Javier Bardem's Best Movies, Ranked by Metacritic

Discover Javier Bardem's best movies, ranked by Metascore.
by Danielle Turchiano — 

Javier Bardem

Juan Naharro Gimenez / Getty Images

Spanish actor Javier Bardem technically started his professional acting career when he was only 6 years old, in El Pícaro (The Scoundrel) from Fernando Fernán Gómez, but things picked up for him a decade and a half later when he appeared in The Ages of Lulu from Bigas Luna, who then went on to cast him in his first leading role (in Jamón, Jamón).

Bardem was successful at scoring many key roles in Spanish-language films for years before beginning to work on English-language projects. 

One of his early breakout performances was as the real-life Reinaldo Arenas, a poet who lived and worked in Cuba despite being persecuted there because of his sexuality and not agreeing with the politics of the time, in Before Night Falls. Others were playing a detective in John Malkovich's directorial debut, The Dancer Upstairs, and playing a drug kingpin in Collateral

Those three films were all released in the early aughts, and Before Night Falls earned Bardem his first attention from the Academy Awards. Since then, he has only gone onto bigger and better things, including more award-winning turns, such as diving into a twisted hitman's mind in No Country for Old Men, which scored him his first Oscar win, and playing real-life television legend Desi Arnaz in Being the Ricardos, for which he received his most recent Oscar nomination (fourth overall).

He has also co-starred with his wife, Penélope Cruz, a number of times, including but not limited to Jamón, Jamón, Live Flesh, The Counselor, Vicky Cristina Barcelona,and Everybody Knows.

Here, Metacritic highlights the top 10 movies Bardem has acted in, ranked by Metascore.

No Country for Old Men

Metascore: 91
Best for: Fans of Westerns and crime dramas
Where to watch:

, Google Play, HBO Max, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 122minutes

Based on Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same title, No Country for Old Men is set in 1980s Texas and follows a mysterious and savage hitman (Anton Chigurh, played by Bardem) who is currently looking for a large sum of money that war veteran Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) happened upon, and the local sheriff (Ed Tom Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones), who is investigating the crime that led to the money being up for grabs. The Oscar-winning film deals in themes of morality and is directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Released in 2007, one of the Oscars the film won in 2008 was Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, for Bardem, which marked his first win from the Academy.

"If watching movie violence is cathartic, then this film amounts to heavy therapy." — Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal

Before Night Falls

Metascore: 85
Best for: Fans of biopics and emotional character journeys with political themes
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 133 minutes

Ten years after his death, writer and political rebel Reinaldo Arenas got the biopic treatment from director Julian Schnabel, based on his autobiography. Bardem stars as Reinaldo, whose life is depicted primarily after he moves to Havana, Cuba in the 1960s as a student and eventually gets the chance to publish his first piece of writing. It is hardly a tale of triumph, though, as he struggles with his sexuality in Cuba, where things grow increasingly dangerous due to political issues, and he ends up moving in and out of prison. Bardem picked up his first-ever Oscar nomination for this performance.

"A dense, emotionally satisfying portrait of a man, a time and a place." — David Rooney, Variety


Metascore: 81
Best for: Fans of action films and spy dramas, specifically the James Bond franchise
Where to watch:

, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, Paramount+, Vudu
Runtime: 143 minutes

Directed by Sam Mendes, Skyfall is the 23rd installment in the James Bond franchise, with Daniel Craig starring as that infamous spy. This time around, an MI6 building is attacked, and Bond has to come out of retirement to investigate who is behind it and why. He ends up embroiled in a larger revenge plot against M (Dame Judi Dench). Bardem plays Raoul Silva, a cyberterrorist. This 2012 film was not only a hit with critics, as you can see from its Metascore, but it was also popular with awards entities, earning multiple Oscars, BAFTAs, and Critics Choice Awards, in addition to a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

"Skyfall has the feel of both a ceremonial commemoration and a franchise-rebooting celebration." — Keith Uhlich, Time Out


Metascore: 75
Best for: Fans of trippy relationship dramas and psychological horror
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Paramount+, Vudu
Runtime: 121 minutes

In Darren Aronofsky's 2017 drama, Him (Bardem) and the titular Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) live in the country where they are renovating a house and he is trying to write poetry, but their lives are upended when a strange family shows up. Man (Ed Harris) arrives first, with a mysterious injury, but he is soon followed by his wife, Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), and their sons (Domhnall Gleeson and Brian Gleeson). Not only does an important object get broken after their arrival, but violence breaks out, and from there, things spiral further. While Him is caught up in a lot of new attention he welcomes, Mother is often pushed to the side and ignored, and as time goes on, the imbalance in their relationship becomes a concern not only for the audience, but also, finally, for her.

