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8 Movies About The Mayans To Watch If You Want To Learn About Maya Culture

movies about the mayans

Love watching Movies and Documentaries about old civilisations? Does anthropological research on the Mayan Civilisation interest you? Check out this list of some thrilling ancient movies about the Mayans that you can watch.

The Maya civilization was a Mesoamerican civilization developed by the Maya peoples and noted for its logosyllabic script—the most sophisticated and highly developed writing system in pre-Columbian Americas—as well as for its art, architecture, mathematics, calendar, and astronomical design. Interestingly, “Maya” is a modern term used to refer collectively to the various peoples that inhabited this area. The infamous Mayan calendar predicting the end of the world in 2012 became a long topic of speculation for researchers, though it never happened, the idea of the world ending continues to intrigue many. Ironically, Mayans did not call themselves “Maya” and did not have a sense of shared identity or political unity. The following films about Mayans are educational and entertaining and will enhance your knowledge about their culture. 

 List of Movies about The Mayans

  1. 2012
  2. Apocalypto
  3. Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of Crystal Skull
  4. Night at the Museum 
  5. The Ruins
  6. Guatemala: Heart of the Mayan World 
  7. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged
  8. Mayan Blue

1. 2012 (2009)

IMDB ratings: 5.8/10

Cast: John Cusack,  Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet 

Director: Roland Emmerich 

The American science fiction film 2012 is based on the 2012 phenomenon put forth by the Mayan civilization. According to Mayans, cataclysmic, transformative events would occur on 12th December 2012. So, the movie might seem unimportant now that nothing has happened. But, when it came out in 2009, this movie had a considerable impact and received a big turnout, grossing $791 million. 

2012 speculates that humanity is in a situation of such catastrophic events. The premise opens with an American geologist Adrian Helmsley researching in India and learning that an exotic new type of neutrino from a massive solar flare is heating the Earth’s core. Multiple characters show us what society can do in its power to survive—using political links, money, family ties, and steadfast determination. Terror balanced with humorous dialogues and spellbound visuals of the world’s end makes 2012 one of the best movies about Mayans to watch.

Also Read: Movies like 2012

2. Apocalypto (2006)

IMDB ratings: 7.8/10

Cast: Rudy Youngblood, Dalia Hernandez, Raoul Trujillo

Director: Mel Gibson

Apocalypto is an epic historical adventure film by Mel Gibson. The film summarises many different Mesoamerican cultural practices and periods. For example, the temples are by, and large Classic Maya, but some instances from the film are influenced by the Aztecs as well. The story follows Jaguar Paw and fellow tribe members while hunting in the Mesoamerican rainforest. They encounter razed forests and vast fields of failed maize crops alongside villages decimated by an unknown disease. 

The tribe members pass a little girl infected with the plague who prophesies the end of the once prosperous Mayan world. Many dialogues of the film are spoken in Yucatec Mayan language (with subtitles). Apocalypto is an excellent film about survival that you should check out if you are looking for movies about Mayans on Amazon Prime Video. 

3. Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of Crystal Skull (2008)

IMDB ratings: 6.2/10

Cast: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett

Director: Steven Spielberg

The 2008 film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the 4th instalment in the well-known action-adventure Indiana Jones series. This sequel was released 19 years after the previous film. The movie follows a renowned archaeologist, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), who teams up with a young man, Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), to unearth the mystery of the legendary 13 crystal skulls. 

The myth of these 13 elongated crystal skulls residing in the ancient kingdom of Akator embodies the gods of a lost Mayan culture. There is a strange tale by the old Maya that the ones possessing all the skulls hold the power to save the Earth. In the premise, when Indiana enters the chambers, he discovers one of the crystal skulls is missing. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a fantastic film to watch if you wish to see movies about Mayans on amazon prime video. Check it out. 

