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It’s Portuguese Movies Time! A Guide for Portuguese Learners


Movies are a complex language. They unite sound and image in movement to form symbols and meaning for many purposes and across many cultures. That’s why watching foreign Portuguese movies makes it easier for learners of this language to get in touch with cultural elements of Portuguese-speaking countries, and allows them to hear how the vocabulary is used in real situations.

Learn Portuguese watching movies? Yep!

Learners can improve their hearing abilities with movies. In addition, they can explore the symbols, habits, landscapes, and general information that’s portrayed on the screen. A movie can be an open door for many things, from knowing the works of certain directors and actors to developing academic studies on a theme of choice.

Movies are also very good for learning idiomatic expressions. The placement of a phrase in a specific situation will give the viewer insight about the correct pronunciation, context of use, and variations—all in a few seconds!

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Table of Contents

  1. How to Watch These Portuguese Movies
  2. List of Portuguese Movies for Learners
  3. Conclusion

1. How to Watch These Portuguese Movies

Improve Pronunciation

The following list features some of the best Portuguese movies of all time, including movies in Brazilian Portuguese, Portuguese from Portugal, and a little Portuguese from Angola. You can find some of these Portuguese movies on Netflix and some of them on DVD/Blu-Ray.

You may find other means to watch Portuguese movies online. There are some video on demand services like Amazon Prime, Globo Play, or Play Plus, that offer a good set of movies in Portuguese. They even enable you to watch movies online with Portuguese subtitles.

2. List of Portuguese Movies for Learners

Movie Types

1- A Dog’s Will (2000)

This Portuguese comedy movie is a modern classic of Brazilian cinema. It’s based on a play by author Ariano Suassuna, who is famous for blending popular culture with religious tradition in his works.

The folkloric João Grilo and his sly buddy Chicó are cheap con artists (malandros) in the Northeast of Brazil. Their encounter with Lampião, a historical figure known as a kind of Brazilian Robin Hood, results in their death and the afterlife judgement involving Jesus, the Devil, and the Virgin Mary.

Besides famous director Guel Arraes, virtually all actors in this Portuguese film are famous: Fernanda Montenegro, Selton Mello, Matheus Nachtergaele, Virgínia Cavendish, Marco Nanini, Diogo Vilela, Denise Fraga, and many more.

Quotes and expressions

 English MeaningUsage/Additional Notes
Vixe Maria“Holy Mary”Used to express surprise
Mais frouxo que calço de porta de lojaLiterally: “more loose than a store’s door stop”Frouxo, which translates to “loose,” is commonly used in the Northeast of Brazil, meaning “coward.” The comparison is used to intensify its meaning.
Cachaceiro“Drunk”Used to refer to a frequent drinker
Olha o respeitoLiterally: “look at the respect”Used to reclaim respect when one feels it isn’t given
Velho besta“Silly old man” 

Is any dialect used?

The movie is bathed in Northeast Brazilian imagery, culture, and idiomatic expressions.

2- Brainstorm (2000)

After his marijuana drug use is exposed, a middle-class teenager named Neto gets locked in a mental institution by his father. Neto will face challenges for his sanity and learn how to mature in his “rehab” season.

As far as Portuguese drama movies go, this one is interesting not only on account of the main plot (family drama) and good cast, but also because it depicts a tragic public health structure that’s very recent in Brazil and shows how the patients managed to live in such conditions.

Directed by Laís Bodanzky, the movie stars Rodrigo Santoro, Cássia Kiss, Othon Bastos, Caco Ciocler, Gero Camilo, and Luis Miranda—all of them big Brazilian actors. Arnaldo Antunes (a Brazilian musician with a poetic career) contributed to this movie’s soundtrack.

Quotes and expressions

This Portuguese movie uses a lot of slang words and phrases, making it a great watch for learners wanting to learn everyday lingo.

 English Meaning
Sossega-leãoSomething that calms someone down
Ficar numa boa“To be alright”

Is any dialect used?

This movie doesn’t really use a dialect, mostly standard Portuguese and Southeastern slang.

3- Foreign Land (1995)

Set at the beginning of the 1990s, Brazil is ruined. A Brazilian guy of Spanish descent travels to Portugal in search of economic opportunities. He finds odd jobs as a migrant, one of which is delivering a mysterious package which grants him trouble with the police.

This is the first movie on this list that deals with the “transatlantic brotherhood” of Brazil, Portugal, and Angola. Foreign Land is one of the best Portuguese movies to watch for learners who want to understand idiomatic differences between these countries. You may also hear the occasional fake accent!

