Portugal might not be as known for the popular scene of France or Italy, but it also has a well-established film industry that is too often forgotten. For the Portuguese, supporting Portugal’s art is incredibly important.
Whether you have Portuguese ancestors or are an expat moving to Portugal, diving into Portuguese shows and movies is one of the best ways to discover the country’s culture and customs. Let’s take a look at the 6 best Portuguese shows and movies.
The first Portuguese Netflix original, Glória, takes first place on our list of best shows and movies about Portugal. Released in November 2021, this Netflix show was filmed between Lisbon and Ribatejo and won a Portuguese Golden Globe for Best Fictional Project.
Glória tells the story of João Vidal’s espionage mission in a small village called Glória do Ribatejo in the 1960s during the Portuguese dictatorship and at the height of the Cold War.
Working as an engineer at Radio Europa Livre, a radio organization financed by the US government that had as its main objective to fight communism and target the Soviet Union.
Based on a true story, Glória tells an even greater one about the political context at the time, including the US government’s presence in Portugal and its cooperation with a fascist Estado Novo, as well as the communist revolutionaries fighting the regime in secrecy.
Glória was created and written by Pedro Lopes and directed by Tiago Guedes. It includes iconic Portuguese actors such as Miguel Nunes, Carolina Amaral, Afonso Pimentel, Adriano Luz, and more.
2. Variações: Guardian Angel
If you have never heard of the great António Variações, you are missing out. A biopic about one of the most influential Portuguese artists of all time, António Variações, this movie made a mark when released in national cinemas all over the country in 2019. It was, by far, the most-watched Portuguese film in Portuguese theatres that year.
Directed by João Maia, the movie tells the story of Variações’ exciting life. A pop rock singer from the 80s, the movie goes through his whole life, including his life as a young gay boy in a rural area of Portugal. You also learn about his life as a hairdresser and visit iconic queer spaces such as Lisbon’s Trum
The movie follows Variações’ journey of self-acceptance in a homophobic Portuguese society and the rise of his short yet impactful career up until his death due to AIDS-related complications in 1984.
3. A Gaiola Dourada (The Gilded Cage)
France is known to have a large Portuguese immigrant population, particularly those escaping the dictatorship in the 1960s and 1970s looking for better living conditions. The parents of the director of A Gaiola Dourada, Ruben Alves, did just that. The movie is inspired by his parent’s life. A French-Portuguese comedy film, A Gaiola Dourada, translating to The Gilded Cage, was a great success when released in 2013, winning a People’s Choice Awards at the European Film Awards.
Maria and Jose Ribeiro have been living on the ground floor of an exclusive building in Paris for over 30 years. The modest couple is liked by everyone in the community, so their announcement of a return to Portugal leads to sadness all around.
4. Sangue do Meu Sangue (Blood of My Blood)
Released in 2011, Sangue do Meu Sangue (Blood of My Blood) is a social drama that was chosen as the Portuguese film to compete for the Oscar for best foreign film.
Written by Joao Canijo, this film is interpreted by Rita Blanco (Marcia) and Anabela Moreira (Ivete), two women that live in a suburban neighborhood in Lisbon and do everything to support their families. The film is about the love of women for their daughter and nephew, and how these women try to protect them from bad situations such as drug trafficking in Lisbon.
Sangue do Meu Sangue won awards at various cinema festivals, including Caminhos do Cinema Portuguese, where it won the Grande Premio do Festival. The film was such a success that in 2012, a longer series version was released to RTP1 with three episodes.
5. Capitães de Abril (April Captains)
Capitães de Abril is about – you guessed it – the April 25 revolution. The movie’s storyline is based on the military coup that occurred on April 25, 1974, and pays homages to the young soldiers that paved the way, primarily Salgueiro Maia.
This historical fiction and drama were released in 2000 and directed by Maria de Medeiros. The 24 hours of revolution is shown through the eyes of three protagonists: two captains and a woman who is a literature teacher and journalist.
The film was not always a great success in Portugal but was also released in Spain, Italy, and France, as well as presented at the Festival of Cannes.
6. Pôr do Sol (Sunset)
Pôr do Sol makes light of one of the most Portuguese art forms – “novelas”. A Portuguese dramatic comedy and satire available on RTP1 since 2021, the show was created to parody a Portuguese telenovela. In fact, most of the cast are some of the most popular actors in successful Portuguese novelas such as Gabriela Barros, Diogo Amaral, and Manuel Cavaco.
Directed by Manuel Pureza, Pôr do Sol became an overnight success. By 2022, the first season was available on Netflix. The second season was released on RTP1 in August of 2022. Due to its great success, it was announced in December 2022 that a Pôr do Sol: O Mistério do Colar de São Cajó movie will be released in 2023.
The show is like no other ever seen in Portuguese. The best way to describe it – outrageous. It will make you laugh throughout, particularly if you have watch the traditional Portuguese telenovelas.