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Robert Rodriguez’s 10 Best Movies

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  03 Sep 2015 

Since breaking into Hollywood in 1992 with his low-budget masterpiece El Mariachi, Robert Rodriguez has done it all — and not only in terms of his eclectic filmography, which includes action, sci-fi, horror, comedy, and family-friendly thrills. He’s also one of the most hands-on filmmakers in the studio system, assuming editing, composing, and cinematography duties on top of directing, writing, and production. Given all that, we felt it was only right that we honor Rodriguez’s work on the long-awaited Sin City sequel A Dame to Kill For by taking a look back at some of the brightest critical highlights from his career.

actors
10 The Faculty
imdb
rating

6.4

The Faculty (1998)

Horror, Mystery, Science Fiction

With Robert Rodriguez behind the cameras and a script from Scream‘s Kevin Williamson about a high school faculty taken over by alien parasites — not to mention an attractive cast that included Jordana Brewster, Josh Hartnett, Salma Hayek, and Famke Janssen — 1998’s The Faculty should have been an instant genre classic. Alas, the movie sort of sputtered out at the box office, where it earned a mere $40 million, and a sizable percentage of critics found it lacking. But the Austin Chronicle’s Marc Savlov was entertained: “No one around these days edits with such sublime accuracy as Rodriguez. A master of the smash-cut, The Faculty is overflowing with the director’s ‘I’ll try anything once’ spirit, and that’s what makes the film such witty, freaky fun.”

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When some very creepy things start happening around school, the kids at Herrington High make a chilling discovery that confirms their worst suspicions: their teachers really are from another planet! As mind-controlling parasites rapidly begin spreading from the faculty to the students' bodies, it's ultimately up to the few who are left – an unlikely collection of loners, leaders, nerds and jocks – to save the world from alien domination.

actors:
Jordana Brewster as Delilah Profitt   Elijah Wood as Casey Connor   Clea DuVall as Stokely 'Stokes' Mitchell   Laura Harris as Marybeth Louise Hutchinson   Josh Hartnett as Zeke Tyler   Shawn Hatosy as Stan Rosado   Salma Hayek as Nurse Rosa Harper   Famke Janssen as Miss Elizabeth Burke   Usher Raymond as Gabe Santora   Robert Patrick as Coach Joe Willis   Piper Laurie as Mrs. Karen Olson   Christopher McDonald as Mr. Frank Connor   Bebe Neuwirth as Principal Valerie Drake   Jon Stewart as Prof. Edward Furlong   Daniel von Bargen as Mr. John Tate   Jon Abrahams as F*** You Boy   Summer Phoenix as F*** You Girl   Susan Willis as Mrs. Jessica Brummel   Pete Janssen as Eddie 'Meat' McIvey   Tina Rodriguez as Tattoo Girl   Danny Masterson as F*** Up #1   Wiley Wiggins as F*** Up #2   Harry Jay Knowles as Mr. Knowles   Donna Casey as Tina   Louis Black as Mr. Lewis   Eric Jungmann as Freshman #1   Chris Viteychuk as Freshman #2   Jim Johnston as P.E. Teacher   Libby Villari as Casey's Mom   Duane Martin as Officer #1   Katherine Willis as Officer #2   Mike Lutz as Hornet Mascot   Douglas Aarniokoski as Brun Coach  

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9 Desperado
imdb
rating

7.2

Desperado (1995)

Action, Crime, Thriller

El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) returned — with a beefed-up budget — in this 1995 sequel, which finds the guitar (and gun)-toting vigilante on a mission to purge Mexico of its drug lords. But Desperado isn’t just a Nancy Reagan pipe dream — it’s also a taut and bloody (albeit somewhat uneven) tale of love, loss, and deeply satisfying revenge. Jeanne Aufmuth of the Palo Alto Weekly approved, calling it “A zesty action thriller that recycles the best of the B genres and rolls them into a big-budget, pistol-packing extravaganza that in its best moments leaves you breathless with wonder.”

