Ancient civilizations often served as great inspiration for filmmakers. Many movies both documentaries and fantasy were made using their settings, deities, cities, and rituals. The Aztec civilization is one such iconic ancient mesoamerican civilization, but weirdly enough, it wasn’t portrayed in the movies nearly as much as some other civilizations.
In today’s post, we’re going to focus on Aztecs in movies, and before you give our list a look, expect everything from action and comedies, to horrors and documentaries! There’s a bit of everything to suit just about anybody’s tastes.
So, without further ado, let’s check out our 10 best movies about Aztecs that you need to check out!
1. México Bárbaro (2014)
What it’s about: Our first entry on this list is actually a horror anthology divided into 8 chapters. Chapter 1 is what landed México Bárbaro on this list because it deals with Tzompantli, an ancient Aztec practice of showing off the skulls of your enemies that you’ve taken during conquests or other similar raids. What is interesting about Tzompantli is that the practice is now being adopted by drug dealers that use it to scare off rivals and enemies, much as the Aztecs did.
Why you should watch it: If you’re a fan of Mesoamerican cultures you should definitely give México Bárbaro a try. While it’s not a totally historically faithful depiction of the practice, it’s interesting and you might even learn a thing or two. Other chapters are interesting as well since they deal with other creepy phenomena (and ghost stories) from mesoamerican cultures.
2 Aztec Rex (2008)
What it’s about: The premise of Aztec Rex sounds ridiculous until you realize that the movie is an action-comedy. Aztec Rex leads us to Aztec civilization as it was during 1521 when conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived in the jungle with the aim to probably rob the Aztecs of their gold. What he found was something otherworldly. The local tribe of Aztecs were worshiping a pair of Tyrannosaurus rex. All is well and good until Aztec Rex starts snacking on the tribe that worshiped them.
Why you should watch it: As I’ve already mentioned, don’t expect much when it comes to the depth of the movie and historical setting since it is a fictional action-adventure comedy story. It’s certainly a bizarre movie and if you’ve ever wondered how dinosaurs fit in with the ancient Aztec empire, give it a try.
3. Return to Aztlán (1990)
What it’s about: Return to Aztlán presents us with a familiar premise. One part of the Aztec territory is suffering from a terrible drought, and the local population seems to think that they have angered the gods in some way. Moctezuma The Old decided to head to the Aztlán, a so-called cradle of Aztec civilization in search of the goddess Coatlicue the only deity that can help them at the moment.
Why you should watch it: Return to Aztlán is a highly rated movie especially praised for its depiction of everyday Aztec life, as well as life during a crisis such as a drought that would have been catastrophic for this community that highly depended on nature and its whims. Overall it is a great movie if you’re interested in the more historically accurate side of Aztec lives in the movies.
4. Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy (2000)
What it’s about: During an excavation of an ancient Aztec pyramid, numerous artifacts have been uncovered as well as a remarkably well-kept mummy. Both the artifacts and the mummy have been sent back to the States for further studies and six unsuspecting archeology students and a professor will have to deal with something they never thought to see during their waking hours- an ancient Aztec god, ready to deliver even more ancient curse.
Why you should watch it: The movie is low-budget so don’t expect much when it comes to the setting. However, the premise of the Aztec mummies is interesting as we don’t see nearly enough of those in the movies. If you’re a fan of mummies in the movies, getting revenge for their rest being disturbed definitely give this movie a try.
5. Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)
What it’s about: The story of Q: The Winged Serpent revolves around two detectives Shepard and Powell who stumble upon a murder case that seems to involve ancient Aztec rituals. At the same time, something begins terrorizing the citizens of New York and it looks like something pulled straight out of Aztec mythology.
Why you should watch it: If you’re a fan of monster movies, you’re going to be delighted with this cheesy depiction of Quetzalcoatl. Don’t expect much in the department of special effects, still, the premise alone should keep you entertained.
6. The Other Conquest (1998)
What it’s about: The Other Conquest is a historical depiction of the infamous massacre of the Aztecs at the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan. The movie follows Topilzin illegitimate son of Montezuma, Aztec emperor, and his struggle against Spaniards and new religion until he receives enlightenment and decides to change his life forever.
Why you should watch it: The movie accurately shows the treatment that Aztecs received while they were conquered by the Spaniards. If you want to learn more about the fall of this great civilization, this movie will not necessarily educate you, but it will certainly inspire you to do your own research.
7. The Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon (2008)
What it’s about: The Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon begins with a disappearance of a research team that was supposed to uncover and analyze a lost walled Aztec city. A rescue team is formed with the hopes of recovering the team and they stumble upon ancient Aztec warriors being led by a savage and terrifying flying serpent god.
Why you should watch it: One more depiction of an Aztec flying serpent, if you’re into ancient gods coming alive on unsuspecting intruders of its territory definitely give this one a try. It’s not the best horror movie in the world but it’s definitely something different.
8. Apocalypto (2006)
What it’s about: Apocalypto takes place in Yucatán around the year 1502 while the Mayan civilization is undergoing rapid decline. The movie deals heavily with themes of human sacrifice, oppression, and ritualistic worship.
Why you should watch it: You’re probably wondering why I’ve put a movie about Mayans on this list, well as many viewers pointed out the movie did not pain the Mayans in such a great light, considering that most of the rituals and day-to-day details shown are more reminiscent of Aztecs. Having said that, if you’re interested in high-budget depictions of Mesoamericans, give it a try.
9. Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy (2007)
What it’s about: When you combine a drop of human blood with an ancient well-preserved Aztec Mummy, you get a perfect undead villain with world domination in its sight. Mil Máscaras will try to stop it but he will soon learn that the mummy has plenty of weapons at its disposal.
Why you should watch it: This sci-fi horror movie features Mil Mascaras famous Mexican wrestler and extremely popular movie star and power-hungry mummies, what more can you even ask for?
10. The Nameless Days (2022)
What it’s about: The Nameless Days takes us to the Mexican-American border where the locals experience strange phenomena every 20 years. Every 20 years, one day in the year ancient Aztec deities start walking among the mortals taking the souls just like the ancients used to sacrifice to them.
Why you should watch it: This is an excellent supernatural horror movie that introduces us to the concept of timelessness. If you’re a fan of the hunter-prey dynamic, this movie is definitely a great fit for you.