These Filipino movies are from different genres that tackle a variety of topics and showcase a slice of what Philippine cinema can and has to offer.
Despite what some people may say, Philippine cinema is not dead. In fact, it is far from it. While most locally made movies that do get attention are usually of the rom-com and action sort, there are also many more Filipino movies that tackle a diverse genre of topics. For decades, the Philippine movie industry has given us some genre-defining and groundbreaking movies that are not only beloved locally, but internationally as well. If you want to see something different, let this list bring you on a journey through Philippine cinema and showcase the talents of the people behind the industry.
These movies may not be as popular as some of their counterparts, but they sure deserve the attention. With that being said, here are 12 underrated Filipino movies that you should give a try. These are movies from different genres that tackle a variety of topics that showcase a slice of what Philippine cinema can and has to offer.
In this movie, Liza Soberano plays Christine, an over-achieving UP Art Studies major whose dreams come crashing down after an accident in her workplace while Enrique Gil plays Raf, a Biology major from UST who struggled in school but achieved success later on in his life. Both characters go through journeys that change who they are and how they see themselves. Christine has ambitious dreams and feels like she can change the world, but is brought down to earth when reality hits her hard. She’s now in a relationship and a job that she in her heart she knows she isn’t happy with. Raf had his graduation pushed back multiple times because he keeps on failing in school, but pulls himself together and eventually becomes a successful doctor.
Filipino romantic movies have always been faced with the criticism that they are very formulaic. Boy and girl meet, boy and girl get together, boy and girl break-up, boy and girl get back together. There is rarely any form of variation to the genre. Alone/Together, however, bucks that trend and offers a grounded portrayal of two people struggling to find themselves and each other. Antoinette Jadaone’s compelling writing that tackles relevant themes of today’s youth along with Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil’s strongest acting role together makes Alone/Together a romantic drama worth watching. This film is so much more than your average love story, but a story of what it means to follow your dreams and being truly happy. It speaks to the youth who rush to be successful, and those who get disillusioned when things don’t go their way. Stream this one on IWant TFC.
Ang Babae Allergic Sa Wifi (2018)
Ang Babaeng Allergic Sa Wifi was a standout when it was shown during the Pista ng Pelikulang Pinoy in 2018 and is arguably one of Sue Ramirez’s best movie roles to date. Sue Ramirez plays Norma, a young woman who is obsessed with social media. One day, she is diagnosed with electromagnetic hypersensitivity which causes her to get sick when near gadgets. Because of this, she moves to the province where there is no signal. There, she deals with having a long-distance relationship and understanding what she truly wants with her life.
The movie is funny, sensitive, heartwarming, and heartbreaking, and Sue is both brilliant and a joy to watch from start to finish. The movie deals with relevant topics of the impact of technology on young people’s lives and what it means to be truly happy. Even Sue’s co-stars, Jameson Blake and Markus Paterson are fun to watch on screen and each of them has great chemistry with Sue. The movie is currently available on Netflix.
Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank (2011)
Eugene Domingo is one of the best actresses of her generation, that is a fact. Dare we say, she is an underrated actress. She has been in a lot of great movies over the decades, but Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank maybe her magnum opus, or at least near to it. The movie follows Bingbong (JM de Guzman), Rainer (Kian Cipirano), and Jocelyn (Cai Cortez) three recent film school graduates who have set their sights on making an Oscar-worthy movie. Despite working with a relatively small budget, they were able to cast Eugene Domingo as their lead actress. They then go to her house to talk about the role.
In this film, Eugene Domingo plays herself, albeit an exaggerated version of herself and she is so good in the role. Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank is a parody of Filipino film cliches and makes fun of them through hilarious and effective scenes. Eugene is the star of the show, and this role won her numerous roles both locally and abroad. Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank was chosen as the Philippines’ entry to the 2012 Oscars and has since spawned two sequels, each spoofing local movie tropes. Catch this movie (and its two sequels) on IWant TFC.
Ang Pangarap Kong Holdap (2018)
From first-time director Marius Talampas comes this eccentric comedy following three petty criminals, Eman (Pepe Herrera), Carlo (Jerald Napoles), and Toto (Jelson Bay) who fail at being good thieves. One day, they are joined by Nicoy (Paolo Contis) as a way to improve their skills and it seems to work at first. Later on, they get the opportunity to plan their first big heist, but the endeavor proves to be more difficult than expected.