4. Night at the Museum (2006)

IMDB ratings: 6.4/10

Cast:  Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen WIlson, Rami Malek

Director: Shawn Levy

Night at the Museum is a fantasy comedy film based on the same-titled book by illustrator Milan Trenc. The movie follows a story of a divorced father. He begins to work as a night watchman at the New York City’s American Museum of Natural History. He soon discovers that all the exhibits magically come alive at night due to an Egyptian artefact. 

Since the story revolves around the Museum, various historical figures and communities like Theodore Roosevelt and Romans are brilliantly reimagined. While Mayan culture is not central to the plot, there are multiple characters and elements in the film inspired by the Mayans. Watch Night at the Museum, and it’s two sequels if you are interested in movies about Mayans. 

5. The Ruins (2008)

IMDB ratings: 5.9/10

Cast: Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore,  Jonathan Tucker

Director: Carter Smith

The Ruins is a 2008 horror film by Carter Smith and is based on a novel of the same name. The story follows two young American couples: Jeff, Amy, Eric, and Stacy. They go on vacation to Mexico, where they meet Mathias, a tourist looking for his brother. The last known location is a dig at a remote Mayan ruin in the jungle.

The group is confronted by Mayan villagers armed with knives, arrows, and guns. Though the group comes in peace, the Mayans can’t understand the language and see them as a threat. The Ruins is a creepy horror that tangles an intricate weave of suspense throughout. If you want to watch movies about Mayans, you might be interested in the intense film The Ruins.

6. Guatemala: Heart of the Mayan World (2019)

IMDB ratings: 6.6/10

Cast:  Christian Morales

Director: Ignacio Juansolo, Luis Ara

Guatemala: Heart of the Mayan World is a short informative documentary film, and it showcases the cultural and natural richness of Guatemala, a Central American nation with plenty of past and present, coming to terms with its history and a promising future. From Sierra de las Minas to Esquipulas, the documentary explores Guatemala’s cultural and geological wealth, including the ancient Mayan cities. 

I learned a lot from this short but informative documentary and is really worth watching if you want to learn more about the Mayan culture. This beautiful country covers exciting topics like Spanish colonial buildings, Maya civilization, forests, rivers, the Pacific Ocean, and volcanoes. This movie is narrated in Spanish, but there are English subtitles. If you want to see documentaries about Mayans on Netflix, watch Guatemala: Heart of the Mayan World. 

Also Read: Movies like Sunshine

7. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019)

IMDB ratings: 5.6/10

Cast: Sophie Nélisse, Corinne Foxx, Brianne Tju

Director: Johannes Roberts

47 Meters Down: Uncaged is a survival horror film and a sequel to 47 Meters Down (2017). None of the cast from the previous film returns here as the film features a new cast consisting of Sophie Nélisse, and Corinne Foxx, to name a few. The plot follows a group of teenage girls who scuba dive to a sunken Mayan city, only to be trapped by a group of sharks that are swimming in it.

This film is a fresh take on typically cliché shark movies. The story of survival is immersive and intense, with a great plot twist towards the end. The staging was convincing, and the situation felt believable overall but the acting was far from great. However, if you’re a fan of shark movies, movies about Mayans or the deep sea, this may be one for you.

8. Mayan Blue (2014)

IMDB ratings: 6.5/10

Cast: Ben Sullivan

Director: Rafael Garcia 

Mayan Blue is a documentary film that follows the journey of an ancient Mayan site which was recently discovered beneath the waters of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Through the investigation of the 2000-year-old city of Samabaj, the film explores the Mayan view of the cosmos and their ancient mythologies. The findings reveal a catastrophe the likes of which the Mayans could never have imagined, reshaping everything they believed about Earth and the origins of their underworld.

Mayan Blue explores the history of the Yucatan and surrounding regions through the unique water features that dot their landscapes. From the impenetrable forests of Mexico’s Yucatan to the peaks of Guatemala’s ancient ranges, Mayan Blue takes the viewer through worlds never before seen. Mayan Blue is an excellent option if you are looking for movies about Mayans, check it out. 

