It's a widely known fact that immersing yourself in a different culture, such as listening to a foreign radio station or engaging in a conversation with a native speaker is the most efficient way to learn a language. So it makes sense, therefore, for learners of Spanish to tune into some of the country's TV shows and improve their language skills.
Here are some of the best Spanish television series to watch as a Spanish learner.
The Top 15 Spanish Shows to Watch to Learn Spanish
This Spanish series created by Carlos Montero is in the same vein as Gossip Girls but with a thriller side to it.
The series takes place in the country’s most prestigious secondary school, Las Encinas. It’s the elite who have the opportunity to take lessons there.
Three young working-class students have received a scholarship to attend the school, but the other students don’t see them in a good light due to their social standing.
Between the bullying and humiliation, one of the teenagers is killed.
Who did it?
As a mix between Gossip Girl and How to Get Away with Murder, this series is interesting. Cultural differences, love, sex, scandal, and crime, there’s everything in this shocking series. The main cast (the three new arrivals) are more authentic and interesting than the supporting cast.
A good series for the target audience, teenagers.
Find out more about the most famous Spaniards!
2. The Red Band Society
While there is an American remake, the original, Polseres Vermelles, is a Spanish series with the dialogue in Catalan. The original aired on TV3 between 2011 and 2013. The remake was aired by Fox in the US.
It covers the story of a group of teenagers living in a paediatric ward in a hospital. The American version ran for one season.
The name comes from the bands the patients wear on their wrists.
You should probably watch the original version dubbed into Spanish rather than the remake.
Based on the story of the show’s creator Albert Espinosa (who survived 3 cancers), the show mixes tenderness and humour. The real heroes are the young patients and not the doctors, unlike what you’re probably used to in series taking place in hospitals.
The characters, despite their situation, are full of hope and life. As Albert Espinosa put it, “You don’t die in hospitals due to illness, but boredom”. This isn't a sitcom but rather a dramedy! The way it blends comedic elements with the drama in a dysfunctional social environment is incredible.
TV not your thing?
Check out some of the best Spanish music.
3. Vis a Vis
Created by Alex Pina (La Casa de Papel), this series was broadcast on Antena 3 in 2015. Antena 3 cancelled the show but it was picked up by Fox Spain in 2018.
A young woman falls in love with her boss and ends up imprisoned for committing accounting crimes because of him. She ends up in the Cruz del Sur Prison for four different crimes.
She needs to learn more about life in prison. She learns that there’s a large sum of money hidden somewhere that was never found. One of the culprits of this crime is in prison with her.
Without trying, she ends up finding a clue. She needs to try to deal with this while surviving life in prison.
This series, which is a bit of a mix between Orange is the New Black and Prison Break, mixes suspense and far-fetched twists. It’s fun with some good characters, but the plot sometimes leaves a lot to be desired.
Make sure you watch the original version and not a dub. With more and more foreign series coming to Netflix, you can stop watching American movies on Netflix or TV series like Daredevil, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and instead, binge watch some of the great Spanish series or new TV shows streaming on Netflix or HBO. Don't forget you can also watch on mobile devices, meaning they're great for practising on your commute, for example.
This particular series was created with Spanish learners in mind, and has a similar makeup to the ever-popular sitcom Friends.
In Extra, the main character is an Englishman named Sam who goes to live in Barcelona to learn the language, and moves into an apartment with two Spanish girls. The way it works is that the group are always correcting each other when chatting, and the basic content and slow speed is supposed to help people pick up the language.
You can watch the series on YouTube.
Isabel is a Spanish series made to tell the story of the life of Queen Isabella of Spain. The series sheds light on how the royal had to fight for her throne, during a time when women had no place in society other than being mothers and wives.
There are three seasons and subtitles to help decipher the 15th century Spanish. While the story is quite engaging, the fact that it is filmed in the country's equivalent to Shakespearean means that you might struggle to learn much contemporary Spanish.
6. Gran Hotel
Gran Hotel is a Spanish drama set in Spain in the early 20th century.
"Julio arrives at a luxury hotel to meet his sister, head chambermaid Cristina only to discover she has disappeared. Julio makes it his mission to find her and infiltrates the hotel under the guise of a footman." - Netflix
7. Escobar, El Patrón Del Mal (Escobar, Boss of Evil)
Pablo Escobar, El Patrón Del Mal is a Colombian mini-series about the life of the notorious world renowned drug lord. With engrossing content, this is a great way to be exposed to modern Spanish.
8. La Casa de las Flores (The House of Flowers)
"The House of Flowers (Spanish: La Casa de las Flores) is a Mexican black comedy-drama television series created by Manolo Caro". - Wikipedia
9. La Reina del Flow (The Queen of Flow)
"The Queen of Flow (Spanish: La Reina del Flow) is a Colombian telenovela produced by Sony Pictures Television and Teleset for Caracol Televisión. It is a musical telenovela based on the genre of reggaeton." - Wikipedia
10. Mi Corazón Es Tuyo (My Heart Is Yours)
During this Spanish love tale, a poor exotic dancer takes on a job working as a nanny for a widower and his 7 children. You'll soon forget the language barrier once you get invested in the storyline for sure!
11. Luis Miguel, La Serie (Luis Miguel, the Series)
This is a drama series about the life of Luis Miguel, a superstar from Mexico famed for his singing who launched to fame in Latin America and whose time in the spotlights and charts spanned decades.
