The quality of Spanish films presented in the late 1990s was a clear indication that the next decade would be a much greater one, and great it was! Spanish films witnessed an explosion in creativity and popularity in this decade, a rebirth in the industry that began in the late 1990s and lasted into the 2000s. This rebirth was marked by the emergence of a new generation of filmmakers who were influenced by the country’s rich cinematic history but also brought their own unique styles to the screen.
In the 1990s, a series of young directors re-founded Spanish cinema, brought it up to date, professionalised it, ridding it of an amateurish and outdated image, and brought it to modernity and to the point where it could be put on a par in terms of technical and artistic quality with that of any other European country.
One of the top features of the new millennial is definitely the variety of genres and techniques that were presented in the Spanish films from the 2000s. There was a plethora of comedies, thrillers, and horror films; however, there were still many Spanish films that dealt with social concerns and politics.
The elevated involvement of women in front of and behind the camera was another trend in Spanish films from the 2000s. During this time, a number of female filmmakers, notably Icíar Bollaín and Isabel Coixet, rose to fame and received rave reviews. In other words, the 2000s were a dynamic and exciting time in the Spanish film industry, with a wide range of ideas and aesthetic choices.
What are the Best Spanish Films From the 2000s?
Coming up next, we remember the best Spanish films from the 200s that you should watch at least once in your life!
La Comunidad by Álex de la Iglesia (2000)
In 2000, De la Iglesia presented a powerful narrative structure without stridency in a film that acts as a perfect hinge between old and new Spanish cinema. In his Spanish film La Comunidad, De la Iglesia brought to light a black comedy echoing the work of other great filmmakers like Fernán Gómez, Azcona, Polanski and Hitchcock.
The film follows a real estate agent, Julia, who discovers a huge amount of money in the flat of an old man who has just died. From that moment on, Julia will have to confront the building’s peculiar neighbours, who know about the loot hidden by the former tenant.
La Comunidad features a splendid cast, including Carmen Maura, Emilio Gutiérrez Caba and Terele Pávez, who were simply brilliant. The film was well-received by the audience and the critics; it also won three Goya Awards, two Fotogramas de Plata and a Silver Shell at the San Sebastian Festival, among many others. The cast performances, the script, and the setting made the film one of the essential cult titles of contemporary Spanish films.
El Bola by Achero Mañas (2000)
Achero Mañas’s directorial debut was everything a filmmaker could ask for; the film was well-written, engaging, and featured superb acting; that’s how good the Spanish film El Bola was!
The film focuses on the tough and violent life of a 12-year-old boy named Pablo, known as El Bola, who lives with his abusive father and his submissive mother. However, everything changes when he becomes friends with the new kid at school, Alfredo. As the story develops, Alfredo’s parents discover Pablo’s mistreatment and make efforts to assist him and his family, unknowing of the consequences of this sweet gesture.
El Bola is a strong and emotional Spanish film that tackles delicate themes such as child abuse, violence, and friendship. Juan José Ballesta, who plays Pablo, and the rest of the young cast provided remarkable and outstanding performances. The film achieved huge success, winning Best Film, Best Actor for Juan José Ballesta, and Best Original Screenplay at the Cinema Writers Circle Awards, in addition to several accolades at the Goys Awards.
Habla Con Ella by Pedro Almodóvar (2002)
One of the constants in Almodóvar’s films is the absent body. In many of his films, the director works with characters who cease to exist, generally because of a tragedy such as death or disappearance, but these characters somehow continue to impose their presence. This could count as one of the main features of the director’s Pedro dramas, and the case wasn’t much different in his 2002 film Habla Con Ella.
The film is about two men named Benigno and Marco who become friends while taking care of two comatose women named Alicia and Lydia. Benigno is a male nurse who is obsessed with Alicia, a dancer he used to take care of before she was in a car accident and fell into a coma. Marco is a writer and journalist who falls in love with Lydia, a bullfighter who is also in a coma after being gored by a bull.
