July 20, 2011

Top 100 Mexican films, according to "Somos"

"Somos" was a Mexican magazine published by Editorial Televisa during the 90s, which began to focus on Mexican cinema, particularly the films of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema (not surprisingly, as Televisa had the rights for most of the films of that period). Through its pages, special editions dedicated to icons of Mexican cinema saw the light, with interesting information and superb still photographs of the likes of Pedro Armendariz, Dolores del Río, Pedro Infante, and even wrestler Santo. On July of 1994, "Somos" celebrated its 100th edition with a special edition called "The 100 best films of Mexican cinema". The list was compiled by 25 experts, including critics such as Jorge Ayala Blanco, historians like Eduardo de la Vega Alfaro, and members of the Mexican film industry (such as legendary cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa himself). The magazine was canceled in the early 2000s, but their list remains an interesting compilation of great films, and a great way to start to discover the richness of Mexican cinema.

To compile the list, the only rule was that the production had to be either completely Mexicanm, or at least mainly Mexican, which explains the exclusion of certain critically acclaimed co-productions (such as "Viridiana", which was mainly a Spaniard production). Also, the list tends to forget independent films, and it is centered mainly on the bigger films of the Mexican Golden Age. Of course, not everyone will be entirely happy at the sight of the exclusion of a film, but in the end, this is an attempt worthy of recognition, and as written above, a primer guide to get into Mexican cinema. Finally, it must be remembered that the list was compiled in 1994, which poses the question: what would appear in a new list of similar characteristics?

So now, the top 100 best films of Mexican cinema, according to "Somos" magazine (the year next to the film, is the year of production, not of release):

