The last name Bichir is so recognizably part of Mexican media that at the 2003 MTV Movie Awards there was an entire category devoted to that storied family. And while fellow actors Odiseo and Bruno earned nods, it was Demián who walked away with the award that year for his work on Sin noticias de Dios (Don’t Tempt Me). It was but another reminder that the turn of the century would firmly establish Demián Bichir as one of the best and hardest working actors of his generation. Not even a decade later, he’d be celebrating an Oscar nomination, would soon have a leading role in a cable drama series, and be working with the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Ridley Scott, Robert Rodriguez, and Oliver Stone.
As we’ve pointed out before, Bichir’s work, especially since he began working in earnest in Hollywood, has given life to Mexican and Mexican-American characters that we rarely see on the big screen. Whether playing undocumented gardeners trying to bond with their sons, directing films about circus life, impersonating Fidel Castro, or stripping in sex farces set in Mexico City, the once telenovela actor has found success without boxing himself into any one kind of genre or role, pushing further and further what on-screen representation can look like. So if ahead of Gran Hotel, you’re looking to program your very own Bichir retrospective at home, we’ve found five of his best films that you can stream at home and that truly give you a sense of the actor’s range. Check them out below.
Where teenaged Danny is from, lowrider culture is about more than just spectacular cars—it’s about ethnic heritage, community expression and family traditions. When an annual lowrider event forces him to choose between his traditional father (Demian Bichir) and his estranged criminal brother (Theo Rossi), Danny’s loyalties are severely tested.
Sexo, pudor y lágrimas
A big hit when it premiered back in 1999, this big screen adaptation of Antonio Serrano’s play by the same name is a comical farce centered on three men and three women in Mexico City. When Tomás (a bleached blond Demián Bichir) returns to Mexico after a seven-year trip around the world his stay at his friends’ place wreaks havoc. You see, not only are Carlos (Víctor Huggo Martin) and Ana (Susana Zabaleta) having issues, but it’s obvious that Ana still has feeling for Tomás, her ex. When Ana moves across the street to crash with Miguel (Jorge Salinas) and Andrea (Cecilia Suárez), another couple going through problems, the film turns into a battle-of-the-sexes comedy that puts all their relationships under scrutiny with hilarious (and, in the end, quite tragic) results.
A Better Life
The film that earned Demián Bichir’s his Oscar nomination, A Better Life is an empathetic look at the life of undocumented workers in California. Bichir plays Carlos Galindo, a gardener who has hopes of making something of himself so that his son Luis (José Julián) can have a better chance at life in the United States. When Carlos’ big investment (a truck for his gardening business) gets stolen, he and his son head out to retrieve it, only for their journey to showcase just how different they are, all the while showing the world that undocumented workers like Carlos have to navigate to make a living. A portrait of the American Dream as well as a character study of a tireless father, Chris Weitz’s film shows exactly why Bichir is one of the best actors of his generation.
The Hateful Eight
While racing toward the town of Red Rock in post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) encounter another bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and a man who claims to be a sheriff. When a blizzard forces them to take refuge at a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass, they find themselves sequestered in a rustic inn where four other strangers — including Demián Bichir’s laconic Mexican character, “Señor Bob” — may or may not threaten their respective bounties (and their lives). Bloody and quippy as any other Quentin Tarantino flick, and boasting an Oscar-winning Ennio Morricone score, The Hateful Eight is snow-capped 21st century take on the Western.
Hidalgo – La historia jamás contada
Produced just in time to celebrate Mexico’s bicentennial, Antonio Serrano’s historical biopic tells the story of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (Demián Bichir), a key figure in the Mexican War of Independence. The period drama opens in 1811 at Chihuahua’s Military Hospital where Hidalgo reminisces about his earlier years. That includes his tenure as parish priest in the town of San Felipe Torres Mochas where he translated and produced the stage play “Tartuffe” by Moliere—one of the many things that earned him the ire of more conservative folks who didn’t know what to do with this libertine father who loved to dance and gamble and seduce. Offering a swooping vision of one of Mexico’s celebrated heroes Hidalgo la historia jamás contada is both history lesson and entertaining romp.