20 Famous Mexican Actors, Hispanic Actors, and Latino Actors
There was a time not that long ago when mainstream cinema was dominated by white men. While they still hold a lot of power, as society progresses, the industry has become more and more diverse. It’s now not unusual to have men from different parts of the world cast in leading roles in summer blockbusters. Hispanic, Latino, and famous Mexican actors have been working in Hollywood for years, but it’s really only over the past couple of decades that they have got the recognition they deserve.
While many are big stars in their countries of birth, it’s only now that the likes of Diego Luna, Javier Bardem, and John Leguizamo are getting props for their contribution to film. As we have already highlighted some of the fantastic Hispanic and Latin actresses, such as Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez, and Sofia Vergara, we thought it only right to shine a light on some of the great non-caucasian men making their mark.
So in celebration of these men, here are 20 of the greatest Hispanic, Latino, and Mexican actors of all time who have helped change the way cinema perceives people from other countries.
1. Danny Trejo
No actor is more associated with Mexican actors than Danny Trejo. But did you know he was actually born in Los Angeles? The Mexican American has one of the most recognizable faces in film and has had a long and fruitful career since ditching crime for acting.
As a young lad, Trejo was constantly in trouble with the law, finding himself in and out of prison. He was also big into drugs but managed to clean up his act when serving his final sentence in San Quentin State Prison. He turned to God and took up boxing, becoming a champion of the prison’s lightweight and welterweight divisions.
Since going straight in the mid-80s, Trejo has over 400 credits to his name on IMDB. Often cast as the bad guy in movies like Con Air, Reindeer Games, From Dusk Till Dwan, and Desperado, he finally got leading man status in good friend Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, an action movie with an ensemble cast written for Trejo.
As well as acting, Trejo has opened a series of restaurants, lent his voice to several video games, and published his memoir. He also does lots of philanthropic work, helping other addicts and donating to a wide range of charities.
2. Javier Bardem
Spanish actor Javier Bardem is an Academy Award winner who has been in the movie business for over three decades. Getting his start in Spain, Bardem got noticed for his work in the Spanish-language movie Before Night Falls. He learned English for his next role in John Malkovich’s directorial debut, The Dancer Upstairs, and was then cast in several American productions.
Bardem really broke out playing the sociopathic assassin Anton Chigurh in the Cohen brother’s No Country for Old Men in 2007. Since then he’s starred as a Bond villain in Skyfall, acted alongside his wife Penélope Cruz in Biutiful, and popped up in Denis Villeneuve’s take on Dune. He currently resides in Madrid, Spain, with Cruz and their two children.
3. Diego Luna
Forget that Diego Luna starred in Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights and focus on the positives. The Mexican actor broke through with his captivating performance in the sensual coming-of-age drama Y Tu Mamá También before going on to have a big role in Frida, the highly acclaimed movie based on the life of Frida Kahlo.
His career in Hollywood really took off in 2016 when he landed a major role in Star Wars Rogue One. This led to Luna playing Mexican drug lord Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo in Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico and a pivotal role in the underrated If Beale Street Could Talk. Luna will next be seen in the highly anticipated Star Wars series Andor, reprising his role as Cassian Andor from Rogue One.
4. Anthony Quinn
Anthony Quinn is an acting legend. The two-time Academy Award winner is one of the most famous Mexican actors of all time with a filmography that is almost unmatched. While born in Mexico, Quinn grew up in the United States and pursued a career in acting in his early 20s.
Working predominantly as a character actor, it was during the 50s when Quinn established himself as a superstar. This is when he left Hollywood and collaborated with an array of European directors, receiving critical acclaim for roles in Ulysses, Attila, La Strada, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Returning to America in the early 60s, his success continued with the films The Guns of Navarone, Lawrence of Arabia, and Zorba the Greek cementing him as an acting legend.
5. George Lopez
Better known for his stand-up and chat show, George Lopez has also acted in a slew of movies and television shows. Born in Los Angeles, Lopez has Mexican heritage and often speaks about his experiences of being an American Mexican in his comedy.
He credits his career to Sandra Bullock, who approached Lopez in the year 2000 to create his own sitcom. Bullock felt Hispanic families were being ignored on mainstream television and wanted Lopez to change that. The show, imaginatively titled, George Lopez, was picked up by ABC and became a smash hit. It ran for six seasons and helped establish more Latino voices on television.
Lopez gives a lot back to the Mexican community through his work with various charities and organizations. He’s a two-time host of the Latin Grammy Awards who has won many awards himself and is much loved by Americans. Lopez has produced and starred in several more sitcoms and will next be seen acting alongside his daughter Mayan in the sitcom Lopez vs. Lopez.
