Films and TV Shows To See Before Visiting Madrid

Madrid's picturesque locations have proven to be popular with filmmakers
Madrid's picturesque locations have proven to be popular with filmmakers | © JOHN KELLERMAN / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Cassam Looch
Film Editor25 November 2019

Known for its vibrant nightlife, stunning architecture and picturesque plazas, Spain’s capital is a city of style and substance. And Madrid’s rich heritage of film and TV is no exception to that rule. From Oscar-winning blockbusters to psychological thrillers and dark comedies, here’s everything you need to know before visiting Madrid.

Madrid is full of locales that are quintessentially Spanish, making it cinema-friendly | © Mira / Alamy Stock Photo

For decades, Madrid has attracted filmmakers from all around the world because of its inspiring cinematic backdrop. The city’s historic districts are quintessentially Spanish, and their large migrant population has meant that districts across Madrid often have their own unique identity. These films and TV shows capture Spain’s capital in all its glory.

Volver (2006)

Pedro Almodóvar has captured Madrid as both a joyful, colourful city and a dark, intimidating nightmare. Throughout the Spanish filmmaker’s career, we have seen Madrid’s development, including the gentrification of residential areas such as Barrio de las Salesas in Julieta (2016).

One of the highlights from Almodóvar’s most lauded period was Volver, starring Penélope Cruz. Depicting familial life in Madrid, the director exposed eccentricities of both the characters and the city, playing its part in all the craziness that ensues.

Penélope Cruz in ‘Volver’ (2006) is a classic example of Pedro Almodóvar’s Madrid | © El Deseo S A/Kobal/Shutterstock

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

The Bourne franchise has travelled the globe and given star Matt Damon the chance to run, drive and punch his way through a number of cities. Madrid’s Atocha Station is one such playground for lead character Jason Bourne as he searches through his unreliable memories to find answers about who he really is.

Going further back, David Lean’s epic drama Dr Zhivago (1965) isn’t set in Madrid, but the director did choose to shoot at Delicias, another train station in the city, as a stand-in for Russia.

The Bourne franchise saw Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne character travel the world, and for ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ (2007), the crew rolled into Madrid | © Snap Stills/Shutterstock

Velvet (2014 – 2016)

During its brief two-year broadcast run, Velvet was a hugely popular Spanish TV series focussing on the love story between fashion house heir Alberto Márquez (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) and a seamstress working for the label, Ana Rivera (Paula Echevarría). Known domestically in Spain as Galerías Velvet, the show was set in 1950s Spain and predominantly filmed around Madrid. Although scenes were shot in a number of studios, various locations were captured along Madrid’s most famous street, Calle Gran Vía.

Calle Gran Vía is one of the Spanish capital’s most popular streets and was seen in TV series ‘Velvet’ | © Maria Galan / Alamy Stock Photo

Truman (2015)

Although director Cesc Gay and screenwriter Tomàs Aragay are famously known for their Barcelona-centric movie sets, it’s their 2015 film Truman shot on the streets on Madrid that is their biggest hit to date. Avoiding big landmarks and tourist destinations entirely, Truman instead focusses on the individuals living in the city. We get to see the cosmopolitan make-up of modern Madrid through the everyday lives of people who call the city home.

Stars Oriol Pla and Ricardo Darín in a scene from ‘Truman’ (2015) | © Audiovisual Aval Sgr/Kobal/Shutterstock

Thesis (1996)

Spanish-Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Amenábar set his debut horror movie Thesis at Madrid’s Complutense University, the same university he attended as a student. The thriller examines the relationship between on-screen violence and its impact on the wider community, whilst also exploring 1990s pop culture in Spain. After the success of Thesis, Amenábar went on to shoot his award-winning British horror film The Others (2001) in Madrid.

La comunidad (2000)

This Madrid-set, award-winning film defined early-2000s Spanish genre cinema. The unabashed comedy La comunidad (Common Wealth), is based around estate agent Julia (Carmen Maura) finding $15 million in the apartment of a dead man. However, Julia isn’t the only one who knows about the deceased’s riches, and a group of ruthless neighbours eagerly watch events unfold. This hilariously funny dark comedy was awarded three Goya awards, and became an instant hit across Spain.

Popular Spanish star Carmen Maura leads the way in ‘La comunidad’ | © Lolafilms/Kobal/Shutterstock

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)

Legendary director Pedro Almodóvar moved to Madrid in 1967, and for the last 50 years has become inextricably linked with the city presented on screen. For his comedy, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Almodóvar developed a fantasy version of Madrid, jam-packed with colour and high-intensity action. The comedy was an international breakthrough hit, and the film swept the board at the Goyas, Spain’s top movie honours. After the noteworthy release, Almodóvar was announced as a major voice in Spanish cinema.

‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’ (1988) is one of the best known films from Madrid, in which director Pedro Almodóvar captures the city in all its glory | © Moviestore/Shutterstock

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