Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of Rio de Janeiro and get you in the mood for travel


Flying Down to Rio (1933)
An American band inaugurates a Rio de Janeiro hotel. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in their first on-screen dance, “The Carioca.” Airborne dancing girls delight in grand finale.

Black Orpheus (1959)
French director Marcel Camus sets the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival. Based on a play by Vinicius de Moraes; soundtrack by Luiz Bonfá and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Won the Palme d’Or in Cannes and an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.

Blame It On Rio (1984)
Romantic comedy filmed on location in Rio. Michael Caine plays a middle-aged man having an affair with his best friend’s daughter. Rio’s women inexplicably fling off their bikini tops; hard to top for the mid-eighties’ scenery.

Bossa Nova (2000)
A just-separated lawyer falls for an American English teacher, sparking romantic misadventures. Rio upstages the troupe of A-list Globo actors.

City of God (2002)
Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles’s masterpiece about power struggles in the City of God shantytown. Based on the novel by Paulo Lins; inspired by a true story.

Beautiful (2003)
U.S. rapper/actor Snoop Dogg video shot at Escadaria Selarón in Santa Teresa, Copacabana Beach, and Parque Lage —with a lovely melody to boot.


Philosopher or Dog?, by Machado de Assis; translation by Clothilde Wilson (1992)
Originally published in 1891, the story of a man who inherits a fortune and a dog, before leaving the countryside for Rio de Janeiro, the capital of imperial Brazil.

Samba, by Alma Guillermoprieto (1990)
Carnival-time Rio in 1988, the centennial of the abolition of slavery in Brazil. The author spent a year in the Mangueira favela, and joined its famous samba school.

Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World, by Ruy Castro (2000)
Brazilian music’s golden era; includes a myth-busting account of composer Antonio Carlos “Tom” Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes’s penning of signature Rio beach anthem, “The Girl from Ipanema.”

The Silence of the Rain, by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza (2002)
Rio de Janeiro detective noir. Spawned a series: December Heat (2003), Southwesterly Wind (2004), A Window in Copacabana (2004), andPursuit (2006)—all set in Rio.

Garrincha: The Triumph and Tragedy of Brazil’s Forgotten Footballing Hero, by Ruy Castro (2004)
A flawed soccer hero leads Brazil to two World Cup championships before dying of alcoholism. Passion, betrayal, and soccer magic—with Maracanã stadium as center stage.

Rio de Janeiro: Carnival Under Fire, by Ruy Castro (2004)
Part of the Writer and the City series, an account of cannibals and intellectuals; slaves and masters; baroque churches and shopping malls; samba and the Sambódromo.



Getz/Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto, and Stan Getz (1963)
The definitive bossa nova album. Four Grammy awards. Features “The Girl from Ipanema” and “Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars).”

Dança do Solidão, Paulinho da Viola
Reissue of classic samba do morro and samba-canção LP (remastered). Some songs by Cartola, Nelson Cavaquinho, and other legendary composers.

Café Brasil, Vol. 2, Época de Ouro
Traditional choro ensemble, with appearances by Ivan Lins, Zeca Pagodinho, Ney Matogrosso, Beth Carvalho, and others.

Sambas de Enredo: Carnival 2007, Various artists
Theme songs from Rio’s Sambódromo Carnival parades.

Lado B Lado A, O Rappa
Samba/reggae/drums/bass/funk. A protest against poverty, violence, and racism. Multimedia CD features two award-winning videos.

Classic Songs:

Ten tunes to send you whistling down Rio’s mosaic promenades:

1. “Cidade Maravilhosa” by Aurora Miranda
2. “The Girl from Ipanema” by João Gilberto with Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto
3. “Ela É Carioca” by Antonio Carlos Jobim
4. “Samba do Avião” by Miúcha and Antonio Carlos Jobim
5. “Corcovado” by Elis Regina and Antonio Carlos Jobim
6. “Mas, Que Nada” by Jorge Ben Jor
7. “Carioca” by Chico Buarque
8. “Aquele Abraço” by Gilberto Gil
9. “Rio 40 Graus” by Fernanda Abreu
10. “Only a Dream in Rio” by James Taylor

Want more? Stop by Modern Sound ( at Rua Barata Ribeiro 502, Copacabana—Rio’s leading music store since 1966.


About Rio de Janeiro and Brazil

  • <p>Photo: View from Sugarloaf</p>

    Rio de Janeiro

    Get travel tips, see photos, take a quiz and more with National Geographic's Ultimate Guide to Rio de Janeiro.

  • Photo: Aerial view of Rio de Janeiro and Christ the Redeemer statue


    Explore Brazil through facts and photos, related features, a country map, and more.

Take a Nat Geo Trip

Select a destination or trip type to find a trip:

See All Trips »

Join Nat Geo Travel's Communities

2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

  • Picture of a volcano on Reunion Island

    Who Will Win?

    Browse photos of nature, cities, and people and share your favorite photos.

Take a Nat Geo Trip

Select a destination or trip type to find a trip:

See All Trips »

Get Social With Nat Geo Travel