A good telenovela has the power to bring people together—just ask any Latinx household or your favorite abuelita. You get over-the-top plot twists! Drama-filled reactions! Crazy, swoon-inducing love stories! Whether they’re following a normal family with a drug-trafficking side hustle or a hit woman looking for vengeance, telenovelas will keep you entertained and longing for some weirdly fabulous alternate reality. And don’t even get me started on the cliff-hangers. Your patience will be tested. And your sense of time, as every scene is stretched out as long as humanly possible.
Most of your fave telenovelas are probably off the air by now, since they usually only run for one or two seasons. But don’t fret! In an effort to better reach its Spanish-speaking audience, Netflix has a ton of amazing telenovelas from the past two decades in its library. So instead of watching all nine seasons of The Office for the sixth time in a row, watch one of these gems instead.
Rosario Tijeras (2018)
If Killing Eve is your perfect show
Based on the best-selling novel by Jorge Franco, this series follows a hit woman named Rosario who seeks vengeance in one of the most dangerous parts of Mexico City. However, in true telenovela fashion, a love triangle ensues among Rosario and two wealthy best friends who compete for her heart. A lot of action, a lot of drama, and a lot of female empowerment.
Pasión de Gavilanes (2003)
If you watched Prison Break for the brotherly love
This short-lived series, the title of which roughly translates to “Hawks of Passion,” centers on three brothers looking to avenge the death of a loved one (a common theme in the world of telenovelas) by infiltrating the household of the person responsible. Of course, there happen to be three hot daughters in said household, thus creating an emotional attachment that might just foil the brothers’ whole plan.
Sin Senos No Hay Paraíso (2008 and 2016)
If Sex and the City was your fave show back in the day
Roughly translated to “Without Breasts There Is No Paradise.” Controversial? Yes. There’s a *lot* going on in this one, so bear with me. The main character, Catalina, is willing to risk everything for a breast augmentation that will secure her the attention of drug lords, which will ultimately result in major $$$ (at least, she hopes). The sequel follows Catalina’s younger sister, who shares the same obsession.
Señora Acero (2014)
If you couldn’t get enough of Narcos
This series is all over the place—the first two seasons follow Sara, a former housewife who unwillingly gets involved in drug trafficking when her drug-lord husband dies, while the third and fourth seasons revolve around Vincenta, a feared Coyote who helps immigrant families cross the Mexico-U.S. border. Yep, continuing on the telenovela trope of badass women in super-dangerous situations.
If The Crown turned you into a history buff
Ah, who doesn’t love a good historical drama? This gem depicts the life of Venezuelan General Simón Bolívar, who helped liberate many Latin American countries from Spain’s rule in the 17th century. In classic telenovela form, it focuses a great deal on Bolívar’s romantic life, which helps to humanize the Latin American hero.
La Reina del Flow (2018)
If you loved Empire
Most telenovelas share the following themes: revenge, love, murder, and drugs. La Reina del Flow is no exception. Adding music to the mix, it follows a wrongly imprisoned music producer and a womanizing singer who find themselves entangled with local narcos.
El Clon (2010)
If you like cloning dramas like Orphan Black
A complex drama about the cultural differences that prevent two lovers from being together, El Clon explores the effects of time and distance on ~love~. Oh, and also, the protagonist, Lucas, has an identical clone who is 20 years younger and competing for the object of his affection, Jade. Emotionally exhausting but worth it.
Silvana Sin Lana (2016)
If you’re a fan of Schitt’s Creek
A classic tale of a wealthy woman who suddenly loses her cushy life and is forced to work in a middle-class neighborhood. This dramedy dives into class, wealth, and all their social complexities. And yeah, of course, the formerly rich protagonist falls in love with someone who has a completely different background than her.
La Casa de las Flores (2019)
If you’re still obsessing over Succession
The ultimate telenovela satire, The House of Flowers is a dark comedy about a family-owned flower shop and its secrets. The series delves into class, race, and sexuality and the family’s downfall due to various scandals. Importantly, the show also explores the LGBTQ+ community in Mexico and the intersection between sexuality and social status. A true millennial soap opera.
Las Muñecas de la Mafia (2010)
If Mob Wives is your jam
Packed with the same real-life drama as Mob Wives, the women of Las Muñecas de la Mafia navigate how to maintain relationships with the men in their lives...who just happen to be involved in organized crime.
La Reina del Sur (2011)
If you’ve watched Weeds more than once
While it doesn’t have the same suburban backdrop as Weeds, La Reina del Sur follows a similar journey, that of Teresa Mendoza (played by Kate del Castillo) as she rises from poor 23-year-old to the most powerful drug dealer in Spain. Your eyes will be glued to the screen.
El Cartel (2008)
If you were a die-hard Breaking Bad fan
Martin and Oscar are best friends who get into the drug-trafficking biz with the goal of getting rich quick. But as they work their way up the ranks and witness everyone they know getting hurt or killed, they realize just how much their lives have changed.
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