The main characters are played by famous actors Laura Cardoso, Alexandre Borges, Fernanda Torres, and Fernando Alves Pinto. The movie was directed by Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas.

Quotes and expressions

 English MeaningUsage/Additional Notes
O que você quer com ele?“What do you want with him?” 
Não gosto do Choque“I don’t like the shock.”This one doesn’t really qualify as a common expression, as it’s used in a very specific context in the movie.
Madié“Young man”This is an Angolan expression.

Is any dialect used?

This Portuguese film contains Brazilian, Portuguese, and Angolan vocabulary and pronunciation.

4- Love is All (2011)

This movie follows the ingenious plan of a poor and desperate family to make famous brega singer Ivan Carlos impregnate their daughter—and leave them part of his alimony.

One of the top Portuguese movies for learners, it’s an acidic, cynical, and well-produced satire of contemporary Brazilian popular tastes, values, and family relations. The cast is huge.

The cast gathers dramatic heavyweights Lima Duarte and Vera Holtz together with younger faces such as Marisol Ribeiro, Luana Piovani, Ailton Graça, and Robson Nunes. This film also features pop singer Latino.

Quotes and expressions

The song lyrics are a resourceful tool for exploring Brazilian culture, since they accurately depict the lyrical universe of contemporary Brazilian trashy-pop music. Some of the common expressions are:

 English MeaningUsage/Additional Notes
Ó o rapa“The police is here”This phrase is used by the police to announce their arrival when they come to apprehend the informal sellers’ merchandise.
Eu não quero ser grosso com você“I do not mean to be rude with you” 
Colocar chifre na cabeça“To put horns on one’s head”This refers to cheating in a romantic relationship.
Hoje eu vou te castigar“Today I will punish you”This phrase is mostly used with a sexual connotation.
Fogo de palha“Straw fire”This phrase refers to short-term excitement.
Cair na gandaiaTo go partying and drinking 
RebolarTo dance moving your bottom 

Is any dialect used?

This movie contains very informal Brazilian language and some regional accents.

5- Central Station ( 1998 )

This is another modern classic of Brazilian Portuguese cinema. A bitter former schoolteacher works as a letter writer for illiterate people in the Central Station of Rio de Janeiro. She meets a young boy, whose mother has died, and helps him find his father in the hinterland of Northeast Brazil.

This was the first Brazilian movie to be nominated for the Oscars. This heartfelt production is a type of road movie that shows many faces and traits of the Brazilian culture.

It also features an amazing cast: Fernanda Montenegro, Marília Pêra, Othon Bastos, Matheus Nachtergaele, and Caio Junqueira. The film was directed by Walter Salles.

Quotes and expressions

 English MeaningUsage/Additional Notes
Ele pôs algo na ideia“He added something to the idea” 
Se achegue“Come closer”Northeastern slang
Massa“Cool”Slang used mostly in the state of Bahia
Escrevedor“Writer”This is the same as the word escritor, but is spelled like people say it in the hinterlands.

Is any dialect used?

The main characters speak with a carioca accent. But from the Central Station until their trip, the characters cross paths with people of different accents and backgrounds.

6- Mysteries of Lisbon (2010)

Interested in Portuguese historical movies? This movie is set during the late 1700s to early 1800s, and is based on a novel by seminal Portuguese writer Camilo Castelo Branco. This kaleidoscopical narrative chronicles personal dramas of multiple characters related to Father Dinis, a village priest involved in the local affairs and very connected to the young orphan João.

The final movie of Chilean director Raúl Ruiz, Mysteries of Lisbon is a very intense movie filled with revelations, emotional complexity, and the historical curiosities of Portugal before the arrival of Napoleon. It’s a 272-minute behemoth of a movie.

The cast is composed of experienced actors such as Adriano Luz and Ricardo Pereira, and relatively new faces such as Maria João Bastos and João Arrais. It also features French movie star Léa Seydoux.

Quotes and expressions

Eu tinha quatorze anos e não sabia quem eu era. Às vezes os outros perguntavam se eu era filho do padre Dinis. Eu não sabia responder a eles. Todos tinham apelidos—eu era só João.

“I was fourteen and did not know who I was. Sometimes the others asked me if I was Father Dinis’ son. I did not know what to answer. Everyone had nicknames—I was just João.”

Is any dialect used?

Lisbon-style speech and local culture are the main linguistic focus, but there’s a good variety, including parts spoken in French.

7- Abraham’s Valley (1993)

Ema is a stunningly beautiful girl married to an older man she doesn’t love, who is a friend of her father. They move out to Abraham’s Valley, where she’ll find her way to real love.

This is one of the most interesting Portuguese romance movies of prolific Portuguese movie director Manoel de Oliveira. It depicts the relationship and social dynamics in modern Portugal. The poetic narrative and beautiful landscapes and imagery are distinctive to this movie.

The film features actors José Pinto and Leonor Silveira—Oliveira’s longtime collaborator.

Quotes and expressions

Ema significava a extremidade de qualquer coisa. A sua beleza constituía uma exuberância e, como tal, um perigo.

“Ema meant the extreme of anything. Her beauty constituted exuberance and, as such, danger.”

Is any dialect used?

Not exactly a dialect, but it’s a good opportunity to get more familiar with Portuguese from Portugal.

8- Fados (2007)

Fados is a movie that’s hard to define. The plural of its title communicates that this is Saura’s take on the modern mixtures of the traditional Portuguese musical rhythm fado. This globalized portrayal of fado combines very different inheritances of the lusophonic world.

Saura is a legendary Spanish director with the difficult task of conducting a cinematic essay on a type of music. The poetic storytelling of Fado combines lights, music, and dance in an original way. This includes the sometimes forgotten but significant African influence on this type of music—and the spoken language in it.

The film features a cast of well-respected musicians and artists from Portugal and Brazil, including Mariza, Camané, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Carlos do Carmo, Toni Garrido, and Amália Rodrigues.

Quotes and expressions

There are many lyrical expressions in the tunes. For example: Sopra Demais o Vento, or “The wind blows too much.” Here, order inversion is used for poetic purposes, and this line is an adaptation of a poem by Fernando Pessoa.

Is any dialect used?

There’s a blend of dialects and regional traits from Brazil and Portugal. This is another reason why this movie is so interesting.

9- At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul (1964)

An eccentric and sadistic funeral agent promotes a personal, obsessive search for the perfect female to give birth to his son in a little town. He’ll raise hell to achieve his goal.

One of the best Portuguese horror movies, this classic Brazilian film will give the viewer insight into the cinematic production of director
José Mojica Marins, the father of Brazilian horror. This includes his legendary character of long nails Zé do Caixão (Coffin Joe).

José Mojica Marins is the only famous actor in this movie. This is the first of a series of movies that blended the image of Marins and his character in the popular perception.

Quotes and expressions

 English MeaningUsage/Additional Notes
Trata-se daquela santinha“It’s about that little saint”The word santinha is often used to refer to an innocent woman or a small image of a female saint.
Mais um caneco“One more mug” 
Vocês são muito amáveis“You [plural] are so lovely” 
Emissário de Satanás“Emissary of Satan”This can be used in normal conversation as an offense.
Almas penadas“Banshees” 

Is any dialect used?

The caipira accent from Brazil is distinctive in some parts of this movie.

10- Desmundo (2002)

This movie is based on Ana Miranda’s novel about the colonization of Brazil through a feminine point of view. Oribela is a young Portuguese orphan who is sent to a settler in the recently founded colony of Brazil in 1570. The plot revolves around her troubling development in this new hellish world.

The depiction of colonial Brazil is rarely shown through the perspective of a woman, or from a point of view removed from the royal circles of Portugal.

Apart from the cultural criticism of the origins of Brazil, the production is very accurate in its details—the clothing, the habits depicted, and the language, for instance.

The cast blends famous old-school actors such as Cacá Rosset, Osmar Prado, and the late Beatriz Segall with a (then) new breed of performers: Caco Ciocler, Simone Spoladore, and Hugo Possolo.

Quotes and expressions

Some idioms are interestingly recognizable to modern speakers of Portuguese. For instance, quando casar, passa, which means “once married, it’ll pass.”

Is any dialect used?

This movie toggles on the “hard mode” in this list. The spoken language is an archaic form of Portuguese, which sometimes blends with Spanish.

3. Conclusion

Top Verbs satisfies avid learners of this very expressive language with quality cultural content. Both classic and contemporary movie experiences combine to enhance learners’ experiences of foreign cultures. PortuguesePod101 gives you the tools—you finish the job.

Which of these Portuguese language films do you plan to watch first? Let us know in the comments, and happy learning!

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