Classic Movies Set in Mexico

A giant Mexican flag flies against a blue sky

Christian Frausto Bernal / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Whether you're planning a trip and want to prepare by getting in the mood or reminiscing about trips you've taken, these movies will transport you to Mexico where the sun is hot, the desert is dusty and passions run strong.

Most of these are Hollywood movies​ and portray Mexico in a very stereotypical manner, so you may not learn anything about Mexico from them, but at least you can be entertained and enjoy the landscape.

01 of 11

Spectre (2015)

The Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City
Juan Fernando Ibarra / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The thrilling opening sequence of the 24th James Bond movie, Spectre, starring Daniel Craig and directed by Sam Mendez was shot in Mexico City's historical center. The action included a fabulous Day of the Dead parade and views of the Metropolitan Cathedral and other historical buildings.

02 of 11

Apocalypto (2006)

The Veracruz jungle in Mexico
Alanruiz45 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0

Mel Gibson's offering takes place at the time of the fall of the Mayan civilization. Billed as "a heart stopping mythic action-adventure," some reviewers say Apocalypto is long on action (and gore) and short on plot. The movie was shot in the Mayan language in the jungles of Veracruz.

03 of 11

Nacho Libre (2006)

Street scene in Oaxaca, Mexico
Melissa Kuhnell / Getty Images

Fans of slapstick comedy will enjoy Nacho Libre, in which Jack Black plays Ignacio, a monk who doubles as a wrestler to earn money to buy food for orphans. Filmed on location in Oaxaca.

04 of 11

Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

The Cathedral de Saltilla in Coahuila in Mexico
Foto Carlos Avila Arquin / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The culmination of Robert Rodriguez' El Mariachi trilogy brings together Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, and Salma Hayek.

This trilogy began with groundbreaking El Mariachi in 1992, made with a shoe-string budget and shot in Spanish in a border town of Coahuila. Columbia Pictures distributed the film and gave Rodriguez the opportunity to make his Hollywood debut with Desperado in 1995, in which Antonio Banderas takes over the role of El Mariachi.

Continue to 5 of 11 below.
05 of 11

Frida (2002)

The Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo's former home
David Bank / Getty Images

Salma Hayek stars as the eccentric artist Frida Kahlo and Alfred Molina plays her husband, Diego Rivera, in this biopic that tells the life story of one of Mexico's most loved painters.

A lot of the film was shot in Kahlo's home, the Casa Azul (now a museum) in the Coyoacan area of Mexico City. It was nominated for six Academy Awards and won two (Best Original Score and Best Makeup).

06 of 11

The Mexican (2001)

Mexico City from the air
Fernando Espinosa de los Monteros / Getty Images

Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts star in this crime comedy about a bumbling criminal who goes to Mexico to get a priceless antique gun, "the Mexican" and gets deeper and deeper into trouble. His girlfriend Samantha (Roberts) gets kidnapped by a hit man to ensure that the Mexican does not get into the wrong hands.

07 of 11

All the Pretty Horses (2000)

The Presidio ranch in Texas
Witold Skrypczak / Getty Images

Billy Bob Thornton directed this movie based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy. Matt Damon plays John Grady Cole, a young Texan who convinces a friend to cross the border with him to find work. They wind up on a large Mexican horse ranch. He finds favor with the boss at his ability to break wild horses, and he catches the eye of the boss's daughter, Alejandra, played by Penelope Cruz.

08 of 11

Like Water for Chocolate (1992)

Elevated view of Cohuilas, Mexico
Luis Castaneda Inc. / Getty Images

Based on the novel by Laura Esquivel, this movie set in revolutionary Mexico tells the story of Tita and Pedro, young lovers who cannot marry because her mother insists that Tita, as the youngest daughter, must remain single to care for her in her old age. Pedro ends up marrying her older sister. Tita discovers that her emotions are transmitted through her cooking to those who eat the food she has prepared.

Continue to 9 of 11 below.
09 of 11

Old Gringo (1989)

Boats in a marina outside of Sonara, Mexico
travelgame / Getty Images

Gregory Peck, Jane Fonda and Jimmy Smits star in this adaptation of a novel by Carlos Fuentes set during the Mexican Revolution. The movie tells the story of an odd love triangle between an American school teacher (Fonda) who goes to Mexico to find work as a governess, a general in the revolution (Smits) and an aging writer, the "Old Gringo" (Peck).

10 of 11

The Night of the Iguana (1964)

The zona romantica in Puerta Vallarta
Greg Vaughn / Getty Images

In this adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play directed by John Huston, Richard Burton plays a defrocked priest who travels to Mexico and finds work as a tour guide. His plans to stay on the straight-and-narrow are challenged by various women who tempt his resolve.

The film was shot in Puerto Vallarta—you can visit the set of the movie which is now a restaurant on Mismaloya beach.

11 of 11

Fun in Acapulco (1963)

Aerial view of the beach in Acapulco, Mexico
Peter Adams / Getty Images

Elvis Presley stars as a trapeze artist suffering from fear of heights after an accident. In Acapulco, he works in as a boat hand and singer but finds plenty of time to frolic in the sun with pretty girls. Of course, he eventually gets over his phobia and proves it by cliff diving—and gets the girl (though that went without saying).

In Acapulco, see the cliff divers and Villa Vera Hotel which appear in the movie.

Was this page helpful?