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Ana de Armas: The films that have made her one of cinema’s biggest stars

The 35-year-old started in Cuban and Spanish productions before taking her first roles in the U.S. without understanding English. Last year she portrayed one of America’s biggest icons and is now on her way to becoming a major Hollywood star

Ana de Armas as Joi, in 'Blade Runner 2049'.

Ana de Armas has rapidly risen to become a Hollywood star. Her first English-speaking role was in 2015′s Knock Knock. Eight years later, in 2023, she received her first Academy Award nomination for the film Blonde (2021), in which she played Marilyn Monroe. She has acted alongside some of the industry’s most prominent names, like Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, and Daniel Craig, under directors such as Denis Villeneuve, Cary Joji Fukunaga and Rian Johnson, and her star status is likely to continue to rise.

Recently, the Cuban-born actress released Ghosted, an Apple TV+ production in which she stars alongside Chris Evans. Next, she’ll join the John Wick franchise with Keanu Reeves in the spin-off film Ballerina, which is set to be released in 2024, playing an assassin called Rooney who wants to kill the murderers of her family. While her career keeps rising, it’s worth taking a look back at her most important films to date and how they helped her pave her way to stardom.

Knock Knock (2015), directed by Eli Roth

This remake of the 1977 cult film Death Game was Ana de Armas first English-language film. It was also the first time she worked with Keanu Reeves. Here, she plays Genesis, a manipulative young woman who, with her accomplice Bel (Lorenza Izzo), terrorizes a man after he invites them to his home.

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The film, directed by splatter films expert Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel), received mixed reviews but Ana de Armas’ performance was praised — even though she didn’t understand English, as she admitted to The Hollywood Reporter — and it helped to launch her career in Hollywood.

War Dogs (2016), directed by Todd Phillips

Based on the true story of Efraim Diveroli and David Packous, who received a U.S. Army contract to supply ammunition for the Afghan National Army. This was Ana de Armas’ second mainstream feature. According to the actress, after enrolling in English classes and learning a few words, she asked her team to avoid Latin-specific roles. She then booked War Dogs with rising star Miles Teller and Academy Award nominee Jonah Hill.

In War Dogs, she plays Iz, David Packouz’s girlfriend, whose pregnancy motivates him to make more money working as an arms dealer despite his opposition to the war in Iraq.

This marks director Todd Phillips’ first time working with a story with less comedic elements, and more focused on a critique of American culture.

Ana de Armas as Iz, in 'War Dogs'.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017), directed by Denis Villeneuve

Sci-fi visionary, and one of the most interesting directors of the last decade, Denis Villeneuve is the director of the sequel to the 1982 classic Blade Runner. Critically acclaimed and widely regarded as one of the best films of 2017, it follows the dystopian world presented by Ridley Scott, this time under Roger Deakins’ stunning cinematography, which won him an Academy Award.

Ryan Gosling stars as K, a bioengineered human (“replicant”) who works as a blade runner for the Los Angeles Police Department, killing rogue replicants. During one of his missions, he uncovers a secret that threatens to destabilize society. Ana de Armas plays Joi, K’s holographic A.I. girlfriend who believes he was born, not created. “She shows more compassion and love and sacrifice than anybody else (in the movie),” she told El Paso Times.

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Knives Out (2019), directed by Rian Johnson

While her earlier work gained her glimpses of the spotlight, Rian Johnson’s Knives Out turned Ana de Armas into a Hollywood star. This mystery film was one of Netflix’s biggest hits, making $311.9 million at the box office, surpassing by miles its budget of $40 million. It gained Johnson $469 million for the rights to two sequels written and directed by him.

The film follows a master detective called Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) who is investigating the death of the patriarch of a wealthy and dysfunctional family, played by an ensemble cast including Chris Evans, Jaime Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford and others. De Armas plays Marta Cabrera, the patriarch’s nurse, who is one of the suspects of the murder. “I felt exactly like Marta,” the Cuban actor told Vanity Fair. “I was being thrown into a situation that I had no idea how to survive.”

Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera, in 'Knives Out'.

No Time to Die (2021), directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga

Ana de Armas went from starring in a franchise-starter to appearing in one of the biggest film franchises in history: the Bond saga. She was cast to join Daniel Craig in his last outing as the Agent 007, playing Paloma, a CIA Agent who assists Bond in a mission.

Even though she was featured predominantly in the marketing campaign, her role in the film is small, but it adds her to the list of Bond girls, making her the second Latina to do so, behind Bárbara Carrera who played Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again, which starred Timothy Dalton as James Bond.

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Blonde (2022), directed by Andrew Dominik

Marilyn Monroe comes back to life in the skin of Ana de Armas, who got her first Oscar nomination for this film. The acclaimed Andrew Dominik took Joyce Carol Oats biographical fiction inspired on the icon to make a strong critique of American culture.

Blonde divided critics and audiences alike. Some pointed out that the work failed to capture Monroe’s spirit, and even called the film “exploitative and misogynist,” while others applauded Dominik’s approach. Carol Oates even called it “an utterly ‘feminist’ interpretation” after seeing a rough cut.

Regardless of Dominik’s approach, most critics applauded De Armas’ performance. The film also received a 14-minute standing ovation at its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival. The actress reacted by breaking down in tears.

Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe, in 'Blonde'.

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