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.
Here are some of the best Brazilian films on Netflix and Amazon Prime in the US as of October 18, 2021. If you’re not in the US, just click the title to check if the show is available in your country.
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.
To amp up your Portuguese learning, try Google Chrome browser’s free Language Learning with Netflix (LLN) extension. It allows you to watch subtitles in two languages, listen to dialogue one line at a time, and change playback speed. There’s also a pop-up dictionary, and LLN suggests the most important words for you to learn.
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.
Best Brazilian Movies on Netflix
1. Modo Avião (Airplane Mode)
No English subtitles available for YouTube trailer. Click to watch trailer on Netflix.
This charming rom-com is one of the most popular non-English movies produced by Netflix.
Brazilian actress and Instagram mega-star Larissa Manoela stars as Ana, a young social media influencer addicted to her smartphone. When she crashes her car while using her phone, Ana’s shipped to her grumpy grandfather’s farm in the country and forced into a digital detox.
Sweetly predictable, with easy-to-understand dialogue. Filmed in the city of São Paulo and the picturesque town of São Bento do Sapucaí in São Paulo state.
2. Emicida: AmarElo – É Tudo Pra Ontem (AmarElo – It’s All For Yesterday)
This inspiring documentary features São Paulo MC Emicida’s performance at the city’s gorgeous Theatro Municipal.
Between concert scenes, the rapper and activist celebrates the rich legacy of black Brazilian culture.
3. Democracia en Vertigem (The Edge of Democracy)
Political documentary and personal memoir collide in this poetic exploration by filmmaker Petra Costa.
Insider footage provides unprecedented access to the downfall of presidents Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva and the erosion of Brazilian democracy.
I especially loved the mesmerizing aerial shots of Brasília, the nation’s capital.
4. Pai Em Dobro (Double Dad)
In this sweet Brazilian comedy, a teen sneaks out of the hippie commune where she lives with her mom and embarks on a quest to discover who her father is.
5. Cidade Pássaro (Shine Your Eyes)
Lyrical drama by Brazilian filmmaker Matias Mariani.
Amadi, a musician from Lagos, Nigeria, arrives in São Paulo to track down his estranged brother, who is living a life very different than the one his family thought.
Intriguing portrait of the lives of African diaspora with stunning cinematography of the high-rise canyons of São Paulo.
This multicultural film features dialogue in Igbo (a national language of Nigeria), English, Portuguese, Hungarian, and even Chinese.
6. Alice Júnior
Joyful coming-of-age story. A glamorous trans teenage YouTube star moves to a small town in the south and shakes up her conservative Catholic high school.
Well-made documentary about iconic footballer Pelé, his quest for perfection, and the mythical status he attained.
The film examines the extraordinary 12-year period in which Pelé, the only man to win three World Cup titles, went from superstar in 1958 to savior in 1970, a radical yet turbulent era in Brazil’s history.
8. Operações Especiais
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.
In this moving, dreamlike documentary, Petra Costa, who also directed The Edge of Democracy, remembers her older sister, Elena, who left her life behind under Brazil’s dictatorship and moved to New York with dreams of becoming an actress.
A melancholy film about longing, grief, and memory.
10. O Matador (The Killer)
This excellent but extremely violent Brazilian Western tells the story of Cabeleira (Shaggy), a savage killer from the barren sertão of Pernambuco state in the 1910s to 1940s.
Cabeleira, raised by a local cangaceiro (bandit) who found him as an abandoned baby, grows up in the wilderness, completely isolated from civilization. Cabeleira’s search for his lost father leads him back to civilization, but he cannot escape the legacy of his violent past.
Characters speak with heavy Northeastern accents.
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.
12. Paraíso Perdido (Paradise Lost)
A cop moonlights as the bodyguard for a young drag queen at a nightclub, and grows closer to the family of misfit singers that perform there.
This thoughtful film featuring musician Seu Jorge also includes subtitled dialogue in Brazilian Sign Language, Língua Brasileira de Sinais or LIBRAS.
13. Cidade de Deus: 10 Anos Depois (City of God: 10 Years Later)
Fans of the seminal Cidade de Deus 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.
Cute Christmas comedy filmed in Rio. Stuck in a time loop where it’s forever Christmas, a family man who hates the holiday learns lessons about what’s important in life.
Best Brazilian Movies on Amazon Prime
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.
1. Que Horas Ela Volta? (The Second Mother)
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.
2. Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad)
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.
Unfortunately, this film seems to come and go frequently from free Prime streaming, so if you don’t find it available, try adding it to your watchlist and checking back later. You can also buy it here.
3. Tropa de Elite 2 – O Inimigo Agora é Outro (Elite Squad: The Enemy Within)
Available free on Amazon with ads, or rent it here. Note: Unfortunately, this film seems to come and go frequently from Prime, so if you don’t find it available, try adding it to your watchlist and checking back later.
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.
Critically acclaimed Brazilian drama that traces the story of Sócrates, a 15-year-old living on the margins of Santos, on São Paulo’s coast.
After his mother’s sudden death, Sócrates must survive on his own while facing his grief and overcoming poverty and homophobia.
5. A Vida Invisível (Invisible Life)
Haunting tropical melodrama set in 1950s Rio.
