Ever since her Hollywood debut in the ‘90s, Salma Hayek’s career has gone from strength to strength. While she started out in exploitative roles like sticking her foot in Quentin Tarantino’s mouth in From Dusk Till Dawn, her turn as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in a 2002 biopic gave her the clout to take pretty much any role she wanted. There’s been the odd steamer along the way, from the Grown Ups duology to Wild Wild West, but Hayek has made plenty more great movies than she has terrible ones.
10 Timecode (68%)
Mike Figgis’ experimental film Timecode is certainly an ambitious piece. It’s constructed of four 93-minute takes, each following a different character, each taking up a quarter of the screen. The movie was sold with the tagline, “Who do you want to watch?,” because you can’t possibly watch all four, so your eyes dart around them and you miss huge chunks of each plot. Actors such as Stellan Skarsgard and Jeanne Tripplehorn star alongside Salma Hayek in the movie, which revolves around a production office and focuses on various players in the film industry. If nothing else, it was an interesting experiment.
9 Mi Vida Loca (71%)
Mi Vida Loca, also known by its English title My Crazy Life, was the first ever film appearance by Salma Hayek. She only has a small role, but her turn in the movie was memorable enough that it was the launchpad for her whole career. Written and directed by Allison Anders, Mi Vida Loca is a powerful crime drama about the lives of some Mexican-American women living in the Echo Park region of Los Angeles. In addition to Hayek’s movie debut, Mi Vida Loca also contains the first ever screen appearance of would-be My Name is Earl star Jason Lee.
8 Beatriz at Dinner (74%)
Like Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl, this darkly comic gem was the result of a collaboration by director Miguel Arteta and screenwriter Mike White. Salma Hayek stars as a holistic medicine practitioner whose car breaks down, forcing her to attend a dinner party thrown by one of her wealthy clients. Greats like Chloë Sevigny, Connie Britton, John Lithgow, and Amy Landecker appear in supporting roles in the film, which has spectacularly drawn performances from its cast and incisive overarching social commentary in equal measure. Since it’s basically a feature-length dinner scene, the focus is squarely on the characters, which makes it work as sort of a filmed play.
7 Frida (75%)
This biopic of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was Salma Hayek’s breakthrough project. She received nominations for all the big awards – an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and many more – for her acclaimed performance. Kahlo’s surrealist style made her a star on the art scene, and this movie covers both her private life and her professional life in an insightful way. Director Julie Taymor could’ve taken more opportunities to have the film reflect the surrealist artistic vision of its subject, but as with all the best biopics, the lead performance is strong enough to save it from its by-the-numbers approach.
6 Muppets Most Wanted (79%)
One of the staples of the Muppets film franchise is having an abundance of cameo appearances by big stars, sometimes playing fictional characters and sometimes playing themselves. Salma Hayek was one of the many A-listers to show up in Muppets Most Wanted, the most recent entry in the Muppets’ big-screen outings, and it was an example of the latter.
She appears in a scene in which Gonzo is holding an indoor rendition of the “Running of the Bulls” event. The plot sees the Muppets embarking on a European tour and getting swept up in a crime caper along the way.
5 Sausage Party (83%)
Seth Rogen co-wrote and starred in this adult-oriented computer-animated romp, an R-rated take on a Pixar movie. Whereas Pixar makes movies about the secret lives of toys or bugs, Rogen made a movie about the secret life of food. It’s decidedly horrifying, with each item in the supermarket waiting to reach “the great beyond,” only to discover that they’ll be ripped to shreds and devoured. Salma Hayek played Teresa del Taco, a lesbian taco shell who had a crush on Brenda, the female lead played by Kristen Wiig. Hayek’s seductive performance was one of the most consistently funny parts of the movie.
4 Tale of Tales (83%)
A co-production of France, Italy, and the UK, Tale of Tales is an anthology fantasy movie based on the fairy tales of Giambattista Basile. Due to the anthology format, it’s tough to name just one star of Tale of Tales – particularly with riveting work from a cast including Vincent Cassel, John C. Reilly, and Toby Jones – but it’s arguable that Salma Hayek, in the role of the bitter Queen of Longtrellis, takes that title. Not only is she technically the star, as the top-billed actor who appeared on all the posters; her segment is perhaps the most memorable in the movie.
3 Puss in Boots (85%)
This spin-off from the Shrek franchise was far better than it had any right to be. For starters, it was a spin-off, which isn’t usually the sign of a great movie, and on top of that, it was arriving on the heels of the two worst installments in the Shrek franchise. By some miracle, Puss in Boots managed to stand apart as an underappreciated gem in its own right. Antonio Banderas is wonderful as always in the title role, while Salma Hayek and Zach Galifianakis provide strong support. As an executive producer on the project, Guillermo del Toro imbued Puss in Boots with serious vision, drawing from westerns, old swashbuckler movies, and adventure serials.
2 The Pirates! Band of Misfits (86%)
Aardman Animations, the studio behind Wallace and Gromit, mounted this adaptation of Gideon Defoe’s children’s books. The producers even recruited Defoe himself to write the film’s script. Salma Hayek appeared as Cutlass Liz alongside such stars as Hugh Grant, David Tennant, and Martin Freeman in a voice cast full of A-listers.
The conventions of the pirate movie genre are upended with the dawn of science, making for a movie that’s wildly entertaining and even a little bit educational. It was animated in the stop-motion style of Aardman’s other works, but using new technologies to make it look a little smoother.
1 Traffic (92%)
Steven Soderbergh helmed this complexly plotted look at the drug trade, told from a number of different perspectives: the street-level dealers, the higher-up suppliers, the patroling law enforcement, the politicians peddling the “War on Drugs.” Stephen Gaghan’s screenplay wasn’t based entirely on a true story, but there are some elements of the script that were influenced by real-life events. Salma Hayek played the minor role of Rosario opposite Benicio del Toro (who went on to win an Oscar for his performance), but her work went uncredited. On the whole, Traffic is a sprawling cinematic saga that is engaging and well-crafted.