Total Recall

Rank Salma Hayek's 10 Best Movies

In this week's Total Recall, we count down the best-reviewed work of the star of How To Be A Latin Lover.

by | April 26, 2017 | Comments

Salma Hayek has a busy year lined up, with Beatriz at Dinner and The Hitman’s Bodyguard on the docket for later this year — and an appearance in the irreverent ensemble comedy How to Be a Latin Lover this weekend. In honor of Ms. Hayek’s return to theaters, we decided the time was right to take a fond look back at some of the brighter critical highlights from an admirably eclectic filmography, arranging them by Tomatometer — and offering you a chance to rank your own personal favorites in the bargain. It’s time for Total Recall!


10. The Faculty (1998) 53%

One of several productions Hayek has made with director Robert Rodriguez, the 1998 horror-comedy The Faculty — about a high school faculty taken over by alien parasites — seemed like a surefire hit. With a script from Scream vet Kevin Williamson and an attractive cast that included Jordana Brewster, Josh Hartnett, Famke Janssen, and Hayek (as the school nurse), it had all the makings of 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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9. Desperado (1995) 61%

El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) returned — with Hayek by his side and 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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8. Bandidas (2006) 62%

Two of Latin cinema’s most beloved recent exports teamed up for 2006’s Bandidas — and if the results didn’t quite achieve the blockbuster heights that star wattage might suggest, they still added up to an entertaining diversion. Hayek co-stars with Penélope Cruz in this period-set Western action comedy, with the duo playing a pair of mismatched young ladies in 19th century Mexico who team up to rob banks in order to get revenge on a ruthless land baron (Dwight Yoakam), trading barbs and learning life lessons along the way. Fairly familiar ingredients for a buddy comedy, of course, but here they’re given a couple of refreshing twists — and as Randy Cordova wrote for the Arizona Daily Star, it all makes for “Silly, breezy fun, fueled by playful chemistry between its charismatic, appealing stars.”

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7. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) 63%

Robert 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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6. Dogma (1999) 67%

Still widely known as a low-budget purveyor of generally juvenile humor, Kevin Smith might have seemed like a surprising director for a religiously themed movie in 1999 — and to be fair, Dogma contains its share of profanity, scatological gags, and general blasphemy. But it also has a lot on its mind, which probably has a lot to do with why Smith was able to round up such a stellar cast: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon star as a pair of bickering angels bent on returning to Heaven, supported by a talented ensemble that included Alan Rickman (as Metatron), Chris Rock (as Rufus, the 13th apostle), and Hayek (as the Muse Serendipity). “With Dogma,” wrote Janet Maslin for the New York Times, “Mr. Smith makes a big, gutsy leap into questions of faith and religion. He miraculously emerges with his humor intact and his wings unsinged.”

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5. Timecode (2000) 68%

Hayek’s adventurousness as an actor is arguably best summed up by her appearance in Timecode. Directed by Mike Figgis, this experimental drama about a group of people behind the scenes of a Los Angeles film production makes a number of daring choices — not the least of which is Figgis’ decision to split the screen into quarters, with the action unfolding simultaneously in four separate shots throughout the film. If it sounds like a bit of a juggling act as a viewing experience, it was even more of one for the actors, who largely improvised their dialogue — which makes it all the more impressive that most critics ended up applauding the results. “Most movies offer carefully calibrated insults to the intelligence,” wrote A.O. Scott for the New York Times. “This one just might make you smarter.”

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4. Once upon a Time in Mexico (2003) 67%

Robert Rodriguez concluded his Mariachi Trilogy on a high note with Once Upon a Time in Mexico, adding an assortment of big names (including Hayek, 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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3. Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life) (1993) 71%

It’s far from her biggest role, but any Salma Hayek fan will want to watch her appearance in 1993’s Mi Vida Loca — not just to get a glimpse of the future star long before she was famous, but to take in one of the more buzzed-about independent releases of the early ’90s. Written and directed by Allison Anders, this L.A.-based drama opens a window into the lives of Chicano youth in early ’90s southern California, casting an eye without judgment but rich with insight as well as compassion. “Anders’s zigzagging story line allows her to follow side roads that result in beautiful digressions of the sort you wouldn’t find in a more conventional film,” wrote the Washington Post’s Hal Hinson. “Though the picture doesn’t build from scene to scene, that doesn’t matter: Each segment on its own is richly detailed and vivid.”

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2. Frida (2002) 75%

The idea of a biopic honoring the life and legacy of artist Frida Kahlo spent roughly 15 years wending its way through Hollywood — and for much of that time, Hayek doggedly pursued a part in the production, ultimately doing much of the behind-the-scenes legwork herself when it came to dealing with Kahlo’s estate and rounding up a supporting cast. It all finally paid off with 2002’s Frida, which offered Hayek a too-rare opportunity to prove she could shoulder a film — and rewarded her with plenty of recognition (including an Oscar nomination) during awards season. “It’s enough to make you scurry off to find a book about Frida Kahlo,” wrote Moira Macdonald for the Seattle Times. “Which is, perhaps, the ultimate compliment for a film biography.”

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1. Tale of Tales (Il racconto dei racconti) (2016) 83%

Most of us are aware that the fairy tales we were told as children were heavily sanitized versions of the original stories, but unlike the family-friendly tellings, those darker, more violent interpretations have rarely been given the big-screen treatment. Matteo Garrone’s Tale of Tales is a delightful exception — a gleefully unhinged take on Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella that freely indulges their Baroque origins. Hayek, heading up an ensemble that also included Vincent Cassel, John C. Reilly, and Toby Jones, helped the picture attract a level of international attention it may not have been otherwise afforded — paving the way for raves from critics like Edward Porter of the Sunday Times, who wrote, “We’re in the world of fairy tales, and one of the pleasures here, for me, was to be reminded how enjoyable it is. Like a good new song from an out-of-fashion rock star, the film rekindles affection for a whole body of work.”

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