"My parents can't be spies, they're not cool enough!"
"Impossible... she's not cool enough."
An original trilogy was created from 2001 to 2003, focusing on Carmen and Juni Cortez, a Brother-Sister Team of Preteen Superspies, whose adventures came to resemble spying less and less as the series went along. In the first movie, they discover their seemingly normal parents are actually retired spies and set out to rescue them from a Mad Scientist who moonlights as the host of Juni's favorite TV show.
Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams introduces a rival team of kid spies, whose dad ends up being the Big Bad, and featured a plot taking place on a tropical island with a mysterious power. The third installment, Spy Kids 3D: Game Over, was a 3D Movie set inside a video game created by a madman to Take Over the World. Game Over is widely seen as an utter disaster by fans of the first two films and is often regarded as the point when the series Jumped the Shark. The critics agreed, with Rotten Tomatoes giving the first film a 93% rating and the third film a 44% rating.
Eight years later in 2011, Rodriguez saw fit to continue the series with Spy Kids: All The Time in the World. The story this time focuses on a new pair of siblings whose step-mother is a retired spy for the OSS. When she get into trouble, the kids find out her secret and set out to save her with some assistance from a now grown Carmen and Juni. Yes, it's rehashing the first movie's plot, but in a way that brings everything around full circle. However the comeback wasn't well received as critics trashed it once it hit the box office with Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 23%, even less than the third movie.
The character of Machete originated in this series, and a spoof of what he'd look like as a B-movie action hero later appeared in one of the Grindhouse trailers. That trailer was eventually made into a full-length exploitation flick parody.
- 3D Movie: Read the title of the third movie.
- Action Mom: Ingrid Cortez
- Actor Allusion: Bill Paxton gets to say "Game over!" in, well, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.
- Advertised Extra: Watch a commercial for an upcoming airing of Spy Kids 3D on Disney Channel. Disney advertises it as "featuring" Emily Osment, since she has become more well known thanks to Hannah Montana after the movie came out, but she only appears in a brief conversation at the beginning and another brief appearance in the ending.
- Alliterative Name: Gary and Gertie Giggles
- Not just those two. Carmen Cortez, anyone?
- Back for the Finale - Every major character from the first two movies comes back for the "big fight" at the end of the third one.
- And some minor characters as well, like Dinky Winks and his son.
- Badass Spaniard Family: The Cortezes - we're talking about a family where Dad is Antonio Banderas and Grandpa is Ricardo Montalbán.
- And the uncle is Danny Trejo!
- Badass Grandpa: Again, Grandpa is Ricardo Montalbán - what did you expect?
- Badass Mustache - When Antonio Banderas is in "spy" mode, he wears a (fake) moustache. When he's in "dad" mode, he has no moustache. Fake Uncle Felix does things the other way round.
- Bar Slide: How Gregorio proposes to Ingrid - sliding the ring along the railing of the Eiffel Tower
- Brother-Sister Team
- Call Back: Several in the fourth film.
- For example, when Rebecca and Cecil find out Marissa works for the OSS...
Rebecca: Impossible... she's not cool enough.
- And when the Wilsons and Carmen are surrounded by enemy agents at the hideout...
- Changeling Fantasy - Played with: The kids are raised by their real parents, but don't know they're spies until the first film. An "uncle" does turn out to be an agent assigned to protect their family, though.
- Chekhov's Rubber Band Machete Elastic Wonder
- Child-Hater- "It's good to be back, Alex. Let's never have children."
- The Chosen Zero: Third movie. "The Guy" - Juni has this kind of doubt...then later one guy shows up thinking he's the chosen one...and takes five steps and dies.
- Channel Hop: Kind of. The first three films were released under the Dimension Films name, but the fourth will be released under the Disney name. However, Dimension Films was (at the time) distantly owned by Disney, so technically they were always Disney films even if they didn't have the Disney logo at the beginning.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Alexander Minion
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The Timekeeper steps out of the frame after disabling the Armageddon device and is never seen again.
- Clark Kenting: The dad, hilariously, simply puts on a moustache for his spy disguise.
- Closer to Earth: The female members of the Giggles family are good, the male ones are evil.
- Collapsed Mid-Speech: An entire mob of grown-ups pass out during a speech.
- Cool Car: In the first film, the Cortez parents own an SUV which has a lot of hidden gadgets and can turn into a submarine.
- Conspicuous CG: All over the place.
