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The 10 Best Vintage Narco Films, Mexico’s Underground Drug Dramas – Lisa Liebman

Narco traffickers are having a cultural moment. Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán escaped from a maximum-security prison, the Kathryn Bigelow–produced documentary Cartel Land is in theaters, and Netflix’s new series Narcos has been well-received. But the Mexican outlaw oeuvre known as narco cinema has been training a lens on drug dealers for decades. “Videohomes” — cheap, underground B-movies, often bankrolled by narcos and produced in a matter of weeks for VCRs — became popular with working-class audiences on both sides of the border in the ’70s and ’80s. They tell over-the-top tales of drug dealers, corrupt cops and politicos, hookers, and trucks, and are sometimes based on songs known as narcocorridos — drug ballads — written and sung by norteño bands like California’s Los Tigres del Norte. Narco cinema is so influential it’s seeped into mainstream Mexican films like the successful comedy Salvando Al Soldado Pérez/Saving Private Pérez (a spoof of you-know-what about a drug lord’s MIA brother in Iraq), arthouse films (Miss Bala stars Narcos’ Stephanie Sigman), “narconovas” — telenovelas about the drug trade. You’ll also see it appropriated by American directors like Robert Rodriguez and Oliver Stone. If Pablo Escobar’s Narcos exploits have left you jonesing for more drug drama, here are ten of the best vintage “videohomes” in chronological order, compiled by narco-film expert Carlos A. Gutiérrez, co-founder and executive director of the NYC-based Latino film association, Cinema Tropical.

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