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What Movies Should Study-Abroad Students Watch Before Studying in Latin America?

Latin America has several countries that regularly host exchange students, particularly from the U.S. and Europe. Latin America is a great option for students looking to study and travel abroad while still operating on a lean budget. Cost of living is low, but the experience of living and studying in countries like Mexico, Venezuela, and Brazil can be very enriching.

It is always a good idea to get a feel for the culture and psychology of the people before living among them. While not always the best depiction of those cultures, some movies definitely get it right. If you are planning to travel to and study in any Latin American country, we suggest checking out some of the movies on our list beforehand. Critics, actors, and viewers largely agree that they paint a positive and/or accurate picture of what it’s like being part of the cultures that make up that particular geographic area.


The Book Of Life ( 2014, Jorge R. Gutiérrez, Director)

The Book of Life is based on a collection of Latin American folk tales that center on the popular celebration of the Day of the Dead (or Dia De Los Muertos to the locals). Through story and visuals, viewers get an accurate glimpse at the traditions, practices, and beliefs that drive this once-yearly festival in Mexico. Best of all, it is presented as an animated, family-friendly story that both children and adults can enjoy. A full synopsis of the movie can be found here.


My Family (1995, Gregory Nava, Director)

This movie showcases the lives and struggles of an immigrant family over three generations. While not exactly light-hearted fare, My Family does paint a truthful and honest picture of what it’s like leaving one’s home country to build a new life in unfamiliar surroundings. For students, it provides a way to get acquainted with the feelings and experiences involved in trying to assimilate into a new culture and way of life. You can learn more about the movie and its storyline when you follow this link.


The Latino List (2011, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Director)

The Latino List is the first nonfiction offering on our list, featuring figures in American-Latino culture and entertainment. Students will learn about the broad diversity that exists within the Latino community along with some of the major challenges members face. The film, now in two volumes, also delivers positive messaging about cultural empowerment, community, and family within America’s Latino communities. Learn more about the films and where to watch them here.

This is yet another opportunity to learn more about the people who have come from where you are going to study. It also contains valuable information that can be used as reference material in essays and papers. If you are the type who struggles with written assignments and want to showcase what you’ve learned in the best possible way, you can look around for best online essay writing service or academic support from trusted sources that can boost your confidence in the finished work.


Like Water for Chocolate (1992, Alfonso Arau, Director)

Food is a major cultural vehicle in many Latino families and this often heartbreaking tale showcases the power of food as a means of communicating feelings and intentions. A young girl is forbidden to marry the man she loves and also watch him marry her older sister. The tension created by the situation is at the center of the story. It is a moving story that gives students a keen perspective on how some Latin American cultures view food as a foundation for fellowship, tradition, and love. Learn more about it here.


Getting to travel and study abroad is an exciting opportunity. Hopefully these movies will be used as a means of preparation for what is sure to be a life-changing learning experience. These movies are excellent learning tools that will help broaden your understanding of Latin American cultures.



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