached by the leaders of the opposition, named No, who want him to lead their presidential campaign. Saavedra and his team make up an excellent plan that includes various clever strategies to win the election and free their country of years-long oppression.
Tony Manero (2018)
This interesting story follows Raul, a middle-aged unemployed man obsessed with Tony Manero, John Travolta’s character in the movie Saturday Night Fever. He wants to perform the most perfect Tony Manero in real life. He lives in a shabby house in Santiago where he rehearses with his friends.
But this is not only a story about an infatuation, but also a social drama that deals with the socio-economic and political situation in Chile and protests against the Pinochet regime. Raul gets involved in a situation that will force him to do things he never imagined, but nothing will stop him from going to a look-alike contest in TV Chile.
El Chacal de Nahueltoro (Jackal of Nahueltoro, 1969)
This is a true story about Jose Torres who in 1960 brutally killed Rosa Acuna and their five children. Jose was a poor, illiterate farmer who suffered abuse and neglect during childhood and became an alcoholic at an early age. This woman was the only one who helped him, but unfortunately, her life ended in the most tragic way.
This is one of the classics among Latin American movies, filmed through Torres’ confessions during his prosecution and journalists’ stories they gathered while interviewing him before the execution of his sentence. We follow his days in prison where he reflects on his past and even learns how to read and write.
Another movie inspired by a true story that is set in Santiago during the Marxist government by their very controversial president Allende. We follow a special friendship formed between two boys belonging to two different worlds. Pedro Machuca is a slum raised boy who lives with his mum, a cleaning lady in Gonzalo Infante’s wealthy home.
Machuca gets accepted into one of the programmes in Gonzalo’s private school and the boys form a friendship that will lead them into various situations, good and bad. And as it often happens, adults will be the ones who will cause major problems for these two boys.
Julio comienza en julio (1979)
)This historical drama brings the story of a teenager at the turn of the century who grows up as a member of the Chilean conservative higher class. We will witness his education days and the way he begins with the initiation into the society he belongs to.
This movie is one of the few that was filmed and released in the first decade of the Pinochet dictatorship. It can be found on every list of the most famous and influential Chilean movies.
Coronacion (Coronation, 2000)
This romantic drama covers the controversial topic of an elderly man’s obsession with a young girl and his slow collapse that was caused by the social and psychological elements around him. Andres is an heir of a formerly wealthy Chilean family who hires the young Estela to take care of his almost crazy grandmother.
Andres is lonely and almost depressive and immediately becomes attracted by the beautiful Estela who is not interested in him. Andres starts courting her, having no problems with the age and class difference and the fact that she has a fiance. The decay of a once glorious mansion and the overall fall of the human persona makes this movie difficult to watch at times, but it is a great portrayal of the Chilean bourgeois and its deterioration.
La nana (The Maid, 2009)
Another excellent movie deals with the Chilean socioeconomic situation, this time from the perspective of a maid Raquel who finally rediscovers herself after more than twenty years of work in a wealthy Chilean household. She has always been extremely attentive and loyal to the family she worked for and when they hire a few new maids to assist her in their daily chores, she becomes threatened and tries to send them away.
This is a drama with some funny elements that shows what a woman is capable of doing when she begins to feel threatened and starts believing she might get replaced by new, younger women. It is a great portrayal of a woman’s pride and resolution to defend what she has worked for.
Violeta se fue a lo cielos (Violeta Went to Heaven, 2011)
This is another biographical story, this time about a famous Chilean singer and folklorist Violeta Parra and her life from her early childhood in the rural parts of southern Chile. The movie covers many interesting parts of her turbulent life, such as the drive to preserve the now-famous musical genre of Nueva Cancion Chilena.
It also follows her passionate love story with the Swiss flautist Gilbert Favre which ended due to their differences. Parra was also politically active and set up a tent where she could give place to political activism at night and perform and host musical and artistic performances during the day.
La Vida de los Peces (The Life of Fish, 2010)
This romantic drama received a great number of awards from the most prestigious film festivals. It is a story about Andres, a travel writer who currently resides in Berlin, but suddenly decides to move back to Santiago. Even though it appeared as if he has lived an interesting and vibrant international life, there is something that drew him back to his hometown.
We learn there was a greater reason for him to leave chile so many years ago. There is a girl from his past who he meets again during his stay in Santiago and this encounter will force him to go back to those days and deal with everything that happened then, which he and his friends kept a secret.
Los 33 (The 33, 2015)
This biographical drama shot in a docudramatic style revives the catastrophic 2010 Chilean mine disaster where 33 miners were trapped underground for sixty-nine days. It remains to the present day a miracle and everyone is wondering how they managed to survive these conditions. But they were led by an experienced miner who didn’t allow them to give in to panic and reminded them to remember that all of them are the same there.
We follow their situation underground and the one above the mine where their family and friends fear for their lives and the government makes everything in their power to get to those men as soon as possible.
Palomita blanca (Little White dove, 1973)
Ths romantic drama was lost upon its release and finally appeared and released in 1992. It is loosely based on a 1971 Chilean novel Paloma blanca. It is portrayed as the Chilean “Love Story”. The well-known differences between the working and upper Chilean class are excellently portrayed in this story.
The movie is set in the crazy period after Allende’s presidential election and it depicts the socioeconomic situation of that time. A young girl from the working class falls in love with an upper-class boy who is a part of a plot to kill General Schneider, head of the Chilean army.