The vibrant and diverse Brazilian film industry has long captivated audiences worldwide with its profound storytelling and rich cultural narratives. This article tackles the best Brazilian movies on Netflix, showcasing Brazil’s cinematic brilliance to movie enthusiasts everywhere.
Steeped in a rich cultural heritage, Brazilian cinema has a powerful storytelling tradition that reflects the country’s multi-faceted society, cultural dynamics, and historical events. The films selected herein ensure you get a taste of Brazil’s cinema at its finest. Whether you’re an ardent cinephile or a casual viewer, prepare to embark on a cinematic journey that dives deep into the heart of Brazil’s artistic excellence through these top-rated Brazilian movies on Netflix.
List Of 15 Top-Rated Brazilian Movies on Netflix
As you venture into this curated list of 15 top-rated Brazilian movies on Netflix, you’ll discover a rich tapestry of narratives that reflect the diverse cultural, social, and political landscapes of Brazil. These films, each unique in its own right, have received critical acclaim for their compelling storytelling, nuanced performances, and innovative cinematic techniques.
1. City of God (2002)
“City of God” is a critically acclaimed Brazilian crime drama that has been instrumental in shaping the trajectory of the nation’s cinema. Set against the harsh and gritty backdrop of the favelas in Rio de Janeiro, this cinematic masterpiece offers an unflinching portrayal of the vicious cycle of violence and poverty that permeates these neighborhoods.
The compelling narrative, coupled with its raw and authentic storytelling, has captivated audiences worldwide, propelling Brazilian cinema to global prominence. Director Fernando Meirelles’ penetrating insight into favela life and the unnerving depiction of the city’s dark underbelly has profoundly resonated with audiences.
The film’s international success, underscored by four Academy Award nominations, including Best Director, has carved out a unique space for Brazilian narratives in the global cinematic landscape. “City of God,” through its poignant storytelling and compelling performances, remains a tour de force in Brazilian cinema, exemplifying the unfiltered and profound narratives that the nation’s film industry offers.
2. Elite Squad (2007)
A riveting addition to the canon of Brazilian cinema, “Elite Squad” is an action-packed thrill ride that explores the lives of the BOPE, Rio de Janeiro’s military police. Directed by José Padilha, the film delves into the harsh realities of the city’s law enforcement, providing a visceral depiction of the violent struggles they face daily.
The narrative is intense and engaging, filled with high-stakes scenarios that keep viewers on the edge of their seats. However, beyond the gripping action sequences, “Elite Squad” serves as a social commentary, highlighting the stark disparities in Brazilian society and the rampant corruption within the system. These social issues are woven seamlessly into the film’s narrative, adding a layer of depth and realism that enhances its impact.
The film’s authentic portrayal of the hardships faced by the BOPE officers, coupled with its exploration of endemic social issues, has resonated with audiences globally, establishing “Elite Squad” as a landmark in Brazilian cinema. This movie, with its powerful narrative and thought-provoking themes, is a testament to the ability of Brazilian cinema to combine entertainment with profound social commentary.
3. The Second Mother (2015)
“The Second Mother” is a touching comedy-drama that explores the intricacies of class dynamics in Brazilian society through the day-to-day experiences of a live-in housekeeper, Val. Directed by Anna Muylaert, the film insightfully navigates the often unspoken social hierarchies within a household. Val, played by Regina Casé, is a housekeeper who has been serving a wealthy family in São Paulo for years, sacrificing her own familial relationships for the sake of her employers.
The film takes an interesting turn when Val’s estranged daughter Jessica arrives, challenging the predefined societal norms and shaking the foundations of the household. The film excels in its nuanced portrayal of family relationships and the power dynamics that underlie them. It subtly tackles the often ignored class divide and highlights the emotional cost of these divisions on family relationships.
“The Second Mother” uses humor and heartwarming moments to underscore harsh realities, making it a compelling watch. The film was well received globally, winning several awards for its thought-provoking narrative and Casé’s powerful performance. This heartfelt depiction of class struggle, family ties, and personal growth is a must-watch on Netflix for viewers seeking a blend of dramatic depth and comedic relief, making it another gem in the crown of Brazilian cinema.
