With this week’s release of Alita: Battle Angel marking the return of Robert Rodriguez to the big-screen, now seems as good a time as ever to take a look back over the jack-of-all-trades filmmaker’s filmography, picking out five of our favourites from the Texan maestro.

20th Century Fox

Spy Kids (2001)  

My eight year old self would never forgive me if I didn’t include the first installment of Rodriguez family friendly franchise. With a wonderful high concept allowing Rodriguez to get as weird as he pleases within the boundaries of a G-rating. Brother and sister Juni and Alexa Cortez are thrown into a world of gadgets and espionage when their spy parents (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) go missing in action. What kid wouldn’t love to discover that their parents are super-spies, and get to get in on the action. With a wild sense of imagination on display, this is Rodriguez at his most innocent but no less gleeful.

Planet Terror (2007)

Rodriguez’s half of his and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse Double-Bill experiment works much better as a stand-alone film than Tarantino’s offering, Death Proof. Driving more in to the gruesome splatter exploitation flick of the ’70s, Rodriguez’s manic energy can once again be felt, having a great deal of fun with this action-packed flick of a mutating virus raging across America. Rodriguez makes much more of the scrappy, rough-edged nature of the exploitation films that inspired this Grindhouse experiment, leading to a film that is utterly unhinged by more than ready to make fun of itself and every possible turn. A damn riot.

El Mariachi (1992)

Rodriguez’s break-through hit remains one of the purest examples of just what makes him a dynamic film-maker. Still one of the lowest budgeted films ever to gross over $1 million, El Mariachi kicks off the ‘Mexico Trilogy’ (which also includes the lesser but still nice and pulpy Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico) in a fashion that makes the most use of its shoestring budget. Rodriguez forges his familiar story into one hell of a calling card, following a ruthless criminal with a guitar case full of guns crossing paths with a hopeful wannabe mariachi. Rodriguez’s energy behind the camera is more than present, even with his more restricted resources.

Sin City (2005)

A slight cheat here, as this was co-recited with Frank Miller, with one segment directed by Tarantino, Rodriguez’s hand can still very much be felt on the wheel in his technically most accomplished work. Bringing Miller’s graphic novels to screen in furiously faithful fashion, this is a super-stylish neo-noir that swaggers with visual confidence. Distinct for its monochromatic photography with splashes of vivid colour, this is an intoxicating brew that is uncompromising and extreme. It is always a hellishly entertaining time when one makes the trip to Sin City.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Rodriguez at his genre-blending best sees him forge a gritty crime thriller into a balls-to-the-wall splatter-fest horror. When two criminal brothers on the run (a smooth and handsome George Clooney and an unhinged Quentin Tarantino) kidnap a family and hold up in a bar on the Mexican border, their long night becomes even crazier when the bar patrons reveal themselves to be blood-thirsty vampires. After establishing itself as a very effective thriller, complete with exceptional Tarantino 90’s dialogue, the film takes a wild left turn to become the sort of exploitation gore-fest that Planet Terror would go on to emulate. Not many other directors could quite handle that tonal shift with as much cackling confidence as Rodriguez. A manic, insanely entertaining time that’s like taking a hit of tequila from the mouth of a rattlesnake.    

Alita: Battle Angel is in cinemas now.