- Deadpan Snarker: In this franchise, try and find one kid that isn't this. Good luck with that.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Carmen goes through a somewhat low-key version of this in the first film
- Depraved Kids' Show Host: Floop before his Heel Face Turn
- Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: Ricardo Montalbán was actually wheelchair bound at this stage of his life. Robert Rodriguez specifically wrote the role for him.
- Disney Acid Sequence: Floop's songs. Anything that happens in Floop's Virtual Reality Room, really.
- Dolled-Up Installment: Spy Kids 3D: Game Over was originally planned as a stand-alone movie about children going inside a video game.
- Double Agent: Danger D'Amo, head of the OSS in Spy Kids 4D.
- Dragon Ascendant: Alexander Minion, following Floop's Heel Face Turn.
- Dyeing for Your Art: Courtney Jines for the third movie
- Even Evil Has Standards: "You hesitated.", "I had to - he's my son."
- Everybody Owns a Ford: Isuzus in the first movie, particularly glaring because the company's passenger line at that point had dwindled to nothing but mid-size SUVs
- Five-Man Band: Juni leads one in the third film.
- Funny Background Event: Tick Tock yelling at his agents after Baby Spy accosts him with unexpected crop dusting.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom The evil robot kids from the first film
- Gondor Calls for Aid: Third movie finale, which brought back nearly every character in the series.
- Goggles Do Something Unusual
- Government Agency of Fiction: The OSS, which in Real Life is a defunct organization that existed in the early 1940s.
- Happily Married: Gregorio and Ingrid, Grandpa and Grandma Cortez, and Wilbur and Marissa Wilson.
- Heel Face Turn Floop, a relatively unexpected twist in the first movie
- Donnogan Giggles has done this by the beginning of the third movie, as has The Toymaker by the end of the third and The Timekeeper by the end of the fourth. Also, Minion shows up on the kids' side at the end when they called everyone...
- In fact, the only villains to not end up on the good side are Mr. Lisp, Ms. Gradenko, and Tick Tock. Given the High Heel Face Turn trope, it's unusual because out of all the villains in the series, the only female is one of the three who don't get redeemed.
- Herald: "Uncle" Felix in the first movie
- Hot Mom: Carla Gugino.
- I Can Change My Beloved: Carmen has a crush on the rival bad boy spy and at one point insists she could change him. She appears to get over it by the end of the movie.
- I Fell for Hours: In the second movie.
- Indulgent Fantasy Segue: Gregorio has one in the first film
- Insistent Terminology: Cecil and Rebecca are not Marissa's kids. They are her stepkids.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Machete
- Jet Pack
- Justified Title: "Spy Kids" has a double meaning in the first film
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: The 3D version of Spy Kids 3D.
- Kick the Dog: Or at least Squash the Bug....
- Kid Hero
- Kirk Summation: Used by Valentin in the third movie when he forgives the Toymaker for crippling him and by Rebecca and Cecil in the fourth movie when they convince The Timekeeper that his plans to travel back in time are only wreaking havoc on all the time in the world.
- Large Ham: Sylvester Stallone in the third movie
- Floop definitely deserves a mention.
- Really, all of the adults in all of the movies. They're clearly having an immense amount of fun, which is a big part of what makes the movie so entertaining.
- Last-Second Word Swap: "Oh shi...take mushrooms."
- Lethal Lava Land: Lampshaded in the third film.
- Lighter and Softer: Compared with the other films directed by Robert Rodriguez (Well, excluding The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl and Shorts...)
- Literal Surveillance Bug: Ralph is a small robot bug who's primary function serves as a spy.
- Machete Mayhem: Machete
- Mad Scientist: Two of them - Floop and Romero.
- Man Child: The Big Bad of the first film, Floop.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Subverted. Carmen is attracted to Gary Giggles in the second movie, insisting that she could "change him", and her giving up on this is played as Character Development. Needless to say, Shipping ensued anyway.
- Mix-and-Match Critters: Romero's animals in the second film
- The Mole: Ms. Gradenko and, later on, Felix, though he was an unwilling case of it.
- Mundane Solution: The rubber band in the second film
- Most of the second movie, since none of their normal gadgets worked.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Subverted in the third film; Valentin deliberately releases the Toymaker from his virtual prison just so he could personally forgive him for paralyzing him
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Happens to the parents in the first movie.
- Numbered Sequels
- Overly Long Name: Carmen's full name is Carmen Elizabeth Juanita de Costa Echo Sky Brava Cortez, and Juni's is Juni Rocket Racer Rebel Cortez.