4. Aquarius (2016)
“Aquarius” is a captivating drama that centers around the life of Clara, a retired music critic, who becomes the final resident of a building targeted for demolition by ambitious real estate developers. This film, directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho, subtly intertwines the themes of urban change and individual resilience, presenting a profound commentary on loss, memory, and resistance.
Clara’s steadfast refusal to leave her home, also known as Aquarius, paints a portrait of resilience against the relentless march of modernization. As Clara stands her ground, she becomes a symbol of resistance against corporate greed and the erasure of history. The film elegantly captures the tension between the old and the new, the personal and the corporate, and the struggle of an individual standing against the tide of urban development.
The film’s narrative is not only engrossing but brings to light the profound impact of urban change on individuals and communities. Sonia Braga’s stellar performance as Clara brings depth and nuance to the character, making the film a compelling watch. “Aquarius,” with its intricate narrative and profound themes, is a significant addition to Brazilian cinema’s repertoire on Netflix and a must-watch for those interested in thought-provoking cinema.
5. The Edge of Democracy (2019)
“The Edge of Democracy,” a gripping documentary directed by Petra Costa, provides a stark and insightful exploration of the political landscape of Brazil. This film, through a compelling narrative, sheds light on the volatile nature of democracy and the intricate power dynamics in the country’s political sphere.
Costa meticulously examines the political unrest and upheavals that have rocked Brazil over the past few decades, from the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff to the imprisonment of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The film serves as a poignant reflection on the fragile state of democracy, exposing the cyclical nature of power and the challenges faced by democratic institutions. It combines personal and historical narratives, intertwining Costa’s family history with Brazil’s volatile political past, thereby creating a unique and resonant narrative.
The film has been applauded for its candid portrayal of Brazil’s political turmoil and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature. “The Edge of Democracy” is a must-watch among Netflix’s survival movies for anyone keen on understanding the complexities of Brazilian politics and the delicate equilibrium of democratic systems.
6. Central Station (1998)
“Central Station,” a deeply stirring drama directed by Walter Salles, takes viewers on an emotional journey through the heart of Brazil. The narrative centers around Dora, a retired schoolteacher, and Josué, a young boy who loses his mother in a tragic accident. The unlikely duo embarks on a quest to find Josué’s father, traversing the vast landscape of Brazil and forming an unexpected bond along the way.
The film masterfully explores themes of loss, redemption, and the power of human connection, underlining the narrative with tangible emotional depth. Dora, initially aloof and hardened, undergoes a remarkable transformation as she connects with Josué, revealing a vulnerable and empathetic side that showcases her character’s complexity. Through their journey, the film delves into intricate character development, with Salles beautifully capturing the evolving dynamics between Dora and Josué.
Central Station, through its emotionally charged narrative and compelling performances, particularly by Fernanda Montenegro as Dora, offers a touching portrayal of humanity against the backdrop of impressive Brazilian landscapes. The film, recognized at the Academy Awards with nominations for Best Actress and Best Foreign Language Film, is an unmissable part of Brazilian cinema and a poignant addition to the Netflix roster.
7. Bacurau (2019)
“Bacurau,” a thrilling sci-fi western film, is a standout addition to the Brazilian cinematic landscape. Directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, the movie takes place in a near-future village in the Brazilian backlands known as Bacurau. The village, already grappling with water shortages and governmental neglect, suddenly disappears from maps and becomes the hunting ground for a group of foreign mercenaries.
This intriguing premise blends Western and sci-fi genres, creating a captivating cinematic experience that resonates with viewers. The film’s genre-blending is more than mere aesthetic; it serves as a medium to lay bare the socio-political issues plaguing Brazilian society. From the marginalization of rural communities to the exploitative nature of foreign intervention, the film uses its genre elements to craft a potent social commentary.
