My Top 15 Best Colombian Telenovelas

Carolina

Carolina

Argentinian Carolina has an extensive movie background in the cinematic universe. She is our resident TV analyst and a seasoned expert in global streaming platforms. She showcases her comprehensive knowledge through her love for Netflix 'Originals', Frozen, The Good Place, and The Dragon Prince.

Colombia has been one of the main telenovela producers. They still are on the podium, along with Mexico and Brazil.

However, Colombian telenovelas and fiction, in general, have a different flavour to the rest of Latin American productions. They show their culture along with their social and political issues.

Also, they took the telenovela genre to another level by creating a balance between melodrama and humour.

They never hide the impact drug traffic has in their society by creating a subgenre known as narco novela that later was adopted by Mexico and other countries as well.

Some of the most iconic Colombian telenovelas were already covered in this article, however I feel the need to make a dedicated list for Colombian telenovelas.

Let’s take a look at these great productions!

1. El 0597 está ocupado (0597 is busy) (1963)

Comedy, Drama, Romance

Wrongly considered the first Colombian telenovela due to its huge success, El 0597 está ocupado is the second telenovela produced in this country.

The story focuses on a man who by mistake ends up calling a women’s prison, and one of the prisoners answers the call. They begin a romantic relationship by phone, but once they are caught up, the prison’s phone is disconnected.

So, every time the man keeps calling, the line is busy. This telenovela is based on the Argentine radio play from 1950, “0597 da ocupado”.

2. La feria de las vanidades (Vanity Fair) (1975)

Drama – 99 episodes

Based on the novel of the same name by English writer William Makepeace Thackeray, La Feria de las Vanidades follows an English orphan girl who dreams of a glamorous life.

After graduating from a prestigious academy, Becky decides to use her beauty and intelligence to get her path into high society and accomplish the life she wants.

3. Los Cuervos (The Crows) (1984)

Drama, Horror, Mystery – 109 episodes

Los Cuervos was an innovative telenovela that mixed horror and mystery with the traditional tropes of melodrama.

The story focuses on the Olmedo family and all the tragedies and secrets around them. Everything starts with Fausto and Alicia, two siblings who are sent with their aunts after their father committed suicide.

Dolores, Narcisa and Sara are three sisters, Fausto and Alicia’s aunts, living in a mansion named Casaloma.

Dolores is a religious fanatic, Narcisa is a spinster obsessed with her beauty and dreaming of marrying a man who’s going to solve all her problems, and Sara is a rich woman owner of an important supermarket chain.

The family keeps dark secrets that are revealed after important tragedies happen around them.

Los cuervos was an expensive production that generated great revenues thanks to the advertising when it was on air and the great success it had in Colombia and later in other Latin American countries.

4. La Potra Zaina (1993)

Romance

La Potra Zaina follows Soledad Ahumada, the daughter of a landlord. Soledad was raised and educated in the harsh masculine tasks in the countryside.

She develops an indomitable and fierce nature combined with her beauty that makes her the object of desire of all men.

She rejects all men who approach her until she meets Daniel Clemente, who owns the farm next to hers and decides to seduce her.

5. Perro Amor (1998)

Drama, Romance

Perro Amor has all the tropes of a typical telenovela. However, the main couple and the love story are about a forbidden relationship between cousins.

Antonio, el Perro Brando, and Camila Brando have had a love affair since they were teenagers. Their rule is never to fall in love with anyone, including them.

Their relationship is full of passion, sex, and games, so for them, love is a game, and if one of them falls in love, automatically, it’s a loser.

When Antonio is about to get married to Daniela, Camila places a bet on him: to leave Daniela at the altar. Antonio accepts the challenge without measuring the consequences.

This decision leaves his family in bankruptcy. On the same day of the failed wedding, Antonio meets Sofía and places a bet on Camila that he’s going to sleep with Sofía.

This incident is going to be the beginning of a spiral of betrayals, jealousy, and passion.

6. El capo (2009)

Suspense, Drama – 3 seasons – 166 episodes

El Capo is part of the trend in telenovelas in mixing action, suspense, and drama, portraying the world of drug trafficing and mafias.

Colombia has a long history of dealing with narcos and mafias and was one of the first countries in Latin America to show this reality in telenovelas.

