Best known for the role of Mr. Roarke on the 1970s TV series Fantasy Island (now being remade), Mexican actor Ricardo Montalbán had a wide-ranging film career as well. Despite getting his first leading role in a 1941 soundie film titled He’s a Latin from Staten Island, Montalbán didn’t rise to stardom on this side of the border until close to a decade later. And that was after starring in a slew of Mexican films first. But with the success of the Esther Williams musicals he co-starred in around the late 40s, he eventually became one of the most celebrated Mexican actors of his generation.
Whether playing iconic Star Trek villains or brooding leading men, Montalbán managed to have a longrunning career well into the turn of the century. His last role was a part in American Dad in 2009. Find five of his most famous big screen performances below—all of which you can stream at home!
Set along the US-Mexico border, this black and white drama concerns the issue of Mexican farm workers (“braceros”) who cross into California, legally and illegally. Wanting to investigate a series of robberies and stabbings perpetrated by a bandits who ambush the braceros, agents Pablo Rodriguez (Ricardo Montalbán) and Jack Bearnes (George Murphy) decide to go undercover. Pablo, who’s Mexican, infiltrates the braceros while American Jack is set to monitor his movements; what they find is a highly sophisticated web of illegal trafficking that will put them both in danger.
Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams
Robert Rodriguez family-friendly spy adventure comedy expanded its world with this 2002 sequel. OSS having a full-blown child spy section meant that 13-year-old Carmen Cortez (Alex Vega) and 10-year-old Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) became full agents like their parents. Their mission in the film ends up taking them to an island full of genetically modified animals. Joining this kickass CGI-enhanced film cast, which already included Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino, were Holland Taylor and Ricardo Montalbán as the kids’ grandparents.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn
Arguably one of the most famous entries in the Star Trek pantheon, The Wrath of Khan was the 1982 sequel to the franchise’s first big screen outing. The film follows crew of the starship USS Enterprise facing off against the genetically engineered tyrant Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán). Montalbán had already played the character in the TV series but the film has him fend off the likes of Captain T. Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) as he tries to exact revenge on Kirk and hopes to acquire a powerful terraforming device named Genesis.
Escape from the Planet of the Apes
Star Trek wasn’t Ricardo Montalbán’s first foray into Hollywood sequels. He was also part of the original Planet of the Apes film. Escape from the Planet of the Apes was the third film in that franchise. The sci-fi flick offers a different timeline from the previous films. It follows Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter), who had escaped on a spaceship heading to Earth. They arrive there in 1971 where they find themselves first at the Los Angeles Zoo, become celebrities and then feared specimens only to later flee to a circus run by Señor Armando (Ricardo Montalbán).
On An Island With You
A technicolor musical set against a paradise backdrop, On an Island With You is a comedy of errors about two interlocking couples. Rosalind Reynolds (Esther Williams), a swimming star goes to Hawaii to make a film set on a tropical island, bringing along her fiancé, Ricardo Montez (Ricardo Montalbán). A military technical adviser for the film, U.S. Navy Lt. Lawrence Y. Kingslee (Peter Lawford) falls in love with her. Yvonne Torro (Cyd Charisse), her best friend and fellow movie star, secretly wants Ricardo for herself.