In the film, we are introduced to four characters who are right in the middle ground between existing and not existing, without identifying themselves with either of the two extremes. In Habla Con Ella, Pedro focused on the themes of gender and power relations. Both Lydia’s employment as a bullfighter and Alicia’s career as a dancer are historically male-dominated professions, and the film shows how the experiences of women in both fields are difficult and dangerous.
“Habla con Ella” is one of the finest Spanish films of the twenty-first century, and like many of Pedro’s films, it made a stir internationally, as it received the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, the BAFTA and a Golden Globe as well!
Te Doy Mis Ojos by Icíar Bollaín (2003)
In 2003, a hitherto little-known director, Icíar Bollaín, made one of the best Spanish films in history about gender-based violence, winning a host of awards and a public success.
Taking place in the beautiful city of Toledo, the film brings the story of a marriage cut short by marital violence; it is a chaotic love story between a woman tormented by fear but at the same time unwilling to leave her husband because she loves him, and a violent man who wants to change at all costs.
Te Doy Mis Ojos is a disturbing drama, with a great performance by Laia Marull and another immense one by Luis Tosar, who plays a very difficult role, but not as a villain, as usually happens in this type of story, but as a victim of himself. We feel compassion for him, despite how stupid, ignorant and violent he can be.
One of the elements that make this Spanish film successful is the enormous sensitivity and empathy with which the script is written; the aggressor is not demonised as commercial cinema tends to do, but rather, without trying to justify his behaviour, focusing on the hell of self-loathing that drives him to abuse his wife and her efforts to get out of a toxic relationship of dependency.
The film was well-received by the critics receiving many praises and awards, including seven Goya awards, to name a few.
Cachorro by Miguel Albaladejo (2004)
One of the most notable titles of Spanish LGBTI cinema in the twenty-first century is this story that delved into the gay underworld, especially that of the bear gay men (the word bear refers to hairy men with rugged looks in the gay culture).
The film follows Pedro, who is a gay man whose life takes an unexpected turn when his sister asks him to look after her son while she goes away to India. As the story unfolds, Uncle Pedro and his nephew embark on an eye-opening journey that changes their lives forever.
Miguel Albaladejo’s film marked a before and after in the representation of gay men, in a way, by speaking without complexes about promiscuity, open relationships, fatherhood and also about homophobia and discrimination.
Mar Adentro by Alejandro Amenábar (2004)
We can’t list the best Spanish films from the 2000s without mentioning Mar Adentro, the film that changed society’s view of euthanasia; euthanasia refers to the act of ending a patient’s life to limit their suffering. The Spanish film is inspired by a true story, the life of Ramón Sampedro, a man who, after becoming a quadriplegic, decides to end his life.
Ramón Sampedro’s story was one of the most talked about in Spain, a country where euthanasia was not legal at the time, and it stayed like this until 25 June 2021. When it was released, the film rekindled the flame of controversy and reopened a case that was still not completely closed, as Ramona Maneiro, the woman who helped him to die, had been acquitted for lack of evidence and later confessed guilt when the statute of limitations had expired.
Mar Adentro tells the story of Ramón Sampedro, a Galician sailor who suffered a horrible accident at sea, and because of that accident, he became a quadriplegic (paralysis in all four limbs of the body). After living thirty years counting on his family and friends for everyday activities, Ramón wanted to end his own life and die with dignity, as he could not live this way any longer. He tried to get the Spanish courts to grant him his wish, but that wasn’t an easy case to win!
An Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, a Golden Globe, a Special Jury Prize and the Volpi Cup for Best Actor from the Venice film festival, the awards for Best Director and Best Actor at the European Film Awards, no less than fourteen Goya Awards, these are only a few of the many awards the film swept.
Volver by Pedro Almodóvar (2006)
Volver is another masterpiece from Pedro Almodóvar, the most famous Spaniard, who became a regular face at the most prestigious film festivals. After an off-beat period in the 90s, the 2000s put Pedro Almodóvar back on the pedestal and at an even greater height than before, thanks to films like this one and his 2002’s Oscar-winner Habla Con Ella.
