El Norte (1984) - Rotten Tomatoes

El Norte (1984)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

El Norte Photos

Movie Info

"When will we find a home?" Rosa asks her brother Enrique at the end of their long journey. Alone in a strange land, they have only each other. The search for roots and the importance of family inform Gregory Nava's and Anna Thomas's lyrical and emotionally powerful El Norte, just as they will the filmmakers' later My Family, which showed at Sundance in 1995. One of the first films to portray faithfully the plight of Central American political refugees, El Norte is a remarkable fusion of documentary realism and visual poetry. When their father is killed and their mother arrested by the military, Rosa and Enrique flee the coffee fields of Guatemala for el norte, a place they know only from pictures in their godmother Josefita's Better Homes and Gardens magazines. Their trip is often harrowing, taking them through the teeming squalor of Tijuana to the anonymous streets of Los Angeles, but there is time for joy and laughter, too. They learn English in a lively night school, and when Rosa is intimidated by the laundry room in the house she is cleaning at her new job, she washes the clothes by hand and spreads them on the lawn to dry as she used to do at home. Thomas's eloquently crafted characters are brought to vibrant life by Zaide Gutierrez's and David Villalpando's remarkable performances, and the authentic music and James Glennon's moody cinematography create an indelible sense of place. Roger Ebert calls El Norte a modern Grapes of Wrath, but it is also a very warm and personal story about the resilience of the human spirit and a celebration of hope that survives in the face of despair.

Watch it now


David Villalpando
as Enrique Xuncax
Ernesto Gomez Cruz
as Arturo Xuncax
Alicia del Lago
as Lupe Xuncax
Stella Quan
as Josefita
Emilio del Haro
as Truck Driver
Abel Franco
as Raimundo
Tony Plana
as Carlos
Jorge Moreno
as Man in Bus
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for El Norte

All Critics (19) | Top Critics (4)

From the very first moments of El Norte, we know that we are in the hands of a great movie.

Full Review… | September 19, 2014
Top Critic

It is beautifully lensed and comes across as a kind of giant Renaissance canvas.

Full Review… | September 19, 2014
Top Critic

El Norte is not exactly a great film, but it's a very good one that, through the devices of fiction, manages to provoke a number of healthily contradictory feelings about the world we all inhabit at the moment.

Full Review… | August 23, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

Though his subject is a serious one and his intentions are apparently noble, Nava has made a film that is essentially indistinguishable from Love Story.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

It's heartening to see this non-Hollywood production finding a solid niche in the commercial movie circuit.

Full Review… | September 19, 2014
Christian Science Monitor

Splendid on nearly every level.

Full Review… | September 19, 2014
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Audience Reviews for El Norte

This is a story about a brother and sister who are poor in Mexico. They are Native Americans and because of this they are looked down on by most other Mexicans. After a tragedy the siblings decide to travel north to america. This not only a story about their journey, but also about what they do once in america. A great story, they just want to live their lives with out people treating them like trash. They are hear working and smart. The movie is a tear jerker, very well done and worth watching.

Robert Gates
Robert Gates

It's predictable and heavy-handed, but the ultimate message of the oppression of the immigrant and the death of the American dream due to our corrupt capitalist system makes "El Norte" required viewing for anyone leaning towards a conservative viewpoint on immigration reform.

Reece Leonard
Reece Leonard

I'm sort of embarrassed that I like this so much, especially the part when it devolves into a horror story because of THE MICE OH MY GOD THE MICE, but I don't know - it's also kind of charming in its own simple way.

Jennifer Xu
Jennifer Xu

Super Reviewer

El Norte Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

Discussion Forum

Discuss El Norte on our Movie forum!

News & Features