- Both of which are jokes in themselves. Rocket, Racer, and Rebel are the names of three of Rodriguez's sons.
- Parents in Distress
- Parent Service: The casting of the parents.
- Playing Against Type: Danny Trejo as a good guy in a kids' movie, Mike Judge of all people as the Big Bad in Spy Kids 2 and, of course, Robert Rodriguez was directing against type.
- Precision F-Strike: Subverted by a Last-Second Word Swap, once in each of the first two movies. Done again by Carmen in the fourth film when she, Marissa, Rebecca, Cecil, and Spy-Baby are cornered by Tick Tock's agents.
Carmen: Oh, shit...take mushrooms.
- Pregnant Badass: Marissa, in the beginning of the fourth film, big time. She keeps fighting the bad guys, even after she starts feeling contractions.
- Punch-Punch-Punch Uh-Oh: When the Carmen and Juni robots first show up in the first movie, Carmen repeatedly tries to beat up the solid metal robot Juni with her bare hands. This does not end well. Robot-Juni eventually writes her off and walks away in disinterest after she knocks herself out.
- Quicksand Sucks: Marissa, Carmen, and Juni would've been smothered in The Timekeeper's special hourglass sands had Carmen not had her atomic lipstick on hand.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Invoked by Juni in movie 2 when he claims to know ballet to impress Alexandria at the President's ball.
- Reverse Polarity: The evil robot kids are turned good by inverting their binary code.
- In the second film, Gerti disables the amusement park ride in the opening by reversing the polarity.
- Robot Buddy: Ralph, the Literal Spy Bug
- Samus Is a Girl: Demetra in the third film.
- She's also not real.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The Toymaker in the third movie.
- Shoe Phone: The second movie includes an advanced watch that does everything except tell time, since "there was no room left for the clock". Needless to say, The Rival has a more advanced version of the same device, with a clock.
- Sigil Spam: Most prominent in the second movie
- Shout-Out: Juni starts to chant the One Ring poem when he reaches for a cursed necklace in the second movie.
- In the outtakes, at one point he pulls it out, strokes it, and says, "My Precious."
- The Fooglies' song ("Floop is a madman, help us, save us") which can only be heard when played backwards, is probably a reference to The Beatles "Paul Is Dead" rumors, one of which includes a song that, when played backwards, sounds like it says "Paul is a dead man, miss him, miss him".
- Antonio Banderas fixing Juni's hair at the beginning of the second movie is probably a shout-out to him doing the same exact thing to his son in the film Four Rooms. Probably because that section of the film was directed by Robert Rodriguez as well.
- Spanner in the Works: Great job tossing your brother's tag in the trash, Carmen. You just single-handedly saved the world from the Armageddon device.
- Stay in the Kitchen: Done with ages instead of genders, but Rebecca and Cecil are instructed to stay behind with Argonaut and Spy-Baby as the rest of the OSS infiltrates The Timekeeper's hideout. They understandably mistake it for being grounded.
- Stop Copying Me: Juni uses this twice, with voices to match.
- Super Family Team
- Teen Superspy: Or in this case, preteen superspies
- Thermal Dissonance
- Unfortunate Names: Gary and Gerti Giggles? Even those poor kids who were named after the ESPN network would point and laugh.
- Unperson: Carmen considers her brother to be this at first in the fourth film. When he finally does show up, we find out exactly why... and it's not what you expect (i.e. he didn't pull a Face Heel Turn, he simply moved on and started working on his own).
- Unwitting Pawn: The Timekeeper to Tick Tock.
- Villain Song: Floop gets one in the first film, written by Danny Elfman in his signature style. Subverted when it turns out he's not a villain at all.
- Wacky Racing: Included in the third film
- Wedding Smashers: The parents' wedding as seen in a Flash Back from the first movie
- White and Grey Morality: Almost none of the villains in the series stay evil.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Timekeeper.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Gary when Carmen turns on him
- Writers Cannot Do Math: In the third movie, the accident which caused Grandpa's paralysis is said to have happened 30 years ago. When talking to the Toy Maker, Grandpa says that his condition made him miss his daughter's birth. Even assuming she had her first child at 18, that places Carmen at 12 — far younger than she actually is.
- A few years could be added on. The difference between 30 and 32 or 33 might seem to pedantic for him to mention. Still rather iffy, though.