The story follows Pedro Pablo León Jaramillo, alias “El Capo”, who is a brilliant mind in charge of mafia and drug traffic. Jaramillo doesn’t represent any narco in particular, but it’s an amalgam of many of them.

He’s a fictitious character that could be any drug dealer. The telenovela borrows the format and elements of a TV series, and it’s split into three seasons. El Capo is available on ViX in the US and Latin America.

7. Las muñecas de la mafia (The Mafia Dolls) (2009)

Drama

Based on the book Las Fantásticas by Juan Camilo Ferrand y Andrés López López, this telenovela is in the same trend as El Capo.

Mixing the format of telenovela and TV series, Las muñecas de la mafia is also framed as a narconovela.

The focus is on the women involved with the mafia and drug traffic as the wives, girlfriends, lovers and mistresses of the most important mafia and drug traffic bosses.

Surrounded by all kinds of luxuries and dangers, these women must deal with the high price of choosing a life plagued by violence and death. Las muñecas de la Mafia is available on Netflix worldwide.

8. Pablo Escobar, el patrón del mal (Pablo Escobar, the drug lord) (2012)

Biography, Crime, Drama – 120 Episodes

From the telenovela format, Pablo Escobar, el patrón del Mal, keeps the long format and the daily broadcast, the rest is a series based on real people and events.

Perhaps the most ambitious Colombian TV series, Pablo Escobar, el patrón del mal is inspired by the book La parábola de Pablo by Colombian journalist and Medellín former mayor Alonso Salazar.

Just like the book, the series is based on journalist documents and real testimonials. The series tells the life of drug lord Pablo Escobar, the founder of the Cartel of Medellín, a sinister man who covered Colombia with a death blanket for years.

The series is one of the most expensive productions by Caracol TV, with the participation of more than 1500 actors, mostly shot outdoors in 500 locations between Colombia and Miami.

Pablo Escobar, el patrón del Mal is available worldwide on Netflix.

9. Pedro el escamoso (2001)

Drama – 327 episodes

I remember that Pedro el Escamoso was a great success in Argentina when it was on air. To be honest, the premise is interesting because this telenovela breaks with some typical stereotypes of the genre.

The story follows Pedro Coral Tavera, an overconfident macho man called escamoso, which in the Colombian Spanish variant means someone who thinks knowing everything.

Pedro is a womaniser who escapes from his original small town due to a “skirts” issue and moves to Bogotá, Colombia’s capital.

There, she meets Paula Dávila, for whom Pedro falls in love and becomes her driver and confidant. Pedro also becomes the provider for the Pacheco family, composed only of women whose patriarch recently passed away.

Pedro, besides being overconfident is also a liar, but somehow he manages to change the lives of the people around him.

In 2003, Caracol produced a spin-off sort of sequel called Como Pedro por su casa, following Pedro’s adventures. In 2024 there will be a third season that will be available worldwide on streaming on Disney+.

This new series is going to be a co-production between Disney and Caracol. Meanwhile, if you want to watch the original telenovela, you can find it on Netflix worldwide.

10. En cuerpo ajeno (In a stranger’s body) (1992)

Drama, Fantasy, Romance – 244 episodes

This telenovela, besides the usual drama and romance typical of this genre, also includes fantasy and paranormal elements.

Pedro José Donoso is a rich widower who gets married to Isabel, his beautiful young assistant. Isabel is planning to kill him by giving him short doses of poison.

In the delirium of the poison effects, Pedro dreams of a farmer. When he dies, he reincarnates in the farmer’s body, Salvador Cerinza.

With the help of a medium friend, Gaetana Charry, Pedro in Salvador’s body starts to remember his past life and seeks to get revenge against Isabel.

11. Sin tetas no hay paraíso (No boobs, no paradise) (2006)

Drama – 23 episodes

Considered more a TV series than a telenovela, Sin Tetas no hay paraíso is a great example of the high-level production Colombia can achieve.

This telenovela can also be framed in the narconovelas subgenre. Sin tetas no hay paraíso is a faithful adaptation of the book of the same name written by Gustavo Bolívar.

The story follows Catalina Santana, a 17-year-old girl living in a poor neighbourhood in Pereira. Her best friend is Yésica “la Diabla”, a girl in charge of getting the most pretty girls for drug dealers.