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A gunslinger is embroiled in a war with a local drug runner.

actors:
Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi   Salma Hayek as Carolina   Joaquim de Almeida as Bucho   Cheech Marin as Short Bartender   Steve Buscemi as Buscemi   Carlos Andrés Gómez as Right Hand   Quentin Tarantino as Pick-Up Guy   Tito Larriva as Tavo   Angel Aviles as Zamira   Danny Trejo as Navajas   Abraham Verduzco as Niño   Carlos Gallardo as Campa   Albert Michel Jr. as Quino   David Alvarado as Buddy   Angela Lanza as Tourist Girl   Elizabeth Rodriguez as Mariachi Fan  

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8 From Dusk Till Dawn
imdb
rating

7.3

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Action, Crime, Horror, Thriller

Rodriguez picked up a Tarantino script for 1996’s From Dusk Till Dawn, a gonzo action thriller/horror hybrid about a pair of ne’er-do-well brothers (played by Tarantino and George Clooney) who flee to Mexico after a bloody bank robbery, only to end up at a strip club where the staff, the bartender, and the star dancer (Salma Hayek) are — hey, guess what? — vampires. An unusual blend, to be certain, and one that wasn’t to everyone’s liking — but it proved irresistible to critics like Phil Villarreal of the Arizona Daily Star, who called it “Like a Cheesecake Blizzard: It’s a pulpy mess loaded with empty calories, but it’s so divine that once you start, you can’t help but shovel it into your mouth until the last drop, brain freeze and diet be damned.”

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Seth Gecko and his younger brother Richard are on the run after a bloody bank robbery in Texas. They escape across the border into Mexico and will be home-free the next morning, when they pay off the local kingpin. They just have to survive 'from dusk till dawn' at the rendezvous point, which turns out to be a Hell of a strip joint.

actors:
George Clooney as Seth Gecko   Quentin Tarantino as Richard Gecko   Harvey Keitel as Jacob Fuller   Juliette Lewis as Kate Fuller   Ernest Liu as Scott Fuller   Salma Hayek as Santanico Pandemonium   Cheech Marin as Border Guard/Chet Pussy/Carlos   Danny Trejo as Razor Charlie   Tom Savini as Sex Machine   Fred Williamson as Frost   Michael Parks as Texas Ranger   Brenda Hillhouse as Hostage Gloria Hill   John Saxon as FBI Agent   Kelly Preston as Newscaster Kelly Houge   John Hawkes as Pete Bottoms / Liquor Store Clerk   Tito Larriva as Titty Twister Guitarist & Vocalist   Peter Atanasoff as Titty Twister Saxophonist   Johnny Vatos Hernandez as Titty Twister Drummer   Aimee Graham as Blonde Hostage   Heidi McNeal as Red-headed Hostage   Ernest M. Garcia as Big Emilio   Gregory Nicotero as Sex Machine's Buddy   Cristos as Danny   Mike Moroff as Manny  

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7 Once Upon a Time in Mexico
imdb
rating

6.4

Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

Action, Adventure, Thriller

Rodriguez concluded his Mariachi Trilogy on a high note with Once Upon a Time in Mexico, adding an assortment of big names (including Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke, and Willem Dafoe) and a tangle of subplots to match. Though some critics felt Mexico‘s storyline crowded the Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) to the margins, the movie ultimately made almost $100 million at the box office — and the admiration of critics like Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle, who argued, “Despite the movie’s dark humor, violence and the occasional nonvoluntary facial surgery that will drive away the queasy, Once Upon a Time in Mexico is the most crowd-pleasing film in the series.”

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Hitman "El Mariachi" becomes involved in international espionage involving a psychotic CIA agent and a corrupt Mexican general.

actors:
Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi   Salma Hayek as Carolina   Johnny Depp as Sands   Eva Mendes as Ajedrez   Mickey Rourke as Billy   Danny Trejo as Cucuy   Enrique Iglesias as Lorenzo   Cheech Marin as Belini   Willem Dafoe as Barillo   Marco Leonardi as Fideo  

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6 Machete
imdb
rating

6.7

Machete (2010)

Action, Comedy, Thriller

You know, it isn’t supposed to work this way. Characters who get their own explosively violent movies generally don’t come to life as bit players in silly kiddie flicks, then star in fake movie trailers — but Machete (Danny Trejo) doesn’t play by the rules. Aided by an eclectic cast of talented character actors (led by Trejo, of course, along with Don Johnson, Cheech Marin, Jeff Fahey, and Michelle Rodriguez), soaked in the nasty Grindhouse vibe, and blessed with inspired, albeit brief, appearances from Robert De Niro and Steven Seagal, Machete gave fans just about everything they’d been asking for. “It’s a movie that just wants to have fun,” wrote the Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan. “To a large degree, it succeeds.”