Honourable Mentions

Here are a few films about Mayans that didn’t make the list, but you can check them out nonetheless: 

  1. Wonder Woman 1984
  2. The Emerald Forest
  3. Curse of Mayan Temple
  4. Mummies Unwrapped
  5. Lost Treasures of the Maya

When Lost aired over a decade ago, its successful narrative created a pop culture impact and changed the landscape of television. If you are a fan and want to watch shows like Lost then you can have a look at this list we made just for you.


The hugely successful television series Lost aired in 2004. The premise, as we know, deals with a group of people surviving a commercial passenger plane crash on a remote island. The show masterfully explores supernatural and sci-fi elements on this mysterious south Pacific island.

The use of cliffhangers at the end of each episode of Lost kept the viewers on the edge of their seats, desperately craving for the next episode to come. Even though it's a large ensemble cast, most of the characters receive a justifiable personal arch. Lost was inspired by the movie Castaway and became one of the most expensive pilots to be shot at the time! Lost continues to be appreciated for its originality in storytelling and dynamic character arcs. 

List of TV Shows Like Lost

  1. The Leftovers
  2. Manifest
  3. Lost Room
  4. Twin Peaks
  5. The Prisoners
  6. Battlestar Galactica
  7. The New People
  8. Flight 29 Down
  9. Fringe
  10. Alcatraz
  11. Under the Dome
  12. Dark

1. The Leftovers (2014)

IMDB ratings: 8.3/10

Cast: Carrie Coon, Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman and Margaret Qualley

Creator: Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta

The director of Lost, Damon Lindel also created a supernatural drama series called The Leftovers. The show begins 3 years after an unexplainable global event called ‘Sudden Departure’  where almost 2 per cent of the population, nearly 140 million people, disappear. The Leftovers isn't about WHY people are gone, it's about how the ones who remain dealt with their loss, people often try to comfort themselves with dreams, angels, gods, or even death.

The Leftovers will leave you with so many questions but beyond words, you have to feel it and savour its unanswered questions to find peace. The Leftovers is an incredible television series that starts incredibly well but loses its way by the series's end. I have to say though, Carrie Coon has brilliant moments in the end. The Leftovers is so weird, fragmented and nonsensical at times that it reminds me of Lost. If you are looking for shows like Lost, I recommend that you give The Leftovers a try.

2. Manifest  (2018) 

IMDB ratings: 7.1/10

Cast: Melissa Roxburgh, Josh Dallas and J.R. Ramirez 

Creator: Jeff Rake

The Manifest is a supernatural drama show about a bunch of people who discover that they lost 5 years of their lives when they landed in New York after their aeroplane faced severe turbulence. All the people on the plane were presumed to be dead. Now, these people have to find a way to adjust themselves to a new life around their loved ones. Mild spoiler! They learn their loved ones and the rest of society is not as they left it.

I found that the show’s premise was very intriguing and the actors give a very convincing performance. The narrative details of the show, however, in my opinion, are a bit sloppy and inconsistent. The writers surely have room for improvement but their concept is incredibly thrilling. Every episode of Manifest keeps you on your toes. Manifest has completed 3 seasons up until now and continues to be on air. Manifest is a pretty good choice if you want to watch TV shows like Lost.

3. Lost Room (2006)

IMDB ratings: 8.1/10

Cast: Peter Krause, Julianna Margulies and Peter Jacobson

Creator: Christopher Leone, Laura Harkcom

This lesser-known show The Lost Room is an American Sci-fi television miniseries which only had 3 episodes of 90 mins each and no follow-up seasons. The show was based on a very unique idea where the room in question (known as the ‘Lost Room’) and the objects in the said room had supernatural powers. This strange room is set in a 1960s motel along the iconic U.S. Route 66.

