2013 is winding down, and it’s time for the “end of the year” countdowns to begin.
We know Latinos are big moviegoers and probably have seen a big portion of the movies on this list. But if you haven’t had a chance to see them all, below are the top 5 movies in 2013 Latinos can’t miss.
Set in Los Angeles in 2154, where the primary language spoken is Spanish, Elysium is a sci-fi visual treat that follows Matt Damon fighting his way through robot security to find a cure for his radiation accident. The cure is at Elysium, a utopian land set thousands of miles in the sky, and the only way to travel there is to cross the borders between earth and space. Elysium is full of social commentary, dealing with issues of immigration, healthcare, and social hierarchy, that it’s hard NOT to connect with this movie as a Latino-American.
So what if Machete Kills is a badly-reviewed Mex-ploitation film; it packs a hell of a punch with just the cast alone. Featuring a round-up of some of the most well-known Latino actors in the business (Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Antonio Banderas, Jessica Alba, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexa Vega, and more), Machete Kills has all the gruesome action, cheesy storylines, and eye candy any B-movie wants. Directed by Robert Rodriguez, another famous Latino in the entertainment business, Machete Kills sure has the wit that will make any Latino audience member laugh (or roll their eyes. Either way, they understand the culture more than other viewers).
12 Years a Slave
Already buzzing with rave reviews and potential Academy Award nominations, 12 Years a Slave tells the real story of Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York who is captured and sold into slavery. While the film is focused on the abuses of black slaves in the United States, many Latinos can see similarities with the abuses some of their ancestors faced in their respective Latin American countries. Some of the mental and physical violence depicted in this film parallels some of the abuses that many Latino undocumented labor workers face even today.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
The Butler stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, a butler that served in the White House for 8 presidencies while living through the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events in American history. Many viewers were content on The Butler’s depiction of the civil rights movement on screen, but some Latinos understand that the Chicano movement was also a prominent civil rights issue of the 1960s. While the film focuses more on Gaines and his experiences through his point of view, seeing the 1960s through another pair of eyes will move Latino audience members to tears, as they can relate to the pain of discrimination.
PBS’s Latino Americans
While not a feature film, PBS’s Latino Americans is a documentary that chronicles the 500-year legacy that Latinos had in the shaping of this country. Part history lesson and part celebration, this documentary debuted during Hispanic Heritage Month and released in three parts, covering about 6 hours of progress for the Latino community.
While it is great that 2013 featured movies that Latino audience members can relate with, it makes me think: Why isn’t there a Top 10 list? Out of the hundreds of movies that were released this past year, why aren’t there more films that cater to Latino issues and concerns?
It’s upsetting to find out that Latinos attend more movies than any other group, but that they are the group that is least represented on screen. Sure, Turbo features the voices of Michelle Rodriguez, Luiz Guzman and Michael Peña, but an animated movie about a super-speed snail is hardly relatable. The only way that the entertainment industry will change their direction is if the audience demands it. With more Latino-centric movies, maybe the turnout within the community would increase.
2014 is already looking to be a diverse year for Latino-focused movies. The Marked Ones, a spinoff to the Paranormal Activity franchise, will be released in January 2014 and will take place in a Latino community in Southern California as teenagers deal with a demonic spirit. Chavez, which is said to be released in April 2014, will center on civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and his rise to fame holding several nonviolent campaigns with the United Farm Workers. This kind of diversity is what the film and entertainment business needs. With more push and advocacy for movies that Latinos can relate to, we can break the mold for future generations of entertainers.
Cristian Pineda is the Editor-in-Chief for Latino Giant and an assistant for Latinovations. Cristian graduated from George Mason University with a degree in Communication and minors in Film & Media Studies and in Business. He consults for several Latino-based organizations within the Washington, DC metropolitan region providing support and assistance in their social media and digital marketing strategies.