Patrick Bruha

Patrick Bruha

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


Most Popular Brazilian Telenovelas

Patrick Bruha

Patrick Bruha

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


Often depicting aspects of daily life in a country, telenovelas have been a centerpiece of Brazilian media since the 1950s. In this article, we will take a look at the most popular telenovelas.

Telenovelas in Brazil

The first Brazilian telenovela was named Sua vida me pertence and was released in December 1951. Since then, telenovelas have become increasingly more popular in Brazil and are a part of daily life, being the central matter of many conversations. Even those who are not interested in telenovelas end up knowing a little of what goes on.

Although it has remained the most successful kind of TV show in Brazil, the format of telenovelas has changed a lot since the early days. Telenovelas went from being broadcast once a week, in black and white and only in São Paulo to being broadcast from Monday to Saturday, in color, to the whole of Brazil.

Starting in the 1960s, there were big changes to the structure and language of telenovelas, which started to introduce more diverse subjects in which Brazilians would be more interested. Finally, at the beginning of the 1970s, Brazilian broadcasting channels started broadcasting two or even three telenovelas per day.

Currently, the main producers of telenovelas in Brazil are TV Globo, TV Record, SBT and TV Bandeirantes, with TV Globo being the major producer of telenovelas. It is interesting to mention that telenovelas produced by TV Globo are the most expensive in Latin America. An average telenovela episode costs around USD 125.000. Rede Manchete and TV Tupi also produced telenovelas, but both channels ceased operations in the 1980s and 1990s.

Difference between Telenovelas and Soap Operas

Although some people may confuse soap operas with telenovelas, it is important to state that there are some important differences between them:

  • Telenovelas have a finite number of episodes. Therefore, the viewers expect a conclusion. The soap opera does not have a set or expected end
  • Telenovelas are broadcast in the afternoon and during prime time while soap operas are broadcast only in the afternoon. Therefore, telenovela audiences are comprised of women and men of all socioeconomic levels, ages and occupations, while the soap opera audience is still mainly comprised of housewives

#20 Most popular Brazilian telenovelas

Although telenovelas are still very popular, a decline in viewer ratings has been seen since the start of the 2000s. SBT telenovelas lost 44% of their prime time viewer ratings, whilst Globo lost 9%. According to specialists, this is due to telenovelas not appealing to younger audiences, who often prefer American sitcoms.

Here are the 20 most popular Brazilian telenovelas based on the viewing ratings published by IBOPE, which is the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics.

1.Roque Santeiro

Roque Santeiro is the most popular Brazilian telenovela of all time. It aired between June 1985 and February 1986 and was the most watched telenovela of all time, according to IBOPE. The telenovela was situated in a fictitious city in which a man was supposedly killed while defending it from thugs. Seventeen years later, Roque Santeiro reappears, creating confusion in the city, since most people made profit from exploring his “martyr” image.


Tieta, an adaptation of Jorge Amado’s famous novel, Tieta do Agreste, aired between August 1989 and March 1990 and was situated in a city in the Northeastern Region of Brazil. Tieta is kicked out of her city by her father and moves to São Paulo, but comes back 25 years later, determined to take revenge upon those who mistreated her.

3.O Salvador da Pátria

O Salvador da Pátria aired between January and September 1989. The telenovela revolved around an extramarital case in which the most powerful man in the region, a Federal Congressman, was involved.


Renascer aired between March and November 1993. The telenovela was about a family of successful cocoa farmers and involved a great deal of murders and inheritance issues.

5.Rainha da Sucata

Rainha da Sucata aired between April and October 1990. The telenovela told the history of two families in São Paulo, a newly-enriched one and a traditional family on the verge of bankruptcy.

6.Pedra sobre Pedra

Pedra sobre Pedra aired between January and August 1992. The telenovela, based in Bahia, was about two families fighting each other to be the most powerful family in a city.

7.Fera Ferida

Fera Ferida aired between November 1993 and July 1994. The telenovela told the history of a man who returns to his hometown seeking revenge for the death of his father, while pretending to be an alchemist.

8.Vale Tudo

Vale Tudo aired between May 1988 and January 1989 and was about corruption and the lack of ethics in Brazilian society at the end of the 1980s. The plot involved many fake marriages in which the lead actress was willing to do anything in order to earn money and achieve success in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Vale Tudo is famous for its unexpected ending, where the major villains get away without being punished.

9.O Rei do Gado

O Rei do Gado aired between June 1996 and February 1997. It was about two families of Italian immigrants who became successful in Brazil and were involved in land disputes.

10.De corpo e alma

De corpo e alma aired between August 1992 and March 1993. The telenovela addressed the theme of organ donation in the midst of a love story.