One day the protagonist (Peter Krause) Joe Miller’s daughter disappears inside the room. Joe, with the help of objects present in the room, tries to find his daughter Anna (Elle Fanning). The story of Lost Room was intensely engaging. I found the direction and the actor’s performances to be absolutely brilliant. It baffles me that the creators did not return to make another short season within the same concept. If you have been searching for TV series like Lost then I can assure you that Lost Room will be worth a watch.

4. Twins Peaks (1990) 

IMDB ratings: 8.8/10

Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Mädchen Amick, Sherilyn Fenn and David Lynch

Creator: David Lynch

David Lynch, the well-known director of weird and captivating films such as Eraserhead and Blue Velvet created an iconic show called Twin Peaks. It is a hauntingly eccentric show about the investigation of the mysterious murder of a small-town homecoming queen named Laura Palmer. Believe me, as odd as the show may seem at first, you will grow to love it, after all, it is considered to be one of the best mystery shows ever created.

With the mysteries, the supernatural elements and the list of bizarre characters, Twin Peaks has it all. In my opinion, the cinematography of the show was truly ahead of its time. Kyle’s Dale Cooper was especially entertaining. Twin Peaks’ experimental formula of the satirical soap opera is extremely unsettling yet rewarding to watch, I must warn you, it’s not for the faint-hearted!  If you are in search of TV shows like Lost then Twin Peaks won’t disappoint you.

The Prisoners (1967)

IMDB ratings: 8.5/10

Cast: Patrick McGoohan, Angelo Muscat and Geroge Markstien

Creator: Patrick McGoohan

The Prisoner centres around an unnamed British agent (Patrick McGoohan) who tries to flee his country after abruptly quitting his high-ranking government job. He is abducted and held captive in a strange ‘sea-side’ village that is isolated from the rest of the world. This village is a highly secure and monitored place filled with weird technology. There are only 17 episodes to this late 60s show but it manages to bring up such surreal surprises, it's sure to leave a great impact on the viewer.

The Prisoner’s unique concept influenced many popular shows including Lost. The creators of Lost even cited the show. I was very impressed by how ahead of its time The Prisoners proves to be. If you want to watch more shows similar to Lost the Prisoners should definitely be on your list.

6. Battlestar Galactica (2004)

IMDB ratings: 8.7/10

Cast: Katee Sackhoff, Edward James Olmos and Tricia Helfer 

Creator: Glen A. Larson

The 2004 Battlestar Galactica is a reboot of the original 1978 miniseries of the same name. Do not be mistaken by the title, the show is not related to Star Trek.  Battlestar Galactica is set in the 7th millennium AD and follows Cylons, the robot enemy of humanity that resurfaces to destroy the 12 colonies of Mankind. Only a few survive and are able to escape on ships led by a powerful warship called Battlestar Galactica. Mankind struggles to fight the Cylons and work their own political agendas and disputes while finding their long-lost 13th colony Earth.

The show is a dark, intense and gritty socio-political commentary with EPIC cinematic value. The script is especially clever and as a huge fan of sci-fi shows, this show ticks the boxes in all the right categories. When the show was released, it blew the viewers and critics away. As far as an obsessive and gripping story goes, Battlestar Galactica is one of the most similar to shows like Lost. 

7. The New People (1969)

IMDB ratings: 7.3/10

Cast: David Moses, Zooey hall and Tiffany Boiling

Creator: Larry Gordon Aaron Spelling

The New People is an American Tv series that aired only for 1 season and is focused on a couple of college students who survive a plane crash. The incident takes place while they were returning from a trip to Southeast Asia, their plane crashes on an island in the south of the Pacific ocean. 

By now this show must already be sounding a lot like Lost to you, and it surely is. The remaining group of people discover an unusual truth about the island: there’s an above-ground unused nuclear test site filled with supplies for the survivors. If you want to see more plane survival stories like Lost then The New People should definitely be on your list.