Its unique narrative approach and innovative genre fusion have earned it laudable recognition, including the Jury Prize at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. “Bacurau,” with its genre-defying narrative and insightful social commentary, is an essential watch on Netflix for viewers seeking a unique cinematic experience that challenges the norms and pushes the boundaries of traditional storytelling.
8. Neighboring Sounds (2012)
An intriguing exploration of urban life, “Neighboring Sounds” is a captivating, atmospheric drama that delves into the lives of various residents in a middle-class neighborhood in Recife, Brazil. Directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho, the film is marked by its unique approach to sound design, making it an indispensable element in the narrative structure.
It employs ambient noise and everyday sounds to accentuate the characters’ psychological states and the tension underlying their seemingly mundane existence. The film meticulously unveils the complexities of urban life, focusing on the residents’ shared anxieties about security and the increasing paranoia that pushes them to hire a private security firm.
The narrative, while devoid of a traditional plot structure, skillfully knits together multiple storylines, offering a poignant commentary on social dynamics, class divide, and residential insecurity. The film’s innovative use of sound to amplify the undercurrent of tension and anxiety creates an engrossing aural experience that subtly underscores the film’s themes.
The film’s portrayal of urban life, coupled with its inventive sound design, has garnered critical acclaim, cementing its place as a remarkable contribution to Brazilian cinema on Netflix. “Neighboring Sounds” provides a compelling cinematic experience, masterfully using the medium of sound to amplify its narrative and immerse viewers in the multi-layered reality of urban existence.
9. The Invisible Woman (2009)
“The Invisible Woman,” a captivating drama directed by Cláudio Torres, presents an intriguing exploration into the life of Clarice, a woman who becomes literally invisible. The film ingeniously uses this fantastical element as a metaphor to delve into the deeper issues of identity, self-worth, and the often overlooked roles of women in society. In some ways, it’s also a unique twist on the usual witchy films on Netflix.
Torres masterfully constructs a narrative that oscillates between comedy and drama, placing Clarice in situations that range from humorous to thought-provoking. The invisible woman, unseen by the world, navigates her newfound invisibility while grappling with the realization that her existence had always been invisible in the metaphorical sense, overlooked and undervalued by those around her.
This film brilliantly utilizes the fantastical to highlight the societal invisibility that many women experience, contributing to an engaging narrative that is as entertaining as it is insightful. “The Invisible Woman,” with its unique premise and introspective narrative, provides a commentary on societal norms and the perception of women’s roles. This film, with its blend of light-hearted moments and profound social commentary, is an engaging watch on Netflix, offering viewers an innovative perspective on the intricate dynamics of visibility and invisibility in society.
10. Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho (The Way He Looks) (2014)
“Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho,” also known as “The Way He Looks,” is a poignant coming-of-age romance film that provides a sensitive and nuanced depiction of a blind teenager exploring his sexuality. Directed by Daniel Ribeiro, the film centers around Leonardo, a visually impaired teenager who navigates the challenges of adolescence and an awakening sexual identity.
The narrative gains depth as it delves into Leonardo’s self-discovery journey, capturing his evolving relationship with his friend Giovana and his budding attraction towards the new boy at school, Gabriel. The film gracefully handles the intersection of disability and LGBTQ+ themes, offering a fresh perspective on the coming-of-age genre. It doesn’t dwell on Leo’s blindness as a hindrance but as part of his lived experience, focusing instead on his emotional journey and exploration of his sexual identity.
The film beautifully portrays the confusion, vulnerability, and excitement that accompany first love, making it resonate with audiences regardless of their orientation. “The Way He Looks” strikes a delicate balance between exploring an LGBTQ+ narrative and a narrative of disability, ensuring that neither overshadows the other.
This delicate balance is further enhanced by the film’s realistic depiction of teenage life and the natural performances of its young cast. With its groundbreaking representation of LGBTQ+ themes and compelling narrative, “The Way He Looks” is a noteworthy addition to the Brazilian filmography available on Netflix and a significant contribution to LGBTQ+ cinema.
