Without further adieu, here are the best telenovelas of all time. Yes, of all time. Bold statement, but I’m sticking to it. (That said, this list is absolutely not official and your list may look different.)
1. Yo Soy Betty La Fea. There have been dozens of remakes and adapted versions of thisnovela, including the super popular American version, Ugly Betty, but the original — about a homely but brilliant secretary working at a high-pressure fashion company — was Colombian and ran from 1998–2001. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the most successful (and probably the most popular) novela of all time.
2. Juegos de Fuego. OK, admittedly, I’m biased because Juegos was Chilean, and I’m Chilean, so I will always have a soft spot in my heart for it, but it was pretty good. JK, it was actually terrible. (But like, so bad it was good, you know?) It did include the best soundtrack ever though. If you haven’t yet, you should go look up “Mi Historia Entre Tus Dedos” on YouTube. In fact, I’m going to do that right now.
3. Marimar. Forbidden love, disapproving parents and grandparents, beautiful beaches, hot guys, and Thalia as the protagonist Marimar (she falls in love with Sergio, the son of a wealthy farmer, much to the chagrin of his parents) — this Mexican novela had it all. Fun fact: Marimarwas actually a remake of another Mexican novela, La Venganza. The more you know!
4. La Reina del Sur. Translated as “The Queen of the South,” La Reina takes place in Mexico and chronicles the rise of Teresa Mendoza, who works her way up to become the most powerful drug lord in the country.
5. La Patrona. Another novela hailing from Mexico! This one makes the cut because it features main character Gabriela Súarez (played by Aracely Arambula) as the only female miner in a small town. A single mother, Gabriela faces many obstacles including sexual harassment and being accused of crimes she didn’t commit. Still, Gabriela perseveres and manages to get revenge.
6. El Zorro La Espada y La Rosa. This one will forever win my heart, because it featuredBeyoncé in the theme song, and how can you go wrong with that? Based on the 1998 film, the serial, which ran from February to July 2007, has the masked hero constantly tormented by his feelings for his one true love and his passion for justice.
7. El Clon. A remake of a Brazilian novela, El Clon focused on drug trafficking, religion, and was shot on-location in Morocco, Colombia, and Florida.
8. Martin Rivas. A favorite of my abuela, Martin Rivas was a 2010 period telenovela (taking place in the early 19th century) based on the 1862 novel of the same name and (similar toMiramar) features a forbidden love between Martin Rivas, the impoverished protagonist of the show, and Leonore Encina, the wealthy daughter of the family Rivas lives with.
9. La Usurpadora. No list is complete without this doozy of a soap opera, which aired from February to July of 1998. Twin sisters Paulina and Paola are separated at birth, and when they manage to reunite as adults, Paola (the evil twin, natch) blackmails Paulina into switching places with her so Paola can leave her husband and take a yearlong vacation with her lover. For some reason, Paulina reluctantly agrees. Oh, and while she’s living with Paola’s husband for a year, she actually falls in love with him.
10. Dos Mujeres, Un Camino. Last, but most certainly not least, is this 1993 show, which features Johnny, a truck driver who travels between Mexico and the U.S. while juggling a relationship with two women: his wife Ana Maria, and his love on the side, Tanya. Johnny also ends up wrongly being blamed for the death of a young kid and (Spoiler alert!) Tanya dies taking a knife intended for Johnny’s wife. Then Johnny’s wife leaves him. Yup. Think that about covers it.