6. Pedro Infante
During the golden age of Mexcian cinema, there was no bigger name than Pedro Infante. Not only did he act in over 60 movies, but he was also a singer, releasing a reported 350 songs before his tragic death in 1957 when the plane he was flying in crashed while he was traveling to Mexico City.
Infante is so revered in Mexico that there are five museums dedicated to his work and at least five known statues built to honor him. His legacy continues today, with many Mexicans making the pilgrimage to Mexico City to visit a memorial built to celebrate his achievements. They don’t make them like this anymore.
7. Gael García Bernal
Gael García Bernal starred alongside fellow Mexican actor Diego Luna in Alfonso Cuarón’s surprise hit Y Tu Mamá También in 2001. The movie opened a lot of doors for Bernal, who went global portraying Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries three years later.
Although a well-known actor, Bernal continues to split his time between making studio pictures in America and smaller independent movies in Mexico. His next role is in the Dinsey series Werewolf by Night, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name.
8. Pancho Villa
A key player in the Mexican Revolution, Pancho Villa had a short career as an actor playing himself. These movies enabled him to control his narrative and cast him as the good guy fighting for all Mexicans. He also gave many interviews with Hollywood reporters and greatly elaborated on his impact during the revolution before he was assassinated in 1923.
There have been several movies about Villa’s life, with the most successful being And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself, which cast a young Antonio Banderas as Villa.
9. Eugenio Derbez
Eugenio Derbez is another fantastic Mexican actor who is best known to American audiences for his roles in How to Be a Latin Lover alongside Salma Hayek and Kristen Bell and the 2018 remake of the 80s classic Overboard. Then there is his pet project Instructions Not Included which he wrote, directed, acted in, produced, and edited. The film made over $100 million and soon had everyone asking, “Who is Eugenio Derbez?”
Since then his success in Hollywood hasn’t quite gone to plan. While he continues to get roles, he hasn’t capitalized on his initial success. But he has found lots of work as a voice-over actor, often dubbing English-language animated films. He has provided the Spanish Latin American voice for the Shrek franchise (he voices Donkey), the Dr. Dolittle franchise (he voices Lucky), and the Mulan series (he voices Mushu)
10. Antonio Banderas
Spanish Hispanic actor Antonio Banderas has a long and successful career that doesn’t seem like slowing down anytime soon. Beginning his occupation as an actor in Spain during the 80s, it wasn’t until Madonna brought him to America in the 90s that Banderas started getting some juicy roles. Having to learn English on the fly, Banderas scored big parts in some classic 90s flicks, including The Mask of Zorro, Philadelphia, Interview With the Vampire, Desperado, and Assassins.
He took a bit of a hit with The 13th Warrior but recovered in the 00s with the action movie Once Upon a Time in Mexico (co-starring Salma Hayek and Johnny Depp), horror The Skin I Live In, and Spanish film Pain and Glory. He continues to be one of the great Spanish actors working in Hollywood today.
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11. Gabriel Soto
Before he stepped in front of the camera, Gabriel Soto was a male model and a member of the Mexican boy band Kairo. You probably haven’t heard much about him as he has so far only worked in Mexico. His credits include 220 episodes of Las Vías Del Amor, 142 episodes of Vino El Amor, and 165 episodes of Un Refugio Para El Amor, all famous telenovelas in Mexico.
Soto is basically a soap star, and while that might be frowned upon here, in Mexico these actors are very much loved by the fans and can make a very good living.
12. Ricardo Montalbán
Ricardo Montalbán is a legend in Mexican cinema. Over a career spanning almost 70 years, Montalbán appeared in every genre of movie or TV series you can think of. He started in Mexico playing small roles in independent productions during the 40s and 50s before appearing in several European movies in the 60s.
He was soon popping up in guest roles on every American TV series you could think of before scoring one of the main roles in the Planet of the Apes sequels Escape from the Planet of the Apes and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which really got him noticed.
Montalbán would go on to star in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, and the hit TV show Fantasy Island, which ran from 1977 until 1984. In his later years, he returned to television work and did lots of commercials. He passed away at the age of 88 in 2009.
13. John Leguizamo
Born in Columbia, John Leguizamo is a Latin American who was raised in New York. He has had a marvelous film career spanning four decades. Some of his most notable roles have come in Romeo + Juliet, Carlito’s Way, Summer of Sam, and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. He also starred in the adaptation of Super Mario Bros. alongside Bob Hopkins, which was a massive bomb and nearly derailed his career.
