Our southern neighbors: 7 movies that celebrate the culture of Mexico

A list of movies that touch on food, music, wrestling and more — and are as varied as the people who live there.

(courtesy IFC Films) A beautiful older woman (Maribel Verdu, left) draws the attention of two 18-year-old friends (Gael Garcia Bernal, center, and Diego Luna), in director Alfonso Cuarón's 2001 road movie "Y Tu Mamá También."

Pixar’s latest movie, “Coco,” opens Wednesday in the United States — but it got a head start in Mexico, becoming the highest-grossing movie ever in that country.

“Coco” is set in Mexico and is steeped in that nation’s culture — particularly in the celebration of Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, when people go to cemeteries to visit with their departed relatives.

Moviemakers on both sides of the border have explored the culture of Mexico in many ways. Here are seven of the best films about Mexico:

1. Like Water for Chocolate (1992)

Tita (Lumi Cavazos), the youngest daughter of a Mexican family, is forbidden to marry her love, Pedro (Marco Leonardi), so he marries her sister Rosaura (Yareli Arizmendi) so he can stay close to Tita. Being the youngest, Tita is expected to be the caretaker for the family, and in her cooking she expresses all of her emotions — love, sadness, passion and joy — in director Alfonso Arau’s sensuous adaptation of Laura Esquivel’s beloved novel.

2. El Mariachi (1992)

Robert Rodriguez famously spent $7,000, raising the money by becoming a pharmaceutical lab rat, for his debut, an action thriller about a Mexican guitarist (Carlos Gallardo) who’s mistaken for a contract killer. Rodriguez quickly directed a Hollywood remake (“Desperado,” starring Antonio Banderas) that spawned a sequel, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico,” but the gritty audacity of the original is tough to beat.

3. Amores Perros (2000)

A car crash in a Mexican city plays an important role in three lives: an adolescent (Gael Garcia Bernal) who trains a fighting dog to raise money; a rich woman (Goya Toledo) whose pampered pooch goes missing; and an ex-guerrilla (Emilio Echevarria) who tends to the city’s stray dogs. This was the debut feature of director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who won back-to-back Oscars for directing “Birdman” and “The Revenant.”

4. Y Tu Mamá También (2001)

Before winning his directing Oscar for “Gravity,” Alfonso Cuarón helmed this sexy road trip, in which two teen friends (Gael Garcia Bernal, again, and Diego Luna) and an alluring older woman (Maribel Verdú) drive around Mexico. Seduction and jealousy play their roles, testing the guys’ friendship and forcing them to grow up in a hurry.

5. Nacho Libre (2006)

Utah-based filmmaker Jared Hess, hot off the success of his debut “Napoleon Dynamite,” turned his obsession with Mexican “lucha libra” wrestling into this oddball comedy. Jack Black stars as a monk who takes to masked wrestling to raise money for an orphanage.

6. Under the Same Moon (2007)

Carlos (Adrian Alonso) is a 9-year-old boy in Mexico who barely knows his mother, Rosario (Kate del Castillo), an undocumented worker in the U.S. When Carlos’ grandmother dies, Carlos embarks on an epic journey to reunite with his mom. Director Patricia Riggen’s drama is brimming with hardship and hope.

7. Sleep Dealer (2008)

Director Alex Rivera’s allegorical science-fiction thriller imagines a near future where laborers sell their toil virtually — hooking themselves up to machines in Mexico that remotely control builder robots on skyscrapers in the States. The result is a smart, sensitive look at the human cost of exploited labor on both sides of the border.