My Top 10 Brazilian 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.

From the beginning, Brazil has been a pioneer in the field of telenovelas.

The first Latin American telenovela ever produced was a Brazilian one: A sua vida me pertenece. Since then, Brazil has taken the genre to another level in production values, stories, acting and budget.

Something that sets Brazilian telenovelas apart from the rest of Latin America is Brazil always proudly portrays its traditions, history, and nationality through this format, also addressing social issues and injustices.

TV Globo has been the biggest telenovela producer from the beginning. Currently and after the closure of Red Machete, Rede Record is the second one.

Brazil is one of the greatest telenovela exporters, with their production being sold worldwide and dubbed to around more than 20 languages.

Now, let’s take a glimpse at different iconic Brazilian telenovelas and some of my favourites.

1. Avenida Brasil (Brazil Avenue) (2012)

Comedy, Crime, Drama – 179 episodes

Avenida Brasil is one of the greatest successes of TV Globo.

After six months of being on air, the telenovela was already sold to 106 countries. Later, it was acquired by more countries, summing up a total of 150.

Avenida Brasil was a worldwide phenomenon, even reaching the Forbes magazine in the US. The story is divided into three phases and follows Rita, a young woman who seeks revenge and wants back part of her life that was taken away by her ambitious and cruel stepmother.

As the Forbes article written by Anderson Antunes said, “‘Avenida Brasil’ has become a phenomenon by focusing on characters that live in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, instead of well-to-do people, something new for the coveted primetime occupied by telenovelas in Brazilian TV”

Avenida Brasil is available on the NBC streaming platform in the US.

2. O Clone (The Clon) (2001)

Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi – 250 episodes

Another success by TV Globo, The Clon, was a worldwide hit, being dubbed into more than 20 languages.

The story is a complex mix of romance, intrigue, science, and exotic sceneries. When the story starts, it follows two characters: Jade and Lucas.

Jade is an orphaned little girl living in Brazil, who is sent to Morocco to live with his uncle. There, she must adapt to a whole new culture and religion and accept the punishments that come if she defies them.

When she grows up, she meets Lucas through a friend from her uncle, Augusto Albieri, who is a doctor in genetics. They fall in love, but in the Islamic world, their relationship is forbidden.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, Lucas’s twin brother, Diogo dies tragically in a helicopter accident.

This incident abruptly destroys Jade and Lucas’ plan to run away together. Dr Albieri, who was also the twins’ Godfather, is devastated by Diogo’s death and decides to use science as a means to get him back.

By using a cell from Lucas and transferring it to a woman, she gets pregnant with a human clone, who is named Leo. Twenty years later, Lucas and Jade reunite again. They followed separate paths and had their own families.

When a young man from Brazil, who is Lucas’ carbon copy, appears in Morocco, their lives will change forever.

In 2003, RTI Televisión made a remake for Telemundo in co-production with Rede Globo. Although the production was ambitious, it didn’t have the success of the original one. O clone is available on RokuTv in the US.

3. Terra Nostra (Our Land) (1999)

Drama – Romance – 221 episodes

The plot of Terra Nostra is about the Italian immigrants who arrived in Brazil between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

The focus is on the protagonist couple, Giuliana and Matteo, who meet each other during the voyage to Brazil. They must overcome several obstacles to live their love, such as leaving behind their past and traditions and adapting to a new culture different from theirs.

Most of the action takes place in a coffee farm in São Paulo, where Matteo starts working after arriving.

Terra Nostra was a big production by Globo, and it’s still considered one of the most expensive Brazilian telenovelas.

4. Xica da Silva (1996)

Drama – Romance – 230 episodes

This historical telenovela is inspired by the real-life of Francisca da Silva de Oliveira, also known as Xica da Silva, one of the most famous women in Brazilian history.

Xica was a parda slave who was set free and became rich and powerful. Xica da Silva is often known as the slave who became a queen.

The telenovela focuses on the main points in Xica’s life, and for dramatisation purposes, some events are changed. The story takes place in the middle of the 18th century in the Tijuco town in Minas Gerais.

Xica is the slave of Commander Felisberto Caldeira D’Abrantes, who was under direct orders from the Portuguese king to be in charge of the diamond mines in Minas Gerais.

When the Commander decides to sell Xica to a brothel, in revenge, the young woman steals a chest full of diamonds that was meant for the Portuguese King. She hides the chest and, in the future, has money to buy her freedom.

This incident leads to the ruin of the Commander and his family, who are sent back to Portugal. And this is only the beginning of Xica’s story!

This telenovela was produced by the now-defunct Red Machete, and it marked a milestone in Brazil’s history for being the first telenovela with a black main character.

5. Dona Beija (1986)

Drama – Romance – 89 episodes

Another historical telenovela produced by Rede Machete inspired by a real-life character, Dona Beija was a worldwide success in the 80s.