11. Black Orpheus (1959)
“Black Orpheus,” an enchanting classic directed by Marcel Camus, is a vivid and rhythmic retelling of the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice set against the vibrant backdrop of Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival. The film, brimming with energy, color, and music, weaves a tale that is as captivating as the Greek myth itself, embedding it within the cultural fabric of Brazilian life.
The protagonist, Orfeu, a charismatic streetcar conductor, falls in love with Eurydice, a newcomer to Rio, much like the mythical Orpheus falling for Eurydice on the eve of her wedding. The narrative unfolds amidst the carnival’s pulsating thrum, the festivities mirrored by the burgeoning love between the two protagonists. Simultaneously, the film incorporates elements of the Orpheus myth, including Orfeu’s descent into the underworld, represented by the Rio morgue in the film, in a desperate attempt to reclaim his lost love.
The film’s genius lies in its ability to seamlessly integrate Greek mythology with Brazilian cultural elements, making the narrative simultaneously universal and distinctly Brazilian. The film’s cultural significance is profound, not only for its innovative blending of myth and reality but also for its influence on the global perception of Brazilian culture, particularly the Carnival and Bossa Nova music.
With its vibrant cinematography, lively Bossa Nova soundtrack, and enchanting narrative, “Black Orpheus” is a cinematic masterpiece that transcends time and culture, making it a valuable addition to the roster of Brazilian films on Netflix.
12. The Clan (2015)
“The Clan,” a riveting crime drama directed by Pablo Trapero, is based on the chilling true story of the notorious Puccio family, who were infamously involved in a series of kidnappings in Argentina during the early 1980s. The film is an insightful exploration of family dynamics and moral ambiguity set against the backdrop of political instability and societal corruption.
Trapero masterfully crafts a narrative that merges domestic life with criminal activities, revealing a disturbing picture of a family ingrained in the underworld. The film skillfully builds tension through the depiction of the Puccio family’s ordinary life, juxtaposed with their sinister criminal activities, creating an unsettling atmosphere that lingers throughout the narrative.
Through this stark contrast, the film delves into the complexities and moral dilemmas faced by the family members, particularly the Puccio patriarch, Arquímedes, and his eldest son, Alejandro. The film’s narrative strength lies in its exploration of these character dynamics, portraying a family torn between familial loyalty and moral responsibility.
The tension between Alejandro, who is reluctantly drawn into the family business, and his dominating father adds a layer of complexity to the narrative, further deepening the plot. The film’s tense atmosphere, combined with the stellar performances by Guillermo Francella as Arquímedes and Peter Lanzani as Alejandro, makes “The Clan” a gripping watch on Netflix. This crime drama offers viewers a raw and unflinching look into one of Argentina’s darkest periods, making it a significant entry into Latin American cinema.
13. Bus 174 (2002)
“Bus 174,” a compelling documentary directed by José Padilha and Felipe Lacerda, delves into the infamous bus hijacking incident that occurred in Rio de Janeiro in 2000. The film stands out for its gripping real-life narrative and powerful socio-political commentary.
The filmmakers meticulously examine the circumstances leading up to the incident, providing an in-depth exploration of the societal issues that contributed to this tragic event. The narrative is constructed around the hijacker, Sandro do Nascimento, a street kid with a troubled past. Through archival footage and interviews, the film delves into Sandro’s life, offering a humanizing portrayal that transcends conventional narratives of crime and punishment.
The film’s strength lies in its humanizing approach, drawing attention to the systemic social issues, like poverty and homelessness, which often lead individuals down a path of crime. “Bus 174” underscores its narrative with a critique of law enforcement and media handling of the crisis, highlighting the broader societal implications of the incident.
This documentary, with its insightful socio-political commentary and empathetic human portrayal, offers viewers a poignant exploration of Brazilian society and the social disparities that persist within it. An unflinching look at the harsh realities of life on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, “Bus 174” is an impactful addition to the Brazilian cinema available on Netflix.
