Filipino cinema, also known as Philippine cinema, has a rich and vibrant history dating back to the early 1900s. Over the years, Filipino filmmakers have produced a wide range of films that reflect the country’s unique cultural heritage and address social, political, and economic issues facing the Filipino people.
One of the most significant developments in Filipino cinema came in the 1970s, when a group of filmmakers known as the “Second Golden Age” emerged. This group, which included filmmakers like Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal, produced films that tackled controversial topics such as poverty, corruption, and human rights abuses. These movies were praised for their raw and realistic portrayal of Filipino society and helped establish Philippine cinema as a major force in Southeast Asia.
Today, Filipino cinema continues to thrive, with filmmakers producing a diverse array of films ranging from romantic comedies to gritty dramas. Many of these films have received international recognition and have been featured at major film festivals around the world.
Best Filipino Movies
If you’re looking to explore the world of Filipino cinema, there’s no shortage of great movies to choose from.
1. Sisa (Gerardo de Leon – 1951)
Sisa is a 1951 Filipino film directed by Gerardo de Leon, based on the character Sisa from Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere. The film follows the tragic story of Sisa, a mother who descends into madness and loses her two sons due to the cruelty and corruption of the Spanish colonial government in the Philippines during the 19th century.
The film is known for its powerful storytelling and cinematography, as well as its exploration of themes such as colonialism, oppression, and motherhood. It has been hailed as a classic of Philippine cinema and a landmark in the history of Filipino filmmaking.
Sisa was also notable for its depiction of the struggles of the Philippine revolutionaries against the Spanish colonial regime, which helped to inspire a sense of national identity and pride among Filipino audiences.
2. Child of Sorrow (Lamberto V. Avellana – 1956)
Child of Sorrow is a classic Filipino film directed by Lamberto V. Avellana, which was released in 1956. The film is based on a novel by Zoilo Galang and tells the story of a young boy named Mario, who grows up in a small village in the Philippines during the early 20th century.
The film explores themes of poverty, social injustice, and the struggle for survival. It shows the hardships and struggles that the people of the village face as they try to eke out a living from the land, and the ways in which their lives are affected by the larger political and economic forces of their time.
Child of Sorrow is a powerful and moving film that showcases the talents of Avellana as a director. The film features stunning cinematography, evocative music, and a deeply moving performance by its young lead actor, Mario Barri.
It is a testament to the resilience and strength of the human spirit, and to the enduring power of hope and love in the face of adversity.
3. Malvarosa (Gregorio Fernandez – 1958)
“Malvarosa” is a 1958 Spanish drama film directed by Gregorio Fernandez. The movie is based on the novel of the same name by the Spanish author Armando Palacio Valdés.
The film is set in a small village on the coast of Spain and tells the story of a young woman named Leonor, who works in a factory and dreams of a better life. Leonor is torn between her love for a local fisherman and her attraction to a wealthy businessman who offers her a chance to escape her impoverished existence.
“Malvarosa” is known for its sensitive portrayal of the lives and struggles of working-class people in rural Spain. The movie explores themes of love, loyalty, and social class, and offers a vivid depiction of the harsh realities of life in a small village.
The film features strong performances by its cast, particularly Carmen Sevilla in the lead role of Leonor. “Malvarosa” is also noted for its beautiful cinematography and its evocative depiction of the Spanish landscape and coastline.
Overall, “Malvarosa” is considered to be one of the classic works of Spanish cinema, and is celebrated for its powerful storytelling, memorable characters, and profound insight into the human condition.
4. Blessings of the Land (Manuel Silos – 1959)
The film revolves around the life of Maria and Jose, a Filipino couple residing in a village. They establish an orchard of lanzones and have four children, including Miguel, who is deaf and mute. Their peaceful life is disrupted when Bruno, a widower with a questionable past, enters their community and courts Choleng, a niece of Jose.
Tragedy strikes when Choleng falls off a cliff while trying to escape from Bruno. In fear of the villagers’ anger, Bruno goes into hiding in the mountains but later returns and rapes Angelita, Jose’s daughter.
