Watching Brazilian movies to learn Portuguese can be a fun and relaxing way to learn the language. Not to mention that they can help you learn Portuguese fast. Brazil is an extremely interesting country. And throughout the years, its filmmakers has created their fair share of little-known cinematic gems, some of which are worth seeking out for language learners. So we’ve spared you the trouble and prepared a list of the best Brazilian movies – not just in terms of quality, but also based on their suitability for people learning Portuguese.
Last Updated: 06/20/2020
Why Use Brazilian Movies to Learn Portuguese?
First things first. If you are a beginner, movies not might be right for you. For more info on how to improve your listening skills when you’re just starting out, Abbe recorded a special “Beginner’s Guide to Listening.” Click here to watch on our YouTube channel.
If you are an advanced or upper-intermediate learner, or if you are very, very motivated, go for a movie! It will be a challenge, but the Brazilian movies we’ve listed below are definitely worth it. To get a better idea on how to maximize your learning potential while watching foreign films, read the first part of this article. (It’s about Spanish movies, but the technique is pretty much the same for any language.) To sum up our method, we recommend choosing a movie you won’t mind watching several times. You’ll probably want to start out with subtitles, in Portuguese if possible. Then, once you have an idea of the main characters and storyline, switch them off and watch again, focusing on listening to the language you are learning.
Where to watch Brazilian movies
While there aren’t a ton of Brazilian movies on Netflix yet, they seem to be in the process of expanding their offering of foreign films (including Portuguese movies). Other video-on-demand services like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV also offer a few Portuguese films. Search by category to see what they have, since their content is constantly changing. Of course, you can always go the “old-fashioned” route and buy Brazilian DVDs, if you still have a player! Just be sure to double-check that the video language is Portuguese and that it isn’t dubbed in English before you buy. YouTube is another place to look if the flick you’re looking for isn’t available elsewhere.
The Top 6 Brazilian Movies for Portuguese Learners
So grab some popcorn (and maybe a Portuguese dictionary!) and enjoy. Without further ado, here are our favorite Brazilian movies for Portuguese learners.
[Tropa de Elite – Brazil – 2008 – Action – José Padilha – Trailer]
Elite Squad is a great Brazilian action movie and was a huge hit in South America. The “elite squad” the title refers to is the real-life BOPE, the equivalent of American SWAT teams. They are tasked with eradicating drug traffickers from the favelas. The movie has a lot of fast action-packed scenes, so it may be difficult to understand at times.
This film was a wake up call for me and reaffirmed what I felt during my travels to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. (By the way, if you have a trip to Brazil planned, download your free Portuguese travel guide/conversation phrasebook right here.) Despite the country’s recent economic growth, Brazil is still plagued with social inequalities.
If you liked this movie, there’s also a sequel from 2010 that you can watch for free with Amazon Prime Video: Elite Sqaud 2: The Enemy Within. It’s the highest grossing film in all of South America!
City of God
[Cidade de Deus – Brazil – 2002 – Drama – Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund – Trailer]
There’s a good chance that you’ve heard of this movie. It’s one of the most well-known modern Brazilian movies. City of God is a raw and often violent story about life in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, told through the eyes of a group of kids who have grown up with murder, crime, corruption and drugs. It’s a very touching movie, to say the least.
There are a lot of swear words and Portuguese slang, so it won’t be easy for learners to understand (at least without subtitles).
If you liked City of God, there’s also a TV series based on the film. Cidade dos Homens (City of Men) aired for 4 seasons and about 20 episodes. A 2-season miniseries was also released in 2017-18. And finally, check out the documentary Cidade de Deus: 10 Anos Depois (City of God: 10 Years Later) – we think it’s one of the best Brazilian movies on Netflix.
[Central do Brasil – Brazil – 1998 – Walter Selles – Drama – Trailer]
Let’s go back in time for this movie, from the renowned director Walter Selles (he also directed The Motorcycle Diaries). It tells the story of the friendship between Dora, an older woman who writers letters for illiterate customers at Brazil’s central station, and Josue, a young boy in search of his father.
The language used throughout is easy to understand, making it a must-see movie to learn Portuguese.
[O Invasor – Brazil – 2002 – Beto Brant – Police Drama/Thriller – Trailer]
The Trespasser is another little-known great film. The story follows two friends and business partners who hire a hitman to kill their other partner, the majority shareholder of their company.
From the start, they make the mistake of relying on the inexperienced and absolutely insane criminal Anisio, which ends up turning their life into a nightmare. This movie has a good balance between Brazilian slang and more formal speech.
[A Busca – Brazil – 2012 – Drama – Tom Hooper – Trailer]
A favorite of mine, the next film takes us in a different direction. A doctor from Sao Paulo goes in search of his teen son who disappeared following one of his parents’ fights.
The search (a busca) spans two Brazilian states, and throughout, the film touches on the values and priorities in life, a father-son relationship, and the balance of work and family life. Father’s Chair is a truly beautiful discovery. Although there are no subtitles, the language is easy to follow since it’s less informal and the dialogue is much slower.
[O Concurso – Brazil – 2013 – Pedro Vasconcelos – Comedy – Trailer]
And finally, here’s a great (and pretty recent) Brazilian comedy. Reminiscent of The Hangover, this movie tells the tale of one debaucherous night.
Each year in Brazil, 12 million people attempt to pass the exams to become a federal judge. And among them is a group of young people from Rio de Janeiro who are attempting to pass the final test. However, once there, they’ll go through a series of crazy and hilarious adventures.
After all the violent films focusing on social problems, this film adds a little levity to the list and is still one of the most helpful movies to learn Portuguese. Luckily, I was able to find this movie on YouTube for free as well!
Other Brazilian movies we love – Honorable mentions
If you’ve seen all of these or they just don’t strike your interest, here’s a list of more movies to learn Portuguese (we update it from time to time):
- The Assailant (Besuro)
- Last Stop 174 (Ultima parada 174)
- Adrift (A Deriva)
- Apenas o Fim
- If I Were You (Se Eu Fosse Você)
Enjoy your movie! And please, let us know in the comments section if your favorite Brazilian or Portuguese movie isn’t on our list!
Other Ways to Practice Listening Comprehension in Portuguese
If you’re a beginner and you try to watch one of these movies, you could end up frustrated by your lack of skills. But don’t give up on your studies altogether! Portuguese is a wonderful language to learn, for lots of reasons. Click here to find out why you should learn Portuguese. And the Portuguese language is actually not as hard to learn as you might think! You just need to pick the right learning tools. As we said at the beginning of this article, movies aren’t the best resource for everyone who wants to learn Portuguese. Try one of these resources instead:
- Activities for Brazilian Portuguese Listening Practice — Your first stop should be our article about all of the different ways you can practice Portuguese listening skills. We give you the best resources, plus tips on how to use them to boost your learning.
- Brazilian Portuguese TV Shows for Learning Portuguese – As we mentioned, TV shows are often better for beginners than movies, for a variety of reasons. They’re shorter, so even if you don’t get everything the first time around, you can watch an episode over again without it taking up 2 hours of your time. Plus, you have more time to get used to characters’ accents and try to figure out plot-based vocabulary. Check out this article for a list of our favorite Brazilian series.
- Portuguese Podcasts for Learners – Podcasts (pre-recorded radio shows you can download and listen to on your phone) are another good resource for beginner and intermediate learners. We tried out a bunch and listed our favorites in this article. They’re organized by level and topic so you can find just what you’re looking for.
- Resources for Practicing Portuguese – This page lists many other resources that our team has tested and found to be particularly effective for people who are learning Portuguese. They’re organized by category, so you’ll be able to find listening resources easily.
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