All-time Best Filipino Movies You Can Catch on iWant!

by Matthew Escosia
classic filipino movies iwant
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Movie enthusiasts who are willing to embark on the older titles of Philippine cinema will be thrilled to learn the richness of storytelling a lot of them have, and most importantly, how the country’s local history and culture fascinatingly morphs and shifts through time.

But more so, viewing classic Filipino movies is already an important statement that we should not ignore the past, regardless of how chaotic or peaceful it was compared to now.

We have previously highlighted the sheer relevance of acknowledging classic movie titles in our feature of ABS-CBN Film Restoration’s “Sagip Pelikula” initiative, but we want to share a few titles, some of which they were able to preserve before, that is currently accessible for streaming via the iWant platform.

Here are our classic Filipino movie recommendations you can watch now on iWant!

10. Bulaklak Sa City Jail (1984)

The Philippines has produced a lot of great book to film adaptations, and Bulaklak sa City Jail is deservedly included in this crop. It helps that this is Nora Aunor and director Maria O’Hara collaborating to bring to life the pregnant woman arrested to jail for attempted murder. The film is still a tough watch, but its impact remains large.

9. Moral (1982)

Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Moral can easily be assessed as a comedy-drama movie about a group of female friends overcoming adult struggles, but on a closer look, it’s surprisingly braver than you think. It’s a landmark piece of feminist cinema from the Philippines that holds no bar in discussing silently-talked about struggles and sensitive issues during the 1980s such as abortion, same-sex relationships, and family planning.

8. Kisapmata (1981)

The scariest Filipino movie isn’t technically a horror movie, but a drama about a family controlled by a strict patriarchal figure. Mike De Leon’s Kisapmata features the most cunning villain in Philippine cinema in the form of Dadong Carandang, brilliantly portrayed by the always-great Vic Silayan. Beyond its domestic scares, the film is also memorable for being a brave critique on dictatorship and machismo.

7. Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising (1977)

Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising is arguably one of the best films by Mike De Leon. But unlike the more politically-heavy titles commonly associated with him, the film uses the charm of its romance to paint an honest picture of innocent love without feeling forced or cheesy. The film, about a college student who fell in love with a married woman, memorably uses the iconic Philippine city of Baguio as its backdrop.

6. Manila By Night (1980)

Ishmael Bernal’s Manila By Night has a great story to tell outside the context of the film, as it’s one of the many titles banned in the ‘80s during Martial Law because of its subversive themes.  For its presentation of Manila in slow decay, the film can be equally fearless and fearful, as it’s hopeless and hopeful. Nothing compares to it.

5. Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (1976)

Mario O’Hara’s Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos is a haunting portrait of World War II in the eyes of a Filipina who was thrown in various battles, both internally and externally. An essential viewing.

4. Karnal (1983)

Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Karnal features some of the best dialogues in the Philippine cinema. Written by iconic writer Ricky Lee, the film tells the story of a couple whose visit to a rural community becomes their most horrific tragedy yet. Karnal, at times, can be over-the-top (much thanks to the film’s soap opera-ish treatment and unreliable narrator) but its tension and emotions are superbly handled.


3. Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon (1976)

The year 1976 was a great time for Philippine cinema, a rare year when a handful of classic Filipino films were released month after month (Minsa’y Isang Gamu-Gamo, Nunal sa Tubig, Insiang). Eddie Romero’s Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon was special because its message transcends decades after. It explores nationalism as something that isn’t just bounded by residence, but by the pure intentions of the heart. Iconic Filipino actor Christopher De Leon maybe at his finest here, latching on his character’s journey from naivety to eventually, the loss of innocence due to foreign colonization in the Philippines.

2. Oro Plata Mata (1982)

Even with today’s higher production value, nothing is still comparable to how epic Peque Gallaga’s Oro Plata Mata was produced. It is aptly timed as well, with its duration clocking up to over three hours. In this horrifying and deeply emotional account of the Philippines during the Second World War, Gallaga explores the inevitable decay of a nation. Nothing still comes close to it.


1. Himala (1982)

Ishmael Bernal’s Himala makes the argument that faith is inexistent, and solely living in every person’s heart. Religion in Philippine cinema is a tough topic to discuss, as Catholicism and Islam play an important component in most Filipinos’ culture. Bernal’s film about a faith healer who makes waves in her community is not anti-religion, but it’s brave enough to show that the problems that have continued to spring surrounding its existence need to be discussed. Himala features popular actress Nora Aunor in her greatest role yet, up there with the ranks of the best performances in a Filipino film.


What are some of the classic Filipino films on iWant you want to recommend to us? Share your recommendations on the comment section below!


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