From start to finish, the film is a good time with jokes that land and multiple laugh-out-loud moments. It also helps that the three lead actors have great comedic timing between one another. At times, the movie does take a turn for the bizarre, but the comedy is always there and done right. The interesting thing is that the movie somewhat resembles Guy Richie’s crime movies. His crime movies are known to feature a big cast and an over-the-top plot and Ang Pangarap Kong Holdap feels at times to be channeling those kinds of films through uniquely Pinoy lenses. Weird, dumb, and funny are just some ways to describe this movie and it makes for an entertaining experience. You can stream this on Netflix.
Apocalypse Child (2016)
Set in Baler, Apocalypse Child follows Ford (Sid Lucero), a surfing coach named after American director Francis Ford Coppola. He thinks that his dad is the director because his mom gets impregnated by him when he went to the Philippines to film Apocalypse Now (hence the movie’s title). The rest of the film then deals with Ford as he tries to confront his past all while getting ready for the upcoming surfing season.
Apocalypse Child succeeds in its simplicity. It’s not a bombastic film, but a character study of a man who refuses to confront his past. The movie also deals with being an outsider and accepting or rejecting your culture. It’s a bit of a slow burn, but one that’s worth watching. It also helps that the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, especially for the scenes filmed when they are surfing. The movie is available to stream on Netflix.
Balangiga: Howling Wilderness (2017)
For those of you who don’t know, this movie’s director, Khavn, is one of the most celebrated experimental filmmakers in the Philippines. Watching a movie directed by Khavn is like going through a fever dream—it’s wild, confusing, intriguing, and compelling. Most of his movies may be hard to get into or might turn some people off, but with Balangiga: Howling Wilderness, not only is this one of his more accessible movies, but it’s also his best work so far.
The movie is set in 1901 during the Filipino-American war. 8-year-old Kulas and his grandfather flee the town of Balangiga following the Balangiga massacre and the American’s subsequent revenge. Along the way, they find a toddler and keep the baby to protect the baby against the Americans.
What this movie does so well captures the emotion and anger of the time. Kulas and his father are Filipinos, yet they are being killed and taken away by the American invaders. The cinematography is on point, the story is sharp, and the visuals feature Khavn-esque moments of surrealism that will take you a while to decipher. The movie is a compelling piece of work that some people may find a hard time swallowing, but it’s so worth the watch. You can watch this movie on Netflix.
Horror movie fans, this one is for you. Bliss follows Jane Ciego (Iza Calzado), a successful actress who wants to be taken seriously by her peers. Because of this, she decides to produce her own film as a way to gain respect from the industry. During the film shoot, she is involved in an accident that leaves her disabled. In order to recuperate and be secluded from the press, she stays in an eerily empty house under the care and supervision of her husband, Carlo (Ian Veneracion), and a cruel, weird nurse named Lilibeth (Adrienne Vergara). As time goes on, she slowly experiences hallucinations and descends into madness.
Serving as director Jerrold Tarog’s next movie following Heneral Luna, Bliss is psychological horror at its finest. Iza Calzado kills it in this movie as she descends deeper and deeper into insanity all while telling some relevant topics and dark truths when it comes to the local entertainment industry. This movie was originally not allowed to be released on cinemas as the content was deemed too mature but eventually, the film was given an R-18 rating. This film may also hit too close to home for those of us who spent the past year cooped up at home. You can watch the full movie on TBA Studios’ YouTube channel.
Hintayin Ng Langit (2018)
The concept of Heaven and Purgatory gets a unique spin in this romantic drama from Dan Villegas. Lisang (Gina Pareno) is an old woman that has been dead for two years, but she is stuck in “The Middle,” a purgatory-like facility where departed souls are kept until they are allowed entrance into Heaven. She has a reputation of causing trouble with the other souls but that changes though when she gets a new roommate, Manolo (Eddie Garcia), her ex-boyfriend. Now, the two of them must settle past differences before they get their call to heaven.
