Quite often, tales about Mexican border crossings, or even just life on either side of this hotly debated geo-political division, are stranger than fiction. Therefore, the fact that writers and directors love to pick this location for critical plot points or dramatic scenes in their cinematic efforts is not much of a surprise. However, with the market awash with big budget thrillers set on the US-Mexico border of late, which border films should you be watching? Here are the top ten.
The Wild Bunch (1969)
Directed by the legendary Sam Peckinpah, known for his epic Westerns, The Wild Bunch is set on the US-Mexico border in Texas. It was the subject of critical backlash upon release, due to its graphic violence, but what’s most interesting about The Wild Bunch is the way it flips the modern border narrative; rather than Mexicans seeking refuge in the US, we’re presented with the opposite. With the Mexican Revolution serving as the backdrop, The Wild Bunch clearly implies that the border zone has always been one of controversy.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Cartel Land (2015)
Cartel Land, directed by Matthew Heineman, is a critically acclaimed, big-screen documentary that elegantly, if unflinchingly, depicts the harsh reality of life both sides of the border. Mexico’s drug war naturally takes centre stage as we witness a grassroots vigilante group headed by Dr. Jose Mireles that’s trying to stamp out the influence and intimidation tactics of local cartels. Over in the US, army vet Tim Foley is doing what he can to prevent drug runners crossing into Arizona.
Sin Nombre (2009)
Sin Nombre is one of the few films for which the border is the solution rather than the problem. We follow a young Honduran immigrant as she makes the horrendously bleak journey through Mexico in her attempt to make it to the border. However, Sin Nombre, directed by award-winning Cary Fukunaga, also deals with Mexican gang life and how that, too, makes the life-threatening border crossing the most thoroughly favorable option.
El Norte (1984)
Stepping back in time some thirty years, El Norte remains one of the greatest movies ever made about the US-Mexico border. We’re privy to the horribly claustrophobic – both literally and metaphorically – as well as brutal journey that the two indigenous Guatemalan immigrants make in their attempt to gain freedom and supposed safety in the US. For those who think that choosing to illegally enter the US is the easy option, this is the film that will show them otherwise.
Four intertwined storylines make up the plot of the incredible Babel. However, the one that really resonates is that of illegal Mexican nanny, Amelia, who’s traveled south for her son’s wedding but winds up abandoned in the oppressive heat of the Sonoran desert on her attempts to return to the US. A harrowing sequence follows them as they attempt to find help, in a mirror image of the situations many immigrants find themselves in when attempting to make it to the border.
Touch of Evil (1958)
This film noir classic was not considered such a great triumph upon release. However, it’s now considered one of Orson Welles’ best movies and opens with a time bomb being planted in a car in a Mexican border town, before exploding when it’s crossing the border. The implications of this are wide-ranging and attract the attention of police officials, who first suspect the victim’s son-in-law. The moody setting of the US-Mexico border only adds to the suspense of Touch of Evil.
La Niña (2012)
Undocumented immigrants and people smuggling are touched upon in this indie flick that received limited release back in 2012. A Texan mother (Abbie Cornish) gets wrapped up in smuggling Mexicans into the US, but winds up taking care of a young Mexican girl whose mother disappeared in the process. La Niña evocatively puts names and faces to the people generally thought of in facts and figures, displaying the harsh reality of border crossing.
Traffic won director Steven Soderbergh his first Academy Award, and the film is a multi-layered take on the illegal drug trade set across both Mexico and the US. Starring real-life husband and wife pair, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones (not as a married couple though), Traffic effectively demonstrates the devastating effects the drug trade has on even those who are far removed from it. There is no respite in Traffic from the horror of drugs, or life on and around the US-Mexico border.
Mi Familia (1995)
Border crossing scenes are played out three times on film in this touching, emotive movie that highlights both the horrors and hypocrisy surrounding the crossings themselves. The first underscores the artifice of the US-Mexico geopolitical border, as a young boy merely walks into the US. The second, much later, scene shows his pregnant wife (Lopez) deported, along with other legal and illegal Mexicans, while the third focuses on her attempts to get back to the US with her newborn baby.
Sleep Dealer (2008)
The dystopian nightmare flick Sleep Dealer rounds off our guide to US-Mexico border films, with its plotline focusing on how technology has wiped out migrant workers, instead replacing them with robots controlled by Mexicans. In a chilling prophecy of potential future US plans, a fortified wall now separates Mexico from its northern neighbor and the robots are disregarded and disposed of without a second thought when they inevitably ‘fail’. Screaming social commentary meets science fiction.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.