I’ll admit it: I used to scoff at the idea of watching foreign-language films or TV series, especially if this wasn’t required of me. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to lengthened periods of subtitle reading?”
But consider me a convert — because after I chanced upon my very first Spanish series, I found myself completely hooked. Back story: I excitedly clicked hit play when Netflix launched the new series I’d read about online, totally forgetting they mentioned in passing that it was in Spanish. Since the plot had already piqued my interest, I decided to power through all the subtitle-reading; and after that first episode, I never looked back.
What’s so great about Spanish TV shows, anyway?
I fell in love with their unique storylines, talented (and super attractive) actors, and high quality cinematography. Because they’re so well-made, you even find yourself forgetting that you’re actually reading subtitles! On top of this, I also love that I get to slowly learn a new language along the way, even if it is just the basics.
Honestly, K-Dramas may get all the attention — but those who haven’t given Spanish TV shows are definitely missing out.
Maybe you’re here because you’ve already watched one of the Spanish shows on this list and are hungry for more; or perhaps you’re finally leaning towards crossing over to the dark side. Either way, you’ve come to the right place. Below, I list some of the most binge-worthy Spanish series you can find on Netflix!
Binge-worthy Spanish TV series you can find on Netflix
1. Élite (Elite)
How many seasons? Four (so far)
Perfect for anyone who loves: Murder mysteries, love triangles, and trashy teen shows
To be honest, I have a soft spot for this one. It’s the series that spurred my love for Spanish shows, and it was torturous to have finished the entire first season in just one day — only to have to wait for over a year for the second season. The third actually just aired this March!
I’m already in my late 20s, but I can’t get enough of shows like Elite. It’s Gossip Girl meets The OC meets How to Get Away with Murder — and with a combo like that, how could anyone possibly resist? (Fine, how could anyone who loves teen trash possibly resist?)
The series opens with flashes of a murder scene that’s just taken place at Las Encinas, Spain’s most elite private school. We witness scenes of Samuel “Samu” Domínguez (Itzan Escamilla) with blood on his hands and later, in the middle of a police interrogation. (Who was killed? And is he the culprit?)
Just as we’re left wondering, the timeline shifts back a few months to Samu’s first day at Las Encinas. Unsurprisingly, the in-crowd hates that Samu and two of his fellow former public school students have disrupted the status quo. Resident queen bee Lu Hendrich (Danna Paola) and her boyfriend Guzmán Osuna (Miguel Bernardeau) make it their mission to make their lives a living hell.
In a plot to shame Nadia Shanaa (Mina El Hammani), a top student and devout Muslim, Lu convinces Guzmán to seduce her. (Who even does this?!) Christian, who so badly wants to be part of the cool clique, gets involved in a polyamorous relationship with Carla Caleruega (Esther Expósito) and her boyfriend Polo Villada (Álvaro Ladera). To Guzmán’s chagrin, his younger sister Marina takes a liking to Samu — who unknowingly gets wrapped up in a love triangle with Marina and his older brother Nano (Jaime Lorente). Finally, the first episode flashes forward — and the dead body is revealed to be Marina’s. Who killed her? And why?
2. La Casa de Papel (Money Heist)
How many seasons? Five
Perfect for anyone who loves: Action movies, thrilling heists, and a few love stories here and there
During my post-Elite hangover, I found myself online-stalking the cast (as I enjoy doing after finishing a new TV series). One thing I noticed? A lot of the cast was mentioned to have appeared in another show called La Casa de Papel. I didn’t even bother reading up on it — all I knew was that it was highly rated and featured actors I’d quickly come to adore. I immediately got into it and finished the first two seasons (at the time, there were only two) in no time!
Prior to the launch of its third season, the show quickly became an online sensation. And if you haven’t hopped on the bandwagon yet, now’s the perfect time to do so — the fourth season just dropped on Netflix this April! Trust me, you’ll find yourself adding Salvador Dalí masks and red jumpsuits to your online shopping carts and singing the words bella ciao over and over again. (Can’t relate? I suggest you start watching!)
A man who calls himself the ‘Professor’ (Álvaro Morte) recruits eight people to help carry out an intricate plan that’s been years in the making. Their goal? To infiltrate the heavily guarded Royal Mint of Spain, print their own money, and escape with €2.4 billion — all without any casualties. (So technically, they aren’t stealing or hurting anyone, right?)
To make sure no personal ties are made, each thief’s identity is concealed and they are instead named after cities: Tokyo, Rio, Nairobi, Moscow, Helsinki, Denver, Oslo, and Berlin. While the Professor keeps an eye on them and negotiates with the police from a remote location, the thieves take several hostages and dress them in red jumpsuits and Salvador Dalí masks. The catch: The thieves are disguised similarly — and since the police are avoiding civilian casualties, they’re basically untouchable.