Eurídice and Guida are two inseparable sisters living with their conservative parents. Each one nourishes a dream: Eurídice of becoming a renowned pianist, Guida of finding true love
In a dramatic turn, they are separated by their father and forced to live apart. They take control of their separate destinies, while never giving up hope of finding each other.
Starring Julia Stockler, Carol Duarte, Gregório Duvivier of Porta dos Fundos fame, and Fernanda Montenegro. By the director of Madame Satã.
Based on the Brazilian novel “A Vida Invisível de Eurídice Gusmão” by Martha Batalha.
Brazil’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2020 Academy Awards.
6. Reaching for the Moon
This biopic of celebrated American poet Elizabeth Bishop is primarily in English, but is by Brazilian director Bruno Barreto (Four Days in September, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands). It’s loosely based on the tumultuous love affair between Bishop and Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares.
I enjoyed the inclusion of Bishop’s poetry, and the beautiful locations in Rio, Petrópolis, and Ouro Prêto.
7. 2 Coelhos (Two Rabbits)
Note: Available free on Amazon with an XLTV channel trial.
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.
Amazon Prime Brazilian Films for Rental
1. Cidade de Deus (City of God)
A cult classic that received four Oscar nominations and made Film4’s “50 Films to See Before You Die.”
Set in a lawless slum, this unforgettable drama tells the story of a boy called Buscapé (Rocket) who avoids being drawn into a life of drugs and crime through his passion for photography.
2. Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus)
Note: No English subtitles available
This superb retelling of the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice is set against Rio de Janeiro’s madness during Carnival. Black Orpheus earned an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
3. Cidade dos Homens (City of Men)
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.
A beautiful meditation on aging, memory, and intimacy. Sônia Braga delivers a magnetic performance as Clara, a retired writer and widow who’s the final holdout in her historic beachside building in Recife.
Tensions ratchet up as greedy developers bent on demolition try to bully Clara into selling her cherished apartment.
5. Sonhos Roubados (Stolen Dreams)
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.
6. Vermelho Russo (Russian Red)
Inspired by the diary of actress Martha Nowill, this first-ever Brazilian-Russian film co-production follows two young Brazilian actresses in Moscow studying the Stanislavski method.
This engaging documentary-style film depicts the inner journey of a group of foreigners in a culture extremely different from theirs.
7. Gringo Favelado
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.
8. Além dos sonhos (Beyond Dreams)
Inspiring documentary about Brazilian mountaineer Roman Romancini, who overcomes cancer and a car accident to take on the most challenging expedition of his life: climbing Mount Everest.
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.
10. O Outro Lado do Cartão-Postal (The Other Side of the Postcard)
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.
11. Luz, câmera, pichação (Lights, Camera, Pichação)
Pichação, or tagging, is a common sight in the metropolises of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Pichadores often compete to leave their spray-painted signatures in the highest, most inaccessible locations.
For many, pichação is vandalism. This Brazilian documentary follows some pichadores and gives them a voice, revealing their methods, personal stories, and beliefs.
More Top Brazilian Movies
Many classic Brazilian films are not available streaming on Netflix or Amazon. Where possible, I’ve included a list of available streaming services under each film.
Don’t forget to also check your local library and YouTube.
Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco (1981)
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.
All viewing options:
O Auto da Compadecida (A Dog’s Will) (2000)
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).
Central do Brasil (Central Station) (1998)
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.
All viewing options:
Bruna Surfistinha (Confessions of a Brazilian Call Girl)
This racy drama is inspired by the true story of Raquel, a rebellious teen who ran away from home for a new life as a high-class call girl. She soon became Bruna Surfistinha, a national celebrity who blogged about her salacious experiences. However, fame brought its own set of problems.
Based on the non-fiction book O Doce Veneno do Escorpião: O Diário de uma Garota de Programa (The Scorpion’s Sweet Venom: The Diary of a Brazilian Call Girl).
All viewing options:
Bye Bye Brasil (1980)
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.
All viewing options:
Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands) (1976)
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.
All viewing options:
O Que é Isso, Companheiro? (Four Days in September)
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.
All viewing options:
Ônibus 174 (Bus 174)
Tense documentary by the director of Tropa de Elite.
In 2000, Sandro do Nascimento, a young man from a poor background, held passengers on a bus hostage for four hours. The infamous event was caught live on television. The movie examines the incident, what life is like in the favelas of Rio, and how the Brazilian criminal justice system treats the lower classes.
Cidade Baixa (Lower City)
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.
All viewing options:
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Have feedback on these best movies from Brazil or more Amazon Prime or Netflix Brazilian film recommendations? 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
Ricardo H Tabone
Ingrid, obrigado por postar estas ótimas listas!
Eu sou professor na Carleton University em Ottawa e vou seguir as suas recomendaçoes!
Fico feliz que seja útil pra você, Ricardo!
Drake Cordell Johnson
Thanks for this list! Deborah Secco did a great job in “Confessions of a Brasilian Call Girl”! I enjoyed it very much!! Another intense one… “Last Stop 174” Very dramatic, based on a true story.
Thanks! I’ll look into adding those.
Muito obrigada! From PAULA In New Zealand!
De nada, Paula!