Antonio Banderas made his big screen debut in the 1982 Spanish film FALSE EYELASH, and while he still had a bit to go before becoming the globally recognized star he is today, his journey through the industry has been paved with excellent performances in great films. Banderas has a tremendous reputation as a performer, one that he has truly earned. And it’s a legacy that very much continues with his latest work, reuniting with writer/director Pedro Almodóvar for the deeply personal and beautiful PAIN & GLORY.
In celebration of this new release, we’ve taken a look back through the years and highlighted some of our favorite performances from Antonio Banderas over the course of his career.
The Mask of Zorro
Antonio Banderas most certainly had some big shoes to fill in bringing Zorro back to the big screen in 1998, but things truly couldn’t have worked out better, as Martin Campbell’s THE MASK OF ZORRO remains to this day the actor’s most successful live-action endeavor. Banderas is absolutely perfect as the mask-wearing, swashbuckling hero, and the film remains as fun today as it was over 20 years ago.
A big part of what made having Antonio Banderas play Zorro seem like such as brilliant move back in the late 1990s was the fact that he proved his excellent action chops starring in Robert Rodriguez’s 1995 indie hit DESPERADO — which remains one of the most badass performances in modern cinema (admittedly not making it share too much in common with PAIN & GLORY). El Mariachi isn’t exactly Banderas’ most verbose character, but that doesn’t matter so much when you can communicate everything with a deadly stare.
The Skin I Live In
Totally changing gears, THE SKIN I LIVE IN is another collaboration between Antonio Banderas and Pedro Almodóvar, but one with a totally different genre approach than the autobiographical PAIN & GLORY. This one is not just a horror movie, but one that is most definitely not for the easily disturbed, telling the non-linear story of a haunted-but-brilliant plastic surgeon (Banderas) who attempts to overcome a tragedy of his past through experimentation on a woman (Elena Anaya) he keeps hostage in his lab.
Antonio Banderas’ filmography is filled with movies for all ages, and that includes families. He notably voiced the suave, adorable Puss in Boots in the SHREK sequels (as well as his own spinoff), but on the live-action side of things, he makes for an excellent secret agent/father in Robert Rodriguez’s SPY KIDS. It’s not a film where he is specifically front and center — if that wasn’t obvious from the title — but it’s certainly one of his most memorable and beloved supporting roles.
Pain & Glory
PAIN & GLORY was the initial inspiration to build this list, but it’s also an impressive enough work from Antonio Banderas that it absolutely deserves to be on here. The movie is essentially Pedro Almodóvar’s autobiography, and while playing one’s director might be a daunting task for a less experienced actor, Banderas not only has the strength to make it powerful, but he also clearly leans on the fact that he’s known the writer/director for 40 years. It’s a slow-burn film, and Banderas is captivating.
PAIN & GLORY is now playing in limited release.