15 Spanish-Language Series that Rival Money Heist

15 Spanish-Language Series that Rival Money Heist
Image credit: Netflix, Atresmedia, RTVE, Atresmedia Televisión, Movistar+, HBO

What is it going to be: political chicanery, a stroll through a haunted pier, or a detour into the moral maze of a high school?

1. "Narcos"

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Set predominantly in Colombia, "Narcos" spares no detail, dishing out the rise and eventual fall of Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug kingpin. Cartels here are not fables whispered in dark corners; they're empires, as complex and bureaucratic as any Fortune 500 company. Yet, just when you think you've put your finger on the pulse of the series—bam!—the DEA agents make a move, flipping the game board. Corruption here is rampant, and truth be told, "Narcos" is less about the drugs, and more about a ruthless chess game, with lives wagered as mere pawns.

2. "Fariña (Cocaine Coast)"

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The Galician coast, more than just a scenic panorama, is the backdrop to Spain's drug trade in the 1980s. The series kicks off with a fishing crisis, spirals into tobacco smuggling, and finally plunges into cocaine trafficking. No heroes here, only opportunists, carving out their fortunes at the expense of others. Fariña presents a cocktail of ambition and corruption, shaken not stirred, with a sprinkle of family drama for taste. If "Narcos" is the grand opera, then "Fariña" is the intimate chamber music—equally compelling but on a different scale.

3. "El Chapo"

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Names synonymous with infamy often evoke an aura of enigma. Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, the drug lord who escaped prison—twice—is more than just a criminal; he's an anti-hero of sorts. The series dives into El Chapo's life, not to glorify, but to dissect the mechanics of his empire. The tunnels, both literal and metaphorical, through which drugs and bribes flow, form the veins of this complex narrative. Here, law enforcement is not a guardian of justice, but a player in a rigged game.

4. "Estoy Vivo (I'm Alive)"

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A police officer dies but returns to Earth in another man's body. Sounds like science fiction, but "Estoy Vivo" bends genres like a contortionist. At its core, it's a crime drama but punctuated with elements of supernatural and romance. The man, now a spectral figure, must solve his own murder, juggle a new identity, and protect his family from looming threats. It's as if Quantum Leap and CSI had a Spanish love child, tinged with ethereal ambiguity.

5. "45 Revoluciones (45 RPM)"

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Nostalgia is not merely a sentiment; it's a business. Set in the 1960s, this musical drama spotlights the genesis of a record label and its first signed band. The series is less a timeline of events and more a playlist of milestones and setbacks. A young talent scout, a rebellious singer, and an ambitious secretary form the trio that aims to revolutionize the Spanish music scene. Each episode is a track, replete with highs and lows.

6. "Élite"

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How does the saying go? Youth is wasted on the young? Enter "Élite," a hotbed of teen melodrama amid the backdrop of a prestigious school in Spain. Two narratives run parallel: one, a murder mystery; the other, the events leading up to it. By the way, everyone is a suspect. The school is less an institution of learning and more a high-stakes arena for power plays among spoiled rich kids and scholarship students. Money talks, yes, but blackmail sings opera.

7. "La Casa de las Flores (The House of Flowers)"

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Eccentricity has a name, and it's the de la Mora family, owners of a flower shop and cabaret. Bet you didn't see that combination coming, huh? When the patriarch's mistress hangs herself—rather dramatically, I might add—secrets bloom like spring daffodils. There's a love child, embezzlement, and a mysterious sibling to stir the pot. The family's dirty laundry? Aired for all to judge.

8. "Ingobernable"

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Emilia Urquiza, First Lady of Mexico, yearns to bring peace to her turbulent nation. Sounds noble, right? Except her husband, the President, holds a radically different agenda. One argument, one dead husband later, Emilia's on the run. Authorities label her a suspect; media paint her as a fugitive. Never has the line between villain and victim been so ambiguously sketched. Political schemes hatch like snake eggs in a heated incubator.

9. "Vis a Vis (Locked Up)"

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Prison: a self-contained ecosystem of alliances and conflicts. A young woman, Macarena, finds herself incarcerated for embezzlement. What follows isn't just a tale of survival but a masterclass in Darwinian principles. Inmates are not mere offenders; they're a hybrid of predators and prey. From drug cartels to contraband economies, the prison is a microcosm of the chaotic world outside. Macarena, the unsuspecting catalyst, soon learns that even behind bars, freedom is a currency that few can afford.

10. "Gran Hotel"

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Mystery wears the guise of opulence at the Grand Hotel, where secrets are merely another item on the menu. A young man named Julio arrives to find his missing sister and lands a job as a waiter. With a setting in the early 1900s, this period drama serves a delectable dish of romance, intrigue, and murder. An underlying class struggle permeates the air, as thick as the cigar smoke in the hotel's lounges. The serving staff and the wealthy patrons dance a tango of morality and deceit.

11. "Velvet"

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A rich man's son, Alberto, falls for Ana, a seamstress at Galllerias Velvet in 1950s Madrid. Ah, but threads of ambition and betrayal are woven into this romantic fabric. You see, Alberto's destined to take over the family business, a mantle that comes with its own set of pins and needles. In contrast, Ana dreams of designing dresses, not just stitching them.

12. "El Embarcadero (The Pier)"

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Death: a cold, final act or the catalyst to a gripping narrative? When Oscar, a successful architect, takes his own life, his wife sets out to unravel the reason. Yet, her quest unveils another life, another woman. Two parallel worlds crash into a chaotic fusion. The pier serves as more than a location; it's the junction of lives kept apart by lies. In this tale, grief becomes a character, shaping decisions and warping realities.

13. "Los Espookys"

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Imagine if your passion for the weird and creepy became a business model. Four friends in a Latin American city turn their love for horror into a peculiar service: staging real-life scares for clients. Exorcisms? Check. Alien sightings? Double check. Each episode unfurls a tapestry of strange events, embroidered with threads of irony and parody. The team operates as the modern-day answer to the Scooby-Doo gang, except they're the ones setting up the haunts.

14. "Mar de Plástico (Sea of Plastic)"

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In a town sustained by greenhouse farming, a brutal murder unravels the fragile peace. Suspicion falls on a community of African workers, setting in motion a spiral of xenophobia and prejudice. However, let's not jump to conclusions. This is no simple whodunnit. As police dig deeper, layers of exploitation and corruption peel off, revealing a community where morality is as scarce as water in a desert.

15. "Merlí"

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Within the corridors of a high school, philosophy is not just a subject; it's a weapon. Merlí, the quirky philosophy teacher, employs the teachings of great philosophers to tackle teenage angst and societal norms. Each episode serves as a chapter, named after a famed philosopher, and encapsulates the theme of the class. Yet, the real lesson unfolds outside the classroom, where Merlí navigates single parenthood and his students grapple with issues of identity and belonging.