Peru's Top 10 movies

By Nathan Paluck

Terrorism, domestic abuse, corruption, racism, homophobia. Welcome to Peruvian cinema.

Originally published February 23, 2011

Terrorism, domestic abuse, corruption, racism, homophobia. Welcome to Peruvian cinema. 

But though Peru\‘s best films often focus on the country\‘s harsher realities, don\‘t let that scare you away. Here are 10 must-see movies.

10 Pantaleón y las visitadoras
Captain Pantoja and the Special Services

The second adaptation of Mario Vargas Llosa’s hilarious farce, "Pantaleón" is a fun, rather silly welcome to Peru’s jungle. Captain Pantaleón is given a secret mission to stop rapes by Peru’s horny grunts located in the libido-elevating jungle. The plan is to bring “visitors” to the encampments via jungle river boats. Hot scenes with Angie Cepeda as La Colombiana (shown here) made this the highest grossing film ever at Peru’s box offices.

2000, 137 minutes.Directed by Francisco Lombardi. Stars: Salvador del Solar, Angie Cepeda, Tatiana Astengo.


9 Paloma de Papel
Paper Dove

“Paloma del papel” looks at the horrors of Shining Path guerilla terrorism from the eyes of a village boy. Juan gets kidnapped and forced to join the fanatical Maoist group. The setting of the Andean highlands is harsh and beautiful. The story has soap opera moments (the director was a telenovela actor), but bear through those — the movie is worth your time.

2003, 90 minutes. Directed by Fabrizio Aguilar. Actors: Antonio Callirgos, Tatiana Astengo, Sergio Galliani.


8 No se lo digas a nadie
Don\‘t Tell Anyone

An adaptation of Jaime Bayly’s first novel, “No se lo digas a nadie” is a coked-up ride through Lima in the ’90s. We follow Joaquin, a young man torn up about his homosexuality in a homophobic society.

1998, 120 minutes. Directed by Francisco Lombardi. Stars: Santiago Magill, Christian Meier, Lucía Jiménez.

Click here to see the trailer.


7 Madeinusa

This film highlights the powerful mystical rituals of Peru’s Andes, and also chronic abuse (alcohol, domestic, sexual) present in its rural towns. It\‘s a masterful first collaboration between director Claudia Llosa and her star from Ayacucho, Magaly Solier, who plays the village teenager named Madeinusa. But the movie certainly leaves a strange taste in your mouth.

2006, 100 minutes, Directed by Claudia Llosa.
Stars: Magaly Solier, Carlos J. de la Torre and Yiliana Chong.


6 Dioses

A stark film that portrays emptiness in the Lima upper class. The largely despicable characters and a heavy theme of incest makes “Dioses” at times unbearable, but the film is made great with strong acting, sharp dialogue and clean cinematography. Sergio Gjurinovic plays the obsessed, insecure brother; Anahí de Cárdenas is the sister bored comatose with her world; Maricielo Effio plays a trophy wife who both scorns and aches for acceptance into the new world of privilege.

2008, 91 minutes. Directed by Josue Méndez


5 La boca del lobo
In the Mouth of the Wolf
Rough around the edges, “La boca del lobo” portrays the start of Peru’s deadly internal struggle against the Shining Path. Neither viewers nor the newly stationed army troops in the small Andean town ever see a Shining Path member, which adds to the tension and paranoia of the film. It’s a brutal film and a must-see for Peruvians and those interested in Peru’s Shining Path years.

1988, 128 minutes. Director: Francisco J. Lombardi. Stars: Gustavo Bueno, Toño Vega and José Tejada.


4 Contracorriente

“Contracorriente” was the big 2010 film release in Peru and winner of a slew of awards. It is a gay love story, with a twist of magical realism, on Peru’s gorgeous northern coast. The love triangle boasts strong performances by actors Manolo Cardona, Tatiana Astengo and Cristian Mercado (left to right in photo). Although some scenes in the town of Cabo Blanco feel a bit hokey, the message is right on.

2009, 100 minutes. Directed by Javier Fuentes-León. 


3 Mariposa negra
Black Butterfly
A riveting plot set in the height of the ’90s strong-armed, corrupted regime. Melania Urbina plays Gabriela, a mild-mannered school teacher turned bent on revenge after the murder of her fiancé, an honorable judge. Magdyel Ugaz plays a cynical tabloid reporter who first smears the judge’s good name, then becomes Gabriela’s accomplice and admirer. The film is dark and sexy; it is a Peru so corrupt that Gabriela’s desire for bloody revenge seems like the only beacon of hope.

2006, 118 minutes. Directed by Francisco Lombardi. Stars: Melania Urbina, Magdyel Ugaz, Gustavo Bueno.


2 La Teta Asustada
The Milk of Sorrow
Critics in Peru were upset that Peru’s first Oscar nomination portrayed backwardness and is  steeped in memories of war. Oh well, because "La Teta" (just, the boob), deserved all the awards showered on it and some. We follow around the stunning Magaly Solier as Fausto, camera focused on her wary, bang-framed eyes, as she tries to find a way to properly bury her mother. Claudia Llosa’s lens captures scenes in the outskirts of Lima like framed paintings, and Solier’s haunting melodies in Quechua will stick in your head for a while.

2008, 94 minutes. Directed by Claudia Llosa. Actors: Magaly Solier, Susi Sánchez, Efraín Solís.



1 Días de Santiago
Days of Santiago
Santiago is an ex-soldier who returns to Lima after combat time and finds himself lost in civilian clothes. Played by Pietro Sibille, in B&W scenes we hear Santiago giving combat analysis of the mundane struggles he faces. It becomes clear that for Santiago, an armed enemy would be preferred to the unforgiving city of Lima, which has the supporting role throughout the film.

We root for Santiago as he works as taxi driver, as he enrolls in a lousy institute, and as he defends his abused sister-in-law. But ultimately the cards are irreversibly stacked against him.
2004, 83 minutes. Directed by Josue Méndez.


Related article: Lima theater guide