The show shifts back and forth between the ongoing heist and the five months of planning and training that took place beforehand. And to add to all the exciting things taking place, Police Inspector Raquel Murillo (Itziar Ituño) falls for the Professor — or rather for Salva, his true identity — not knowing he is the mastermind behind the heist. *Chills!*
Also read: ‘Money Heist’ Season 5 to Be Released in Two Parts in 2021
3. Las Chicas del Cable (Cable Girls)
How many seasons? Five
Perfect for anyone who loves: Women empowerment, love triangles, and the roaring ’20s
When Las Chicas del Cable was first recommended to me, I wasn’t so sure I’d be into it. “It’s about these girls who work at a telephone company,” was all a friend told me. But since I was still craving for more Spanish shows to watch, I quickly got to watching.
My two cents: It’s way more than just about girls working at a telephone company. Las Chicas del Cable gives us a picture of life in the ’20s, and how women fought for their rights at a time when they were considered second-class citizens. On top of that, brace yourselves for heartwarming love stories and major fashion and beauty envy!
Set in the 1920s, Las Chicas del Cable tells the story of Alba Romero (Blanca Suárez), a young woman who dreams of starting a new life in Argentina. As she’s finally ready to make this happen, she’s wrongfully charged for murder. A corrupt police officer agrees to drop charges — but in exchange, she is tasked to rob Madrid’s telephone exchange company.
To make this happen, Alba takes on a new identity as Lidia Aguilar, and gets hired as a cable girl (switchboard operator). On her first day, the telephone company owner’s son, Carlos Cifuentes (Martiño Rivas), is instantly charmed by her. And just when we think the heist will be easy peasy, she is stunned when she is introduced to the company director, Francisco Gómez (Yon González).
In a flashback, he’s revealed to be Alba/Lidia’s childhood sweetheart — they came to Madrid together in their early teens, but got separated at the train station and were never able to find each other. Francisco immediately recognises her, but she tells him he is mistaken. Will he discover her true identity? Which of the two men will she choose? And will she successfully pull off the heist? Once you start watching, you won’t be able to stop!
4. Gran Hotel (Grand Hotel)
How many seasons? Three
Perfect for anyone who loves: Historical dramas like Downton Abbey, star-crossed lovers, and seemingly immortal villains
I discovered Gran Hotel after I finished watching Las Chicas del Cable. And boy, did I love seeing a younger version of the dapper Yon González! Besides the insanely attractive lead actors, this show carries elements from your usual Spanish telenovelas: steamy love scenes, well-loved characters that die and come back to life, and evil villains that frustrate you with their immortality. If you live for all things drama, then Gran Hotel is most likely up your alley.
From under 10 episodes in the first two seasons, the third and final season has a whopping 22 episodes. Quite frankly, I felt like the show would never end — and when it finally did, I wished that it hadn’t!
The young and handsome Julio Olmedo (Yon González) makes his way to Gran Hotel, an exclusive hotel owned by the prestigious Alarcón family. He comes in search of his sister, who abruptly ended their correspondence after being promoted to floor manager at the hotel. Julio is almost sure that something terrible happened to her. After being told she was fired for stealing, Julio refuses to believe this and is convinced that this story is merely a cover-up — but for what?
He disguises himself as one of the hotel’s newly hired waiters in order to get to the bottom of things. In his search for answers, he happens to meet and fall for Alicia (Amaia Salamanca), the Alarcons’ youngest daughter. But here’s the catch: she’s betrothed to Diego Murquía (Pedro Alonso), the cruel hotel manager with a soft spot for Alicia — and Julio has a strong feeling that he has something to do with his sister’s disappearance.
5.Vis a Vis (Locked Up)
How many seasons? Five
Perfect for anyone who loves: Predominantly female series, Orange is the New Black, and stories that don’t always have happy endings
La Casa de Papel fans will love that Vis a Vis features Alba Flores and Najwa Nimri, who play Nairobi and Alicia Sierra, respectively. As it gives viewers a glimpse into life inside a women’s prison, some have dubbed this series as a Spanish version of Orange is the New Black; some fans of the latter have even admitted to liking this even more!
A mix of romance, mystery, action, and the mundane, this show depicts even the most brutal sides of life in prison. The fact that it’s interesting, funny, and real is what makes it so loveable!
After getting into an affair with her boss, Macarena Ferreiro (Maggie Civantos) helps him commit a series of tax crimes. The catch is that her name is on all the documents, and after promising to take the fall, her lover turns his back on her. Because of this, Macarena receives a seven-year prison sentence with a €1,000,000 bail.
In Cruz del Sur, she is shocked by prison culture and its survival-of-the-fittest way of life. During her first 24 hours alone, Macarena is asked on a date by a fellow inmate (and receives a threat from her ex-girlfriend); is forced to smuggle drugs; loses a friend after she’s murdered in the middle of the night; and falls under the radar of Cruz del Sur’s most dangerous prisoner, Zulema Zahir (Najwa Nimri).
As Macarena realises she’s most likely not going anywhere anytime soon, she finds that she must adapt to life in prison — where it isn’t always that bad. (But most of the time, it definitely is.)
