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Antonio Banderas and Pedro Almodovar: their collaborations ranked

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If we're talking Spanish-language cinema, it's surely defined by the works of director Pedro Almodovar.

The flamboyant film-maker is renowned for his ripe, primary-coloured and evocative delves into sexuality, family and repressed guilt, and he returns with Pain and Glory.

Critically lauded at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, the movie reunites Almodovar with regular collaborator Antonio Banderas. The actor portrays an ageing film director who looks back on his life, which is our jumping-off point into a sensual and nostalgic drama that's been hailed as one of Almodovar's best.

Cineworld Unlimited audiences praised the film – click here to discover their responses – and we've ranked all the collaborations between actor and director. What will come out on top in our celebration of Spanish film-making? Scroll down beneath the poster to find out.

Pain and Glory movie poster


7. Labyrinth of Passion (1982)

Banderas made his Hollywood debut with 1993's Philadelphia, but he had burst onto the Spanish movie scene long before that. In his first film for Almodovar (and indeed his first film altogether), the actor demonstrates the vibrant charisma that would later flourish in higher-profile movies.

Nonetheless, this offbeat screwball comedy certainly got him noticed, and established the rich partnership that continues to this day with Pain and Glory.


6. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)

Almodovar has always had a love of farce and melodrama, but rarely has it been put to more effective use than here.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is the manic and hilarious story of inter-tangled relationships, drawing inspiration in part from the infamously cheesy Hispanic 'telenovela' dramas, possessed of low budgets and cheap sets.

Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, it showcases Banderas as Carlos, one of a multitude of characters contributing to the escalating sense of chaos.


5. Law of Desire (1987)

In his breakout performance, Banderas excels as a gay young actor deeply in love with the director of his latest film. The movie unfolds as a complex love triangle, and cemented Almodovar's commitment to depicting sexually explicit and transgressive material.

Despite its complex subject matter, the movie rose to become Almodovar's biggest box office hit to date, and helped further establish both him and Banderas on the world stage.


4. Matador (1986)

In his third collaboration with Almodovar, the ambitious Banderas consolidated his reputation as Spain's fieriest young actor. He plays the matador of the title, who connects his killing of the bulls with his own perverse impulses – but his story is just one part of a lurid tapestry of tales.

Given a restrictive NC-17 certificate in the USA, Matador is one of Almodovar's darkest films. Although the director himself didn't rate the movie, Vincent Canby of the New York Times wrote: "The movie looks terrific and is acted with absolute, straight-faced conviction by the excellent cast headed by Miss Serna, Mr. Martinez and Mr. Banderas. Matador is of most interest as another work in the career of a film maker who, possibly, is in the process of refining a singular talent."


3. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990)

One of Almodovar's most controversial films, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! features a brave performance from Banderas – the sort that will surely water the eyes of Zorro and Puss in Boots fans.

Once again tackling confrontational subject matter head-on, Almodovar dramatises the twisted relationship between Banderas's escaped mental patient and the woman (Victoria Abril) he has taken captive. Things take a dark turn when he refuses to release her short of the condition that she falls in love with him.

The movie is as stylish as we've come to expect from the director, which only heightens the sense of discomfort. And Banderas is one again shown to go all-in for Almodovar.


2. The Skin I Live In (2011)

Coming 21 years after their last collaboration, The Skin I Live In saw Banderas and Almodovar on top form in a movie designed to thoroughly unsettle us.

Drawing on infamous 1950s French face-swap movie Eyes Without a Face, the movie gives Banderas a juicy role as a demented surgeon. As the narrative unfolds in Almodovar's typically operatic fashion (this time laced with splashes of nasty body horror), it becomes clear that Banderas's character is experimenting with a synthetic skin, and he also has a twisted connection with masked captive Vera (Elena Anaya).

Chock-full of melodramatic twists and adapted from Thierry Jonquet's novel Tarantula, The Skin I Live In is proof that the collaboration between these two artists is capable of morphing into all manner of memorable shapes.

1. Pain and Glory (2019)

One of Almodovar's most personal films to date, Pain and Glory translates his autobiographical tussles with sexuality and identity onto the big screen. He's helped enormously by a moving and restrained performance from Banderas as Salvador, here bravely allowing notes of resentment and bitterness to inflect his lusty Hispanic image.

It's the most substantial of their collaborations together and critics largely agree. Variety's Peter Debruge says of Banderas: "The performance is informed by their decades-long friendship, of course, but there’s no mimicry or caricature involved. If anything, what we’re witnessing here is an act of profound appreciation for — and trust in — a fellow artist, for which Banderas strips away the facade of movie-star virility and presents himself as emotionally bare as his director."

Click here to book your tickets for Pain and Glory and let us know @Cineworld what your favourite Banderas/Almodovar films are.