Before I moved to Brazil, I filtered my Netflix and searched the Internet for Brazilian movies and documentaries to gain some perspective on life here in Brazil.
Although many of the Brazilian movies were based on drug trafficking, poverty and favelas (much like Colombian movies), I managed to find a few good ones that portray a different viewpoint on life in Brazil.
If you know of any other good Brazil movies or Brazil documentaries (or other South American countries) please comment below. Otherwise, here are 10 Brazilian movies I think you should watch regardless of if you’re planning a trip to Brazil or not.
1. Cidade de Deus / City of God (2002)
Easily the most well-known Brazilian movie of my generation, this film portrays the growth of organized crime in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro, between the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1980s and is based on actual events. The thing I like most about this film is that most of the actors were, in fact, residents of favelas such as Vidigal and the Cidade de Deus. If you haven’t seen this Brazilian movie yet, start here. But remember, this isn’t the entire story of Brazil.
2. Tropa De Elite / Elite Squad (2007)
“Elite Squad (Tropa De Elite)” is an intense and astonishing look at Rio de Janeiro’s notorious favelas, the volatile slums on the edge of the city. The film is set in 1997 and presents an intimate look at the city’s vast and intricate web of corruption. Tropa de Elite 2 is on Netflix and I think it’s even better than the first one.
3. Carandiru (2003)
Caradiru is based on real life experiences of doctor Drauzio Varella who started AIDS prevention in Brazil’s largest prison, Carandiru, in São Paulo, Brazil, where the population is nearly double its 4,000 maximum. He found hundreds of convicts living under degrading conditions and things climax when police kill 111 men in order to smother a rebellion. Crazy that this is true.
4. O Que e Isso Companheiro / Four Days in September (1997)
Two Brazilian friends join terrorist group MR8 in order to fight Brazilian dictatorial regime during the late sixties. One gets wounded and captured during a bank hold up so his buddy decides to kidnap the American ambassador (played by Alan Arkin) in Brazil and ask for the release of fifteen political prisoners in exchange for his life. It’s intense.
5. Central do Brasil / Central Station (1998)
This one is for the serious film buffs. Central do Brasil tells the story of a young boy’s friendship with a jaded middle-aged woman as he searches for his father. It’s a heartwarming movie that has one many film awards and the film’s title in Portuguese, Central do Brasil, is the name of Rio de Janeiro’s main railway station.
6. O Auto de Compadecida / The Act of Compassion (2000)
A Brazilian comedy about the adventures of João Grilo and Chicó, two poor guys who cheat a bunch of people in a small Northeast Brazil town. But when they die, they have to be judged by Christ, the Devil and the Virgin Mary, before they are admitted to paradise.
7. 2 Filhos de Francisco / Two Sons of Francisco (2005)
The true story of Zezé Di Camargo & Luciano (real names; Mirosmar José de Camargo and Welson David de Camargo), who became country music stars with help from their poor father, Francisco, who made all the efforts to make it happen. The film was one of Brazil’s most successful in the last twenty years and the biggest box office draw of 2005.
8. Se Eu Fosse Voce / If I Were You (2006)
The ubiquitous transformation film where two people trade bodies and get to see things from the other’s point of view. In this Brazilian comedy, a married couple wake up on the morning before their fiftieth wedding anniversary to find that they’ve switched places. It’s funny because you get to see Brazilian culture and the reassurance that married couples are the same all over the world.
9. Deus É Brasileiro / God is Brazilian (2003)
In this Brazilian comedy film, God decides to take a vacation and heads to northeastern Brazil to find a saint as a replacement. I promise you, it’s nothing like Bruce Almighty.
10. Meu Nome nao e Johnny / My Name isn’t Johnny
The true story of João Guilherme Estrella (“Johnny”), a young middle-class partier who became a big-time cocaine dealer in Rio de Janeiro in the early 1990s.
Bonus: HBO’s “Witness: Rio” (2013)
A heart pounding documentary that covers the escalating conflict between the drug-related gangs and the police force in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, in advance of two major world events— the FIFA 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics—that loom over Brazil. I made the mistake of watching this two days before I arrived in Rio de Janeiro and it completely freaked me out. If you don’t have HBO, you can watch the full documentary here.
Other Brazilian Movies and Documentaries:
Bus 174 – Lisbela e o Prisioneiro – Bruna Surfistinha – O Homen que Copiava – Middle of the World – The Year My Parents Went on Vacation – O Contador de Historias – Fla x Flu
Made it through these? Check out 6 Must See Colombian Movies