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After being set-up and betrayed by the man who hired him to assassinate a Texas Senator, an ex-Federale launches a brutal rampage of revenge against his former boss.

actors:
Danny Trejo as Machete   Michelle Rodriguez as Luz   Jessica Alba as Sartana Rivera   Robert De Niro as Senator John McLaughlin   Lindsay Lohan as April Booth   Cheech Marin as Padre Cortez   Steven Seagal as Rogelio Torrez   Rose McGowan as Cherry Darling   Daryl Sabara as Julio   Don Johnson as Von Jackson   Jeff Fahey as Michael Booth   Tom Savini as Osiris Amanpour   Tina Rodriguez as Tristana   Tito Larriva as Culebra Cruzado   Stacy Keach as Doc Franklin   James Parks as Edgar McGraw  

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5 Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams
imdb
rating

5.1

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (2002)

Action, Adventure, Comedy, Family

Is it a (probably unnecessary) sequel to a goofy kids’ movie? Yes. But Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams has so much going for it — including a stellar supporting cast that included Ricardo Montalban, Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Tony Shalhoub, Danny Trejo, and, as a mad scientist who genetically engineers teeny-tiny animals and an army of flying pigs, Steve Buscemi. While plenty of critics scoffed at — or were, at the very least, sadly perplexed by — Rodriguez’s decision to release back-to-back family films, the sequel earned nearly $120 million at the box office and earned praise from scribes such as Roger Ebert, who argued, “With Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, the Spy Kids franchise establishes itself as a durable part of the movie landscape: a James Bond series for kids.”

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Exploring the further adventures of Carmen and Juni Cortez, who have now joined the family spy business as Level 2 OSS agents. Their new mission is to save the world from a mad scientist living on a volcanic island populated by an imaginative menagerie of creatures. On this bizarre island, none of the Cortez's gadgets work and they must rely on their wits--and each other--to survive and save the day.

actors:
Antonio Banderas as Gregorio Cortez   Carla Gugino as Ingrid Cortez   Alexa Vega as Carmen Cortez   Daryl Sabara as Juni Cortez   Steve Buscemi as Romero   Mike Judge as Donnagon Giggles   Danny Trejo as Machete Cortez   Cheech Marin as Felix Gumm  

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4 Planet Terror
imdb
rating

7.2

Planet Terror (2007)

Action, Horror, Thriller

Rodriguez’s half of the Grindhouse double feature found him at his most gleefully bloodthirsty, delving into the zombie genre with loads of gory style and a rock-solid cast that ran the gamut from superstars (Bruce Willis!) to wizened B-movie vets (Jeff Fahey!) Also: Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas gets her brains eaten, and Rose McGowan plays a go-go dancer with a machine gun for a leg. What else can a film fan ask for? Nothing, according to David Edwards of the Daily Mirror, who pronounced it “Insanely violent, ludicrously gory and probably as much fun as you’ll have in a cinema this year.”

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Two doctors find their graveyard shift inundated with townspeople ravaged by sores. Among the wounded is Cherry, a dancer whose leg was ripped from her body. As the invalids quickly become enraged aggressors, Cherry and her ex-boyfriend Wray lead a team of accidental warriors into the night.

actors:
Rose McGowan as Cherry Darling   Naveen Andrews as Abby   Michael Biehn as Sheriff Hague   Jeff Fahey as J.T.   Josh Brolin as Dr. William Block   Marley Shelton as Dr. Dakota Block   Jason Douglas as Lewis   Stacy Ferguson as Tammy   Carlos Gallardo as Deputy Carlos   Julio Oscar Mechoso as Romey   Michael Parks as Earl McGraw   Freddy Rodríguez as El Wray   Rebel Rodriguez as Tony Block   Quentin Tarantino as The Rapist   Bruce Willis as Lieutenant Muldoon  

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3 Sin City
imdb
rating

8.1

Sin City (2005)

Action, Crime, Thriller

Put together Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller (plus special guest director Quentin Tarantino, who took the reins for one scene), and what do you have? The great big mess o’ pulpy noir action known as Sin City. Adapted from Miller’s comic series, City blended cutting-edge digital backlot technology with gritty, gleefully violent imagery and a marquee cast that included Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Elijah Wood, Clive Owen, Benicio del Toro, and Mickey Rourke. It certainly wasn’t a combination for everyone — the movie provoked accusations of misogyny, and some critics found it an exercise in style over substance — but even a few scribes predisposed to dislike this kind of thing were won over in the end, like the New York Observer’s Andrew Sarris, who admitted, “In the end, I have to say I liked Sin City almost in spite of myself.”

