Robert Rodriguez’s Sci-Fi Movies, Ranked

Robert Rodriguez’s Sci-Fi Movies, Ranked

Though he became famous for his down-and-dirty action movies, Robert Rodriguez is a sci-fi guy. That’s just a fact. A brief look at his filmography shows that the vast majority of the films he’s directed are science fiction films or, in a few cases, more traditional fantasy or horror films.

That started very early on in his career with the vampire film From Dusk till Dawn, took him to the family genre with Spy Kids, into comic book adaptations with Sin City, and goes all the way up until today with his new film, Hypnotic, starring Ben Affleck. In Hypnotic, Affleck is a police detective whose daughter goes missing and, as he looks for her, he begins to discover a world controlled by people who can control the minds of others. It’s sort of a grounded version of Inception featuring people with superpowers.

Hypnotic is in theatres now, but where does it rank versus his other sci-fi and genre films? Let’s find out.

13. The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (2005)

After three successful Spy Kids movies, Rodriguez decided it was time to start a new kid-friendly franchise. And while he succeeded in that, Sharkboy and Lavagirl lacked some of that franchise’s heart and ultimately made it more about the visuals than the characters.

12. Red 11 (2019)

This little-seen film about a man who participates in medical experiments with unexpected consequences was a true throwback for Rodriguez. Not only was it produced super cheaply, but it was also based on his own experiences raising money to make movies. A fun idea that never quite feels as cinematic as it wants to.

11. Machete Kills (2013)

Few filmmakers out there have created as many original franchises as Robert Rodriguez. However, for the most part, after a great first film, many of them lack the originality and surprise in the sequel. And that’s what happens with Machete Kills. Danny Trejo rules as always but it’s mostly a tonal retread of the first film.

10. We Can Be Heroes (2020)

A legacy sequel to Sharkboy and Lavagirl, We Can Be Heroes was Rodriguez’s most recent attempt at bringing a new family franchise to life. Again, he was successful. The movie is super goofy but it does have some heart. Plus that incredible adult cast gives it more grounding than some of his other similar films.

9. Hypnotic (2023)

Rodriguez’s latest film ranks here, in the middle of the pack, and we’ll tell you why. The idea is super strong — that there are people who can manipulate the minds of others — and the places the film goes are truly wild. What the movie starts as and what the movie ends as are two very different things. So it’s a fun ride. But for the most part, while the plot is great, the movie is very flat. Very un-Rodriguez. So while it’s worth watching, it’s not quite up to his high standards.

8. Machete (2010)

Based on a trailer in the collaboration Grindhouse, Machete is a wild, violent romp with plenty of humour and energy to spare. Does that make it “good?” Not really, but it’s entertaining as all hell, which is partially because of the incredible cast Rodriguez got to show up.

7. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For suffers the same consequences as Rodriguez’s Machete sequel. It’s very similar to the first film, has a great look and feel to it, but in the end comes off more like an afterthought than a proper, game-changing follow-up. And yet, in the case of A Dame to Kill For, it’s hard to not love those unforgettable visuals and incredible cast.

6. The Spy Kids Franchise

OK, we’re cheating here a bit. So far, Rodriguez has made four Spy Kids films: Spy Kids (2001), Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (2002), Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003), and Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (2011). If memory serves, the franchise has diminishing returns, with the first film being pretty damned good, the second one being ok, the third one being not so great, and the fourth one being pretty bad. But, honestly, they all kind of blend together so we’re gonna shove them all into one and take an average. Plus, I just saved you four extra clicks.

5. The Faculty (1998)

In 1998, to have a film written by the guy who wrote Scream, and directed by the guy who did Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn, was pretty special. And to have that be a high school-based sci-fi movie was even cooler. That general of-the-era excitement may cloud my judgment here, but I still consider the star-studded Faculty to be a clever blast.

4. Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Anytime Rodriguez teams up with another iconic storyteller, be it Kevin Williamson, Quentin Tarantino, or Frank Miller, the results are usually special. For Alita, a live-action adaptation of a popular anime, he worked with the legendary James Cameron and the resulting film was a visually stunning rollercoaster ride. When it was released, it wasn’t incredibly well-received but time has given the franchise new fans, fresh eyes, and a growing appreciation for its scale and ambition.

3. Planet Terror (2007)

Planet Terror is one half of the two-movie experience Grindhouse. And while it doesn’t get quite the accolades as Death Proof, the Quentin Tarantino half, Planet Terror is freaking awesome. Completely manic, gory, and hilarious, it feels like Rodriguez at the height of his powers, doing everything he does best with everyone he knows best, and the resulting film is magic.

2. From Dusk till Dawn (1996)

From Dusk till Dawn is kind of the blueprint for Robert Rodriguez’s entire career. It’s an exciting, original story with an incredible cast that he made with the help of another amazing filmmaker (Tarantino again). That’s a formula he’d come back to again and again but, for our money, it was this film — the rawness of it, the kind of lived-in feel of it — that separates it from the others. It’s still one of his best films. Well, in our mind, his-second best…

1. Sin City (2005)

Rodriguez has made a lot of great movies, but his very best to date is his collaboration with comic book legend Frank Miller, bringing Miller’s noir world of Sin City to life. Not only is the film jam-packed with amazing actors, and not only are the stories gut-wrenching and cool, the pair worked to give the movie a pulpy, comic book-inspired, visual language that set it apart from not only all other comic book movies, but basically all other movies period. It’s not just good, it’s innovative, and so it tops our list.