"A spinning, flaming plume that is not here to make you like it, though it wouldn't mind if you decided to just bow down in worship." — Alissa Wilkinson, Vox


Metascore: 74
Best for: Fans of futuristic science fiction and tales of epic destinies
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 155 minutes

The first film in a planned two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert's novel of the same title by director Denis Villeneuve received the second-most number of Oscar nominations in 2022, with 10, including Best Picture. The story is set in the near future when a noble family is at war over a planet that may be deadly but has a valuable "spice" that offers vitality and expanded consciousness, which is necessary for interstellar travel. Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), the heir to this family, is thrust into training (and, of course, danger) to travel to the planet and ensure his people's future. Bardem plays Stilgar, the Fremen tribe's leader Paul eventually encounters.

"An awe-inspiring piece of work." — Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

The Sea Inside

Metascore: 74
Best for: Fans of biopics and death with dignity
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 125 minutes

The Sea Inside, otherwise known as Mar adentro, is a 2004 Spanish film from Alejandro Amenábar starring Bardem as the real-life Ramón Sampedro, who fought for almost three decades for the right to end his life after becoming a quadriplegic. The film, which won the Best Foreign Language Oscar in 2005, follows his relationships with a lawyer who supports his cause (Belén Rueda), a woman who wants to convince him not to give up on life (Lola Dueñas), and various family members and caregivers. Through the different beliefs of characters around Ramón, the film paints a detailed picture of opposing opinions around assisted suicide, as well as how emotional it can be to watch a loved one suffer.

"Moving, romantic, dreamlike, flawlessly acted and so engaging." — Carla Meyer, San Francisco Chronicle


Metascore: 71
Best for: Fans of action thrillers
Where to watch:

, Google Play, HBO Max, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 120 minutes

Michael Mann's 2004 action film centers on a cab driver named Max (Jamie Foxx) who picks up Vincent (Tom Cruise) for a night of chauffeuring around Los Angeles. It soon turns deadly because Vincent is a hitman. As the night drags on, Max is brought deeper into Vincent's world, while the police start to catch onto a connection between the people who are turning up dead. Bardem plays Felix Reyes-Torrena, a drug lord. Foxx received the majority of awards acclaim for the film, including Screen Actors Guild, Critics Choice, Golden Globe, and Oscar noms, but the film overall did earn a Critics Choice Award nom for Best Film.

"Collateral crackles with energy and purpose, a propulsive film with character on its mind." — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Metascore: 70
Best for: Fans of complicated romantic relationships
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 96 minutes

Although Woody Allen's 2008 romantic drama is named after two of the women in the story (Vicky is played by Rebecca Hall, and Cristina is played by Scarlett Johansson), it is Bardem's Juan Antonio Gonzalo who is truly in the center. The two women travel to Barcelona for the summer where they get involved with Juan, an artist who is still tied up with his ex-wife (played by Cruz). The quadrangle is emotionally complex as characters are forced to take real looks at their lives to determine why they are unhappy and what they really want out of love. Cruz proved to be a breakout in this film, picking up awards nominations including but not limited to Oscar, BAFTA, and Screen Actors Guild, but the ensemble earned a Gotham Award, and the film picked up the Best Comedy or Musical Golden Globe, too.

"As exhilarating, captivating and enjoyable as a summer romance in an exotic city." — Claudia Puig, USA Today

Live Flesh

Metascore: 69
Best for: Fans of adaptations and relationship thrillers
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 103 minutes

Based on Ruth Rendell's book of the same name, Live Flesh (or Carne trémula, in its native Spanish) is a 1997 relationship thriller from director Pedro Almodóvar that stars Francesca Neri as Elena and Bardem as David, people who seem like opposites when they meet but try to build a life together, even as they are tempted with affairs. David starts as a young cop who answers a report of gunshots, only to meet Elena, who was waiting for her drug dealer when she got into an altercation with another man, Victor (Liberto Rabal). The film flips through time to see how David and Elena's lives are affected by Victor's presence, as well as a woman named Clara (Ángela Molina), who sets her sights on David. It won a BAFTA Awards for Best Non-English Language Film in 1999.

"A richly detailed tale of passion, perfidy and revenge adapted from a typically tricky Ruth Rendell novel." — Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Everybody Knows

Metascore: 68
Best for: Fans of character-driven crime dramas 
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Tubi, Vudu
Runtime: 133 minutes

Asghar Farhadi's 2018 Spanish-language crime drama is also known as Todos lo saben and features an on-screen reunion between Bardem and Cruz, who play old friends, Paco and Laura, respectively. When Laura's teenage daughter (played by Carla Campra) goes missing and her family receives a ransom request, tensions mount, as it is revealed that her family has had a grudge against Paco for years, while she has kept something very important from him for almost as long. While the kidnapping mystery centers a strong crime element to the story, with suspects only growing with each scene, the heart of the film is really the nuanced character relationships.

"Immensely watchable and thematically complex tale, which in some ways plays out like a deceptively conventional Agatha Christie-style whodunit." — Michael O'Sullivan, The Washington Post