11 Spanish films that have been top dogs in the Goya Awards

We should not judge a film for the number of awards it has received, but in many cases, this criterion does reflect the quality of a production, as well as the general view of the audience. Therefore, sometimes film awards constitute a helpful guide to explore a specific genre, the highlights of the year or the general production of a country. When it comes to Spain, there is no doubt that the Goya Awards are the most renowned film awards in the country, hence having a look at the most successful films over the years will help us get into Spanish cinema. In that sense, and even if we might talk another day about those films that have been most awarded, this article shall focus on a particular approach: discussing the films that have been nominated more times throughout the years.

El buen patrón/The Good Boss (2021)

Written and directed by Fernando León de Aranoa, this film got 20 nominations and 6 “cabezones” —that’s how they call the prizes, bronze statuettes resembling the head of the famous painter— in the 36th edition of the awards. This made El buen patrón the most nominated film in the Goya Awards. With Javier Bardem as the leading character, the production shifts between comedy and drama to tell the story of Julio Blanco, the owner of a factory of industrial scales. Both the company’s headquarters and the factory are located in a provincial town, and Julio looks forward to being visited by a commission that will decide whether or not his company deserves to be granted a local award. When everything seems to be against Blanco, the good boss resolves to do everything he can so that the big day goes on smoothly, even if he has to cross every moral and legal boundary to do so.

Blancanieves (2012)

This film directed by Pablo Berger brought about a revolution in the way Spanish cinema was conceived. It was innovative not only for being a silent film, which was already original enough at the time, but also because of its new approach of the Snow White fairy tale of the Brothers Grimm. The story is set in the Spain of the 1920s, where the main character lives under the abusive behaviour of her stepmother, like in the original tale. One day Carmen, the modern version of Snow White, decides to leave the house and everything else behind. This way, she ends up embarking on an exciting journey with a group of dwarfs that work as bullfighters. Blancanieves got 18 nominations in the Goya Awards, and at the end of the night they had gathered 10 “cabezones”.

Días contados/Running Out of Time (1994)

Imanol Uribe wrote and directed this film based on the novel by Juan Madrid. Días contados is a mixture of a thriller and drama film. The main character is Antonio, a member of the ETA Basque separatist organisation that, after many years of fighting, has lost faith in the cause. Just before they carry out a terrorist attack in Madrid, he meets Charo, a drug addict prostitute who is twelve years younger than him. Antonio falls in love with this young woman and, for the first time in many years, he begins to think that he could start a new life out of the organisation he feels so trapped in. However, with the new hope arrives a great threat: the police tracks down Antonio, whose face suddenly appears on all the TVs in the country. In the end, Días contados got 8 Goya Awards. Before we move on, one last curiosity: this was the first Goya Award that the well-known Javier Bardem won, this time in the category of best supporting actor.

La niña de tus ojos/ The Girl of Your Dreams (1998)

When Fernando Trueba and Rafael Azcona join forces, something great is about to happen in Spanish cinema. In the case of La niña de tus ojos, they also worked side by side with Carlos López and Manuel Ángel Egea to write a script for the film that would be nominated 18 times. La niña de tus ojos takes place during the Spanish Civil War, and it tells the story of a group of artists who want to record a film displaying the Spanish popular culture. The production is held in a film studio in Nazi Germany, and the cultural and ideological disagreements of the characters form the basis of the plot of this film that ended up bringing home 7 “cabezones”. Another interesting fact regarding La niña de tus ojos is that Academy Award winner Penélope Cruz got her first Goya Award for her role in this film, in the category of Best Actress.

 Belle Époque (1992)

This is another film with Fernando Trueba behind the cameras and Rafael Azcona as a screenwriter. Trueba himself and José Luis García also contributed to the creation of the script. Belle Époque wasn’t only successful in Spain: it also won an Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film. In the national film awards, it got nominated 17 times, and the film won 9 of them. Belle Époque leads us to the winter of 1931, when Fernando decides to desert and hide in an isolated country house. There he meets an eccentric painter and his four daughters, with whom he begins to engage in parallel relationships.

La isla mínima/ Marshland (2014)

Alberto Rodríguez directed this film that won 10 of the 17 Goya Awards it was nominated to in the 29th edition. The story begins in the Spain of the early 80s, in a town in the marshlands of the Guadalquivir river. The setting powerfully attracts us from the very start, when two police officers arrive there. Their personalities differ at many levels, but they are both determined to crack the case of two teenagers that have mysteriously gone missing. La isla mínima is film noir in its purest form; the narrative’s conclusion is just as important as the dramatic weight that haunts the characters throughout the film.

Mientras dure la guerra/ While at War (2019)

The last film that Alejandro Amenábar directed closed the big Spanish event with 5 awards, after being nominated 17 times. Mientras dure la guerra is set in the summer of 1936, so of course the central theme of the film is the Spanish Civil War. There have been many Spanish productions revolving around this painful period of Spain’s history, but the main peculiarity of this film is the fact that it tells the story of a character that is far from being unknown: Spanish poet Miguel de Unamuno.

Celda 211/ Cell 211 (2009)

Daniel Monzón directed and co-wrote with Jorge Guerricaechevarría this film that is based on a novel by Francisco Pérez Gandul. Celda 211, one of the most acclaimed Spanish films in the century, was nominated to 16 Goya Awards, and won 8 of them. It’s a prison drama where Luis Tosar shines with his own light by playing the terrible Malamadre (literally “bad mother”). It’s not by chance that he won the Best Actor category. Alberto Ammann plays the role of Juan, a prison officer who has to face a mutiny on his first day at work. In order to survive, Juan has to pretend to be an inmate, with all that that entails.

Dolor y gloria/ Pain and Glory (2019)

Dolor y gloria too was nominated 16 times, and it eventually won 7 Goya Awards. This film directed by Pedro Almodóvar even got nominated to the Academy Awards, and Antonio Banderas even competed in the Best Actor category. At the end the Oscar statuette didn’t come back to Spain, but Banderas did win the Goya Award. Moreover, Almodóvar got two “cabezones” in the categories of Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, apart from the Best Film award. Constantly moving between autobiography and fiction, Dolor y gloria tells the story of Salvador, a filmmaker suffering from intense physical and emotional pain. He has a tendency to get lost in childhood memories, but he needs to face reality and find his way to the present time.

La piel que habito/ The Skin I Live In (2011)

Here we have another Almodóvar film, based on the book by Thierry Jonquet, that won 4 of the 16 Goya Awards it was nominated to. Antonio Banderas comes back as the main character, along with Elena Anaya, who won the category of Best Actress. Banderas brings life to Robert Ledgard, a successful plastic surgeon that has spent a long time making morally questionable experiments with the aim of creating a new resistant kind of skin that would have been able to save his wife’s life, for she died because of the burns she suffered in a car accident. La piel que habito explores moral boundaries, ambition and, ultimately, revenge.

Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios/ Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)

Almodóvar was nominated 16 times for this film too, and they eventually won 5 of them. Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios perfectly captures the essence of the Spanish filmmaker. After Pepa and Iván, who are both voice actors, break up, a house full of memories gets suddenly crowded with a group of motley people that create this comedy full of entanglements that put Almodóvar in the spotlight of international cinema. The cast includes actors that have worked with the director for many years, like Banderas and Rossy de Palma. With this film, Almodóvar got his first nominations in the Goya Awards ever.

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