8. Flight 29 Down (2005)

IMDB ratings: 7.2/10

Cast: Allen Alvarado, Halle Hirsh and Corbin Bleu

Creator:  Stan Rowgow D. J. MacHale

The show Flight 29 Down is a drama series about a group of pre-teens/teens who are stranded on a South Pacific island after their plane crashes in a tropical storm while they were flying from an eco-adventure camping trip in Palau. The show is in many ways a younger version of the Adult-centred show Lost but sans the supernatural elements. I’d say that the show draws inspiration from the show The New People.

Flight 29 Down uses the technique of a video diary as a plot device for the viewers to keep up with the story of these children. It was very engaging to watch young intelligent characters finding their way on the island. The first two seasons of the show are quite engaging but I seemed to lose interest in its 3rd and final season. Regardless, Flight 29 Down is a really good series to watch if you want to see TV shows like Lost.

9. Fringe (2008)

IMDB ratings: 8.4/10

Cast: Anna Torv, John Noble and Joshua Jackson

Creator: J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci

Fringe is a popular Sci-fi crime drama television series. It may seem like a standard procedural drama at first, but the show actually explores the parallel universe, alternate versions of people filled with crazy scientific experiments. I personally had a great time watching this show.

Fringe is actually inspired by shows like Lost, The X-files and The Twilight Zone. The 3 main characters of the show work with a special division called Fringe. There are so many brilliant twists and turns in Fringe that in my opinion, the show is at the top of its category. If you are searching for TV series like Lost, I strongly recommend you watch Fringe

10. Alcatraz (2012)

IMDB ratings: 6.9/10

Cast: Sarah Jones, George Garcia and Jonny Coyne 

Creator: Elizabeth Sarnoff, Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt

This American fiction show is based on the infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary built on Alcatraz island in San Francisco Bay. The prison is now closed but once kept some of the most dangerous criminals of America. The show takes the liberty to make a show around the conspiracies of the place.

In the interesting premise we see that under unknown circumstances, 256 inmates and 46 guards of the prison disappear without a trace. Later the disappeared ones start to appear one by one without ageing a day and resume their criminal activities with no realisation of disappearance. A special government unit is dedicated to finding and putting those criminals back in prison. If you are looking for mystery shows similar to Lost, try watching Alcatraz. 

11. Under the Dome (2013)

IMDB ratings: 6.5/10

Cast: Alexander Koch and Rachelle Lefevre

Creator: Stephen King

Based on a novel written by the sci-fi legend Stephen King, Under the Dome tells the story of the residents of the fictional small town called Chester's Mill, when a huge, transparent and indestructible dome suddenly cuts them off from the rest of the world.

Now the trapped residents try to find a way to discover the truth, origin and purpose of these domes. This journey forces them into situations where they learn more about each other than they ever knew. Under the Dome may not be on the top of this list but it’s quite a decent watch if you’re looking for mystery shows similar to Lost

12. Dark (2017)

IMDB ratings: 8.7/10

Cast: Louis Hofmann, Lisa Vicari and Gina Stiebitz

Creator: Baran bo Odar, Jantje Friese

The German-language Netflix series Dark is an interesting blend of Science fiction and Mystery. Truly a compelling and mind-bending story to watch. At the beginning of Dark, many children suspiciously start disappearing in the German town of Winden. The dark past of generational mysteries of 4 families living in the town namely, Kahnwald, Nielsen, Doppler, and Tiedemann is brought to light.

After the discovery of a wormhole, the lives of the families intertwine more than one can imagine. I believe every element of the show is top-notch, especially Dark’s cinematography, which is a TRUE masterpiece. If you are looking for TV series similar to Lost then the intense and gripping story of Dark is sure to keep you engrossed.

Honourable Mentions

Here are a few TV shows like Lost that didn’t make the list, but you can check them out nonetheless: 

  1. Carnivale
  2. Yellowjackets
  3. Game of Thrones
  4. Black Mirror
  5. Flashforward
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