El Mariachi is a 1992 American independent neo-Western action film and the first installment in the saga that came to be known as Robert Rodriguez's Mexico Trilogy. It marked the feature length debut of Rodriguez as writer and director. The Spanish language film was shot with a mainly amateur cast in the northern Mexican bordertown of Ciudad Acu?a, Coahuila, Mexico across from Del Rio, Texas, the home town of leading actor Carlos Gallardo. The US$7,225 production was originally intended for the Mexican home video market, but executives at Columbia Pictures liked the film and bought the American distribution rights. Columbia eventually spent $200,000 to transfer the print to film, to remix the sound, and on other post-production work, then spent millions more on marketing and distribution.
The success of Rodriguez's directorial debut led him to create two further entries, Desperado (1995) and Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003). For the two sequels, Antonio Banderas took over from Carlos Gallardo for the main character El Mariachi, though Gallardo co-produced both films and had a minor role in Desperado.
In 2011, El Mariachi was inducted into the Library of Congress to be preserved as part of its National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The film is also recognized by Guinness World Records as the lowest-budgeted film ever to gross $1 million at the box office.