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Sin City is a neo-noir crime thriller based on Frank Miller's graphic novel series of the same name.The film is primarily based on three of Miller's works: The Hard Goodbye, about a man who embarks on a brutal rampage in search of his one-time sweetheart's killer; The Big Fat Kill, which focuses on a street war between a group of prostitutes and a group of mercenaries; and That Yellow Bastard, which follows an aging police officer who protects a young woman from a grotesquely disfigured serial killer.

actors:
Bruce Willis as Hartigan   Mickey Rourke as Marv   Clive Owen as Dwight   Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan   Elijah Wood as Kevin   Josh Hartnett as The Salesman   Jaime King as Goldie/Wendy   Rutger Hauer as Cardinal Roark   Benicio Del Toro as Jackie Boy   Rosario Dawson as Gail   Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute   Devon Aoki as Miho   Alexis Bledel as Becky   Brittany Murphy as Shellie   Powers Boothe as Senator Roark   Marley Shelton as The Customer   Nick Stahl as Roark Jr./The Yellow Bastard   Michael Madsen as Bob   Carla Gugino as Lucille   Makenzie Vega as Nancy (11 Years)  

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2 El Mariachi
imdb
rating

6.9

El Mariachi (1992)

Action, Crime, Thriller

Made for the astonishingly low sum of $7,000, Rodriguez’s debut overshot its intended audience — the Mexican home video market — and became one of the great success stories of modern independent cinema in the process. At bottom, El Mariachi is really just another movie about vengeance, mistaken identity, guns, and a guy named Booger, but hey — when you can use familiar ingredients with this much flair, why get fancy? “It goes without saying,” prophesied the New York Times’ Janet Maslin, “that Mr. Rodriguez, having made such a clever and inventive debut, is prepared for a big future of his own.”

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El Mariachi just wants to play his guitar and carry on the family tradition. Unfortunately, the town he tries to find work in has another visitor...a killer who carries his guns in a guitar case. The drug lord and his henchmen mistake El Mariachi for the killer, Azul, and chase him around town trying to kill him and get his guitar case.

actors:
Carlos Gallardo as El Mariachi   Consuelo Gómez as Domino   Jaime de Hoyos as Bigotón   Peter Marquardt as Mauricio (Moco)   Reinol Martinez as Azul   Ramiro Gomez as Cantinero  

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1 Spy Kids
imdb
rating

5.4

Spy Kids (2001)

Action, Adventure, Comedy, Family

Spy Kids at number one? Look, we’re just as surprised as you. But it makes a certain amount of sense — this big box office hit represented Rodriguez using all his filmmaking gifts (he wrote, directed, edited, and produced) to reach the broadest possible audience. In a way, the over-the-top, family-friendly action of Spy Kids represented the full fruition of the talent that blasted its way onto the screen with El Mariachi almost a decade before — and it’s also, in the words of USA Today’s Andy Seiler, “A good live-action children’s movie — a species so rare that many presumed it extinct.”

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Carmen and Juni think their parents are boring. Little do they know that in their day, Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez were the top secret agents from their respective countries. They gave up that life to raise their children. Now, the disappearances of several of their old colleagues forces the Cortez' return from retirement. What they didn't count on was Carmen and Juni joining the "family business."

actors:
Antonio Banderas as Gregorio Cortez   Carla Gugino as Ingrid Cortez   Alexa Vega as Carmen Cortez   Daryl Sabara as Juni Cortez   Alan Cumming as Fegan Floop   Richard Linklater as Cool Spy   Tony Shalhoub as Alexander Minion   Teri Hatcher as Ms. Gradenko   Cheech Marin as Felix Gumm   Robert Patrick as Mr. Lisp   Danny Trejo as Machete   Mike Judge as Donnagon / Donnamight   Guillermo Navarro as Pastor   Johnny Reno as Agent Johnny   Shannon Shea as FoOglie #1/Flower  

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