In pursuit of justice, Jose and the villagers chase Bruno, but Jose is shot by him. Arturo, one of Jose’s sons, goes to Manila, while Miguel starts a courtship with Gloria, a woman in the village.
Arturo returns from Manila with a woman from the city and convinces his mother, Maria, to mortgage the rice fields before returning to Manila. Meanwhile, a landowner from another town hires Bruno to destroy Maria’s family’s lanzones harvest.
However, Bruno and his group fail due to the resilience of the villagers. In a confrontation, Miguel kills Bruno. Arturo returns again and reconciles with his family. “Blessings of the Land” explores themes of family, tragedy, justice, and the triumph of the human spirit.
It was recognized with Best Picture and Best Story awards from the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences and was showcased at the Asian Film Festival held in Tokyo in 1960.
5. Manila in the Claws of Light (Lino Brocka – 1975)
“Manila in the Claws of Light” is a 1975 Filipino drama film directed by Lino Brocka. The movie follows the story of Julio, a young provincial man who travels to Manila in search of his girlfriend Ligaya, who has gone missing after moving to the city to find work.
Once in Manila, Julio struggles to survive as he becomes entangled in the harsh realities of urban life, including poverty, corruption, and exploitation.
The film is known for its realistic portrayal of Manila during the 1970s and for highlighting the social issues affecting the urban poor. Brocka’s direction and the performances of the cast, particularly Bembol Roco as Julio, have been highly praised by critics and audiences alike.
The movie was also acclaimed internationally and won the prestigious 1980 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts.
“Manila in the Claws of Light” is considered one of the greatest Filipino films ever made and a masterpiece of Philippine cinema. Its impact on the country’s film industry and society as a whole is immeasurable, inspiring a new generation of filmmakers to tackle important social issues and explore the human condition.
- Hilda Koronel, Rafael Roco Jr. (Actors)
- Lino Brocka (Director)
- English (Subtitle)
- Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
6. Three Godless Years (Mario O’Hara – 1976)
Three Godless Years is a 1976 Philippine film directed by Mario O’Hara. The film is set during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War II and tells the story of three men who are forced to become guerrilla fighters in order to survive and resist the brutalities of the Japanese army.
The film is known for its realistic portrayal of the war and its impact on ordinary people, as well as its exploration of themes such as heroism, sacrifice, and survival. It features strong performances from its lead actors, particularly the late Bembol Roco, who plays the role of the conflicted and complex protagonist.
Three Godless Years is widely regarded as one of the greatest films in Philippine cinema and has been hailed for its artistic merit, social relevance, and historical significance. It is a powerful testament to the resilience and courage of the Filipino people during one of the darkest periods in their history.
7. In Just the Wink of an Eye (Mike De Leon – 1981)
In Just the Wink of an Eye is a Filipino film directed by Mike De Leon, which was released in 1981. The film is a political thriller that explores the tense political climate of the Philippines during the time of martial law under the regime of President Ferdinand Marcos.
The story follows a group of friends who become involved in a political conspiracy that threatens to expose the corruption and abuse of power at the highest levels of government. The film uses a complex and multi-layered narrative structure to explore the themes of power, corruption, and the struggle for freedom and justice.
In Just the Wink of an Eye is a critically acclaimed film that is regarded as a masterpiece of Philippine cinema. It is noted for its sophisticated and intelligent storytelling, its nuanced and realistic characterizations, and its powerful and thought-provoking themes.
The film is a powerful indictment of the abuses of power and the struggle for democracy in the Philippines, and it remains a timely and relevant work today.
8. Himala (Ishmael Bernal – 1982)
“Himala” is a 1982 Filipino drama film directed by Ishmael Bernal. The movie tells the story of a young woman named Elsa, who becomes a local religious figure after claiming to have seen the Virgin Mary.
Set in a small village in the Philippines, the film explores themes of faith, superstition, and the power of belief. As Elsa’s fame grows, she becomes a symbol of hope and inspiration for the people of the village, but also faces criticism and suspicion from those who doubt her claims.
The film features a powerful performance by Nora Aunor in the lead role of Elsa, and is known for its striking visual style, with breathtaking shots of the Filipino landscape and stunning cinematography.