Most of his recent roles are cameos or small parts, but you always know if Leguizamo shows up whatever you are watching is instantly going to be that little bit better.
14. Jorge Negrete
Jorge Negrete is another entertainer of Mexican descent who made a career out of singing and acting. After graduating from the army with a love of music, Negrete moved Stateside and got into singing and acting. He starred in over 40 films and toured Latin America many times, often singing ranchers (traditional Mexican folk music) with the trio Los Tres Calaveras.
He was one of the founders of the Mexican National Association of Actors (ANDA) in 1934 but was expelled from the group in 1953 due to assault charges filed against him, resulting in the end of his acting career. He would die not long after due to complications from hepatic cirrhosis at the age of 42.
15. Benicio del Toro
Puerto Rican superstar Benicio del Toro’s breakout role was as the unintelligible crook Fred Fenster in the 1995 crime thriller The Usual Suspects. Every moment he is on the screen you can’t look away. This movie raised his profile and it wasn’t long before del Toro found himself in cult classics like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Snatch, and big Hollywood productions such as Traffic, The Wolfman, and Sin City.
Del Toro is such a versatile actor whose range is very impressive. Whether he’s playing a Marvel villain in Guardians of the Galaxy, a gun for hire in cartel drama Sicario, revolutionary Che Guevara in Che, or appearing in a Star Wars movie, he is always believable.
16. Andy Garcia
There aren’t too many Cuban actors who have made it big, so props to Andy Garcia for making it in the shark-infested waters of Hollywood. Blessed with a handsome face and charming personality, Gracia has been a mainstay in the movies for over 40 years.
It took him nearly a decade before he finally got a break, starring in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables alongside heavyweights Robert De Niro, Kevin Costner, and Sean Connery. Garcia more than holds his own and the movie proved he had what it takes to make it as a star.
Since then Garcia has starred in a slew of hit movies including When a Man Loves a Woman, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Black Rain, Father of the Bride, and Smokin’ Aces. He’s also played a large role in the Ocean’s trilogy and had a starring role in The Godfather Part III, but the less said about that the better.
17. Michael Pena
Born and raised in Chicago, Michael Pena is slowly carving out a terrific career in the movie industry. While rarely cast as a leading man, he is more than just a supporting actor. He really embraces every role he plays and makes you care for the characters he is portraying. He is another Latino actor with a fantastic filmography, having appeared in Gone in 60 Seconds, Fury, Million Dollar Baby, Crash, World Trade Center, End of Watch, and American Hustle.
Pena has also cameoed in Marvel’s Ant-Man movies and starred as real-life DEA agent Kiki Camarena in Narcos: Mexico. A brilliant actor who is only just hitting his prime.
18. William Levy
Cuban actor William Levy might not be as well known as most of the actors on this list, but the “Latino Brad Pitt” is a heartthrob in Mexico. He has starred in some of the country’s biggest telenovelas, including Cuidado Con El Angel (194 episodes) and Triunfo Del Amor (172 episodes).
While Levy has appeared in several Hollywood movies, his roles have been small, and the movies have not beent great, bar Girls Trip, which is hilarious. While the former model continues to be a mainstay in Mexico, it’s only a matter of time before he lands a big role in America that takes him to the next level and turns him into a global star.
19. Jimmy Smits
Bursting onto the scene as Victor Sifuentes in LA Law, Jimmy Smits is everything you want from a leading man. He’s handsome, approachable, charismatic, and most of all, a great actor. After the success of LA Law – he was on the show between 1986 and 1992 – Smits dabbled in movies before returning to the small screen as Detective Bobby Simone in hit cop procedural NYPD Blue.
Although now well into his 60s, Smits continues to act and always helps raise the bar for the other actors he surrounds. He’s fantastic in Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, and 24: Legacy, while his three-episode stint in Star Wars series Obi-Wan Kenobi is heartwarming. Smits is truly one of the greats.
20. Pedro Pascal
When Pedro Pascal rocked up in Game of Thrones as the revenge-seeking Oberyn Martell, he soon took the world by storm. His performance is captivating and his death shocking. Having been in the Hollywood system for many years without any luck, it was his role in GOT when in his late 30s that finally brought him to the attention of casting directors.
Chilean Pascal has gone on to bigger and better things, starring in the movies Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Triple Frontier, Wonder Woman 1984, and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent alongside a rejuvenated Nic Cage, as well as Netflix hit series Narcos. But his best role might be that of Din Djarin in the Star Wars series The Mandalorian. Although he wears a mask for the majority of the show, his relationship with Baby Yoda (or Grogu) is wonderfully written and makes the show so good.
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