12. Fugitiva (Fugitive)
Fugitiva is a Spanish mystery TV Series that follows the story of a woman who faked her own kidnap in an attempt to escape her previous life and her husband's enemies who are out to get her and thus protect her family.
13. Destinos (Destinations)
Destinos: An Introduction to Spanish, or just Destinos, is a Spanish series specifically made for language learners and it wasn't uncommon to watch an episode in high school classrooms and other learning establishments to improve vocabulary.
14. El Chapo
A crime series featuring Marco de la O as the man everyone is talking about - Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, this is another more recent TV Programme that will keep you hooked. It first aired a couple of years ago in 2017.
15. Malviviendo (Bad Living)
This is a quality Spanish show with English subtitles which shows how young people speak and live in Western Andalucia. It's a great way of hearing true to life, slang language for those younger learners out there and has received great feedback. You'll also be intrigued by the Andalucian accent within the first few minutes!
The Best Spanish Shows on Netflix for Beginners
With 120 million subscribers, Netflix is the most watched media (at least in the US) ahead of television and even YouTube.
Since Un Paso Adelante (One Step Forward), the series covering a dance school in Madrid, ended, more and more Spanish series have started making their way into the UK.
Netflix has purchased the rights to plenty of series (Black Mirror, Vampire Diaries, Downtown Abbey, etc.) including series from Spain. Thanks to streaming services and all the TV shows on Netflix, you can discover new shows, classics, comedy series, animated series, miniseries, and catch up on shows you've never seen before that final season airs.
With that in mind, here are some the best TV shows on Netflix that you could be binge-watching this weekend to help you with your Spanish! Since all TV viewers are different, we've tried to include a variety of different types of shows including comedies, primetime shows, and television shows about all sorts of things!
La Casa de Papel
La Casa de Papel (Money Heist) was directed by Alex Pina and broadcast on Antena 3 on Spain before being added to Netflix’s library. This is a popular crime drama.
The Professor recruits 8 people with nothing to lose to carry out the biggest heist ever; rob the Royal Mint of Spain in Madrid.
The goal is to break in and print €2.4 billion in €50 notes. The challenge is that they have less than 11 days to do it and they can’t spill the blood of a single hostage. The Professor will conduct the operation externally.
There’s a strong symbol of dissent; the group won’t steal from the people and they don’t want to kill anyone. They wear red jumpsuits like Guantanamo Bay prisoners and Dali masks like the Anonymous group.
- El Profesor (Sergio Marquina/Salvador “Salva” Martin), Alvaro Morte.
- Tokyo (Silene Oliveira), Ursula Corbero.
- Berlin (Andrés de Fonollosa), Pedro Alonso.
- Nairobi (Agata Jimenez), Alba Flores.
- Rio (Anibal Cortes), Miguel Herran.
- Denver (Daniel Ramos), Jaime Lorente.
- Monica Gaztambide (Stockholm), Esther Acebo.
- Moscow (Agustin Ramos), Paco Tous.
- Helsinki (Yashin Dasayev), Darko Peric.
- Oslo (Radko Dragic), Roberto García.
- Raquel Murillo, Itziar Ituno.
The plot is a bit dull but you’ll soon get drawn into the suspense. The characters are charming and each has their own personality. You learn more about them throughout the episodes. It could be interesting to dive a bit further into the stories behind Oslo and Helsinki in particular.
Was a third season really necessary?
Find out more about Spain in our guide.
Las Chicas del Cable
Las Chicas del Cable (Cable Girls) is a series created by Ramón Campos and Gema R. Neira and available on Netflix.
In Madrid, in 1928, four women become operators for a telephone company. Each has their own story and they’re in a growing company that’s obviously dominated by men. The series has the women trying to gain some independence and the main goal seems to be to make the audience see the characters as strong and independent women.
They struggle to get divorced even in cases of domestic violence or get money from the bank without the written consent of their husband.
Las Chicas del Cable echoes the fight for women’s rights, a subject that can only have more light shed on it, don’t you think?
- Alba Romero Méndez/Lidia Aguilar Dávila, Blanca Suarez.
- Carlota Rodríguez de Senillosa, Ana Fernandez.
- Ángeles Vidal interprétée, Maggie Civantos.
- María “Marga” Suárez , Nadia de Santiago.
- Sara Millán/Óscar Ruiz, Ana Maria Polvorosa.
- Francisco Gómez, Yon Gonzales.
- Carlos Cifuentes, Martino Rivas.
Homosexuality, polyamory, feminism, etc. This series covers a number of important themes. While not very original, it does what it does quite well.
It’s positive, funny, and aware, and promises to captivate the viewer and is full of cliffhangers. So even though there are quite a few clichés, it’s still quite addictive.
If you're interested in Spain's past, read our quick guide to Spain's history.
While most of the best new TV shows and best movies that you've heard of are American, don't forget that you can get a Spanish sketch comedy, scripted drama, detective and crime series and that you can also find the best shows from Spanish primetime TV and stuff for both the big and small screen.
Of course, keep in mind that Spain and Latin America don't have the financial clout behind their series or movies so don't expect these shows and films to be like the Sopranos, Sense8, Bloodline, the Good Wife, Arrested Development, Jessica Jones, or even Bojack Horseman!
You should understand that you won't get the polish in Hispanic series and movies that you do from Hollywood blockbusters. They won't be starring big names but you'll soon be surprised that some of the best movies on Netflix are actually in Spanish!
So which Spanish series or movies are you going to watch tonight?