The 12 Best El Santo Movies, Ranked

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El Santo was arguably the most influential luchador of all time. He was hero of Mexico, champion of lucha libre, and an accomplished actor as well. While it took the success of both a comic book and motion picture serial to convince Santo to try acting, he would retire with over 50 film credits to his name. Santo's acting career spanned three decades, making a list of his greatest films a challenge to compile. El Santo plays amazing, fictionalized versions of himself in these lucha libre films — he is everything from a pro wrestling superspy, to a pro wrestling crime fighter and police officer, to pro wrestling Batman, to a pro wrestling ghostbuster!

Born Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta, El Santo donned his trademark silver mask in 1942 and never looked back, keeping his true identity hidden until just before his death in 1984. A beloved performer and the inspiration for hundreds of little luchadores throughout Mexico, El Santo always fought for the side of good, whether it was in the ring against Blue Demon or on film against a horde of zombies. Here, we have assembled a list of the 12 best El Santo movies.

12. Santo in the Wax Museum

A rash of kidnappings is established early in "Santo in the Wax Museum," and we're then introduced to Doctor Karol and his titular wax museum. Dr. Karol is well played, creepy, and inquisitive, while also being a little pushy and intimidating. His wax museum features several historical figures, but crowds are drawn to the fictional monsters he has recreated in the basement of his creepy gallery. He encounters a curious photographer, Susan, and agrees to meet her late one night so she can take pictures for an upcoming article, but he gets lecherous and she quickly leaves, only to be kidnapped like so many others on her way home. A frustrated police force and a lack of leads to Susan's disappearance leads Dr. Karol to call on El Santo, hero of the squared circle and defender of justice. Santo agrees to investigate, and soon discovers the terrible truth behind the wax museum.

The character of El Santo in many of the films on this list, including "Santo in the Wax Museum," is kind of a pro wrestling Batman. He's got access to a sweet car, advanced technology, superior detective skills, and a surprisingly modern moveset for a 1950s wrestler. This is a really watchable sci-fi film, and is easy to find on both YouTube and in great looking restored DVDs. Released in the United States in 1963 as "Samson in the Wax Museum," it's one of only four of El Santo's films dubbed in English for a theatrical release stateside.

11. Santo in Operation 67

If "Santo in the Wax Museum" introduced us to El Santo as Batman, "Santo in Operation 67" put him in the role of James Bond. 1967's "Operation 67" tells the tale of a Hong Kong crime syndicate operating in Latin America. Ruth Taylor, the head of this evil organization, has tasked her agents with spending the real cash they've printed with stolen plates, while the Mexican government unknowingly prints counterfeit currency. These agents are fitted with welded-on wrist communicators that double as security measures, should the agents be caught.

El Santo and his partner Jorge are introduced in fantastic fashion, sunning themselves on a beach with bikini-clad women, only for the camera to pull back and reveal the beach is just a room in El Santo's mansion. El Santo and Jorge are briefed by Interpol and begin their investigation, which leads to some great fights, heartbreak, and (inexplicably) a tag team match featuring Jorge's dumpy stunt double. Ruth Taylor infiltrates the investigation, posing as a journalist and falling in love with Jorge in the process.

"Santo in Operation 67" is a wild ride of a film featuring tag team wrestling, cars outfitted with flame throwers, sex, and murder. It's also the first of El Santo's films to be shot in color. Similar in structure to El Santo's other films, but with an international espionage flair, "67" felt like a low budget Bond movie — if James Bond could pull off a stalling vertical suplex, that is.

10. Santo versus the Terror Riders

Riding a white horse and traveling from town to town, El Santo plays a good guy in the vein of Zorro or the Lone Ranger for 1970's "Santo versus the Terror Riders." The plot revolves around a gang of escaped lepers secretly hired by a group of outlaws to be the scapegoats for their own crimes. More of a straight up western than the usual lucha based horror or espionage movies, "Santo versus the Terror Riders" still manages to force a full wrestling match into the film's short 70 minute runtime. The match serves to establish El Santo as a force for good, since he's promised to donate his winnings to a local orphanage. 

This is the first of a few movies on our list that was shot as both the original film and an alternate, more adult version titled "Los leprosos y el sexo" ("The Lepers and Sex"). Many of those adult versions, most of which just feature a few scenes of female nudity, have been kept from the public by El Santo's family for fear of damaging his reputation, per Cereal At Midnight's review of the recent Blu-Ray release of this film.

9. Santo in The Grave Robbers

Another of El Santo's many battles against mad scientists, "The Grave Robbers" featuring the evil Dr. Toicher and his henchman, Gorila. The mad doctor is fixated on bringing the dead back to life, and the movie opens with him and his men robbing several graves to get the bodies for his experiments. While he fails this time, he learns that the body he uses for his experiments must be a strong one — strong like El Santo.

