Hello March and hello Women’s History Month! As we get close to International Women’s Day (March 8), let’s take a moment to highlight some feel-good Latina-led movies to watch with our favorite mujeres. Latina representation matters – always and every day obviously – and in the spirit of giving extra love, attention, admiration, and respect to fellow women this month, let’s raise our remotes to stories where Latinas are front and center.
Real Women Have Curves (2002)
Any top 10 list of Latina-led movies needs to have America Ferrera’s feature film debut, Real Women Have Curves! In this movie, East LA native, 18-year-old Ana Garcia (America Ferrera), a student at Beverly Hills High School, struggles to balance her dream of going to college with her family’s challenging economic situation and expectations to help with the textile business. From the start, viewers are rooting for Ana to achieve her collegiate dreams – her character has this wonderful balance of a young person uncertain about the future, while at the same time refreshingly certain about loving herself and hopeful for the good things to come. Ana continues to be a role model for women of all ages, even in 2023!
Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It (2021)
When you think of Latina icons in Hollywood, Rita Moreno immediately comes to mind. We’ve loved her 70-year career, but this documentary helps that love expand as viewers get a deeper sense of Moreno’s humble beginnings and gosh darn inspiring resilience, talent, and optimism that fueled this trailblazer to receive all four of the most prestigious awards in show business: an Oscar, a Tony, two Emmys, and a Grammy. Moreno is raw and charmingly honest about her journey, and the experiences she shares, both the good and bad, combine to create a masterclass about the thick skin needed to make it as a Latina in Hollywood.
Do Revenge (2022)
Fans of nostalgic teen classics like Mean Girls, John Tucker Must Die, and Clueless will especially enjoy the not-so-typical teen comedy film, Do Revenge. Popular Drea Torres (Camila Mendes) is hungry for revenge after her ex-boyfriend Maximus (Austin Abrams) leaks her sex tape so she forms an unlikely and secret friendship with newcomer Eleanor (Maya Hawke) with the idea that they can take down their enemies together. Drea is this likable narcissist, a rare role for a Latina. Yes, she has to learn the hard way what it means to be a good friend, but it’s a valuable lesson for us all! Friendships are a two-way street as we see in this and other Latina-led movies.
Language Lessons (2021)
Remote working, remote happy hours, remote dating, and more… we experienced it all during the pandemic and most importantly learned how technology can connect us despite our physical locations. So, it’s easy to appreciate the power of virtual connection and the genuine friendship developed in Language Lessons, starring Adam (Mark Duplass) as the student of Costa Rican Spanish teacher, Cariño (Natalie Morales). Cariño goes above and beyond as a teacher (like many do) and her charming, entrepreneurial energy leaps off the screen. Tragedy strikes early in the film, but the incredible, platonic chemistry between Adam and Cariño shows us that no matter cultural differences or how many miles between us, we can make genuine connections with people.
Someone Great (2019)
Fans of Jane the Virgin will undoubtedly love Gina Rodriguez as Jenny in the romantic comedy, Someone Great. Whether you’re healing from a breakup yourself or just in the mood for a feel-good movie about the love of your ride-or-die girlfriends, check this movie out! In it, Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) gets the help of her best friends Erin (DeWanda Wise) and Blair (Brittany Snow) to have one last epic night out in NYC after a devastating breakup. Gina’s portrayal of heartbreak takes you to a place that is real and authentic, in particular in the reflections of good and bad memories. Overall, this movie is a reminder that whether you’re single or in a relationship, never forget to invest and nurture the relationships with your gals.
Mosquita y Mari (2012)
This darling coming-of-age drama stars Fenessa Pineda and Venecia Troncoso as unlikely friends (and more) Yolanda / “Mosquita” and Mari. These young women could not be more opposite, but as they spend more time together, they realize that something more than friendship is blossoming. While Mosquita and Mari never explicitly put their sexuality or relationship into words, there is power to their quiet, honest way of just being. I want this film to get more attention, especially since there needs to be more Latina-led movies that celebrate the LGBTQ+ experience.
This is the only drama short on the list, but it packs a punch. Cristina (Laura Guzman) is an Afro-Latina actress looking for her big break but time and time again she’s just not the “look” of what the powers at be want. I wish this was a full-length film because the inspiring ending is too much of a tease of the incredible new path that Cristina is creating for herself.
Tortilla Soup (2001)
There is something timeless, magical, and beautifully messy about meals together in Latinx culture. This magic truly comes to life in Tortilla Soup, in which three adult sisters, Maribel (Tamara Mello), Leticia (Elizabeth Peña), and Carmen (Jacqueline Obradors) share a suburban LA home with their somewhat retired chef father, Martin (Hector Elizondo). Despite their busy lives, they stay connected through their weekly (and basically mandatory) family dinners. This comedy-drama may hit a deeper chord now more than ever, as some of us moved back home during the pandemic and have to learn, like the Naranjo sisters, how to continue growing without growing apart. Chef’s kiss.
Frida is another must-see as Frida Kahlo is one of the most famous and important women in Latina history! Front and center, we have Salma Hayek as Frida and Alfred Molina as Diego in this Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning biopic. Putting her affairs and turbulent relationship with Diego a bit to the side, what really shines in this movie is Frida’s unapologetic fearlessness in going after what she wants, especially during a time when women weren’t as free to do so. She wanted to walk, so she walked. She wanted to paint, so she didn’t let a full-body cast stop her. What an incredible woman.
Last but certainly not least, Selena starring Jennifer Lopez is another favorite when it comes to Latina-led movies, and not just because Lopez became the first Latina actress to earn $1 million for a movie role. She really brings the “Queen of Tejano music” to life in this one, as we see Selena’s courageous spirit, kindness, and neverending belief in her dreams leap from the screen. While yes, it is another biopic on the list, it’s important to honor these incredible Latinas in history, especially when it’s done right.