1. "Vámonos con Pancho Villa" (1935, Fernando de Fuentes)
2. "Los olvidados" (1950, Luis Buñuel)
3. "El compadre Mendoza" (1933, Fernando de Fuentes and Juan Bustillo Oro)
4. "Aventurera" (1949, Alberto Gout)
5. "Una familia de tantas" (1948, Alejandro Galindo)
6. "Nazarín" (1958, Luis Buñuel)
7. "Él" (1952, Luis Buñuel)
8. "La mujer del puerto" (1933, Arcady Boytler)
9. "El lugar sin límites" (1977, Arturo Ripstein)
10. "Ahí está el detalle" (1940, Juan Bustillo Oro)
11. "Campeón sin corona" (1945, Alejandro Galindo)
12. "Enamorada" (1946, Emilio Fernández)
13. "Pueblerina" (1948, Emilio Fernández)
14. "Canoa" (1975, Felipe Cazals)
15. "Los hermanos Del Hierro" (1961, Ismael Rodríguez)
16. "El ángel exterminador" (1962, Luis Buñuel)
17. "Cadena perpetua" (1978, Arturo Ripstein)
18. "El rey del barrio" (1949, Gilberto Martínez Solares)
19. "El esqueleto de la señora Morales" (1959, Rogelio A. González)
20. "Víctimas del pecado" (1950, Emilio Fernández)
21. "Tiburoneros" (1962, Luis Alcoriza)
22. "Distinto amanecer" (1943, Julio Bracho)
23. "Río Escondido" (1947, Emilio Fernández)
24. "La oveja negra" (1949, Ismael Rodríguez)
25. "La otra" (1946, Roberto Gavaldón)
26. "Reed, México insurgente" (1970, Paul Leduc)
27. "Nosotros los pobres" (1947, Ismael Rodríguez)
28. "Salón México" (1948, Emilio Fernández)
29. "Doña Perfecta" (1950, Alejandro Galindo)
30. "Flor silvestre" (1943, Emilio Fernández)
31. "La pasión según Berenice" (1975, Jaime Humberto Hermosillo)
32. "La sombra del caudillo" (1960, Julio Bracho)
33. "Calabacitas tiernas (¡Ay qué bonitas piernas!)" (1948, Gilberto Martínez Solares)
34. "Dos tipos de cuidado" (1952, Ismael Rodríguez)
35. "El vampiro" (1957, Fernando Méndez)
36. "La barraca" (1944, Roberto Gavaldón)
37. "María Candelaria (Xochimilco)" (1943, Emilio Fernández)
38. "El suavecito" (1950, Fernando Méndez)
39. "La diosa arrodillada" (1947, Roberto Gavaldón)
40. "Los confines" (1987, Mitl Valdez)
41. "El gallo de oro" (1964, Roberto Gavaldón)
42. "El Topo" (1969, Alexandro Jodorowsky)
43. "Sensualidad" (1950, Alberto Gout)
44. "El grito" (1968, Leobardo López Aretche)
45. "Danzón" (1991, María Novaro)
46. "Susana (Carne y demonio)" (1950, Luis Buñuel)
47. "Ensayo de un crimen" (1955, Luis Buñuel)
48. "Tlayucan" (1961, Luis Alcoriza)
49. "Ladrón de cadáveres" (1956, Fernando Méndez)
50. "Frida, naturaleza viva" (1983, Paul Leduc)
51. "Los tres huastecos" (1948, Ismael Rodríguez)
52. "El bulto" (1991, Gabriel Retes)
53. "María de mi corazón" (1979, Jaime Humberto Hermosillo)
54. "La noche avanza" (1951, Roberto Gavaldón)
55. "A. T. M. A toda máquina!" (1951, Ismael Rodríguez)
56. "Como agua para chocolate" (1992, Alfonso Arau)
57. "México de mis recuerdos" (1943, Juan Bustillo Oro)
58. "Los caifanes" (1966, Juan Ibáñez)
59. "Macario" (1959, Roberto Gavaldón)
60. "El apando" (1975, Felipe Cazals)
61. "Cabeza de Vaca" (1990, Nicolás Echevarría)
62. "Juego de mentiras" (1967, Archibaldo Burns)
63. "Rosauro Castro" (1950, Roberto Gavaldón)
64. "Esquina bajan...!" (1948, Alejandro Galindo)
65. "Doña Herlinda y su hijo" (1984, Jaime Humberto Hermosillo)
66. "Torero" (1956, Carlos Velo)
67. "Santa" (1931, Antonio Moreno)
68. "Gángsters contra charros" (1947, Juan Orol)
69. "La mujer de Benjamín" (1991, Carlos Carrera)
70. "En la palma de tu mano" (1950, Roberto Gavaldón)
71. "Matinée" (1976, Jaime Humberto Hermosillo)
72. "Amor a la vuelta de la esquina" (1985, Alberto Cortés)
73. "Doña Diabla" (1949, Tito Davison)
74. "Mecánica nacional" (1971, Luis Alcoriza)
75. "Doña Bárbara" (1943, Fernando de Fuentes)
76. "Los motivos de Luz" (1985, Felipe Cazals)
77. "Cronos" (1992, Guillermo del Toro)
78. "Ángel de fuego" (1991, Dana Rotberg)
79. "Luponini (El terror de Chicago)" (1935, José Bohr)
80. "La perla" (1945, Emilio Fernández)
81. "Nocaut" (1983, José Luis García Agraz)
82. "Santa" (1943, Norman Foster y Alfredo Gómez de la Vega)
83. "Los tres García" (1946, Ismael Rodríguez)
84. "Águila o sol" (1937, Arcady Boytler)
85. "El baisano Jalil" (1942, Joaquín Pardavé)
86. "Janitzio" (1934, Carlos Navarro)
87. "Sólo con tu pareja" (1991, Alfonso Cuarón)
88. "Viento negro" (1964, Servando González)
89. "Allá en el Rancho Grande" (1936, Fernando de Fuentes)
90. "Historia de un gran amor" (1942, Julio Bracho)
91. "Escuela de vagabundos" (1954, Rogelio A. González)
92. "La malquerida" (1949, Emilio Fernández)
93. "Las abandonadas" (1944, Emilio Fernández)
94. "Dos monjes" (1934, Juan Bustillo Oro)
95. "La ilusión viaja en tranvía" (1953, Luis Buñuel)
96. "La Cucaracha" (1958, Ismael Rodríguez)
97. "Espaldas mojadas" (1953, Alejandro Galindo)
98. "El automóvil gris" (1919, Enrique Rosas, Joaquín Coss and Juan Canals de Homs)
99. "Una carta de amor" (1943, Miguel Zacarías)
100. "Naufragio" (1977, Jaime Humberto Hermosillo)

For further comments on the list (in Spanish) by people from the ITESM college, go here.


cinemarchaeologist said...

