El Mariachi has come a long way. Antonio Banderas was one of the biggest stars of the nineties. With a suave demeanour and a slick attitude, combined with the Spanish gorgeousness, the actor has certainly won the hearts of many.
Beginning his career with future successful collaborating director Pedro Almodóvar, the actor gradually climbed the ladder to success and became one of the leading men in Hollywood.
Although the actor is often cited to be a commercial performer, critics would strongly disagree, with the 57-year-old donning a variety of roles, continuously reinventing his career. Antonio Banderas is not the just a pretty boy, he is the actor who can mould effortlessly into any role.
For this list, I have taken into account movies which showcase the Spanish actor and scrutinize his acting capabilities. Combining critical success with commercial ventures, the actor deserves a round of applause. So, here’s the list of top 12 Antonio Banderas movies.
12. Evita (1996)
A musical drama based on the hit album musical, stars Antonio Banderas as Ché, an everyman who narrates the love story of Eva (Madonna) and President Juan Perón (Jonathan Pryce). While the film principally focuses on the character developments of the primary leads, Banderas act as an emotional blanket which foils the story of the two characters. With Banderas slowly penetrating through the ranks of Hollywood, this film established him as the “new star in town”.
11. Shrek 2 (2004)
Essaying the endearing Spanish sword swinger, Banderas stars as “Puss in Boots” in DreamWorks Animation’s ‘Shrek 2’. What makes Banderas’ role so memorable is the cat’s glib nature among the barrel of awkward and quirky characters, a persona which sets him apart. The actor seems to be perfect for the role, with his accent and personality, Puss in Boot is one of the actor’s most comical yet cool performances.
10. Spy Kids (2001)
A surprise hit, this 2001 movie elevated Antonio Banderas’ Hollywood position which had cooled down in the mid-nineties due to some critical and commercial bombs. Another collaboration between Robert Rodriguez and Banderas, this spy adventure film is about the children of super-secret-agent parents who are on the mission to save them from danger. Banderas along with Carla Gugino play the once rival spy couple, the Cortezes. While the film boasts impressive comedic performances by child stars Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, Banderas alongside Gugino form a memorable comic partnership, blurting out laughter in their comic interludes with maturity.
9. Matador (1986)
Basing the themes of sex, death, and religion, ‘Matador’ is the story of a student matador, Ángel Jiménez, essayed by Antonio Banderas, who confesses to murder convictions he did not commit. With sadism, masochism, bullfighting, perverted sexuality and sexual violence being the central thematic metaphors; director Pedro Almodóvar fashioned Jiménez with a psychological tale which provided a romantic essence to it. Although cited as one of his poorest works by the director himself, it certainly is an innovative piece of work by the director. The film is an adroit amalgamation of haunting chambers of human psyche and the romantic façade of Banderas.
8. Desperado (1995)
A part of the slick ‘El Mariachi’ trilogy, the film isn’t a masterpiece in any sense, but is a great watch for Banderas lovers. Directed by Robert Rodriguez, this 1995 film chronicles the life of a mariachi’s quest to kill a local drug runner who murdered his lover. Grossing over $25 million, the film contains stylish gun swings, slick combat and the sizzling pair Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek. The western action film is a pure entertainer which is spearheaded by the commercially hit duo Banderas and Rodriquez.
7. Puss in Boots (2011)
A spin-off of the successful ‘Shrek’ franchise, the film explores the character “Puss in Boots” and his adventures before he first appeared in ‘Shrek 2’ (2004). Antonio Banderas plays the titular character, a fugitive but a hero of San Ricardo. The film is a clever application of Banderas’ masterful grasp of the smooth talking cat. With the character’s endearing popularity in the ‘Shrek’ franchise, the actor draws up a perfect movie for kids. The Spanish accent and the cool appearance helped Puss in Boots cement itself as one of the most memorable animated characters. The film’s success helped it win a nomination in the “Best Animated Feature” category at the Academy Awards and a spawn of sequels and an extended franchise.
