In the 1990s, indie filmmaking started to break ground as a hot, more mainstream commodity than ever before, and one such filmmaker who has maintained his signature indie attitude no matter how mainstream he gets is Robert Rodriguez. Watch any one of his films - from the Spanish-language El Mariachi to the lighter Spy Kids movies - and each of them feels similarly rebellious and refreshingly unique no matter how big (or even charmingly ridiculous at times) they prove to be.
That rebellious ambition and charm are what make the following Robert Rodriguez movies available on streaming, for digital rental, or to purchase on physical media (if you prefer that) so memorable and fun to revisit again and again, such as his feature-length debut.
El Mariachi (1992)
A case of mistaken identity causes a traveling musician (Carlos Gallardo) to become embroiled in a violent stand-off against a bloodthirsty drug lord in a small Mexican town.
Why it’s a great Robert Rodriguez movie: Robert Rodriguez made a very impressive case for himself as one of the film industry’s most promising newcomers with the explosive, Spanish-language action thriller, El Mariachi, for which he personally conducted just about every on-set task necessary other than acting.
El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) is still trying to outrun his violent past when he arrives at a small town on the Mexican border, where he comes at odds with another ruthless drug kingpin (Joachim de Almeida) and his vicious henchmen.
Why it’s a great Robert Rodriguez movie: Robert Rodriguez continued the story he began with El Mariachi with Antonio Banderas filling the role of the traveling musician-turned-hardened-gunslinger in the bigger, louder, and more explosive, Desperado, which was also one of the first times he worked with other frequent collaborators like Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi, Danny Trejo, and his good friend, Quentin Tarantino.
Once Upon A Time In Mexico (2003)
Legendary hitman El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) is enlisted by a corrupt CIA agent (Johnny Depp) to help him take down a drug cartel leader (Willem Dafoe) planning to kill the president of Mexico.
Why it’s a great Robert Rodriguez movie: Along with an exciting assortment of newcomers to the franchise like Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke, and Willem Dafoe, Antonio Banderas reprises the role of El Mariachi, and Salma Hayek reprises her role as Carolina in the insanely entertaining Neo-western thriller Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the final installment of Robert Rodriguez’s trilogy following the deadly gunslinger who just wanted to play guitar.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
On the run from the law, a pair of notorious criminal brothers (George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino) take a former minister (Harvey Keitel) and his children (Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu) hostage, and take refuge together at a bar in the middle of nowhere that turns out to be haven for a more monstrous threat.
Why it’s a great Robert Rodriguez movie: From star and screenwriter Quentin Tarantino and director Robert Rodriguez, From Dusk Till Dawn is a lean, mean, instant B-movie classic with real bite that would later inspire a hit TV series on Rodriguez’s own cable network, El Rey.
Planet Terror (2007)
An unhappy go-go dancer (Rose McGowan), her mechanic ex-boyfriend (Freddy Rodriguez), and others become the last hope for humanity after an experimental gas turns people into vicious, flesh-eating mutants in a small Texas town.
Why it’s a great Robert Rodriguez movie: Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez would later collaborate on another lean, mean, instant B-movie classic with the double-feature event Grindhouse - which, unfortunately, is not available to digitally stream or rent as a whole, but you can do so with Rodriguez’s bloody special-effects extravaganza, Planet Terror, which many agree is the strongest segment of the two.
The Machete Movies (2010-2013)
A former Federale (Danny Trejo) seeks brutal revenge on a man who framed him for murder and, later, is enlisted by the President to stop a Mexican revolutionary threatening Washington D.C. with a nuclear attack.
Why it’s a great Robert Rodriguez movie: Robert Rodriguez also directed a fake trailer for Grindhouse which he later adapted into two shamelessly manic tributes to exploitation cinema (Machete in 2010 and 2013’s Machete Kills) with Danny Trejo playing the role of one of his most badass characters in both.
The Faculty (1998)
A mismatched group of teenagers become the last hope for humanity when their high school becomes the epicenter for an extraterrestrial virus possessing teachers and fellow students.
Why it’s a great Robert Rodriguez movie: From Scream writer Kevin Williamson, The Faculty is Robert Rodriguez’s fun attempt at horror movies in the vein of 1950s classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but repurposed for young, angsty moviegoers of the ‘90s to relate to.
Spy Kids (2001)
A 12-year-old girl (Alex PenaVega) and her 8-year-old brother (Daryl Sabara) become the last hope to save their father (Antonio Banderas) and mother (Carla Gugino), after discovering they are secret agents who have been kidnapped by an eccentric TV host (Alan Cumming).
Why it’s a great Robert Rodriguez movie: After an impressive track record of popcorn cinema for more mature audiences, Robert Rodriguez came out with Spy Kids - a fun, visually inventive attempt at action flicks in the vein of the James Bond movies, but reimagined for children eight years old and up to relate to.
Sin City (2005)
The stories of a brutish criminal (Mickey Rourke) avenging the murder of a beautiful call girl, a mysterious loner (Clive Owen) taking on a slew of corrupt lawmen, and a disgraced former detective (Bruce Willis) returning to look out for the dancer (Jessica Alba) he rescued as a little girl make up this anthology taking place in an urban cess pool of violence.
Why it’s a great Robert Rodriguez movie: Robert Rodriguez teamed up with comic book legend Frank Miller to co-write and co-direct Sin City, which does more than adapt Miller’s series of noir-inspired graphic novels, but brings the stories to life on the big screen with visually breathtaking mastery.
Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
A cybernetic organism (Rosa Salazar) tries to figure out the forgotten secrets of her past when a kindly professor (Christoph Waltz) reactivates her after finding her remains in a junkyard.
Why it’s a great Robert Rodriguez movie: Robert Rodriguez took over for co-screenwriter and producer James Cameron as the director of Alita: Battle Angel - another visually striking and narratively refreshing comic book adaptation that has earned a devoted cult following since its 2019 release.
Lately, Robert Rodriguez has made quite a splash directing television, namely an episode of The Mandalorian Season 2, and the upcoming pilot of The Book of Boba Fett, which he has also signed on as an executive producer for. However, the title I would most like to see from him (but never will) is 100 Years - a short starring John Malkovich that is scheduled to be released in 2115.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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