We meet El Santo in his study as he reads up on grave robbers, first in the local newspaper and then in a book on grave robbers he happens to have in his collection. A delivery of a creepy lamp distracts El Santo, and when he plugs it in, a loud noise incapacitates him, allowing Dr. Toicher's assistant to sneak in and steal El Santo's keys. That puts El Santo on the case, as he recruits a pro soccer player and his girlfriend to help investigate the mysterious situation. 

Released in 1966, the plot for this movie was goofy, campy fun. A series of fantastic scenes involving props attacking Santo and his friends makes up the bulk of the film, from a sentient wig to an evil painting to a killer violin. A great villain in Dr. Toicher rounds out this solid entry into the El Santo filmography.

8. Santo in the Treasure of Dracula

This 1969 film is somehow both a great retelling of the familiar "Dracula" story, while at the same time being a silly, campy, tongue in cheek movie about a super smart pro wrestler/crime fighter who happens to have built a time machine. A perfect fit for an episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000," which featured the film during its 2022 season.

The film opens with El Santo revealing his amazing time travel machine to his scientist friends. They laugh at the notion of time travel, so El Santo convinces the daughter of one of the scientists to hop into the machine. She is immediately pulled into the era of Dracula, filling the part of his victim while a Van Helsing-like investigator figures out the mystery of the vampire. Santo and his associates watch along on a monitor, and eventually work to rescue her and take on Dracula.

"Santo in the Treasure of Dracula" is family friendly fun, which is odd considering it's another El Santo movie that had an X-rated version released at the same time, titled "El Vampiro y el Sexo" ("The Vampire and Sex" — these erotic versions of the El Santo films didn't have much in the way of creative titles). A recent Blu-Ray release features a short documentary that reveals that El Santo and director Rene Cardona really wanted this film to be a colorful, fun film that could be shown to kids, making the existence of an adult version featuring a sexually aggressive Dracula all the more strange.

7. Santo versus the Evil Brain

"Santo versus The Evil Brain" opens with El Enmascarado (El Santo) surrounded by gangsters. He's quickly overwhelmed, knocked out, and taken to Dr. Campos's lab where he's brainwashed and becomes a mindless servant of the mad doctor. Campos lives a double life as a respected scientist when he's not kidnapping people, and his beloved secretary Elisa gets mixed up in his convoluted mind-control plans. El Enmascarado is blamed for the kidnappings of other scientists, leading another masked secret agent, El Incógnito, to hunt down his friend and — hopefully — rescue the masked hero before it's too late.

El Santo's first starring role, 1961's "The Evil Brain" is an outlier in the luchador's film legacy for a number of reasons. For one, he's literally never referred to as El Santo — only as El Enmascarado. Similarly, his partner for the film is only ever named "El Incógnito." It also lacks a forced-in pro wrestling contest, although there are more than a few wrestling based fight scenes. El Santo appears leaner and a little less confident than he is in his later films as well. Primarily filmed on location in Havana, Cuba, as opposed to most of El Santo's other movies that were shot in Mexico, the film features some beautiful shots of late '50s pre-Revolution Cuba.

6. Santo in the Revenge of the Crying Woman

Released in 1974, "Santo in the Revenge of the Crying Woman" features El Santo adventuring with his boxer friend Mantequilla Nápoles. We are introduced to the story of La Llorona (the crying woman) from Professor Lira, who asked Santo to accompany him into the tomb of Eugenia Esparza. Esparza was entombed with a medallion containing a map that leads to a treasure. Santo initially refuses until the Professor explains that until the treasure is recovered, Esparza — now La Llorona — will kill the first-born children of her lover Gonzaga as part of a deal she made with the devil himself. After that revelation, Santo and Mantequilla agree to help with the tomb-raiding quest. Unfortunately, a band of criminals led by the villain Severo Segovia, and a pair of Lira's nieces, are also after the map, so the treasure hunt also becomes a race against both of those parties. 

While Santo and Mantequilla never directly confront La Llorona, they have plenty of fight scenes against the henchmen of the evil Segovia. There is also some pro wrestling and boxing featured as television matches cut throughout the film, but it doesn't come up narratively like it has in previous entries of this list. The makeup is also worth mentioning, as La Llorona is actually pretty spooky and well done.

5. The Mummies of Guanajuato

"The Mummies of Guanajuato" is the classic tale of a professional wrestler's corpse that was kept in a Guanajuato museum and resurrected as a mummy through a pact with the devil to exact revenge on the descendant of the silver-masked wrestler who defeated him a hundred years ago. The plot follows wrestler Satán's murderous spree throughout the city of Guanajuato, while the police refuse to believe eyewitness reports of the killings. Wrestlers Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras are recruited by the museum's caretaker, and they immediately take the case, as all pro wrestlers seem to do in this universe. A faux Blue Demon is soon witnessed committing robberies around town, leaving Mil Mascaras and Blue Demon to clear Demon's name and fight off these larcenous mummies.

