Total Recall

Robert Rodriguez's 10 Best Movies

In this week's Total Recall, we count down the best-reviewed work of the Sin City: A Dame to Kill For director.

by | August 21, 2014 | Comments

Robert Rodriguez

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. It’s time for Total Recall!

The Faculty (1998) 52%

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.”

Desperado (1995) 64%

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.”

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) 62%

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.”

Once upon a Time in Mexico (2003) 66%

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.”

Machete (2010) 72%

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.”

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (2002) 75%

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.”

Planet Terror (Grindhouse Presents: Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror) (2007) 74%

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.”

Sin City (2005) 77%

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.”

El Mariachi (1993) 93%

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.”

Spy Kids (2001) 93%

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.”

In case you were wondering, here are Rodriguez’s top 10 movies according RT users’ scores:

1. Desperado — 80%
2. Sin City — 78%
3. Planet Terror — 78%
4. From Dusk Till Dawn — 77%
5. El Mariachi — 76%
6. Once Upon a Time in Mexico — 64%
7. Machete — 64%
8. The Faculty — 55%
9. Spy Kids — 45%
10. Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams — 38%

Take a look through Rodriguez’s complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

Tag Cloud

Calendar Black History Month mockumentary 20th Century Fox dramedy satire Ellie Kemper Pirates American Society of Cinematographers films Star Trek zombies doctor who nbcuniversal Super Bowl true crime Rom-Com Western social media APB Certified Fresh Tarantino Sundance TV Sundance documentary animated streaming boxoffice Hallmark Christmas movies dceu stop motion Disney streaming service Emmys what to watch serial killer Film Festival cancelled TV series Pride Month composers Spike Lifetime Christmas movies adaptation blaxploitation 2020 Action Rocketman OWN A&E asian-american Hear Us Out Song of Ice and Fire 2017 Adult Swim Rocky Netflix Christmas movies History spinoff Starz FXX comedies DirecTV dragons MSNBC Year in Review Pet Sematary PaleyFest Walt Disney Pictures Amazon sequels Superheroes zero dark thirty RT21 Mystery TCA 2017 spain Disney+ Disney Plus die hard TV Warner Bros. FX on Hulu Winners sag awards CMT anime Dark Horse Comics worst Extras cancelled TV shows Photos Holiday obituary cartoon MTV Creative Arts Emmys zombie Kids & Family Animation HBO Go USA WarnerMedia supernatural Cannes south america franchise CW Seed Fantasy Cartoon Network Funimation strong female leads Sundance Now National Geographic romantic comedy transformers Amazon Prime cars Writers Guild of America Tumblr Pop TV 21st Century Fox nature cinemax finale GoT Syfy breaking bad halloween Women's History Month CBS The Purge Crackle PlayStation Trailer quibi mission: impossible emmy awards Set visit 72 Emmy Awards BBC CNN Mary poppins binge Marvel Studios 2015 DC streaming service ghosts LGBT Endgame The Walking Dead Sneak Peek festivals mutant TruTV reboot Disney PBS Comic Book TNT Paramount independent Reality Competition Stephen King nfl scary movies Anna Paquin toy story medical drama a nightmare on elm street Baby Yoda werewolf game show cooking OneApp Acorn TV MCU AMC Pop superhero A24 Comedy Vudu Trivia talk show foreign 71st Emmy Awards TV renewals parents Star Wars VH1 Opinion CBS All Access free movies adventure golden globes unscripted dc book comic stand-up comedy rotten movies we love football Disney Plus Sony Pictures comics Nominations Holidays ABC Emmy Nominations cults HBO Disney Channel news The Arrangement Film psychological thriller Podcast children's TV Horror YouTube Red spy thriller screen actors guild Spring TV period drama remakes Amazon Studios DC Universe Academy Awards Pixar New York Comic Con The Witch Election Epix christmas movies Heroines Polls and Games batman El Rey DGA jamie lee curtis twilight Christmas Hallmark Turner Classic Movies child's play Music police drama SundanceTV TCA revenge Marvel Television Musicals Chernobyl Television Critics Association witnail GIFs Awards Tour Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Trophy Talk Apple Oscars sitcom comiccon diversity Spectrum Originals TLC critics Character Guide discovery Lifetime laika Avengers GLAAD Lucasfilm Schedule Freeform Crunchyroll ESPN BBC America miniseries name the review sports Comics on TV Winter TV VICE IFC Films best technology Country worst movies based on movie Thanksgiving Showtime harry potter cancelled series Tomatazos DC Comics Mindy Kaling political drama chucky SXSW Masterpiece President Arrowverse HBO Max Box Office Britbox Television Academy Bravo E3 YouTube 45 ABC Family facebook Peacock Logo Nat Geo 2018 TIFF Red Carpet BET Paramount Network Mary Poppins Returns crime thriller VOD game of thrones First Look Rock Chilling Adventures of Sabrina documentaries Brie Larson anthology indiana jones First Reviews movie crime Premiere Dates hispanic romance Food Network Infographic green book LGBTQ aliens Lionsgate slashers elevated horror San Diego Comic-Con rotten Quiz Superheroe Mudbound Drama historical drama fast and furious toronto Musical blockbuster 24 frames 4/20 indie TCA Awards kids spanish language thriller award winner tv talk politics hist Toys concert scorecard Video Games latino Nickelodeon Watching Series directors Cosplay theme song travel canceled TV shows E! Binge Guide WGN Awards Countdown Turner BAFTA FOX Apple TV+ Teen TCM space crossover cops video on demand video classics disaster screenings sequel renewed TV shows Ovation Hulu ratings Columbia Pictures Valentine's Day Sci-Fi reviews BBC One Martial Arts Grammys Reality NBC RT History Fox News X-Men cats dark robots Black Mirror dogs justice league FX YA Best and Worst festival criterion Shudder casting Shondaland Amazon Prime Video Captain marvel TV Land Ghostbusters all-time TBS cancelled television ITV 2016 TCA Winter 2020 Classic Film Netflix biography stoner crime drama canceled Esquire teaser Biopics joker spider-man The CW Mary Tyler Moore Discovery Channel Marathons NYCC war docudrama Universal singing competition Fall TV vampires Travel Channel versus Marvel IFC science fiction Family SDCC Interview 2019 See It Skip It natural history richard e. Grant hollywood Comedy Central Summer YouTube Premium universal monsters BET Awards venice movies 007 Apple TV Plus television Elton John USA Network psycho Tubi