Guillermo Del Toro movies are masterful, horror-infused fairytales. His most recent creation, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio, is sweeping award shows in the “Best Animated Film” category.
It’s clear watching his films that he loves monsters. He’s been quoted as saying the first time he saw Frankenstein, he felt that the monster was his Jesus. The monster was a saint to him, and he often says he identifies with them.
So now let’s take a look at how his movies stack up. Proceed with caution; this list will contain spoilers.
Our list of the top ten Guillermo Del Toro Movies begins with my least favorite, Nightmare Alley.
If I hadn’t gone in knowing this was one of Del Toro’s films, I never would have guessed it was his work. The setting, characters, and lack of monsters made for an anticlimactic, almost painful watch.
There were even a few times when supernatural elements were teased, but nothing ever came of it. It’s definitely not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s without doubt Del Toro’s most lacking film.
Mimic, the 1997 cult classic, is where we first see the inner workings of Del Toro’s mind.
The movie consisted of insects, clockwork, monsters, dark places, and unborn things. All of which are now known as Del Toro’s most characteristic hallmarks. While I enjoyed this movie, there are some noticeably messy aspects regarding editing and the story.
I later discovered this was due to major creative differences between Del Toro and Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein threatened to fire Del Toro if he didn’t shoot the movie how he wanted him to. After the lead actress Mira Sorvino and then-boyfriend Quentin Tarantino went to bat for Del Toro, Weinstein backed down. Del Toro hasn’t worked with Weinstein since.
Who doesn’t love a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters? That’s about all you get when it comes to Pacific Rim.
The casting is jumbled and ill-fitting, which isn’t too big of an issue when you’re watching Jaegers go toe to toe with monstrous Kaiju. Pacific Rim did well enough to earn itself a sequel, but it was sadly lacking in comparison, which is why it didn’t make our list of top ten Guillermo Del Toro movies.
Nevertheless, if you’re a fan of Transformers or Godzilla, Pacific Rim will be pure entertainment for you!
It might not be common knowledge that Guillermo Del Toro directed the second installment in the Blade Trilogy. [Editor’s note: I sure didn’t!]
He took what he knew best, monsters, and applied it to the design of the bizarre vampires that become Blade’s newest enemies.
I’m very fond of the way this movie portrays being a vampire. It’s not glamorous or desirable; it’s painful, disgusting, and lonely. The comedic banter between Blade and Ron Perlman’s character is also a big draw for me. Nothing better than blood, guts, and a few laughs.
As we make our way down this list, you’ll notice that Guillermo Del Toro’s movies will be more centered around his unique character design and the use of practical effects to achieve his vision.
Hellboy is a perfect example of how practical effects breathe so much life into a movie. Ron Perlman’s Hellboy makeup took four hours to apply. By the time it was done, the only visible part of his natural body was his eyelids.
Similarly, it took Doug Jones five to seven hours to have his Abe Sapien makeup applied. All of which ensured a whimsical and natural feel to these characters we know and love.
The Devil’s Backbone
The Devil’s Backbone is one of Del Toro’s Spanish films. Unfortunately, with the language barrier, fewer people enjoy his foreign films.
This movie is gritty, nerve-wracking, and heartbreaking. It’s set in Spain in a rundown orphanage in the middle of nowhere during the Civil War. The courtyard of the orphanage is home to an unexploded bomb that adds another level of tension to the film.
The ghost of a former orphan named Santi is a stunning addition to the movie. Visually, he is captivating, and it’s another example of Del Toro’s mastery of creature design.
Pinocchio is Del Toro’s first animated film. It is also the longest stop-motion animated film ever made. It was released a little over a month ago but is already winning awards for best animated film, and rightly so. It’s an incredibly stunning movie.
The characters are enchanting and beautifully designed, as are the many settings of the film. The music was unexpectedly delightful and fit the atmosphere perfectly. It was set against a war-torn landscape which has become a common theme for Del Toro.
It was surprisingly a heavy hitter with themes involving child loss and death. I didn’t expect to sob at the end of this one, so definitely grab some tissues if you plan to watch!
I cannot say enough good things about Crimson Peak. It is a positively beautiful movie with a phenomenal cast full of heavyweights.
The unbelievable mansion where most of the movie takes place was built from the ground up specifically for the film. A visual color palette of crimson red, blue, and gold is like a dream come to life.
Making the ghosts and monsters bright red rather than transparent was ingenious and a true spectacle. Crimson Peak constantly has the best twists and turns, making you question who to trust. The acting was chock full of contempt, romance, and pain. I highly suggest this movie to anyone who loves a good scary period drama.
The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water is Del Toro’s take on a universe where the Creature from the Black Lagoon gets the girl. This Oscar-winning film is one of the most beautiful Guillermo Del Toro movies, featuring a star-studded cast and glorious special effects.
One of the things I love about the movie is that the two main characters are non-speaking, meaning most of the spoken dialogue comes from a black woman and a gay man. The connection that is shown blossoming between Elisa, the mute cleaning lady who works in a top-secret facility, and the amphibian man that she encounters is unexpectedly charming and heart-wrenching.
You really end up rooting for them by the end!
Pan’s Labyrinth absolutely deserves its place at the top of this list. It was Del Toro’s third Spanish-Language movie, and even though Hollywood producers offered him double the budget to make it in English, he refused.
He even took it upon himself to write the captions for the movie himself because he didn’t trust translators with his vision. This dark fantasy showcases creatures from Del Toro’s real-life nightmares that even made Stephen King squirm during a special screening.
This movie has stuck with me since I saw it, especially that bottle scene (if you know, you know). It’s full of Del Toro’s magic and is the perfect movie to help you escape for a couple of hours!
Guillermo Del Toro movies are a gift and should be treasured. The beauty that comes from his mind is unparalleled, and I’m so glad to be alive to experience his genius in real time. Anything he touches is gold in my eyes, and if you have yet to see his movies, I implore you to give them a chance.
Your imagination will thank you.