If you’re learning Brazilian Portuguese and would love to watch some Brazilian movies on Netflix to help your understanding, you’re on the right track! Movies are a great way to immerse – especially if you’re brave enough to go for it without slowing the audio. More on that in a sec…
There are so many good Brazilian movies on Netflix, but the platform can be hard to navigate if you don’t know what to look for. So to help you, here’s a selection of shows I really enjoyed. I’ve chosen different genres, so hopefully you’ll find at least a few good ones that appeal to you.
Now, I highly recommend trying to watch without the English subtitles. This is pretty much essential if you want to check your comprehension – especially if you’re at that early intermediate stage where you can follow conversations. In fact, I'd like to give you a few tips for maximizing your learning potential with movies.
By the way, if you're just getting started in Portuguese and want to get to conversational level fast – minus the heavy grammar – I have an awesome story-based beginner course launching soon! Click here to find out about Portuguese Uncovered as soon as it's released.
How To Learn Brazilian Portuguese Through Movies
To get the most out of Brazilian movies on Netflix, here’s what to do…
- Watch the movie from beginning to end without subtitles. You don't have to understand every single word to grasp the context of what's going on. If you're busy reading subtitles, it’s very easy to miss visual clues as to what’s being said. As for speed, don’t slow the audio (here’s why).
- Second time around, watch the film with Brazilian subtitles. This is your chance to listen for any new words or phrases. Only check against the English where you’re really battling to understand.
- Write down new words and phrases you hear that seem memorable to you – especially ones that come up a lot in the story. I actually love doing this, because it gives me material to practice on Portuguese speakers!
- Pay attention to Portuguese pronunciation and sentence structure during the film to improve your speaking skills. It might be fun to test yourself saying cool lines out loud. I do this a lot when watching: I repeat lines under my breath, saying them just like the actors do!
- Learn with a friend. Choose a movie you’ll both enjoy so you'll be more motivated to work on it, and then discuss it together in Portuguese. If you have a language tutor, they might also be happy to do this with you. Just ask!
Still curious about how to make the most of foreign language movies? Check out this post.
So let’s get to it! We’ll count down from Brazilian movie number nine…
#9. Jonas (Jonah)
During Carnival in São Paulo, two youngsters from different social classes who knew each other as kids meet again after many years. The boy, Jonas, has difficulty dealing with his lingering childhood crush on Branca.
One day they get themselves into a very bad situation that could have serious consequences. Being young, they have no idea how to handle this right…
So Jonas kidnaps Branca in an attempt to keep them both safe from his boss. He hides her inside an enormous blue whale, the main float for the Carnival parade. The two of them reconnect and a romance develops – although it’s a bit of a messy Stockholm Syndrome situation. As the week progresses, things get very intense with the build-up to the parade and everyone frantically looking for Branca.
The movie has a rather surreal feel, with great shots of the floats. A few shaky bits, maybe, but it’s fun and a good opportunity to hear simple everyday Portuguese from the region.
#8. O Matador (The Killer)
If you like Westerns, here’s a fantastic 20th century bit of Brazilian wild west for you. It’s savage, yet sensitive – a great story with beautiful cinematography.
Set in 1940 in northeastern Brazil, this is the epic tale of a killer named Cabeleira who was born and raised in the lawless countryside of Pernambuco State.
It all begins when an abandoned baby boy is found in the wilds by a hired assassin named Seven Ears. He teaches him how to hunt, shoot, and kill. One day Seven Ears disappears and years later, the grown boy goes looking for him.
If you can’t watch extreme violence, give this one a miss – it’s pretty brutal. Definitely adults-only.
#7. Pai Em Dobro (Double Dad)
For a lighthearted, feelgood film about a teenager’s search for identity, you could try this one. Vicenza is an 18-year-old girl who has lived in a harmonious hippie commune her entire life. Her one sadness is she doesn't know who her real father is.
While her mother’s away on a trip to India, she sneaks out into the real world to try and find her dad. What she ends up finding is a bit more than she bargained for.
It’s not a serious film, but good for learning with and fun for a weekend watch with the family.
#6. Paraiso Perdido (Paradise Lost)
If you know Brazilian culture, it won’t surprise you that so many Brazilian films are music-rich. In this one, a policeman moonlights at a São Paulo nightclub as the bodyguard to Imã, a young and charismatic drag queen. He is drawn into this underground world and grows closer to the family of misfit singers that perform there.