Catalina asks Yésica to be introduced since she sees how the girls make money easily, thanks to working as prostitutes. However, Catalina is rejected several times because her boobs are small.

So, Catalina decides her goal is to get silicone implants to access that world of money and luxuries. This telenovela was a pioneer in addressing such a serious topic as the damage drug traffic makes at many social levels.

The Spanish network Telecinco made a remake under the same title in 2008, and Telemundo made a remake under the title Sin senos no hay paraíso in the same year.

The Telemundo version has a sequel, Sin senos sí hay paraíso and a spin-off, El final del paraíso.

The original version and the Telemundo remake are available on ViX in the US and Latin America.

12. La hija del mariachi (The Mariachi’s daughter) (2006)

Drama, Romance, Music – 147 episodes

La Hija del Mariachi also includes the topic of drug traffic and money laundering as a side subplot and the trigger for the main situation.

However, this telenovela follows the traditional tropes of the genre, with romance, secrets, and antagonist characters. The story follows Emiliano Sánchez-Gallardo, a young Mexican man and senior executive of an automotive company.

When he becomes the victim of a fraud related to money laundering, he’s targeted by the Federal Police of Mexico as the culprit.

Emiliano must leave behind his life full of luxuries, his company, family, and friends and look for refuge in Colombia. Once he arrives in Colombia, he loses his belongings and is heavily beaten in a violent assault.

Looking for help, Emiliano ends up in a thematic bar called Plaza Garibaldi that focuses on Mexican culture with a group of Mariachis as the main attraction.

There, he’s received by Rosario, the star singer of the bar known as El Lucero de Mexico. Soon, romance will flourish between them, at the time Emiliano embraces his new identity as Francisco Lara known as El Príncipe de Mexico.

La Hija del Mariachi is available on ViX in the US and Latin America.

13. El secretario (The Secretary) (2011)

Comedy, Drama, Romance – 123 episodes

El Secretario is a good mix of comedy, drama and romance, something Colombia has proven to do well. The story follows Emilio Romero, a specialist in finances, who is living in the US trying to achieve the American Dream.

However, things are not going as planned, and he’s working as a pizza delivery, far from his profession. When he discovers he has a 6-year-old daughter in Bogotá, he decides to return to his country and find a job related to his profession.

After a couple of complicated situations, he reluctantly accepts a job as a secretary at Industrias Copito, a toilet paper company.

As the only male secretary at the company, he’s often mocked by the female secretaries and his male co-workers. It’s interesting how this telenovela puts the male protagonist in the place that usually is the female main character.

14. Los Herederos del Monte (The Del Monte Dynasty) (2011)

Drama – 128 episodes

Produced for Telemundo, Los Herederos del Monte is a Colombian-American co-production based on the Chilean telenovela Hijos del Monte from 2008.

The story follows all the classical structure of the melodrama with a secret as the focus of the story. Juan, Jose, Pedro, Gaspar and Lucas are adopted brothers whose lives in the countryside change forever when their father, Emilio del Monte, passes away.

When their father’s will is about to be read, Paula del Monte appears. She’s Emilio’s only biological daughter and is determined to claim everything.

However, her plans will derail when she falls in love with Juan. Los Herederos del Monte is available on NBC and Pluto TV in the US.

15. Confinados (2020)

Comedia

Confinados is proof of how creative Colombian producers are. During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, the entertainment industry was stalled.

However, RCN Televisión decided to create this series entirely filmed with cell phones. Also, the topic of this telenovela was the lockdown.

RCN hired an established couple of Colombian actors, Variel Sánchez and Estefanía Godoy because they needed the main couple to be in the same house.

The rest of the cast had to accept special working conditions like filming themselves with their phones, being directed through video calls, etc.

Confinados is a humorous take on the pandemic lockdown and portrays issues like working, living together, family bonding, and daily life during that special and chaotic period.

Summary

Colombia has a great history in telenovelas, with rich stories and characters that have become famous around the world. This list covers the most popular Colombian telenovelas through the decades, with some of them having remakes in other countries.

Whether you’re a fan of Colombian telenovelas and series or you’re curious to discover them, I hope this list is useful for you.

Which is your favourite Colombian telenovela? I’d like to know! Drop me some lines in the message box!

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