About to slash up screens everywhere this weekend as a saucy buccaneer in 'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,' Penélope Cruz has, in just 20 years, gone from being a promising newcomer in Spanish cinema to raising temperatures around the globe as one of the sexiest women in the world.
Perhaps no performer since Sophia Loren (who co-starred with Cruz in the musical 'Nine') has won over audiences with equal parts acting chops and va-va-voomery. And now that she's nailed the whole bilingual thing, Cruz gets raves for English-language movies like 'Vicky Christina Barcelona' (which won her an Oscar) and 'Elegy' while still returning home to Spain to work with her close friend and mentor, Pedro Almodóvar.
But whether she's acting in Spanish or in English, Cruz suffuses almost every role with a palpable sexuality that has made her one of this generation's hottest international stars. Keep reading to find out more about just a few of Cruz's hottest moments on the big screen.
'Jamon, Jamon' (1992)
Cruz's international breakthrough movie paired her with another sexy Spaniard who would later become her husband, Javier Bardem. Bardem plays a stud who's been hired to seduce Cruz away from her rich boyfriend, although the two wind up falling for each other. They have sex under one of those giant bull-shaped billboards that dot the Spanish countryside, and at one point the two have a conversation about whether or not her breasts taste like ham. (Trust us -- it's sexy in context.)
'Woman on Top' (2000)
Speaking of food and sex, Cruz combines the two in this delightfully silly comedy as a woman whose extreme motion sickness forces her to always be on top when coupling with her somewhat dissatisfied husband, played by Murilo Benício. When the two of them finally make up by cooking a special dish together, romantic and gastronomic fireworks ensue.
Cruz received her first Oscar nomination for playing a wronged housewife facing her family's darkest secrets. It's a stunning performance, and while there are no actual sex scenes in the film, Cruz glows -- she's not only vivacious, she's voluptuous, thanks to some posterior padding provided to her by Almodóvar, giving Cruz an earthy sexuality along the lines of the great Italian actress Anna Magnani. (Cruz later said that she was sad to give up the rump-enhancing prosthetics after shooting had ended.)
'Vicky Christina Barcelona' (2008)
Re-teamed with Bardem -- these two are the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of the horizontal mambo -- the two Spaniards engage in an extremely steamy threeway with Scarlett Johansson, playing an American tourist who gets involved with Bardem's artist character and, eventually, Cruz as Bardem's volatile ex. It's arguably the most pulse-pounding sex scene in director Woody Allen's entire oeuvre.
Who knew phone sex, lingerie and show tunes were such a potent combination? A barely-clad Cruz delivers choreographed writhing and an irresistible come-on with "A Call From the Vatican," a heavy-breathing musical number sung to director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) by his hot-to-trot mistress.