Each of them has their own story of love and loss, but they hold it together with a powerful dedication to one another. It’s an emotive and colourful film exploring themes of diversity, domestic violence, betrayal and redemption. You’ll also get to see some touching performances of romantic Brazilian songs.
This one’s a little different. It’s a dystopian future series reminiscent of The Hunger Games, where 3% of an impoverished society are given the opportunity of a better life… if they can survive the grueling selection process.
20-year-olds from the favelas of São Paolo are put through a series of physical and psychological challenges called “the Process”. Those who win get a perfect life on a technologically and environmentally engineered island paradise called “The Offshore”.
There’s a diverse cast (the makers have taken great care to be inclusive) with some compelling characters. It takes a while to figure out what the backstory is, and what the mysterious island paradise will be like, but they’ve done this seemingly to build suspense.
#4. Cidade Invisível (Invisible City)
I have to include at least one fantasy series! This one was a big hit in Brazil and the cool part is they’re currently filming the second season.
After a family tragedy, an environmental officer gets caught up in the mystery of a dead freshwater pink dolphin that washed up on the beach in Rio de Janeiro.
This leads to a bizarre series of events, through which he discovers a hidden world of mythical creatures from Brazilian folklore living among humans. It’s a cool blend of drama and mystery, with some great special effects (scary for kids, though).
#3. Irmandade (Brotherhood)
This is a crime drama series set in 1990’s Sao Paulo. It follows Cristina, an honest lawyer whose estranged brother is the leader of a criminal faction called the Brotherhood. After he is arrested, the cops force Cristina to become an informant.
Torn between duty and family, she embarks on a dangerous mission, while trying to ease her brother’s suffering from the inhumane treatment he is receiving in prison.
It gets pretty dark and gritty, showing us a dramatic look inside the brutal prison system of 90’s São Paulo. Also interesting is how the sister’s attitude to crime and justice changes once her life becomes entangled with her brother’s.
#2. O Silêncio Do Céu (The Silence Of The Sky)
This is an intense psychological drama that will keep your eyes locked to the screen until the end. A woman is assaulted in her home and doesn’t tell her husband about it.
The opening scene is hard to watch, but necessary to set the stage emotionally. When the same scene is replayed from another point of view, it changes everything and you might feel angry and reluctant to keep watching, but what follows is a compelling story that shines a light on human weaknesses that can be hard to admit to – especially for men.
On the surface, the story is about survival and revenge, but it’s really about an ordinary man’s crippling phobias. Only the viewer sees who he is behind the “character” he shows the world. There are some wonderful, almost poetic lines describing his thoughts as he faces the ultimate test of his role as protector.
#1. Coisa Mais Linda (Girls From Ipanema)
My number one choice is this addictive Brazilian series: a lush period drama set in 1950’s Brazil.
Originally called “Most Beautiful Thing” in English, Coisa Mais Linda follows the story of Malu, a wealthy young housewife from São Paulo who moves to Rio de Janeiro to start a restaurant with her husband. Upon arriving, she finds he has abandoned her and disappeared with all the money.
With fierce determination, Malu finds a new dream to pursue: opening a bossa nova club. I love her resilience and the way she quickly forms a strong band of friends and allies. Meanwhile, she is dealing with the emotional impact of separation from her child…
Everything about this series holds your attention from the start: the setting, the costumes, the music, the characters… you feel truly immersed in Rio’s golden era of bossa nova.
Apart from the lush artistic beauty of every scene, the relationship dynamics are exciting. We’re given a glimpse into the struggles that Brazilian women faced in those times – particularly their search for freedom, independence and equality. A real winner!
Why Watch Brazilian Movies On Netflix?
I probably don’t have to convince you to watch movies, but some of you might need a nudge when it comes to watching foreign films. Can’t you just stick with Hollywood and save the language learning for apps, podcasts, and flashcards?
You could, but then you’d be missing out big time. Unless you’re in Brazil like I was, you’re not going to connect on an emotional level with the culture… but Brazilian movies on Netflix can bring you pretty close.
It’s a way to hear the spoken language in many different contexts and situations – especially how slang, colloquialisms and dialects are used.
Brazilian movies on Netflix also help you develop cultural, historical, and social fluency that you wouldn't pick up anywhere outside the country.
At the end of the day, this is a cool way to unwind and keep you engaged in the language throughout your journey to fluency. You might not always feel like a lesson, but there’s no reason to not watch a movie!
Well, that’s all, folks! I hope this selection helps you feel more at ease with Portuguese.