The 1972 film "The Mummies of Guanajuato" is a notable addition to this list because it takes a while El Santo himself to appear, instead focusing on Santo's in-ring rival Blue Demon and the legendary Mil Mascaras. Santo shows up almost an hour into the 1:20 film, aside from an appearance as his ancestor in a flashback match against Satán. He makes quite an entrance, though, kicking off the terrific finale to this film.

4. Santo versus Capulina

Capulina was the stage name of Gaspar Henaine, a Mexican comedian who was extremely popular in the '50s and '60s. He was half of a Laurel and Hardy-style comedy act before going solo, and ended his career with over 75 film credits and a dozen music albums. "Santo Versus Capulina," released in 1969, was definitely more of a Capulina film than a Santo film, but that's part of the charm of the movie. Capulina plays a night watchman at a warehouse. He sleeps through a robbery but is awakened by Santo fighting the crooks, and he accidentally help the criminals escape. Saddened that he has let down his hero, Capulina dons the silver mask of El Santo and tries to set things right.

El Santo plays a straight man to Capulina's silly character in "Santo Versus Capulina," as this film was aimed at a younger audience. There isn't as much pro wrestling in this movie and Capulina's sillier antics might be a little grating to some viewers, but Santo does a good job with the material he's given. While they're not exactly Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in "Rush Hour," El Santo and Capulina make a fun on-screen duo.

3. Santo and Blue Demon versus the Monsters

This is one of the best entries in El Santo's filmography: a 1970 monster movie that pits Santo against zombies, a vampire, a mummy, a cyclops, a wolf man, a Frankenstein's monster, a recently turned vampire women, a back-from-the-dead mad scientist, and a mind-controlled Blue Demon. The admittedly thin plot is basically that Blue Demon and El Santo are somehow responsible for the death of the scientist Bruno, and Bruno's brother brings him back from the dead for revenge.

The monsters are the highlight of this film, and for the most part they're really well crafted. The movie also features a women's tag match and Blue Demon in a second tag team match for the opening scenes, and El Santo himself participates in a third match later in the movie. There's also a full musical number as well. The opportunity to see Santo and his lifelong rival Blue Demon team up to beat up some classic movie monsters is a treat, definitely enough to make "Santo and Blue Demon versus the Monsters" must-see lucha libre cinema.

2. Santo versus the Zombies

"Santo versus the Zombies," also released as "Invasion of the Zombies," was the first of Santo's movies to be filmed in Mexico, after 1958's "Brain of Evil" and "Santo versus the Infernal Men" were both shot in Cuba. It was also the first to feature Santo as a Batman-style character, with Santo's secret headquarters full of electronic devices being shown early in the film.

A trio of police detectives learn that the daughter of a scientist studying zombies in Haiti has gone missing. Those same zombies are then seen robbing a jewelry store — not normal zombie behavior! We see they are being controlled by a hooded man using a radio. Security can't stop them, and after the detectives learn about the robbery, they ask El Santo for help after he foils a kidnapping attempt. Santo agrees and the investigation quickly escalates to a full-on rescue mission at zombie headquarters.

Another early entry in El Santo's filmography, "Santo versus the Zombies" is a little rough but there's some good wrestling peppered throughout including a couple matches under the opening credits. The zombies aren't the best looking but there's enough of them to give Santo a good fight, and the performances of the detectives are good as well. Santo is still getting used to being on camera, but it's already evident he's more comfortable here than in his first couple films.

1. Santo in the Revenge of the Vampire Women

1970's "Santo in the Revenge of the Vampire Women" is at the top of most lists of Santo's legendary film career, and ours is no exception. The plot has a lot of twists and turns, but for the most part it's another mad scientist opposing El Santo. Dr. Brancov revives a vampire countess who was defeated by one of Santo's ancestors. She is brought back with the blood of a young dancer, and swears vengeance on Santo.

The introduction to El Santo, poolside and surrounded by scantily clad women, leads to a short interview by a local reporter before we cut to a wrestling match, where the vampire is also in attendance with Dr. Brancov and his assistant. A plot is revealed to kill Santo in the ring, but he manages to secure the victory, return his friend's daughter to his own timeline, and begin the hunt for the real threat.

This was the first of Santo's movies to be featured on "Mystery Science Theater 3000," but it's a fine movie in its own right. The story is solid, if convoluted, and the villainess Mayra is really good in a campy, evil way. It's a perfect example of a lucha movie from this period of time, and a great time as long as you know what you're getting into.

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