20 Essential Films For An Introduction To New Mexican Cinema

7. Cronos (Guillermo del Toro, 1992)

Cronos (1993)

Guillermo del Toro’s first feature film Cronos is one of the few remarkable horror titles Mexican cinema has produced. The film ambitiously features some of the topics del Toro would later explore and it marked his successful collaboration with Federico Luppi and Ron Perelman.

Receiving a limited release, Cronos immediately gained critical acclaim. Today, it is held as a solid first step in del Toro’s successful career and a masterpiece of horror cinema.

Cronos revolves around an ancient alchemic artifact containing the key to immortality.


6. Post Tenebras Lux (Carlos Reygadas, 2012)

Post Tenebras Lux (2012)

Written and directed by Carlos Reygadas, who won the Best Director Award at 2012 Cannes Film Festival, Post Tenebras Lux is an insane depiction of childhood and death among urban and rural daily struggles.

The film met hostility mostly among Mexican press but received better receptions among international critics who hailed it as a tasteful rarity worth to be seen.

Semi-autobiographical, Post Tenebras Lux follows a wealthy urban family moving to the Mexican countryside. Delighted by having reached the relaxed life they dreamed of, everyone will soon face the situation of cruelty and abandonment.


5. Nicotina (Hugo Rodríguez, 2003)


Nicotina is a nihilistic black comedy with real-time narrative. With its ups and downs, the film manages to deliver an entertaining and unpretentious collection of three stories interwoven by the irony of circumstances and their main characters’ relations with tobacco.

Lolo (Diego Luna in one of his most famous roles) is a hacker, active smoker, he works with a couple (Tomson and El nene) to deliver the access codes to a Swiss bank to the Russian mafia.

Though Lolo is highly skilled in his field, his obsession with his neighbor will lead him to deliver the wrong information, something that will bring terrible consequences to his teamwork with the couple. 


4. La Ley de Herodes aka Herod’s Law (Luis Estrada, 1999)

La Ley de Herodes

Herod’s Law is Luis Estrada’s first major satire of Mexico’s political and social problems. The film is regarded as a masterpiece of New Mexican Cinema and holds the freshness and spontaneity Estrada’s later projects (A Wonderful World, Hell and The Perfect Dictatorship) progressively lacked.

An acid representation of 20 century Mexican politics, Herod’s Law mocks the discursive association between power groups and the institutionalization of the so-called Mexican Revolution upon a national party that ruled Mexico for 70 uninterrupted years.

Herod’s Law follows Juan Vargas, an ignorant but ambitious old member from the Mexican revolutionary party (PRI) as he is appointed by his state secretary as a temporary mayor for San Pedro de los Saguaros, a marginal town surrounded by poverty and social backwardness.

Though Vargas’ main intentions are to actually improve San Pedro’s situation, he soon finds that it won’t be easy at all. First, he wasn’t told about the town’s extreme poverty, crime organizations and lack of institutional forces. To make matter worse, he finds out San Pedro’s last three mayors were lynched in a period of three years; something that makes him doubt about the reason for his appointment.

Vargas asks for his resignation. His boss rejects it and gives Vargas a dusted Mexican Constitution and a gun, claiming they are all Vargas needs to make money. Vargas will soon discover San Pedro’s hidden richness as the usual delights of power begins to divert him from his initial intentions.

Herod’s Law was 2000’s major winner of the Ariel price.


3. Heli (Amat Escalante, 2013)


One of the most recent controversial titles of New Mexican Cinema , Heli received mixed receptions due to the raw violence of its content.

The film premiered in competition for the Palme d’Or at 2013 Cannes Film Festival and gained recognition and prizes at several film festivals such as Palm Springs, Stockholm and Munich.

Heli depicts the reality of several Mexican towns, where life opportunities are spread among military services, illegal drug trade, and low salary jobs in factories.

Beto, a seventeen-year-old guy is trained to become a soldier, he falls in love with Estela, the thirteen-year-old sister of Heli, who is a just married man struggling to support his family.

Tired of Estela’s rejection of having sex with him but ultimately supported by her about escaping from their little town in Guanajuato to start a new life together, Beto finds the opportunity to accomplish his goal by stealing two packages of cocaine seized by the army.


2. Y tu mamá también (Alfonso Cuarón, 2001)

Y tu Mama Tambien

An Academy and Golden Globe Awards nominated film, Y tu mamá también (literally, And Your Mother Too) is one of Alfonso Cuarón’s first films to show his talent and vision.

An openly intelligent answer to the ultimately authoritarian and victimizing familiar morals Mexican Cinema mostly defended in the 20th century, the film was immediately acclaimed and, due to its explicit sexuality content, controversial. It was also held as a statement about 2000’s Mexican political transition and the challenges it faced.

A road film, Y tu mamá también follows the journey of Luisa (Maribel Verdu), Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael García Bernal) to the ideal beach.

Tenoch and Julio are facing the irremediable threshold of adulthood; Luisa is a terminal cancer diagnosed woman facing the proximity to her death. Their journey across an extremely poor Mexican countryside will offer them the unique experience to learn something about each other, friendship, love and sex.


1. Amores Perros (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2000)

Amores Perros

González Iñárritu’s first installment of his Death Trilogy, an overall acclaimed deep exploration of loss, regret and reality, is the rawest of them all. Yet, Amores Perros has not only González Iñárritu signature style but also a glimpse of the redemption he would repeat in his other two films 21 Grams and Babel.

A widely released title, Amores Perros is one of New Mexican Cinema’s biggest financial and critical successes. The film won a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Film and the Critics Week Grand Prize at 2000 Cannes Film Festival. It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Sometimes referred as the Mexican Pulp Fiction due to its structure, Amores Perros follows three love stories connected by a car accident.

Octavio (Gael García Bernal) is a young man who is in love with his tough brother’s pregnant girlfriend. Daniel (Álvaro Guerrero) is a business man who discovers his severely injured lover Valeria’s (Goya Toledo) solitude. El Chivo is a former guerrilla member, now a hitman, who stalks the daughter he abandoned.

Author Bio: Emiliano is a 23-year-old Ethics and Logic professor in a mexican high school, his favorite directors are Gaspar Noé, Lars von Trier, Stanley Kubrick and Wim Wenders.