Antonio Banderas: His 6 greatest screen roles

The Spanish actor stars in Genius: Picasso on National Geographic beginning this month.

Antonio Banderas has had a long and varied career as a star of films such as Desperado, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down, The Mask of Zorro, Shrek and the Spy Kids series.  

Now for the first time, the Spanish actor appears on the small screen playing Pablo Picasso in a brand new 10-part series on National Geographic.

[Read more: How to watch National Geographic's Genius: Picasso]

Genius: Picasso illuminates the turbulent professional and private life of the controversial artist, with Banderas starring alongside Poppy Delevingne and Samantha Colley.

Before the show premieres, we take a look back at some of Antonio Banderas’ finest screen roles.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Antonio Banderas and Carmen Maura in Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown.  Photo credit: El Desea-Laurenfilm/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Banderas first made a mark on screen in the films of Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar, who cast him in his screen debut Labyrinth of Passion. This comedy, their fourth collaboration, sees Banderas playing the son of a man who has mysteriously gone missing, and tries to help his father’s partner track him down.

It was the first international hit for both men, nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe in the Best Foreign Language Film category, and provided Banderas with a springboard into Hollywood.


Antonio Banderas and Tom Hanks in Philadelphia.  Photo credit: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock

In only his third English-language film, Banderas played Miguel, the lover of Tom Hanks’ HIV-positive lawyer Andrew. Philadelphia was the first big-budget, Hollywood film to tackle the issue of AIDS and earned Banderas widespread recognition outside of his native Spain for the first time.

The film was widely praised for its acting and its compassionate treatment of its subject matter, with Hanks winning the Oscar for Best Actor. Banderas went on to play the role of Armand in Interview with the Vampire opposite Brad Pitt as a result of his performance.


Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek in Desperado. Photo credit: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock

The actor gained his first leading role in a Hollywood film in this 1995 modern western, written and directed by Roberto Rodriguez, which was a sequel to his own Spanish language hit El Mariachi.  Banderas plays a mysterious musician who is mistaken for a hitman in a battle with a drug lord.

Stylish and explosively violent, Desperado made much of the onscreen chemistry (and attractiveness) of Banderas and his co-star Salma Hayek. He would reprise the role in Rodriguez’s third El Mariachi movie One Upon a Time in Mexico in 2003.


Antonio Banderas, Madonna and Jonathan Pryce in a publicity shot for Evita.

In this 1996 adaptation of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s hit musical, Banderas was called on to not only act but sing after being cast from an audition tape made well before director Alan Parker came on board. "It was a very easy choice to make,” says Parker.  “Then I met him in a restaurant in Miami and he started singing songs from Evita in front of all the other customers."

A box-office hit, the film won numerous awards and garnered a Golden Globe Best Actor nomination for Banderas, who sings all of his lines in the film except for six words.

Shrek 2

Antonio Banderas and his fellow Shrek 2 cast members.

Banderas joined the voice cast of the 2004 sequel to DreamWorks smash hit animated fantasy Shrek, playing the smooth-talking and swashbuckling Puss in Boots. The character heavily referenced Banderas’ own performance in 1998’s The Mask of Zorro.

Shrek 2 remained the highest-grossing animated film worldwide until the release of Toy Story 3 in 2010. Banderas reprised the role of Puss in Boots in in two more Shrek sequels before the character got its own movie in 2011.

The Skin I Live In

Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya in The Skin I Live In.  Photo credit: El Deseo S.A./Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Banderas made his first film with his old collaborator Pedro Almodóvar in 21 years with this creepy psychological drama, released in 2011. He plays a brilliant but controversial plastic surgeon who creates an artificial skin that can withstand many kinds of damage, with the mysterious and beautiful Vera (played by Elena Anaya) as his guinea pig.

The Guardian called Banderas “a wonderfully charismatic leading man; Almodóvar has found in him what Hitchcock found in Cary Grant”. The film received huge critical acclaim, winning Best International Film at the 65th Bafta Film Awards and was nominated for a Golden Globe.

[Read more: Lennie James talks Fear the Walking Dead series 4]

Genius: Picasso begins on Monday April 23 at 8pm on National Geographic (BT TV Channel 317, HD 373).

More from BT