He came to prominence as a director and screenwriter during La Movida Madrileña, a cultural renaissance that followed after the end of Francoist Spain. His first few films characterized the sense of sexual and political freedom of the period. In 1986, he established his own film production company, El Deseo, with his younger brother Agustín Almodóvar, responsible for producing all of his films since the Law of Desire (1987).
Almodóvar achieved international recognition for his black comedy-drama film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and went on to more success with the dark romantic comedy film Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990), the melodrama High Heels (1991), and the romantic drama thriller Live Flesh (1997).
His subsequent two films won an Academy Award each: All About My Mother (1999) received the award for Best Foreign Language Film while Talk to Her (2002) earned him the award for Best Original Screenplay. Almodóvar followed this with the drama Volver (2006), the romantic thriller Broken Embraces (2009), the psychological thriller The Skin I Live In (2011) and the dramas Julieta (2016) and Pain and Glory (2019), all of which were in competition for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
His films are marked by his employment of certain actors and creative personnel, complex narratives, melodrama, pop culture, popular songs, irreverent humor, strong colors, and glossy décor. Desire, passion, family, and identity are among Almodóvar's most prevalent themes.
Acclaimed as one of the most internationally successful Spanish filmmakers, Almodóvar and his films have gained worldwide interest and developed a cult following. He has won two Academy Awards, five British Academy Film Awards, six European Film Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, nine Goya Awards, and four prizes at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1997, Almodóvar received the French Legion of Honour, followed by the Gold Medal of Merit in the Fine Arts by the Spanish Ministry of Culture in 1999.
He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001 and received an honorary doctoral degree in 2009 from Harvard University in addition to an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Oxford in 2016 for his contribution to the arts. In 2013, he received an honorary European Film Academy Achievement in World Cinema Award. In January 2017 he was named as President of the Jury for the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. In 2019, he was awarded the Honorary Golden Lion at the 76th Venice International Film Festival.