As stated in the beginning, this film has an interesting take on purgatory and the way it’s done gives the movie a charming feeling. The facility is vintage-inspired with the sets decorated with old and retro props such as a dining room that looked ripped straight from the 1940s, old TVs from the 60s, and the abundant use of VCR tapes. Gina Pareno and Eddie Garcia absolutely carry this film with their magnetic on-screen chemistry. At times, they’re expressing their heartfelt emotions to one another, others telling a snarky remark or a joke. They feel very natural together which makes their struggles feel believable.
The movie is also effective in the way it expresses its main theme of how regret, loss, and letting go affect the human soul. Lisang and Manolo have baggage they need to address in order for them to move on, both literally and figuratively. This charming and heartwarming movie makes for a good viewing option. Watch this movie on Netflix.
Isa Pa With Feelings (2019)
How do you love someone when you are in two different worlds? That is the question Isa Pa With Feelings answers, and it does so quite gracefully. The film follows Mara (Maine Mendoza) an up-and-coming architect getting ready to take her licensure exam. When she fails the exam though, she enters into this lull and loses meaning in her life. But she manages to find a friend in her deaf neighbor, Gail (Carlo Aquino) as he teaches her how to do sign language. Soon, their relationship starts to grow while dealing with issues associated with an able-bodied person falling in love with a deaf man.
Isa Pa With Feelings is a beautiful portrayal of what it means to build a human connection no matter the boundaries. Carlo Aquino delivers an amazing performance and is paired perfectly with Main Mendoza’s charm and physicality as a comedian. There is also a respect given to the deaf and disabled community because except for Carlo Aquino, all the deaf characters in this movie are really deaf. Him being deaf is not used as a cheap plot device, but something he has to live and deal with. The movie has a lot of great emotional moments, such as the stunningly shot dance scene between the two of them to Buwan by juan carlos. Releasing near the tail end of 2019, this is a movie that should go on your watch list. You can watch this on IWant TFC.
Love You to the Stars and Back (2017)
Antoinette Jadaone truly understands the assignment when she makes a romantic movie featuring an established love team. A common theme for her films is that it is a journey, whether that be an actual journey or a journey of self-discovery and no truer is that for Love You to the Stars and Back. A young woman named Mika (Julia Barretto) goes on a road trip to look for aliens. Along the way, he encounters Caloy (Joshua Garcia) and decides to give him a free trip to his destination. That is when he then learns that he has cancer and is on a journey to complete a life’s wish before his time is up. Together, they go on a journey of self-discovery all while falling in love with each other.
In the sea of generic Filipino romantic movies, Love You to the Stars and Back feels like a dolphin coming out of the water. You don’t see it every day, but when you do, it’s an enjoyable experience. This love story with allusions to teenage suicide subverts genre expectations by mixing both romance and science fiction. Aided by excellent performances from Julia Barretto and Joshua Garcia and a compelling plot, Love You to the Stars and Back is definitely one of the better love team movies out there. You can watch the full movie on Star Cinema’s YouTube channel.
Quezon’s Game (2018)
Quezon’s Game is a retelling of the true story of former president Manual Quezon’s decision to accept and shelter hundreds of Jews escaping persecution in Europe during World War 2. Some stories deserve to be told and Quezon’s Game is a story that needs to be told. It’s a good thing then that the execution is pretty good. The movie’s production design help make this movie’s 1940s setting feel real. Raymond Bagatsing’s performance as Manuel Quezon is the star of the show and he really embodies the role. He carried and sold the movie with his acting. The film also deals with other topics that are still relevant to this day such as the fickle nature of politics in the Philippines and racism and discrimination. Watch this on IWant TFC.
Sunday Beauty Queen (2016)
This film differs from the rest as this is a documentary. Getting its name from the day in which the pageants are held, Sunday Beauty Queen follows five Filipina domestic workers working in Hong Kong who participates in local beauty pageants organized by fellow Filipinos in Hong Kong.
At times heartwarming, others heartbreaking, this documentary sheds a light on a very interesting topic that not many people may know about. The pageant aspect of the film may be the most interesting part, but it tugs at the heartstrings with its intimate portrayal of the ups and downs of Filipina domestic workers working in Hong Kong. This documentary received critical praise upon its release and took home Best Picture at MMFF 2016. It’s a worthy watch, whether you want to be brightened by the bond these Filipina domestic workers have made with each other or saddened and shocked by the dark reality they face in Hong Kong. Watch the full documentary on TBA Studio’s YouTube channel.