WCW: Penélope Cruz


Vincent Perez

Penélope Cruz is probably the best known (current) Spanish actress worldwide. She’s also done a significant number of costume films! I think she’s very talented, and I like her slightly quirky look. Let’s take a wander through her historical costume filmography, shall we?


Softly From Paris (1991)

Some kind of French TV series involving lots of softcore erotica and fontange headdresses (which makes me think late 17th/early 18th century?).

1991 Softly from Paris

Ya know, this kind of thing!


Belle Epoque (1992)

During the Spanish Civil War in 1931, a military deserter stays with a family. There are five daughters, and he hooks up with each. Cruz plays the youngest daughter. I remember finding this charming at the time, but I wonder if that sexist plot has aged well?

1992 Belle Epoque

The older sisters are more glam than Cruz’s character.

1992 Belle Epoque

As the youngest, she’s also the least sophisticated.

1992 Belle Epoque


La Celestina (1996)

A young nobleman falls in love and enlists a sorceress to help things along; Cruz plays the love interest.

1996 La Celestina

I have many, many questions about the fabric of his doublet-y thing, but I like her veil!

1996 La Celestina

I hope that servant has a comb in her pocket!


The Girl of Your Dreams (1998)

A movie production leaves Franco’s Spain for Hitler’s Germany. Cruz is the lead actress.

1998 The Girl of Your Dreams

The movie-within-a-movie is an Andalusian musical.

1998 The Girl of Your Dreams

Hence the “¡ole!” costume!


Don Juan (1998)

Mid-17th century, the classic womanizer Don Juan pits two village girls (one of which is played by Cruz) against each other as they vie for his love.

1998 Don Juan

Other images definitely look 17th century-ish, but this is the best pic I can find of Penélope, so it’ll have to do!


Talk of Angels (1998)

An Irish woman (Polly Walker) moves to 1930s Spain to escape political issues, become a governess, gets the hots for Vincent Perez (well wouldn’t you?), finds more political issues … Cruz plays one of the governess’ charges.

1998 Talk of Angels


The Hi-Lo Country (1998)

Two cowboys fall in love with the same girl; Cruz plays supporting character “Josepha.”

1998 The Hi-Lo Country

Obviously not the ingenue!


Volavérunt (1999)

Spain, 1802, the Duchess of Alba gives a party and then is found dead the next morning. Cruz plays Pepita Tudo, the model of Goya’s famous painting “The Nude Maja.”

1999 Volavérunt

Shiny shiny!

1999 Volavérunt

I had to include it, because, SHE’S HUGGING A GOAT.

1999 Volavérunt

The sleeve trimmings are very “maja” outfit (for more on the maja look, see this review of El Ministerio del Tiempo).


All the Pretty Horses (2000)

Set in the 1950s, two Texas cowboys go to Mexico and fall in love with the same woman. I have to include it so I can tell you this story: director Billy Bob Thornton gave an interview to Premiere magazine where he talked about casting this film. There was all kinds of pressure to cast various Anglo actresses in the lead, and he kept repeating in the article, “three words: [Anglo actress] ain’t Mexican.” He finally won out and was able to cast Cruz. I, being pedantic, wrote a letter to the editor (which got published in the next issue!) that simply said, “Five words for Billy Bob Thornton: Penélope Cruz ain’t Mexican either.”

All the Pretty Horses (2000)


Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)

Greece, World War II, Nicolas Cage stars and it looks shmaltzy, which is enough to make me skip it.

2001 Captain Corelli's Mandolin

Cruz plays Cage’s Greek love interest.

2001 Captain Corelli's Mandolin



Fanfan (2003)

A deeply, DEEPLY bad movie that I have tried to watch at least twice and may someday get through for Snark Week. It’s a remake of a 1952 movie about a swashbuckler (Vincent Perez again) who is tricked into joining the army. There’s waaaaay too many buckles being swashed and tragic costumes.

2003 Fanfan

Okay, so Cruz’s costumes are probably the least shitty.

2003 Fanfan

In fact, I quite like this stomacher-ed corset!

2003 Fanfan

Always important for the cute girl to dress like a boy.


Head in the Clouds (2004)

Per IMDB: “From the roaring 1920s to the ruinous Spanish Civil War and Adolf Hitler’s rise into power, the lives of an Irish schoolteacher, a provocative heiress and her Spanish muse are intricately interlaced, sharing the same destiny and passion.” Cruz must be the Spanish muse.

2004 Head in the Clouds

Great hair and makeup!

2004 Head in the Clouds

LGBTQ interest?


Bandidas (2006)

Cruz joins Salma Hayek as a team of bank robbers in turn-of-the-century Mexico.

2006 Bandidas

I have many, many questions about the costumes.

2006 Bandidas


2006 Bandidas

See what I mean?


A Matador’s Mistress (2008)

The real-life story of famed bullfighter Manolete (Adrien Brody) and his love with actress Lupe Sino. Despite how good that sounds, it’s snooze-er-iffic.

2008 A Matador's Mistress

Which is really too bad, because, cute skirt!

2008 A Matador's Mistress

And 1930s glam!


Nine (2009)

Every time we do one of these lists, somebody pipes up to say “What about Nine?! It’s period!” I guess so (1960s?). It just seems like The Patriarchy in action (a film director struggles with his wife, mistress, muse, mother, etc., all of whom seem to spend the film in Sexy Lingerie [puke]).

2009 Nine

It just seems like the latest Victoria’s Secret fashion show.

2009 Nine

But, whatever!


Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Will this vaguely 18th-century franchise ever die? Probably not! Cruz plays the daughter of Blackbeard.

2011 Pirates of the Caribbean- On Stranger Tides

Sans hairpins.

2011 Pirates of the Caribbean- On Stranger Tides

I mean, it’s not like pirate-ing is physical labor, right? Why would you need your hair out of your face?


The Queen of Spain (2016)

A sequel to The Girl of Your Dreams, now Cruz’s team is filming a movie about Isabella of Castile.

2016 The Queen of Spain

It’s set in the 1960s, so it’s costumed like it.

2016 The Queen of Spain

That just screams Aliexpress to me, not necessarily 1960s, but whatever.


Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

The Branagh version of the Agatha Christie classic. Cruz plays Pilar, whose connection to the murdered I don’t want to give away.

2017 Murder on the Orient Express


Which is your favorite of Penélope Cruz’s historical roles?

10 Responses

  1. Sam Marchiony

    I feel ashamed now that the only things I’ve seen her in are NINE and the Pirates sequel, both of which… blech.
    Nine is arguably the more painful for me because I actually know the musical, and it’s much, MUCH better than the film, which somehow manages to make everyone in it, from Daniel Day-Lewis to Dame Judi freakin’ Dench, lame. I blame the screenwriters.
    Head in the Clouds looks tempting though.

  2. broughps

    I’d be surprised if there are anymore Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Disney has said they won’t hire Johnny Depp anymore. Without Jack Sparrow they aren’t worth watching.

  3. picasso Manu

    1- I saw that doublet fabric on a chair I re-upholstered, I swear! 2- Goats are very huggable, and don’t even mention kids! 3- Fanfan the second edition is a crime, and not even mentioning the costumes. The supposed Mme de Pompadour wears a dress that is burned in my memory like some Mordor thing… Yes, it’s the Ork version of a Française dress.

  4. thedementedfairy

    goats yay! Cruse, not so much. BUT she is OK in Captain Corelli [despite Nicholas Cage’s general miscasting and overacting excesses] It’s a nice story not unduly schmaltzy, and the book is great

  5. Susan Pola Staples

    I’m going with Captain Corelli’s Mandolin since the only other movie I’ve seen was Pirates and it has cute animals. You gave me some good flicks to troll for.

    Btw Happy Thanksgiving and if you’re a carnivore eat lots of turkey. If not, Linda McCartney’s cookbooks have delicious vegetarian holiday meals.

  6. Ji

    The skirt Cruz is wearing in The Matador looks exactly like the one worn several times by Eilis in Brooklyn

  7. Allie

    Notice t5hat one of the extra’s dress in The Queen of Spain screenshot is wearing one of Katherine of Aragon’s costumes from the Tudors.

    This to be exact: https://www.google.com.ph/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fs-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com%2F564x%2F81%2F7f%2F25%2F817f25de9b3ed4442d760a11ff1db9aa.jpg&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pinterest.com%2Fpin%2F561190803551090779%2F&docid=_40XhzMHWg2AAM&tbnid=63Ne1gHbwrt3xM%3A&vet=10ahUKEwiOt8C9-ObeAhXMMo8KHefIB5AQMwhwKBkwGQ..i&w=383&h=576&bih=657&biw=1366&q=the%20tudors%20katherine%20of%20aragon&ved=0ahUKEwiOt8C9-ObeAhXMMo8KHefIB5AQMwhwKBkwGQ&iact=mrc&uact=8

  8. egizzius

    I liked her (and the costumes too) in Volaverunt, even if the movie isn’t so touching. Yes let’s forget Fanfan. She acted well (in nice roles) in Belle époque and Pirates as well as in Captain Corelli’s mandolin, but I can’t see both (the novel and the movie) as good works; coming from a tragica historical event, Italians’ depiction is full of stereotypes.

  9. Lee Jones

    The problem is that my favorite Cruz role is the one she won an Oscar for . . . and that wasn’t a period film.

    However . . . I did enjoy her performances in “On Stranger Tides” and “Murder on the Orient Express”.

    I’d be surprised if there are anymore Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Disney has said they won’t hire Johnny Depp anymore. Without Jack Sparrow they aren’t worth watching.

    No, they’re aren’t. Unless they hire James Marsters.