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6. And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2003)
Directed by Bruce Beresford, the film is based on Mexican Revolutionary general Pancho Villa. Antonio Banderas brings a point portrayal of the commander of the “División del Norte” in the Constitutionalist Army. Banderas brilliantly drew a portrait of a complex yet unassuming character who is seduced Hollywood’s obsession with stardom. With the intense absurdity and incongruity came a masterful performance by a veteran performer. The duo of director Bruce Beresford and writer Larry Gelbart impressively crafted the movie which is speared by a Golden Globe nominated performance by Antonio Banderas.
5. The Skin I Live In (2011)
While Antonio Banderas represents mostly commercial flicks in Hollywood, which isn’t the eye candy of critics, the actor has amassed an impressive array of works in Spanish cinema. ‘The Skin I Live In’, directed by Pedro Almodóvar, is the story of a brilliant plastic surgeon, who troubled by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that resists any kind of damage. However, his experimental enigma turns into horror when it transforms into an obsession, with volatile woman being the guinea pig to his obsession.
Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, the film is unsettling quiet and does not contain a superfluous flow of screams and noise. The direction was lauded for it deft and intricate portrayal of the psychological phenomena, and Banderas shrewdly captured the essence of his enigmatic character Dr. Robert Ledgard. Although the actor did not win much silverware, he essentially established his career in the new age of cinema.
4. The Mask of Zorro (1998)
Donning a character which has been revisited and reinvented through generations is never easy and yet Antonio Banderas brought his inner acting prowess to reincarnate this masked vigilante. ‘The Mask of Zorro’ is the story of Alejandro Murietta (Antonio Banderas), a young thief, who upon losing his brother to murder is one the quest to seek. In his endeavour, he comes across the masked legend Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins), who trains him and wishes to fulfil a quest of his own. The swashbuckler film added a grittiness and reflation to the character, which was massing from the other films. A summer blockbuster, the film and the actors brilliantly paid homage to the classic Hollywood era and Banderas took on the robes of the Zorro with an impressive command.
3. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990)
A dark comedy, ‘Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!’ is the story of psychiatric patient, who embroiled in the delusion of destiny, kidnaps a pornographic actress in pursuit of making her fall in love with him. Collaborating with director Pedro Almodóvar, the film is moulded by the striking performance by Banderas, who brings the varying layers of emotions to the mentally unstable Ricky. Almodóvar deserves the credit of bringing a multi-faceted element to Banderas’ character, a performance which has garnered an array of academic research and analysis. Premiering at the Berlin Film Festival, the film looked to have been stung by some hapless bee. However, with its release, the movie became a commercial hit and gained a critical affection.
2. Law of Desire (1987)
A thematic interpretation of homosexual relationships, ‘Law of Desire’ is the story of three men stuck in a love triangle. Starring Eusebio Poncela as Pablo Quintero, a gay film director and writer; Antonio Banderas as Antonio Benítez, an young man yielding from a conservative family, Miguel Molina as Pablo’s regular lover
Juan, the film is an interesting take on the concepts gender sexuality and homophobia. A commercial hit, the film took some to be analysed critically. A subject matter new to many, the actors’ portrayal caused a stir among viewers. However with time, Almodóvar’s directorial venture earned the appreciation it deserved. Antonio Banderas quietly fit perfectly in the role, acting as a knitting framework for the primary lead, his shrewd over and his transsexual sister. The performances by a still young Banderas along with his co-actors helped the film to score a successful earning at the box-office and paved the path for the future successful for Almodóvar.
1. The Mambo Kings (1992)
Starring Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas as the musical Castillo brothers Cesar Castillo and Nestor Castillo; ‘The Mambo Kings’ chronicles the story of these two comrades of aspiring musicians who fly from Cuba to America in the hopes of reviving their failed musical careers. Marking Banderas’ debut in English language films, this 1992 flick earned him a newfound international acclaim.
Adapted from Oscar Hijuelos’ ‘The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love’ (1989), the film boasts an inspiring performance by the two leads. Set in the era of the classic, the 1950s, the actors aptly fit in the atmospheric aura. What makes this film such a great watch for Banderas lovers and critics is that the role does not require any technical acting prowess whatsoever, but needed a tinge of soul and heart – and Banderas was the right man for it.
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