“Himala” is considered to be one of the greatest works of Filipino cinema, and has been praised for its powerful storytelling, nuanced characters, and profound commentary on the complexities of faith and belief. The movie’s themes and message continue to resonate with audiences today, and it remains a classic of Filipino cinema.
9. Evolution of a Filipino Family (Lav Diaz – 2004)
“Evolution of a Filipino Family” is a 2004 film directed by Lav Diaz. The movie tells the story of a Filipino family over the course of several decades, from the 1970s to the 1990s, and explores the social and political changes that take place in the country during that time.
Clocking in at over 10 hours, the film is known for its epic scope and its use of long takes and static shots to capture the slow, unfolding rhythms of everyday life. The movie is also notable for its focus on the lives of ordinary people, rather than the rich and powerful elites who typically dominate Filipino cinema.
Despite its length and unconventional approach to storytelling, “Evolution of a Filipino Family” has been praised for its powerful and poignant depiction of the struggles and joys of everyday life in the Philippines. The film has won numerous awards and is widely regarded as a landmark work of Filipino cinema.
10. Barber’s Tales (Jun Lana – 2013)
“Barber’s Tales” is a 2013 Filipino drama film directed by Jun Lana. The movie is set in a small town in the Philippines during the Marcos regime and follows the story of Marilou, a widow who inherits her husband’s barbershop.
Marilou discovers a newfound sense of independence as she takes over the barbershop and becomes more involved in the community. However, her life takes a turn when she becomes embroiled in the town’s politics and is forced to make difficult decisions that challenge her beliefs.
The film is known for its strong performances, particularly by lead actress Eugene Domingo, who received critical acclaim for her portrayal of Marilou.
“Barber’s Tales” tackles themes of political corruption, social injustice, and gender roles, while also highlighting the resilience and strength of the Filipino people during a tumultuous time in their country’s history.
The film was a critical and commercial success, receiving numerous awards and nominations both domestically and internationally. It was also selected as the Philippine entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards.
“Barber’s Tales” is considered one of the most significant Filipino films of the 21st century, reflecting the country’s complex history and contemporary challenges.
First Golden Age of Filipino Cinema
The First Golden Age of Filipino Cinema refers to a period in Philippine film history from the 1950s to the early 1970s, marked by the emergence of highly talented filmmakers and actors who created groundbreaking works that showcased the country’s unique culture and identity.
During this era, Philippine cinema flourished both artistically and commercially, with studios producing a wide range of films that appealed to diverse audiences. Some of the most notable films from this period include Noli Me Tangere (1961), a literary adaptation that tackled social issues, and Oro, Plata, Mata (1982), a war drama that explored the complexities of Filipino society.
Filmmakers during the First Golden Age of Filipino Cinema were known for their innovative approaches to storytelling, visual style, and themes. They were able to create films that were both entertaining and thought-provoking, addressing issues such as poverty, corruption, and social injustice.
The period was cut short by the declaration of martial law in the Philippines in 1972, which led to censorship and the decline of the industry. However, the legacy of the First Golden Age of Filipino Cinema has continued to influence and inspire contemporary Filipino filmmakers, who strive to create films that reflect the unique culture and experiences of their country.
Second Golden Age of Filipino Cinema
The Second Golden Age of Filipino Cinema is a term used to refer to a period of cultural and artistic renaissance in Philippine cinema that began in the late 1990s and continued into the early 2010s. During this period, Filipino filmmakers began to produce a new wave of innovative and challenging films that explored a wide range of themes and styles.
One of the key characteristics of this period was the emergence of a new generation of filmmakers who were committed to pushing the boundaries of Philippine cinema and exploring new forms of storytelling. These filmmakers included Lav Diaz, Brillante Mendoza, and Erik Matti, among others.
The films of the Second Golden Age were often marked by their social relevance, political engagement, and exploration of complex and challenging themes. They also showcased a wide range of styles and approaches, including documentary-style realism, experimental narrative structures, and genre-bending hybrids.
Some of the most notable films of the Second Golden Age of Filipino Cinema include Lav Diaz’s “Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino” (Evolution of a Filipino Family), Brillante Mendoza’s “Kinatay” and “Ma’ Rosa”, and Erik Matti’s “On the Job”. These films garnered critical acclaim both in the Philippines and internationally, and helped to establish Filipino cinema as a major force in the global film industry.