The telenovela is based on the life of Ana Jacinta de São José, known as Dona Beija. The story is set during the 19th century and follows the titular character, a beautiful young woman who is about to get married when she’s kidnapped by the Auditor Mota.

He offers her richness, luxuries and gold, but she rejects everything and decides to close her eyes to not see all the luxury and the auditor.

She’s raped and then finds out the auditor killed her grandfather. In revenge, she decides to sleep with many men until she creates her brothel.

6. Pantanal (1990)

Drama, Romance, Supernatural

Pantanal is a saga covering three generations. Everything starts with José Leoncio and his father Juventino arriving at the Pantanal, where they bought a farm to raise livestock.

One day, Juventino disappears mysteriously. After some years, José Leoncio, now a wealthy landowner, goes to Rio de Janeiro, where he meets Madeleine, a young woman from a rich family.

They get married and go to live in the Pantanal. Madeleine gets pregnant soon, but she can’t adapt to the life in that place, so she goes back to Rio de Janeiro with her baby, where she raises him away from José Leoncio.

Twenty years later, Juventino Leoncio, now a young boy, decides to go to see his father at the Pantanal, but the cultural shock is big. Father and son can’t relate to each other, and frustrated, Juve decides to go back to Rio de Janeiro.

However, he takes Juma, a wild-raised young woman who, after losing her mother, is alone. Juma is a changeling that transforms into a jaguar when she’s in danger.

She can’t adapt to life in the big city, so Juve decides to go back to the Pantanal and accept the life there to be with her.

7. A Escrava Isaura (The Slave Isaura) (2004)

Drama, History, Romance – 167 episodes

This telenovela produced by Rede Record is a remake of a telenovela of the same name from 1976 by Globo TV. Although the story is fictitious, it portrays a historical period in Brazil in which slavery and abuse were a common occurrence.

The story follows the titular character, Isaura, a beautiful and educated young woman who was born a slave and raised by the Commander’s wife as her daughter.

When the Commander’s son is back after some years and finds that Isaura is now a beautiful woman, he wants to seduce her to be his lover, but she rejects him.

This infuriates him, and after the death of his parents and the only ones who protected Isaura, he begins a saga of resentment and revenge against her.

8. A favorita (The Favourite) (2008)

Drama, Mystery, Suspense – 197 episodes

 

The Favourite is a telenovela produced by TV Globo. The story is complex and leaves behind the typical romance as the backbone of the plot.

Two best friends, Donatela and Flora, are also part of a successful country music duet.

However, they become rivals and enemies after a crime for which Flora spends 18 years in prison, but she insists on her innocence.

Both tell their version of the events, but it’s hard to know who is telling the truth.

9. Amor à Vida (Trails of Lies) (2013)

Crime, Drama, Romance – 221 episodes

Divided into two phases, Trails of Lies focuses on the wealthy Khoury family who owns the San Magno Hospital in Sao Paulo.

The story follows Paloma, the daughter of the family who is about to enter Medicine school after some failed attempts.

However, her plans change when in a family trip to Machu Picchu in Peru, she meets a backpacker for whom she falls and decides to stay with him. After a year of being together, she finds out she’s pregnant and wants to get back to Sao Paulo.

Meanwhile, her brother Felix, who is the only one in the family who is not into medicine but is an ambitious man, wants to keep Paloma away to be the only heir to the family’s company.

When Paloma gives birth to her daughter in the bathroom of a bar after fighting with her boyfriend, Felix finds her unconscious and steals the baby to throw her into a waste container.

A kind man, who recently lost his wife and newborn baby, finds the baby girl and adopts her as his daughter.

10. O Rei do Gado (The King of Cattle) (1996)

Adventure, Drama, Romance – 209 episodes

 

This TV Globo telenovela is divided into two phases. The first part is set in the 40s and focuses on two rival families of Italian immigrants who own coffee plantations.

The rivalry escalates when the daughter of one of the families, Giovanna, falls in love with the son of the other family, Henrico.

They end up running away from their families and the coffee business. Henrico starts working on a farm as a cowboy, and little by little with a lot of work, he begins to have his cattle.

Giovanna gets pregnant and gives birth to a baby boy.

The second phase is set in the 90s, with their grown-up son, Bruno, who is a wealthy landowner known as The King of Cattle. However, Bruno won’t be free from the old family rivalries and must face some issues from the past.

Summary

Brazil is one of the largest telenovela producers in the world. The Brazilian productions are distinguished for their complex plots and production values, going beyond the traditional love story.

The telenovelas in this list are only a glimpse of what Brazil has produced through the years. A selection of the most iconic titles that earned worldwide recognition.

Did I miss a title you consider must be in this list? Please let me know by dropping some lines in the message box below.

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