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The Mambo Kings (1992)

R  |   |  Drama, Music  |  28 February 1992 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 4,066 users  
Reviews: 31 user | 13 critic

Musician brothers Cesar and Nestor leave Cuba for America in the 1950s, hoping to hit the top of the Latin music scene. Cesar is the older brother, the business manager, and the ladies' man... See full summary »



(novel), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Pablo Calogero ...
Ramon - The Mambo Kings Band
Bernardito - The Mambo Kings Band
Mario Grillo ...
Mario - The Mambo Kings Band
Ralph Irizarry ...
Pito - The Mambo Kings Band
Johnny Bing - The Mambo Kings Band
James Medina ...
Manny - The Mambo Kings Band (as Jimmy Medina)
Marcos Quintanilla ...
Willie - The Mambo Kings Band
J.T. Taylor ...
Frankie Suarez - The Mambo Kings Band
William Thomas Jr. ...
Xavier - The Mambo Kings Band
Flaco - The Mambo Kings Band
Lanna Lake
Maruschka Detmers ...


Musician brothers Cesar and Nestor leave Cuba for America in the 1950s, hoping to hit the top of the Latin music scene. Cesar is the older brother, the business manager, and the ladies' man. Nestor is the brooding songwriter, who cannot forget the woman in Cuba who broke his heart. Written by Dehlia

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


With a suitcase full of song, Hearts filled with passion, two brothers come to America in search of a dream.


Drama | Music

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sensuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

28 February 1992 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Mambo Kings  »

Box Office


$15,500,000 (estimated)


$6,742,168 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


(flashback scene to childhood)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Because of his commitment to this film, Antonio Banderas had to pass on working with his mentor Pedro Almodóvar for the sixth time on High Heels (1991). The pair did not work together again for nearly 20 years; when they reunited for The Skin I Live In (2011). See more »


The "Valentine" opening credits seen in syndication were *not* the original opening credits. When the series originally aired on CBS, the credits featured animated stick figures of Lucy and Desi along with the sponsor's product - Phillip Morris cigarettes, for instance. The "Valentine" credits were added when CBS began rerunning the series in 1958. See more »


Anna Maria: He thinks he's the last Coca Cola in the desert.
Lanna Lake: Honey, he is.
See more »


Referenced in Fatal Instinct (1993) See more »


Como Fue
Written by Ernesto Duarte Brito
Performed by Benny Moré
Courtesy of The RCA Records Label of BMG Music
See more »

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User Reviews

overlooked and underrated
25 October 2003 | by (denver) – See all my reviews

Regarding the recent death of Latin superstar Celia Cruz, I was surprised by the lack of mention of her role in this film in the various obituaries and tributes I read. I don't know if she made movies in Cuba, but she was not only a powerful positive musical presence in "The Mambo Kings" but her character acting was outstanding and very charming. If you don't know anything about her and want to get an idea of who Celia Cruz was, see this movie.

And that is far from the only reason to do so. This is one of my favorite romantic films for adults, as opposed to the juvenile and/or formulaic fare that passes for romance in American cinema. Armand Assante should have been at least nominated for best actor that year, he is so strong and yet vulnerable and lovable as the big brother with a powerful code of honor to his art and his family. The other kid, who has gone on to bigger and not necessarily better things, is also fine, considering his well-publicized effort to deliver his lines phonetically, since he did not speak English at the time. (No, I'm not forgetting his earlier fine contributions to several Almodovar films.)

OK, Roscoe Lee Browne and Cathy Moriarty were a bit miscast, but what about the stroke of genius to have Desi Arnaz Jr play his father? The whole "I Love Lucy" segment of the film, while somewhat contrived in its importance to the story, is funny, well-done, and helps to bring the whole Cuban-American experience in New York into sharper focus, with the portrayal of Arnaz as both a superstar idol and a man very close to his roots.

The music is fabulous, both the use of classic Cuban tracks and new music recorded for the film. Among the latter, "Sweet Maria of my Soul," the theme song performed by both Antonio Banderas in the film and Los Lobos over the end credits, was nominated for Best Song but was beat out by some plastic Disney tune. It is so organic, so romantic and soulful, it should be a classic movie song for the ages. Well, it will be for me...

17 of 19 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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