The story of Danny Trejo is an inspiring tale of a man’s redemption from life as a criminal to a life playing many, many criminals. Prior to pursuing what would prove to be a successful career in both movies and TV shows, the Mexican-American spent more than a decade in and out of prison before achieving sobriety and taking a job as a drug counselor. Here are the ten best roles played by the best good guy that’s really good at being bad.
10. Zombie Hunter: Jesus
Danny Trejo, playing a a priest called Jesus, killing zombies. There, done. There’s more to Zombie Hunter than that description implies, but at least seventy percent of the film’s novelty comes from seeing Trejo do his usual bit while bedecked in a dog collar and priestly gear.
9. From Dusk Till Dawn: Razor Charlie
Classic Danny Trejo, badass vampire to the end. I mean I can’t even be mad that he died when his killer was named Sex Machine: the best name ever. He clearly was one of the best parts of the movie even though his role was minor and it’s hard to compete when you’re acting with George Clooney.
8. Predators: Cuchillo
Cuchillo is Spanish for “knife,” which is a perfect character name for him. He was an otherwise unnamed enforcer working for the Los Zetas drug cartel who was kidnapped by the Super Predators. Cuchillo was the first of the group to fall victim to the Predators, killed while the others were distracted during an ambush. I wish they would have done more with his character.
7. Once Upon A Time in Mexico: Cucuy
“Are you a Mexi-CAN or a Mexi-CAN’T?” A gritty film that showcases Danny’s ability to bring people to the theater with his signature style of silence and violence. What’s not to love?
6. Breaking Bad: Tortuga
One of Breaking Bad’s most (literally) explosive episodes featured a special appearance by Danny Trejo as Tortuga, named for how he always wins by “taking his time.” While we may never see Tortuga do much other than browsing a Skymall and enjoying a cigar, seeing his decapitated head sitting atop a turtle’s shell rigged to explode later in the same episode is undeniably a badass moment of Danny Trejo’s career.
5. Bad Ass: Frank Vega
This is one of the only movies I think I’ve seen where Trejo’s character actually doesn’t want to fight. He’s all about minding his own business and going about his own way, but people never seem to let him do that. Trejo makes excellent use of his quiet reserve as Frank Vega, a down-and-out veteran who becomes Internet-famous after teaching some punks a lesson on a bus.
4. Desperado: Navajas
In his most striking scene in the film, Navajas’ superhuman knife-throwing abilities seal the fate of Steve Buscemi, bring Antonio Banderas to his knees, and make him a nearly unstoppable force against a limousine full of heat-packing gangsters until the bullets finally do claim him in an almost tragic end to such a memorable character.
3. Anaconda: Poacher
I don’t even think he had a real name, simply known as Poacher. What can I say, his pretty much silent role won its way to my heart. Okay, I think I’m more obsessed with Anaconda to an unhealthy level and always have to find a way to talk about it, but he’s still a great character. He managed to be memorable and more dynamic than the animatronic snake.
2. Machete: Machete Cortez
Were Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez so scared of Danny Trejo that they gave him his own franchise? Probably not, but they did recognize his leading man potential and created the role of Machete Cortez, an ex-Federale who’s been double-crossed by just about everyone. He kills a whole lotta people while remaining the good guy. Do we dare speak of Spy Kids?
1. Heat: Trejo
“There’s cops all over me, man. They’re on me like a cheap suit, I can’t dump ’em.” Heat, a critical and commercial success, is a modern-day classic. Trejo served as a crime consultant for the film since he had served time behind bars in real life for armed robbery. It’s fair to say his consultancy and expertise paid off.
Which are your favorite Danny Trejo roles? Do you agree with this list? Let us know in the comments and on our social media.
And check out Danny’s panel at Steel City Con here: