Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Like an R-rated, violent Roadrunner cartoon.
  • Review Date: January 19, 2004
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2003
  • Running Time: 96 minutes

What parents need to know


Constant, extreme, brutal, graphic violence. Really gruesome surgery, scary stuff.


Moderately sexy but not over the top for older teens.


Crude, rude, and rough.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drugs, alcohol, drug cartels .

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has constant extremely graphic and intense violence. It's so over-the-top it is hard to take seriously but still may be upsetting to some viewers. There are many character deaths, including a mother and her child. One character has his eyes gauged out and one has his knees shot out. There are scenes showing very grisly plastic surgery. Characters use extremely strong language. There's drinking and smoking and references to a drug cartel.

Kids say

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What's the story?

ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO is the third in director Robert Rodriguez's series that began with the $7000 El Mariachi and continued with the quasi-remake/sequel Desperado. If I had to explain the story, it would be something like this: Everyone shoots everyone else outdoors. Everyone shoots everyone else indoors. Lots more people shoot other people. But boy oh boy, they sure do it with a lot of style. This is the kind of movie where a rogue CIA agent played by Johnny Depp asks someone, \"Are you a Mexi-CAN or a Mexi-CAN'T?,\" kills a chef because he made a pork dish too well and therefore threw off the balance of the universe. This is the kind of movie where a sensationally beautiful woman reveals her magnificent thigh when she reaches back to grab a handful of knives from her garter and then flings them to take down a bunch of bad guys who are aiming their guns at her husband. A $10,000 payoff is presented in a Clash of the Titans lunchbox. Blood splatters on the camera lens. A guitar case contains an arsenal. And lots and lots and lots of stuff gets blown up.

Is it any good?


I guess if there really was a story or characters in this movie, the violence might be too disturbing. But Robert Rodriguez, who not only wrote and directed this movie but also "shot, chopped, and scored" it, too, doesn't so much omit story and character as transcend them. This is a kinetic and voluptuous pulp fantasia, a mythic nightmare pastiche of stylish slaughter, featuring twisted iconic figures destroying each other and just about everything else in sight with a lot of flair. Rodriguez is indisputably a masterful film-maker. He fills the screen with lots to look at and no one is better at creating propulsive energy through striking images, brilliantly edited.

Depp, Banderas, and Hayek are all sensational. Pop star Enrique Iglesias makes a very respectable acting debut and Eva Mendes is very fine as an FBI agent who wants more. This film is worth watching just as an education in how to shoot and edit. Someday, perhaps, Rodriguez will become more of a story-teller. In the meantime, the film is very entertaining for anyone who does not object to the carnage, and a must-see for fans of hard-core action.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about this film's portrayal of violence compared to a more realistic approach in movies like Saving Private Ryan.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 4, 2003
DVD release date:January 19, 2004
Cast:Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, Salma Hayek
Director:Robert Rodriguez
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Run time:96 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:extremely graphic violence and really rough language not to mention drugs and alcohol

This review of Once Upon a Time in Mexico was written by

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 16 years old Written bydark rose April 9, 2008
age 0+

watch tnt version

if you watch the version on tnt they take out f words. yay. i tried watching the dvd and was somewhat offended. i'm currently ordering an edited version b/c this movie is really a must see. the action is amazing. pure genius. no sex in any of the versions.
Adult Written bydarthsitkur January 3, 2014
age 15+

this is one of my all time favorite action movies

if you've seen a Robert Rodriguez movie, you know what to expect, you should instantly expect nonstop action, blood and gore, swearing, and really hot scantily clad women lol
Adult Written byIntegrityDad April 9, 2008
age 17+

Shocked and Appalled

I appreciate this site and what it stands for, however I am once again baffled by MovieMom. This film has ZERO redeeming value. Although highly stylized, the violence is appalling, de-sensitizing and completely gratuitous. There is no point, plot or story here whatsoever. I was highly offended. This is nihilism and devoid of any entertainment value. God help any teenagers or middle schoolers who were allowed to view this cesspool of amorality.


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