Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Every director has their own style or their own way of leaving their mark on a movie. For some these unique signatures have garnered them fans from across the world. For instance, Zack Snyder is known for his love of action zooms, slow-motion and CGI everything. Michael Bay has never met an explosion he didn’t love and his constant shifting backgrounds and moving cameras will either pull you in and make you a fan or leave you running for the hills.
Wes Anderson, Edgar Wright, Tim Burton, the list of modern day directors who fans adore goes on and on, yet one director in particular tends to get left off from a lot of these lists, and I for one think that’s not just a shame, it’s a downright insult!
That director is Robert Rodriguez and his style is just as unique and impactful as all the others out there. So as a big fan I think it’s high time I show some love for one of the more underrated modern-day directors out there. Here are my TOP 5 FAVOURITE MOVIES FROM ROBERT RODRIGUEZ:
#5 Planet Terror
On its initial release, Planet Terror was shown alongside Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof as part of a double feature called Grindhouse. I remember being stoked out of my mind for both films. I mean, we were talking Rodriguez and Tarantino here! These guys are two directors who put it all out on the screen for their fans. Sadly Grindhouse as a whole didn’t do as well as the studio and critics anticipated, but for this fan I could easily tell you which one of these movies resonated with my horror-loving heart more, and it’s Planet Terror.
Robert Rodriguez isn’t just a director, he also has experience in visual effects and he usually edits, scores and even produces his own films. His visual effects skills are on full display in this wonderfully gory, over-the-top ode to zombie movies of the 70s, and it made for a truly fun and memorable viewing.
While Death Proof may have its own positives, Tarantino’s dialogue-heavy style doesn’t fit well with the kind of pacing you need in a horror movie (or at least it doesn’t for me), making Planet Terror the one to watch and the one I enjoy rewatching the most. But this isn’t the only time Robert has given us genre gold. It gets even better my friends!
#4 From Dusk Till Dawn
You know most directors have a favourite actor they work with and someone they may consider their muse? But it’s kinda rare to meet two directors who consistently work together and end up delivering the kind of genre films that go on to be iconic, or at the very least loved and enjoyed by fans.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by Quentin Tarantino (he also starred) From Dusk Till Dawn is one of those movies that came out at the perfect time. There was no social media to spoil things or (worse) whomever the idiot is in charge of making trailers these days. You know the one I’m talking about—the guy who keeps giving away plot twists and secrets in upcoming movies. No, From Dusk Till Dawn was billed as a straight-up action movie and of course if you’ve asked anyone who’s seen it, it’s so much more! SPOILER ALERT…vampires!
It is one of the most unique horror movies out there and it managed to make vampires interesting again, and Tarantino’s sharp dialogue and writing coupled with Rodriguez’s stylish directing went on to make From Dusk Till Dawn one of the best action horror movies out there.
#3 Alita: Battle Angel
Anime to live action adaptations have ranged from mediocre to terrible (in this case we’re talking only about US studios, not Japanese) and it’s as simple as this for me—Robert Rodriguez is the only director who has successfully pulled it off with his film Alita: Battle Angel.
Let’s compare it to Ghost in the Shell for instance. Both films have large budgets and A-list actors, both films are visually stunning, but only Rodriguez’s movie has actual heart to it. You can tell he respects and loves the original content that he’s adapting and that love comes through in the performances of his actors and in the story itself.
#2 Sin City
What is this that I’m seeing?! How is this even possible?! There are some movie-going experiences that stick with you forever, I don’t care if you were seven or 17 when you saw it. That movie or that cinematic moment has carved a place in your mind and built a house with a gazebo and a large backyard pool. Sin City is one of those movies for me, and if I make it to 90 I’ll probably still be telling people about the time Robert Rodriguez made a graphic novel come to life before my very eyes.
Based on the first, third and fourth books of Frank Miller’s eponymous graphic novel I wasn’t the only one blown away by it as Sin City opened to both wide critical and commercial success. The movie’s unique colour processing style (most of the film is in black and white with colour added to selected objects and characters) was so revolutionary at the time it went on to win the Technical Grand Prize at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, which was just one of many well-deserved awards.
There’s only one reason this movie isn’t my number one and that’s because it’s not the film that introduced me to the man who would go on to be one of my favourite directors. No my friends, that honour goes to another and I think you may already know what it is. But before we get to it, we have a brief honourable mention.
Honourable Mention: Predators
Robert Rodriguez’s sequel is the best of all the Predator sequels out there. Fight me!
#1 Spy Kids…Just Kidding. It’s Desperado
Remember what I said about cinematic memories? From the opening scene where Steve Buscemi tells the story of the most badass Mariachi ever to the guitar case reveal that leads to a shoot out that defies the laws of physics and gives zero fs in the process, Desperado was an action movie unlike anything I had seen before at the time and it’s the film that made me sit up and ask, “Who made this and where can I get more?!”
Desperado was the continuation of Robert Rodriguez’s Mexico Trilogy, with its predecessor being El Mariachi and the conclusion Once Upon a Time in Mexico. The first film isn’t widely known and was made on a very small budget (which is where Rodriguez got his start as a one-man show of handling just about every aspect of filmmaking) but with the massive success of Desperado he went on to have a much bigger budget for Once Upon a Time. But of the three films, the one that stands tallest is Desperado.
The movie itself plays out like the kind of story you would hear being told by some drunk in a bar (which explains the opening), or your friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another friend. A tale too over-the-top to be true, yet too well-known to be all made up. It’s a Mexican urban legend of sorts with all of the characters larger than life and our hero impossibly handsome and skilled with a gorgeous damsel on his arm to ride off into the sunset with. It’s the movie that introduced mainstream audiences to Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek (Danny Trejo too when you think about it). And even though they had worked on numerous films before, Desperado is the movie that arguably made the pairing of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino (who appears in the film) widely known. And it’s the film that made me an instant fan of his (Robert’s) work.
So while some may dismiss his movies as ultra-violent or lacking depth, I would argue with films as groundbreaking as Sin City, as visually jaw-dropping as Alita: Battle Angel and as memorable as Desperado, Robert Rodriguez is a director who knows how to leave his unique mark on the movies he’s made. And I for one hope to see much more of his work for years to come.
So are you a fan of Robert Rodriguez? Which film is your favourite? You can check out more from our director series below:
The Retro Ride of ‘Death Proof’ in 4 Slices: Tuesdays with Tarantino Pt 5/8
From Following to Dark Knight to Dunkirk: Top 10 Nolan Movies
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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