14. Good Manners (2017)
“Good Manners,” a fantasy horror film directed by Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra, offers a unique and intriguing take on the familiar werewolf myth. Set in São Paulo, the film tells the story of Clara, a nurse hired by the wealthy and pregnant Ana to be her housemaid.
As the narrative unfolds, Clara discovers Ana’s dark secret: she is carrying a werewolf child. This startling revelation introduces the horror element into the narrative, merging it seamlessly with the film’s drama and fantasy aspects. The directors brilliantly use the werewolf myth as a symbolic tool to explore themes of class, race, and sexuality, turning the film into an insightful social allegory. The film’s hybrid genre not only enhances its narrative complexity but also serves to deepen its social commentary.
The werewolf child, a symbol of the ‘other,’ becomes a metaphor for societal attitudes towards difference and deviance, revealing the prejudice and fear underlying social norms. “Good Manners” is not your typical horror film; it’s a genre-blending narrative that uses the supernatural to explore the complexities of our social reality. With its unique genre fusion and thought-provoking social allegory, “Good Manners” is a standout film in Brazilian cinema available on Netflix, offering viewers an innovative and socially relevant cinematic experience.
15. Favela Rising (2005)
“Favela Rising,” a powerful documentary directed by Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary, chronicles the uplifting journey of AfroReggae, a music group from the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro that uses music as a tool for social change.
The film centers around the life of Anderson Sá, a former drug trafficker turned social reformer who co-founded AfroReggae to counter the violence and degradation in his community through the power of music and cultural education. The film’s narrative is both heart-wrenching and inspiring, portraying the transformation of a man and his community amidst the backdrop of violence, corruption, and systemic neglect.
Zimbalist and Mochary skillfully use Sá’s personal story to delve deeper into the socio-political issues plaguing the favelas, painting a vivid picture of life within these marginalized communities. The film’s gritty realism is balanced by its inspirational message, demonstrating how music, art, and resilience can ignite social change, even in the direst of circumstances. Sá’s AfroReggae not only offers an alternative to the drug-fueled lifestyle that traps many favela youths, but it also redefines their collective identity, transforming the perception of the favelas from spaces of crime and despair into spaces of creativity and hope.
“Favela Rising” is a testament to the power of music and community, capturing an inspiring narrative of resilience, determination, and social transformation. This documentary offers a poignant and inspiring insight into a community’s struggle to rise above adversity and reclaim their humanity, making it a compelling watch on Netflix and a significant contribution to Brazilian cinema.
The 15 top-rated Brazilian movies on Netflix you’ve explored offer a captivating kaleidoscope of narratives, genres, and themes that paint a vibrant picture of Brazilian society, culture, and history. These films, ranging from the introspective drama of “The Invisible Woman” to the gritty realism of “Bus 174,” from the heart-warming romance of “The Way He Looks” to the chilling crime narrative of “The Clan,” and from the genre-blending intrigues of “Good Manners” to the inspiring social transformation in “Favela Rising,” exemplify the richness and diversity that Brazilian cinema has to offer.
Each film, in its unique way, provides an avenue for viewers to delve deep into the nuances of Brazilian life and the complexities of the human experience. They are more than mere entertainment; they’re windows into the societal and cultural realities of a vibrant and diverse nation. The themes explored, and the stories told in these movies are indicative of the distinctiveness and prowess of Brazilian cinema.
As a viewer, immersing yourself in these top-rated Brazilian movies on Netflix is not just about witnessing compelling narratives but also about broadening your cultural perspectives and gaining a deeper understanding of international cinema. These films challenge you to look beyond your own experiences and broaden your understanding of the world around you, showing you that stories, irrespective of their geographical origin, are universal, connecting everyone all through shared experiences, emotions, and aspirations.
So, take the plunge and explore the fascinating world of Brazilian cinema on Netflix. You’ll discover a treasure trove of narratives that are thrilling, thought-provoking, and deeply human, offering you a cinematic journey that is as enriching as it is entertaining.
Featured image: Canburak