What do you do when you want to make a movie, but don’t have any of the traditional resources to make a movie? You make the fucking movie anyway.
Robert Rodriguez, born in Texas in 1968, loved cinema from a young age. The moment he could, he grabbed a camera and filmed everything he could in precociously cinematic style (it would be fair to call Rodriguez one of the chief “video store” auteurs; a director who got his style not from formal training, but from absorbing movie after movie after movie). In 1991, the college student Rodriguez made an award-winning short film called Bedhead. That earned him enough attention to cultivate his filmmaking career more seriously, and he began working on his debut feature film, which took a ton of blood, sweat, tears, and literal body experimentations (more on that later).
That film, 1992’s El Mariachi, catapulted Rodriguez into Hollywood’s radar, kickstarting a long, prolific, eclectic, and utterly personal directing career. Or, should I say “filmmaking” career? Rodriguez became known for his “one man crew” style of working, in which he not only directed and wrote, but also liked to serve as his films’ cinematographer, camera operator, editor, visual effects supervisor, and composer. Even on the films in which other folks take these key collaborative positions, you can feel Rodriguez’s personality shine through brightly and extensively. These films are “his” in a way they simply aren’t for other directors.
In honor of Desperado‘s 25th anniversary (the second film in the El Mariachi trilogy was originally released August 25, 1995), we thought it best to pay tribute to Rodriguez, his inspiring story, and his idiosyncratic body of work by ranking each and every one of them, from worst to best. A few notes for clarification on this process: Short films, like Bedhead and his segment in the anthology film Four Rooms are out; films that he co-directed are in; and two finished feature-length films, Red 11 and 100 Years, could not be viewed nor considered for this list, for wildly different reasons (the former because it hasn’t moved to its alleged exclusive streaming home of Tubi yet; the latter because it isn’t scheduled to come out until literally 2115). If and when these become available to watch, I shall, and rank them accordingly.
For now, grab your cowboy hat, tune up your guitar, and tap into your inner rebel. These are the films of Robert Rodriguez, ranked. For more directorial ranking, here’s our take on Walter Hill‘s filmography.