Top Movies: Best in Mexico for Day of the Dead

Nov. 2, 2010, is the Day of the Dead holiday (or “Día de los Muertos” for all you purists) celebrated in Mexico and by Mexican Americans, so we at Disc Dish thought it would be a great time to compile our Top Ten Movies set in Mexico. Now, sure, Day of the Dead might be about, well, the dead, but we’re not limiting our movies to that, although a quick look at our list reveals that non-Mexican filmmakers seem to focus on the nastier, sleazier aspects of the lifestyles of our neighbors to the South.

Still, there’s no denying that the movies we’ve singled out possess a notable, almost visceral kick and they’re not easily forgotten.

What do you think?

Tener un buen momento!

The Wild Bunch, 1969

The Wild Bunch (1969) / Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
Sam Peckinpah was intensely interested and sympathetic toward Mexico and its people, though you might not think so after watching our two favorites in his canon: Nasty, violent, revenge-fueled epics that revel in the kind of machismo that Latin countries are known for.
Alfredo Garcia available on DVD from MGM/Fox; Wild Bunch available on DVD and Blu-ray from Warner

Duck, You Sucker (1972)
Also known as A Fistful of Dynamite, Sergio Leone’s least-known western epic finds on-the-run IRA explosives expert James Coburn and slimy bandito Rod Steiger getting drawn into the Mexican Revolution. It’s a surprisingly powerful and political film.
Available on DVD from MGM/Fox

Que Viva Mexico, 1979

Que Viva Mexico (1979)
Though he shot nearly 50 hours of footage for what was to be a saga on the history of Mexico, Russia’s great Sergei Eisenstein never finished this stunning late-1920s movie, which was ultimately put together some 50 years later by Grigori Alexandrov as an imagery-filled, non-linear documentary.
Available on DVD from Kino

The Bullfighter and The Lady (1951)
Robert Stack is an American in Mexico who takes up bullfighting to impress sizzling Joy Page in this fine Budd Boetticher drama, which was filmed entirely on location by a director who loved the “corrida del toros” almost as much as he loved making films.
Not available on DVD, but there are some used, old Republic VHS copies floating around online

The Magnificent Seven, 1960

The Magnificent Seven (1960) / The Professionals (1966)
Steve McQueen, Burt Lancaster, Charles Bronson, James Coburn and many other popular leading men of the 1960s protect the downtrodden of Mexico’s poorest villages in the two greatest American westerns ever set in Mexico. Cue that machismo that we were talking about earlier.
Magnificent Seven available on DVD and Blu-ray from MGM; The Professionals available on DVD and Blu-ray from Sony

Touch of Evil (1958)
Life on the border has never been so nefarious as it was in Orson Welles’ late-career masterwork about drugs and corruption in a Mexican bordertown.  The justifiably famous 3½-minute opening shot grandly tracks a bomb being  planted in a car in Mexico and ends with its detonation in the U.S.
Available on DVD from Universal

Viva Zapata!, 1952

Viva Zapata! (1952)
Direction by Elia Kazan, a screenplay by John Steinbeck and an Oscar-nominated performance by Marlon Brando go to bat for this rousing fictionalized account of the renowned Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata.
A few Fox VHS copies are still floating around, but they’re pricey

Fun in Acapulco (1963)
Nothing dead about this movie! In it, Elvis dives from cliffs and belts out a dozen songs to a deliciously bikinied Ursula Andress in Mexico’s most luxurious, sun-kissed tourist spot. Fun factoid: All of The King’s scenes were filmed in Hollywood; Elvis never traveled to Acapulco in his entire storied lifetime.
Available on DVD from Paramount

Fun in Acapulco, 1963

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston and Tim Holt equal greed, greed and more greed in this bona fide American classic by John Huston, a filmmaker who doesn’t need no stinkin’ badges.
Available on DVD and Blu-ray from Warner

Revenge (1990)
Kevin Costner is a restless American, Anthony Quinn is his shady Mexican father figure and Madeleine Stowe is his white-hot wife in this unabashedly old-fashioned (and sorta cheesy) crime drama/romance about a gringo messing around with the wrong woman. Mexico has never looked more alluring.
Available on DVD and Blu-ray from Sony

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.