This film narrates the story of a working-class lady named Raimunda who lives in Madrid and has to deal with several family issues, including her parents’ deaths and the ghost of her mother, who returns to tie up loose ends left loose in her life.
The film has all the Almodóvar’s feminine universe features reflecting on the role of women in Spanish culture, particularly in relation to family and tradition. From young girls to old grandmothers, the experiences of women in different periods of life are explored in the film, along with how they deal with the pressures and expectations that their families and communities place on them.
The film also addresses the theme of domestic abuse and violence and how women are frequently expected to cope with these difficulties on their own.
Throughout the film, Raimunda’s mother’s ghost serves as a symbol of the past and the aftereffects of trauma. The mystical features of the film are cleverly created throughout the plot, giving it enchantment and mystery, which are some of the established characteristics of Pedro Almodóvar’s style.
The film received numerous Cinema Writers Circle Awards, such as Best Film, Best Actress for Penélope Cruz, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress for Carmen Maura.
Azul Oscuro Casi Negro by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo (2006)
In 2006, Daniel Sánchez Arévalo made one of the best debuts of the decade and in Spanish films history: a humanist, sensitive and romantic comedy-drama with no trace of sappy saga in which he brought together the most promising actors of the moment: Quim Gutiérrez, who won the Goya for Best New Actor, Marta Etura, and Antonio de la Torre, of course, who became the most prestigious performer of the decade.
Azul Oscuro Casi Negro follows Jorge, who is struggling to find a proper job because he has to take care of his father. Things get even worse for him when his ex-girlfriend reappears at the wrong time, and to top it all off, his brother, who is in prison, asks him for something surprising that will turn his life upside down!
Besides being the darling of the Goya Awards the year of its release, the film also received very favourable reviews from the press and public for its plot and the performances of its cast of actors and actresses.
Rec by Jaume Balagueró &Paco Plaza (2007)
Rec is one of the great modern classics of Spanish horror and the horror genre as a whole. Winner of two Goyas and three statuettes at the Sitges Festival in 2007, Rec shook up the pre-crisis Spanish horror and film scene.
The film follows Angela, a television reporter who is tasked to record a report on the daily life of a fire station. The men at the fire station tell her that it is normal for nothing to happen or for them to have a routine outing. Everything goes smoothly until a call comes in: an old woman has fallen in her flat. It doesn’t look like much, but it turns out to be way too much for Angela and the firefighters to handle!
What made the Spanish film such a sensation was the innovative daring of the first-person ‘mockumentary’ to narrate the whole film and the subtle satire of the Spanish community. The film was an absolute success winning many awards, and it turned into a series of films; Rec 2 (2009), Rec 3: Genesis (2012), and Rec 4: Apocalypse (2014).
El Orfanato by Juan Antonio (2007)
Speaking of the genre of horror, we have to give a shoutout to Juan Antonio’s El Orfanato! The film follows the story of Laura, who was raised in an orphanage and who later returns there with her husband and young son Simon in order to renovate it and make it a home for children in need.
However, Simon starts talking to an imaginary friend, and odd things start happening in and around the house. As Laura looks into the strange occurrences, she discovers a sinister truth about the orphanage’s history and is forced to deal with the ghosts who are believed to haunt the house.
The use of gothic horror elements in the film, such as a haunted house and a tragic past relating to the orphanage’s former residents, is one of its standout features. Additionally, it examines themes of motherhood, loss, and the extent to which a mother would go in order to protect her child, as well as the terrible psychological impacts that loss can cause.
El Orfanato received praise from critics and audiences alike for its cast’s powerful performances and excellent shocks. It was nominated for several international awards and won Best Cinematography at the Central Ohio Film Critics Association festival.
Overall, Spanish films witnessed an incredible amount of success in the 2000s, both domestically and internationally, with many talented filmmakers and actors delivering outstanding performances and memorable Spanish films. These films also demonstrated an ever-evolving industry that continues to inspire and captivate audiences today through its exploration of social issues and showcased a diverse range of styles, themes, and genres.