The 15 best Brazilian movies & TV shows to get you through lockdown
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Brazil has a bit of a reputation for releasing beautifully-produced, limit-pushing productions with compelling storylines. In my view, it doesn’t fall into predictable, over-dramatic plots as often as some of the telenovelas and lower budget films produced in other parts of South America (but that’s kind of why we love them, right?!). Brazilian TV and film are incredible realms in which to get lost for a few days, and luckily platforms such as Netflix are doing well to showcase some of the best Brazilian movies and TV shows out there.
Although they love a bit of dystopia, this collection of the best Brazilian movies and TV shows can still give you great insight into the culture of Brazil and mindset of its people. It’s a fantastic way to learn about the country before you go, plus you’ll always have something to chat to the locals about once you get there!
As luck would have it, all of the below TV shows are on Netflix (at least in my current region of the UK, a VPN will help you access any region’s Netflix), but unfortunately you’ll have to get a bit more creative with finding a place to watch the list of the best Brazilian movies. Rich in Love, Aquarius and City of God: 10 Years Later are all there, though!
After you’ve read this post on the best Brazilian movies and TV shows, you may also want to take a look at:
In my opinion, this is easily the best Brazilian TV show. Available on Netflix, 3% is like an adult take on the Hunger Games, where due to a lack of resources 97% of the dystopian population live in complete poverty, whereas each year 3% of 18 year-olds are given the chance to prove themselves as worthy of living in the luxurious Offshore, where they have crazy technology and want for nothing. The first season follows a new cohort of competing youths as they step over each other in rounds and rounds of logical, physical and ethical challenges, known as ‘El Proceso‘. Things get pretty explosive!
Boca a Boca / The Kissing Game
This Brazilian TV show is the LGBTQ zombie series we didn’t know we needed. Translated into English as ‘The Kissing Game‘, this Netflix hit starts in a small agricultural town in Brazil and follows a group of teens whose amorous actions spread a super-contagious virus that turns people into zombies. It’s modern, fast-paced and perhaps even a little quirky in places.
Coisa Mais Linda / Girls from Ipanema
Based in one of the richest neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro during the 1950s, this Brazilian TV show is the story of Maria Luiza, a housewife turns lemons into limonada and opens a bossa nova club after finding out her husband has run off. Bossa nova is a style of samba that was just finding its feet in Rio at this time before it spread to become a solid part of Brazilian culture. And of course, it has a sprinkling of romance and strong themes of finding oneself.
Bom Dia, Verônica / Good Morning, Veronica
This makes the list of the best Brazilian TV shows for how intricate and dark it is. A deep thriller, it follows police clerk Verônica as she investigates a suicide and series of murders of women, and unveils some grotesque crimes – all whilst fighting a steady stream of sexism, of course.
Irmandade / Brotherhood
What would you do if our brother was in charge of a criminal gang? What would you do if your brother was in charge of a criminal gang, and you were a lawyer with a good heart and no desire to cross the law? Would you snitch? Revered as one of the best Brazilian TV shows on Netflix, Brotherhood is a brilliantly-filmed, gripping tale of Cristina, who is forced to become a rat within her brother’s prison organisation.
A story from the streets of São Paulo, this incredible Brazilian TV show brings us the grit of the favelas, and shows the uphill struggle of three young friends to reach their dreams. With a style quite similar to La Reina del Flow – one of the best Colombian TV shows on Netflix – musical success, religious faith and the party lifestyle mix with the dark worlds of drugs, church corruption and gang violence. It’s a gripping look into the vibrant culture of favelas and the heavy issues that many less privileged Brazilians deal with on a daily basis.
Brazilian mega-star Anitta grants all access to the backstage of her jam-packed life. From writing a new song every month, to filming a music video in the Amazon rainforest and producing a world tour, we see Anitta push through various health problems to create a world-class experience and inspire as many fans as she can on the way.
Ninguém Tá Olhando / Nobody’s Looking
The best Brazilian TV shows are those that really push their creativity, and Nobody’s Looking is a prime example of this. In a school for what are essentially guardian angels, Ulisses is the newest divine creation, and so he begins his training to protect humans and uphold strict rules of the Angelus System. However, he has some questions and ideas that will shake up everything. You’ll find strong The Good Place vibes in this one!
The Best Brazilian Movies
Cidade de Deus / City of God
A classic in Brazilian film. It is based on a novel, but that novel was based broadly on real life events. Cidade de Deus is the name of the favela in which 2 young boys are growing. As they get older, their paths split off in different directions, with one striving to be a photographer, and the other working his way up the ranks of a violent gang.
What’s really striking about this common favourite of the best Brazilian movies is that instead of casting A-listers, many of the actors in the film were from the favelas in question, and given the huge opportunity to turn their fortunes around by taking part in a blockbuster. A sequel, City of God – 10 Years Later returns to the favela and documents 18 of the original actors’ lives now.
Haunting and raw, Carandiru is a masterpiece. It’s been given a place in the hall of best Brazilian movies for its thought-provoking exploration the country’s penal system and the wasted lives that lay within it. The film follows a doctor who goes into horrendously overcrowded Brazilian prisons to test prisoners for HIV. He takes the time to listen to their life stories in the build up to the real-life Carandiru Massacre that took place in 1992.
A Vida Invisível de Eurídice Gusmão / The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão
In terms of ratings, this is one of the best Brazilian movies in the last few years. The film focuses on two inseparable sisters in the 1950s whose father tore them apart to pursue different paths in life. One a talented pianist who made it to Europe, and the other trapped in a domestic world, we see their efforts to struggle through life alone before they can find each other again.
On the surface, this is just the tale of a middle-aged woman who is the last person in her block to refuse to sell her apartment to a development company. However, what makes this one of the best Brazilian movies in recent times is that it has been used as a political protest against Brazil’s government, namely in a perceived coup d’etat that resulted in Brazil’s first female prime minister being ousted in place of Bolsonaro. While not a political plot, there are enough connotations of a creeping loss of democracy for this to have been noticed.
Central do Brasil / Central Station
This is an uplifting pick of the best Brazilian movies, that brings us on a journey with Dora, whose job at the train station is to scribe letters on behalf of the illiterate people of Rio de Janeiro to their loved ones. In a bah humbug move, she doesn’t always even bother to send these letters.
However, when one of these illiterate clients dies, leaving her son alone in the city, she begrudgingly decides to give him a helping nudge towards finding his father in North-East Brazil, attempting to leave him on the bus. I won’t tell you what happens next but you can probably get the gist… It’s all sorts of bittersweet, heart-warming and beautiful.
Ricos de Amor / Rich in Love
A light & bright rom com, we’re taken on a journey of love between Teto and Paula. But there’s a catch; Teto has told his new lady that his upbringing was impoverished, which happens to be a complete and utter lie. If you want something sweet and light-hearted with a classic rainy romance scene, this is one of the best Brazilian movies for you.
O Ano em Que Meus Paid Saíram de Férias / The Year My Parents Went on Vacation
Another hard-hitter for you as the last in this list of the best Brazilian movies. This takes you to yet another decade in Brazil’s modern history, the 1970s, during which time the country was under a military dictatorship.
When a young boy, Mauro, is left to live with his grandfather so his parents can escape the political regime, we see parallels with the build-up to the Football World Cup while he awaits their return. After his grandfather dies, he leans on the Jewish community in a nearby neighbourhood for help and companionship.
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