El Norte (1983)

R  |   |  Adventure, Drama, Thriller  |  27 January 1984 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 3,637 users   Metascore: 67/100
Reviews: 46 user | 25 critic | 5 from Metacritic.com

Peasants escaping mindless labor and a murderous Guatemalan government head to America in hopes for something better.



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ernesto Gómez Cruz ...
Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez ...
Alicia del Lago ...
Jose Martin Ruano ...
Stella Quan ...
Heraclio Zepeda ...
Pedro (as Eraclio Zapeda)
Emilio Gomez Ozuna ...
Daniel Lemus Valenzuela ...
Rodrigo Puebla ...
El Puma the Soldier
Yosahandi Navarrete Quan ...
Josefita's Daughter
Rodolfo De Alexandre ...
Emilio Del Haro ...
Truck Driver
Jorge Moreno ...
Old Man on Bus


Mayan Indian peasants, tired of being thought of as nothing more than "brazos fuertes" ("strong arms", i.e., manual laborers) and organizing in an effort to improve their lot in life, are discovered by the Guatemalan army. After the army destroys their village and family, a brother and sister, teenagers who just barely escaped the massacre, decide they must flee to "El Norte" ("the North", i.e., the USA). After receiving clandestine help from friends and humorous advice from a veteran immigrant on strategies for traveling through Mexico, they make their way by truck, bus and other means to Los Angeles, where they try to make a new life as young, and undocumented immigrants. Written by Ed Cannon <ecannon@mail.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The magical film that reveals the world between the dream and the reality


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






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Release Date:

27 January 1984 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Au nord le paradis  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


Roger Ebert noted in his review that Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez is terrified of rats in real life, but insisted that the filmmakers use actual (domesticated and trained) rats for the scene where she goes through an underground tunnel to reach the U.S. See more »


When Rosa dies, Enrique cries and hugs her with his head on her chest. A closeup shows Rosa's hand on her stomach. The next, longer shot shows her hand is at the top of her thigh. See more »


Border patrol officer 1: [to Enrique and Rosa in Spanish] Do you know how to read and write?
Rosa Xuncax: [to Enrique in Mayan] Why does he want to know that?
Enrique Xuncax: [to Rosa in Mayan] I don't know, but I think it's a trick. We'd better lie.
Border patrol officer 2: What are they saying?
Border patrol officer 1: I don't know. They're not speaking Spanish. They must be speaking some kind of Indian language.
Border patrol officer 2: Well, what the fuck good are you?
Enrique Xuncax: [to the officer in Spanish] No, we can't read or write.
Border patrol officer 1: They don't know how to read and write.
Border patrol officer 2: Well, that's some great system you got there.
Border patrol officer 1: Okay.
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User Reviews

11 December 1998 | by (Long Beach, California) – See all my reviews

This film portrays the plight of 2 illegal immigrants, as they flee to the U.S. from Guatemala. But this movie is much, MUCH more than that. It cuts through all the stereotypes and attitudes the socially and economically privileged harbor against the foreigner. You need not know English or Spanish to understand this movie, because you feel everything so completely through the two main characters.

Anyone with any heart at all will enjoy this movie. With typical latin fatalism, this movie illustrates how people must sometimes bear the unbearable, because they have no other choice.

19 of 28 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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DVD of El Norte coming Elnortefan
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Crossing the border-who helps them?? redvespagirl
When... when will it hit DVD? paulvinny
Where to buy? cody_gaffney
those two old ladies gman93189
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