New Wave of Filipino Cinema
The New Wave of Filipino Cinema refers to a movement in Philippine cinema that emerged in the early 2000s. It is characterized by a new generation of filmmakers who sought to break away from the traditional formulas and commercial conventions of mainstream Filipino cinema.
One of the key figures in this movement is director Brillante Mendoza, whose films such as “Tirador” (2007) and “Kinatay” (2009) are known for their gritty realism and unconventional storytelling techniques.
Other notable filmmakers in the New Wave include Lav Diaz, who is known for his epic, meditative films that explore Philippine history and culture, and Jerrold Tarog, who has gained critical acclaim for his genre-bending films such as “Heneral Luna” (2015) and “Goyo: The Boy General” (2018).
The New Wave of Filipino Cinema has been praised for its artistic innovation, social relevance, and commitment to exploring the complexities of Philippine society and culture. These films often tackle difficult subjects such as poverty, corruption, and political turmoil, and offer a fresh and nuanced perspective on contemporary Filipino life.
The success of the New Wave has also led to greater recognition for Philippine cinema on the international stage, with Filipino filmmakers winning awards and gaining critical acclaim at prestigious film festivals around the world.
3 Characteristics of Filipino Movies
Melodramatic storytelling: Filipino movies are often characterized by their melodramatic storytelling, which emphasizes emotion and sentimentality. This is particularly true of romantic dramas, which often feature intense love stories and tragic endings.
Musical numbers: Filipino movies often include musical numbers, particularly in romantic comedies and musical dramas. These songs are often performed by the movie’s stars and are an important part of the film’s marketing and appeal to audiences.
Social issues: Many Filipino movies explore social issues and problems facing the country, such as poverty, corruption, and political unrest. These films often use storytelling as a way to highlight the struggles of everyday Filipinos and to call attention to the need for change and reform.
3 Reasons To Watch Filipino Movies
Cultural Insight: Filipino movies offer a glimpse into the culture and way of life of the Filipino people. The films often depict local traditions, social norms, and values that are unique to the Philippines, giving viewers an opportunity to learn about the country and its people.
Diverse Stories: The Philippines is a country with a rich history and diverse population, and Filipino movies reflect this diversity. From romantic comedies to historical dramas, from horror films to social commentary, Filipino cinema offers a wide range of stories that cater to different tastes and interests.
Acclaimed Filmmakers: Filipino cinema has produced several acclaimed filmmakers who have gained recognition both locally and internationally. Directors like Lino Brocka, Brillante Mendoza, Lav Diaz, and Erik Matti have won awards at prestigious film festivals like Cannes and Venice, making Filipino cinema an important part of the global film landscape. Watching Filipino movies is a great way to discover and appreciate the work of these talented filmmakers.
Best Filipino Movies – Wrap Up
In conclusion, Philippine cinema has a rich and diverse history, with films that explore a wide range of themes, from social issues and political struggles to family relationships and personal journeys. Here are some of the best Filipino movies that you might want to check out:
Himala (1982) – A classic film about faith, superstition, and social issues, directed by Ishmael Bernal and starring Nora Aunor.
Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975) – A critically acclaimed film directed by Lino Brocka that depicts the struggles of a young man in Manila.
Oro, Plata, Mata (1982) – A war drama that explores the complexities of Filipino society during World War II, directed by Peque Gallaga.
Dekada ’70 (2002) – A powerful drama that explores the political turmoil and social issues of the Philippines in the 1970s, directed by Chito S. Roño.
Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (2005) – A coming-of-age story about a young boy who struggles to come to terms with his sexuality, directed by Auraeus Solito.
On the Job (2013) – A gritty crime thriller that exposes the corruption and violence in the Philippine justice system, directed by Erik Matti.
Heneral Luna (2015) – A historical biopic about General Antonio Luna, a hero of the Philippine Revolution against Spain, directed by Jerrold Tarog.
These films, among many others, showcase the unique and complex culture of the Philippines, as well as the artistic talent and social consciousness of its filmmakers.