I haven't seen most of the movies on this list, so it's hard for me to judge whether some things belong over others. I'm pretty down on ranking films in this manner anyway--even I couldn't create a list with which I wouldn't strenuously disagree. One potential criticism about this list is that the selections seem so heavily concentrated in a relatively small handful of filmmakers.

Buñuel is well-represented, but that's pretty easy to justify. I've never seen his "Él," but it scores high, here, just as it did on Cahiers du Cinema all-time-best-movie list, so I'm going to have to get around to it at some point. Missing, however, is "Simón del desierto," my personal favorite Buñuel, and one I'm pretty sure was one of his Mexican projects.

There's lots of Ismael Rodríguez. I only recently got into his stuff. TCM ran a slew of his movies a few months ago, and I liked all of them I was able to see. I got a real kick out of one called "Así era Pancho Villa," but I see it didn't make the cut. As I recall, he was supposed to have made one starring Toshiro Mifune, of all people, as an Indian (!!!), which would, perhaps, rank beside John Wayne as Genghis Khan and Charlton Heston as a Mexican lawyer when it comes to crazy casting choices (although Heston did just fine in his part, and Mifune was a lot better actor). I don't remember the name of it, though! Maybe it made the list.

I suspect Jodorowsky's "El Topo" probably belongs a lot higher up the list than it scores. That's one of those movies I read about for years and came into with great anticipation, only to have it exceed my expectations on just about every level. It's a remarkable piece of work.

Fernando Méndez scores with more than one picture, and it's nice to see a genre piece like "El vampiro" make the cut. Unfortunately, "Misterios de ultratumba," which I think is a seriously overlooked horror masterpiece, in the real sense of that word, remains overlooked by the compilers of this list.

The best thing about that list for me is that it gives me the names of a lot of movies I haven't seen, if I ever make any money to see them with (my own movie project is allegedly starting soon).

J Luis Rivera said...


"Él" is an amazing film, I think you would like it. I assume that the lack of "Simón del Desierto" may have had something to do with its runtime. Perhaps it was not considered a feature length film. Personally, I wouldn't had listed "Susana", and would probably included "Subida al Cielo" (a more Buñuel-surrealist film) instead of it.

On Ismael Rodríguez, well he basically is "Mr. Golden Age". Think of him as the Mexican Howard Hawks or Frank Capra: flexible, populist, efficient.

The one you mention is "Animas Trujano", which is not a very typical film of Rodríguez, but that it is pretty good. Mifune is actually very convincing as a Mexican indian (a lot better than Heston, that's for sure!). I don't know why they cast him in the first place, but he is pretty good nonetheless.

Indeed about "El Topo", and I would also include his more accesible horror film "Santa Sangre", which in case you have not seen it, you definitely should.

I agree with your comments on Fernando Méndez, "Misterios de Ultratumba" is a perfect horror film, not only in the context of Mexican cinema, but in general. I bet that either it was not as known, or that the list decided to go for the easy rout of listing Mendez' first horror ("Ladrón de Cadaveres") and his most famous ("El Vampiro").

Yeah, I think that's the best thing about lists: they open up new possibilities. I'm personally not that well acquainted to the cinema of the 70s, and will take a note to check some of them.

Hope everything goes well with your movie project. Let me know if I can join your crew. It would totally be worth the trip, I'm sure :)

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Well, I've seen part of the list (mostly the stuff from Jodorowsky, Buñuel and Ripstein), but strangely NONE of the horror films on there. And I have seen a lot of Mexican horror but have somehow managed to skirt around El vampiro, Ladrón de Cadaveres and Misterios de ultratumba all these years. Guess I should be a little embarrassed to admit I've seen stuff like Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy, Rock N' Roll Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy and Night of the Bloody Apres, but not some of the classics. :)

J Luis Rivera said...

What do you think of Ripstein? I've never seen one by him (just a western called "Tiempo de Morir", which seems to be his debut).

You are doing yourself a disservice by not watching "Misterios de Ultratumba"! Knowin gyour tastes, I'm sure you'll love it!