11. A Próxima Vítima

A próxima vítima aired between March and November 1995. The telenovela was situated in São Paulo and the main plot revolved around multiple treason followed by many murders, apparently without connection to each other.

12.Senhora do Destino

Senhora do Destino aired between June 2004 and November 2005. The telenovela was about a poor family from the Northeastern Region of Brazil that moved to Rio de Janeiro trying to find a better life.


América aired between March and November 2005. The telenovela was about a woman who wanted to illegally enter the United States but was in love with a Brazilian cowboy.


Belíssima aired between November 2005 and July 2006. The telenovela took place in São Paulo and talked about the importance of self image in a society governed by appearances, discussing values like beauty, success and honesty.

15.A Indomada

A Indomada aired between February and October 1997. The telenovela was situated in a city where English habits and habits from the Northeastern region of Brazil are mixed. The main plot was a love story between a member of a rich family and a very poor sugarcane cutter.

16.O Dono do Mundo

O Dono do Mundo aired between May 1995 and January 1992 and was about a doctor that seduced his friend’s new wife and got her pregnant. She then proceeds to take revenge upon him.

17.O clone

O Clone aired between October 2001 and June 2002. The telenovela revolved around a love story between a muslim woman and a Brazilian man addresses themes such as arab culture, human cloning and chemical addiction.

18.Páginas da vida

Páginas da Vida aired between July 2006 and March 2007. The telenovela was situated in Rio de Janeiro and partly in Amsterdam. The main plot revolved around social prejudice against disabled people, especially those affected by the Down Syndrome.

19.Mulheres Apaixonadas

Mulheres Apaixonadas aired between February and October 2003 and was about a married woman who was tired of her boring routine after 15 years of marriage.

20. Celebridades

Celebridadesaired between October 2003 and June 2004. The telenovela was situated in Rio and the plot revolved around questions like the paparazzi, social climbing and the pursuit of fame.

Most exported telenovelas

Brazilian telenovelas are known around the world, having won four International Emmy Awards for Best Telenovela and been nominated for another two, since the creation of the award, in 2008. These international accomplishments show just how Brazilian telenovelas are revered on an international level. Thus, it is to be expected that telenovelas are exported to a large number of countries.

Here are depicted the 10 most exported Brazilian telenovelas.

1.Avenida Brasil

Avenida Brasil has been broadcasted in more countries around the world than any other telenovela. Originally aired in Brazil between March and October 2012, Avenida Brasil has already been broadcasted in 106 countries. The telenovela was about the story of a young woman who planned from the young age of 11 to take revenge on her stepmother who gave her away.

2.Da cor do pecado

Da cor do pecado aired in Brazil between January and September 2004 and has since been broadcasted in 100 countries. The telenovela was about a love triangle, involving an afro-descendant and addressed strong racial prejudice. This telenovela was made famous mainly because it was the first time an afro-descendant played one of the main characters.

3.Terra Nostra

Terra Nostra aired in Brazil between September 1999 and June 2000 and has since been broadcasted in 95 countries. The telenovela addressed the importance of immigration, especially Italian, in the formation of Brazilian society.

4.O Clone

O Clone repeated the success experienced in Brazil, and has since been broadcasted in 91 countries.

5.Caminho das Índias

Caminho das Índias aired in Brazil between January and September 2009 and has been broadcasted in 90 countries. It was the first Brazilian telenovela to win the International Emmy Awards for Best Telenovela. The telenovela was situated both in Brazil and India, and the two societies and their customs were depicted in contrast to one another.

6.Escrava Isaura

Escrava Isaura aired in Brazil between October 1976 and February 1977 and has been broadcasted in 79 countries. The telenovela addressed the theme of the abolitionist struggle in Brazil while the main plot revolved around the love story of a rich man and his white slave.

7.Laços de Família

Laços de Família aired in Brazil between June 2000 and February 2001 and has been broadcasted in 77 countries. The telenovela was situated in Rio de Janeiro and the main plotline was about the unconditional love a mother has for her daughter.

8.Por amor

Por amor aired in Brazil between October 1997 and May 1998 and has since been broadcasted in 74 countries. The telenovela’s main theme was “What would you do in the name of love?”.

9.Mulheres de areia

Mulheres de areia aired in Brazil between February and September 1993 and has been broadcasted in 67 countries. The telenovela was about the rivalry between two identical twins that had very different personalities.

10.Anjo mau

Anjo mau is a remake of a popular telenovela which aired in Brazil in 1976. The new version aired between September 1997 and March 1998 and was broadcasted in 67 countries. It is about a ruthless nanny who would do anything in her power to become rich and successful.