6. Alta Mar (High Seas)
How many seasons? Two
Perfect for anyone who loves: Suspense thrillers, period films, and murder mysteries with a splash of romance
Confession: While I’m fascinated by stories set in historical points in time, I usually find myself skipping them because of how sombre they typically are. Alta Mar, however, is different. Despite its olden-time setting, it’s tons more vibrant and fast-paced than your usual historical drama.
On top of that, the cast is gorgeous and the production is brilliant; not to mention, the story focuses on a series of mysterious murders that take place on a ship! It’s Titanic meets Murder on the Orient Express — how could your interest not be piqued?
Set in the late ’40s, this Spanish series centres on the mysterious deaths that take place on a luxurious cruise ship en route to Brazil from Spain. Sisters Eva (Ivana Baquero) and Carolina Villanueva (Alejandra Onieva) are among those on board the ocean liner, and they witness a woman fall overboard and drown.
Unfortunately, no one sees who pushed her; and no one comes forward, either. Even worse, this woman’s death makes up not just one, but three of the murders that have taken place on the ship. Everyone is left with the unsettling knowledge that there is a murderer on board. Now, which of their fellow passengers can really be trusted?
7. Toy Boy
How many seasons? One
Perfect for anyone who loves: Magic Mike, dysfunctional families, and murder mysteries
A friend of mine who knew about my love for Spanish series recommended I add Toy Boy to my to-watch list. Basically, she told me that it was like Magic Mike, but with the added element of a murder mystery. After watching it (I finished the entire season in two days and the finale was literally jaw-dropping!), I laughed to myself. Her simple description was absolutely on point!
A young lawyer at Marbella’s top law firm, Triana Marín (María Pedraza) is handpicked to take on a pro bono case. Her client? Hugo Beltrán (Jesús Mosquera), a male stripper who was framed for the murder of Philip Norman (Virgil Mathet), one of the city’s most influential citizens. Oh, and did we mention that Hugo was having an affair with the man’s wife, too? The odds were terrible for him from the beginning!
When he’s finally released on parole after seven years, Hugo grabs this opportunity to do some sleuthing and uncover who exactly framed him for murder, and why. As he and Triana get close to each other along the way, Hugo once again gets entangled with Macarena Medina (Cristina Castañas) — a.k.a. his former paramour and the wife of the deceased. Will Hugo finally find the answers he’s looking for, or will he simply get himself into even more trouble?
8. Tiempos de guerra (Morocco: Love in Times of War)
How many seasons? One
Perfect for anyone who loves: Historical dramas, friendship stories, and tales of love in the midst of war
This Spanish series instantly reminded me of Pearl Harbor. If you prefer stories of romance that require getting through a series of obstacles (because hey, love wasn’t meant to be easy), then Tiempos de guerra may just be to your liking. Another thing to love about it? The girl power, of course — we love a strong female cast!
Tiempos de guerra takes place in the 1920s as Spain is at war with a Moroccan region called the Rif. During this time, the Queen of Spain sends a group of Nurses from Madrid to Melilla. Led by the Duchess of Victoria, they are given the responsibility of opening a Red Cross hospital there.
These newly trained nurses are young women, all of whom come from money. Among them is Julia Ballester (Amaia Salamanca). She has not yet completed her training, but has enlisted herself at the last minute in hopes of finding her fiancé and brother, who are both prisoners of war. But here’s a catch: The moment she sets foot in Melilla, she meets Fidel Calderon (Alex Garcia), an army doctor with whom she shares an instant connection.
BONUS: La Casa de las Flores (The House of Flowers)
How many seasons? Three
Perfect for anyone who loves: Black comedies, ridiculous family drama, and Keeping Up with the Kardashians
Out of all the shows on this list of Spanish series, La Casa de las Flores is quite different. For starters, it’s actually a Mexican series (and in line with this, it’s set in Mexico!). Second, since it’s a black comedy drama, it can be expected that the show’s humour isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But then, the same goes for a lot of things, right?
The Spanish series centres on the seemingly perfect, but actually quite dysfunctional, de la Mora family. Think the Kardashians, except with less plastic surgery and tons more drama — matriarch Virginia de la Mora (Verónica Castro) actually bears a bit of a resemblance to Kris Jenner! The well-to-do family is best known for running a flower shop called — you guessed it — La Casa de las Flores.
The pilot begins at patriarch Ernesto de la Mora’s (Arturo Ríos) birthday party, where three generations of the family are being shot for a magazine cover. During the party, a woman is discovered to have hanged herself at the flower shop; in her death note, it is revealed that she (a friend of the family) was Ernesto’s mistress for years.
We later discover that the show is narrated by this very woman — and she’s loving that she’s unleashing loads of family drama from the grave. Quite evil, but we can’t help but keep watching as the family’s darkest secrets make themselves known!
Also read: 12 Travel Documentary Shows to Feed Your Adventure Cravings
So, which one of these Spanish series tickles your fancy? We can’t wait to hear your reviews once you’re done. Feel free to drop them in the comments section!
Featured image credit: La Casa de Papel; Elite; Las Chicas del Cable | Facebook.