Movies or Cinema was introduced early in the 20th century in Brazil, but it took some time to consolidate itself as a popular form of entertainment. Like most countries the movie industry of Brazil has gone through its own periods of ups and downs. In the earlier periods, films were made on the lowest budget and the quality of movies were also downgraded compared to the world cinema. Those movies were poorly received by audiences but eventually got regarded as masterpiece of those eras.
The New Brazilian Cinema, which then began in the decade of the 60’s, found that cinema is also an important element of culture. A company Embrafilme was instrumental in making this change possible, and helped to create a commercial business out of this idea. The making of movies had become difficult because films were not given a space in brazilian television and the Government also did not invest in exhibitions. However, in the mid-nineties the country observed a new break out in cinematic production, mainly because of new government incentives.
There are famous Brazilian movies, which acquire cult status today, but if we have to list down 5 of the all-time best Brazilian movies, then they have to be:
5 Famous Brazilian Movies
1) Cidade de Deus (City of God) – 2002 – Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund
It is a 2002 Brazilian crime drama movie directed by Brazilian Filmmaker and Producer Fernando Meirelles and co-directed by Brazilian-American Film Director and Screenwriter Kátia Lund. The movie was adapted by Bráulio Mantovani from the 1997 novel with the same name written by Paulo Lins, but the plot is loosely based on real events. It depicts the growth of organized crime in the suburb of Rio de Janeiro, between the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1980s. The movie received worldwide critical acclaim, and also received four “Oscar” or Academy Award nominations in the year 2004.
2) Central do Brasil (Central Station) – 1998 – Walter Salles
It is a 1998 Brazilian–French drama movie set in Brazil. This famous brazil movie tells the story of a young boy’s friendship with a jaded middle-aged woman. The movie was adapted by Marcos Bernstein and João Emanuel Carneiro from a story written by Film Maker and film producer Walter Salles, who also eventually directed it. The movie featured Fernanda Montenegro , one of brazils most regarded actress, and Vinícius de Oliveira in the prominent roles. Fernanda Montenegro’s career in the film and television industry has spanned more than 50 years. Her performance in the Movie “Central Station” earned her critical acclaim and also a nomination at Academy Award for Best Actress category. The movie was also nominated at the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film category in the year 1999.
3) Tropa de Elite/Tropa de Elite 2 (Elite Squad/Elite Squad: The Enemy Within) – 2007/2010 – Jose Padilha
The 1st part is a 2007 Brazilian crime drama movie directed by José Padilha. The movie is a semi-fictional interpretation of the BOPE, the Special Police Operations Battalion of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police, similar to the American SWAT teams. The story was written by Padilha and Brazilian screenwriter and author Bráulio Mantovani, based on the book Elite da Tropa written by writer Luiz Eduardo Soares and two former BOPE captains, Rodrigo Pimentel and André Batista. The movie was an outstanding commercial success in Brazil. Read more interesting facts about Movie Screenwriter Bráulio Mantovani at the Internet Movie Database website IMDB, an online database with all kind of information related to films and television programs .
Its sequel, Tropa de Elite 2 also a Brazilian crime drama directed by José Padilha, released in Brazil in the year 2010. It furthers the plot of a semi-fictional account of BOPE, with a focus on the relationship between law enforcement and politics. The movie still holds industry records of all-time biggest box office ticket seller and highest-revenue grossing film in Brazil.
Top Brazilian Films – 2 more in our List
4) Pixote, A Lei do Mais Fraco (Pixote) – 1981 – Hector Babenco
It is a 1980 Brazilian drama film directed by Héctor Babenco. The screenplay was written by Jorge Durán and Babenco, which was based on the book A Infância dos Mortos (The Childhood of the Dead Ones) written by José Louzeiro. It is the shocking, documentary type story of Brazil’s defaulter youths and how they are used by corrupt law officials and other criminal associations to commit crimes. The story revolved around a young boy named Pixote, who was used as a child criminal in muggings and drug transport. The movie starred Fernando Ramos da Silva (a young kid who was killed at the age of 19 by Brazilian police in São Paulo) as Pixote and Marília Pêra as Sueli.
5 ) O Pagador de Promessas (The Given Word) – 1962 – Anselmo Duarte
Last one in our list of best Brazilian Movies is “O Pagador de Promessas ” a 1962 Brazilian drama genre movie directed by Anselmo Duarte. From the famous stage play written by writer Dias Gomes, Anselmo Duarte himself adapted the screenplay. The movie was shot in Salvador city, in the Bahia state, and it featured Leonardo Villar in the lead role. The movie won the prestigious award of “Palme d’Or” at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first (and till date the only) Brazilian film to achieve that feat. And a year later, it also became the first Brazilian and South American film to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Award for the year 1963.
So, arguably these can be considered as the best 5 all-time Brazilian movies. But over the decades Brazilian movie industry has evolved and progressed a lot. The Government is showing a keen interest in promoting, exhibiting and even backing movie producers. We can only expect great movies coming from Brazil in the coming years that are acclaimed both locally and internationally.
If you want to learn Portuguese, watching brazilian movies is a good way to get started. Even if you speak only a few words of Portuguese, you will get a better feeling how brazilians tick and how life is in Brazil.
Here is a link to a youtube channel with more than 100 movies: Brazilian Films Channel on Youtube