Watching Brazilian movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime is a great way to practice Portuguese vocabulary and listening skills. Brazilian films also allow you to learn about the culture and gain exposure to different regional accents and slang.
If you are an intermediate or advanced learner, I recommend watching with Portuguese subtitles if available as studies show it enhances language learning. I also jot down any interesting new vocabulary and add it to my Anki flashcards later.
Here are some of the best Brazilian films on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in the US as of June 1, 2019. If you’re not in the US, just click the title to check if the show is available in your country. Watch these movies while you can, because content disappears as licensing agreements expire.
Also, don’t miss my list of recommended Brazilian TV shows on Netflix.
Netflix has finally readded this cult classic to its streaming catalog. This unforgettable drama received four Oscar nominations and made Film4’s “50 Films to See Before You Die.” Set in a lawless slum, Cidade de Deus tells the story of a boy called Buscapé (Rocket) who able to avoid being drawn into a life of drugs and crime by having a passion for photography.
This critically acclaimed film stars the great Sonia Braga as a retired music critic and widow who refuses to sell her apartment to greedy developers bent on demolition. She delivers a powerful performance as the final holdout in her historic beachside building in Recife.
Political documentary and personal memoir collide in this exploration by filmmaker Petra Costa into the downfall of presidents Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva and the erosion of Brazilian democracy.
Here in the US I had to change the preferred language in my Netflix profile to Portuguese to access the version with Portuguese narration.
In a crime-plagued area of Rio de Janeiro, a team of honest cops, including a determined rookie, fights corruption and mistrust on all sides.
Fans of the seminal Cidade de Deus (see above) shouldn’t miss this fascinating documentary that reunites some of the cast and crew to find out the paths their lives took after the film’s worldwide success.
Young Cuca leaves his idyllic village on a grand adventure to find his father, who has traveled to the city seeking work. Brazilian artist Alê Abreu’s masterpiece earned major accolades, including an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature.
Language note: The entire film contains very little dialogue and what dialogue there is, is actually Portuguese, but backwards! So it might not be the best choice for Portuguese listening comprehension. 😉 This charming animated fantasy does contain many cultural references, however, as well as a spectacular mix of Brazilian music on the soundtrack.
Best friends Juliano and Joaquim head for Serra Pelada with dreams of riches during the Brazilian Gold Rush of 1980, but greed scuttles their plans.
During Carnival in São Paulo, a young man and woman from different social classes who knew each other as children meet again after many years. On the day of the festival, Jonas kidnaps Branca in order to keep them both safe from his boss. Hiding inside the whale, the main float for the Carnival parade, the two reconnect and make choices that will affect their lives forever.
The first Netflix original documentary made in Brazil. After living as a man for nearly 60 years, Laerte Coutinho, one of Brazil’s most brilliant cartoonists, introduces herself to the world as a woman.
All the Brazilian films on this list are available to stream free for Prime members. Amazon Prime Video search by language or country is pretty terrible, so I have done the hard work for you. 🙂
Don’t have Amazon Prime yet? To watch these movies, click here to start your 30-day free trial.
Touching, realistic portrayal of class divides in Brazil.
The longtime housekeeper for a wealthy São Paulo family, Val is committed to loyalty and respect. But her values and the dynamic of the whole household are challenged when her teen daughter visits.
Selected as the Brazilian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards.
Note: No English subtitles available
Moving and surprisingly sweet coming-of-age tale of three teenage girls fighting for their dreams in a favela of Rio de Janeiro. This award-winning film by director Sandra Werneck features great performances and provides a realistic look at the dilemmas faced by these young women, while celebrating their joy, solidarity, and friendship.
Also stars Rio rapper MV Bill, known for his street-level activism helping kids and combating violence in the favela Cidade de Deus where he lives.
Based on the book “Corner Girls – A Diary about the Dreams, Trials and Adventures of Six Adolescents in Brazil,” by journalist Eliane Trindade, who spent two years documenting the lives of six teenage girls trying to achieve their dreams despite having to prostitute themselves to make ends meet.
This feel-good documentary follows two teenage ballet dancers aspiring to leave their violent favela homes in Rio de Janeiro to join a revolutionary dance company in the US.
Inspired by the diary of actress Martha Nowill, this first-ever Brazilian-Russian film co-production recounts the soul-searching trip of two young Brazilian actresses in Moscow. The film makes use of documentary filmmaking technique to portray a fictional story that depicts the inner journey of a group of foreigners in a culture extremely different from theirs.
It’s about half in English, but this fascinating and moving documentary explores life in Rio’s poverty-stricken favelas through the eyes of three British expats who decided to call them home.
Pichação, or tagging, is a common sight in the Southeastern metropolises of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Pichadores often compete to leave their spray-painted signatures in the highest and most inaccessible locations.
For many, pichação is vandalism. This documentary follows some pichadores and gives them a voice, revealing their methods, personal stories, and beliefs.
Fresh out of medical school, beautiful young Verônica navigates wildly passionate affairs, dicey career moves, and harrowing life decisions as she settles down in Recife. Trailer mildly NSFW.
Enter the raw and gritty world of São Paulo’s kidnapping epidemic, following a film crew as they ride alongside special police units over four years. A chilling look at the trauma suffered by kidnap victims and their families, as well as the tremendous pressure facing the police investigating these crimes.
Rio de Janeiro’s City of God favela is known for crime and poverty, but this French documentary offers a different perspective. The film explores a changing city, highlighted by revamped public security. An inspiring portrait of a resilient, hard-working people joined in celebration of life and music.
Set over 72 hours at the height of the 2012 attacks and counterattacks between military police and organized crime in São Paulo, the lives of five people collide: a young man on leave from prison, his straitlaced brother, his best friend, a rookie cop, and a young actress.
This social documentary looks beyond the postcard image of Rio to its often misrepresented darker side. The Favela Pacification Program was launched in 2008 to reduce crime and drug trafficking in Rio de Janeiro. In April 2015, however, police shot and killed 10-year old Eduardo. The program had become the very thing it was designed to destroy.
Note: No English subtitles available – Watch subtitled trailer on Amazon instead
Fans of the Afro-Brazilian art of capoeira will enjoy this hybrid documentary, which mingles a fictionalized story with archive footage from the early days of capoeira.
Jorge Itapuã and Ella, two traveling capoeira players, master and disciple, go on a journey around the world to encounter the capoeira movement in various countries like Israel, India, Japan, and Indonesia.
Subscribers to Netflix’s DVD service may be dwindling, but for movie buffs it remains a good way to access a large catalog of mostly older films. If you have a DVD subscription, don’t miss these classic Brazilian films.
These films can also likely be found at your local library or even on YouTube.
Note: No English subtitles available
This superb retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice Greek legend is set against Rio de Janeiro’s madness during Carnival. Black Orpheus earned an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
Dora (Fernanda Montenegro), who writes letters for illiterate people at Rio de Janeiro’s central railroad station, feels compelled to help 9-year-old Josué locate his estranged father after the child’s mother dies in a car accident. This Oscar-nominated drama follows Dora and the boy on their journey to Brazil’s remote Northeast.
If you liked Cidade de Deus, don’t miss this gritty action-thriller that became a cultural phenomenon in Brazil. Warner Moura stars as a captain in the elite BOPE squad, a paramilitary police commando force, in this brutal tale of corrupt cops and drug dealers in the slums of Rio.
The film is based on the book of the same name by sociologist Luiz Eduardo Soares and two former BOPE captains.
Tropa de Elite‘s hugely popular sequel is a bleak exposé of corruption and crime in Brazil often considered superior to the original.
The action picks up 13 years after the end of the first film. After a deadly prison riot, Captain Nascimento is promoted to a powerful new post and swept into a bloody political dispute that involves government officials and paramilitary groups.
This fast-paced, violent action thriller is the highest-grossing film of all time in Brazil.
In this follow-up to Cidade de Deus, 18-year-old best friends Acerola and Laranjinha are struggling to come to terms with the pressures of manhood in the midst of a bloody neighborhood gang war.
Sensual tale with great performances set in gorgeous, gritty Salvador starring Alice Braga and Wagner Moura. When two childhood friends become entangled in a steamy love triangle with an exotic dancer, the resulting jealous battle threatens to destroy them.
Sadly, Netflix’s DVD catalog is constantly shrinking, and some really excellent Brazilian films are not available. Look for these gems at your local library or on YouTube.
Heartbreaking tale of Pixote, a street kid who becomes enmeshed in an underworld of drugs and violence. This chilling portrayal of children reduced to theft and prostitution to survive was filmed on the streets of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Tragically, the illiterate 11-year-old who plays Pixote was killed in a shoot-out by police a few years later.
Note: No English subtitles available for trailer
This Brazilian box-office sensation based on a play follows the fanciful misadventures of two friends in an impoverished region of Northeast Brazil who have to use their wits to survive. Their schemes eventually land them on trial being judged by the Devil, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary (played by the excellent Fernanda Montenegro).
Internationally popular road movie that follows a ragtag circus troupe crawling from small town to small town through the Brazilian backwaters. This gentle ode to the past features stunning visuals and some great performances.
Based on the novel of the same name by Jorge Amado, this fanciful Brazilian comedy takes place in 1940s Bahia. Dona Flor (Sonia Braga) is a young woman who weds a handsome ne’er-do-well. When he suddenly dies, she marries a respectable but dull pharmacist, but soon finds herself longing for hubby No. 1. Next thing you know, his ghost appears.
Based on a moving true story, a group of young idealists plans a terrorist act — their only perceived means of voicing their dreams and visions in a military regime — in this account of the 1969 kidnapping of the American ambassador to Brazil. Some dialogue in English.
This adrenaline-fueled action thriller features lots of slick visual effects, animations, and pop culture references. Enjoyable despite an overly tangled plot involving gangsters and corrupt politicians.
You may also like:
Have feedback on these Brazilian movies or more Netflix or Amazon Prime recommendations? Some of my best suggestions come from readers! Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Banner image from the movie O Roubo da Taça (sadly no longer on Netflix) © 2016 by Caito Ortiz – Agência Pressphoto