Guillermo Del Toro is one of a select group of true visionary directors working in Hollywood today. His work is nearly always characterised by a strong connection to horror and/or fairytales. His movies are visual marvels, with incredible sets, cinematography and costume design. He also has a self-professed affinity for monsters in all their forms, but somehow finds a way to infuse his grotesque creations with a bizarre beauty.
Del Toro is a busy man, who is consistently attached to a litany of projects at any one time. He is a prolific producer and writer, and also co-created the television series The Strain for FX, with Chuck Hogan. His next directorial effort is The Shape Of Water, a romantic fantasy. He is also attached, though, to direct Pinocchio, which is listed as a darker version of the classic children's fairytale. That sounds just about perfect for Del Toro!
In this article, we're going to look at his 9 directorial efforts to date, ranking them worst to best. Enjoy!
9. Crimson Peak (2015)
This romantic supernatural drama was Del Toro's most recent film. Unfortunately, we reckon it's also his worst.
Released in October 2015, the film failed to really connect with audiences or critics. It failed to make it's budget back domestically, and though it did turn a small profit worldwide, it was still considered a flop.
The film is a strange beast. As with all Del Toro movies, Crimson Peak looks stunning. The set design and cinematography are sumptuous, and most of the actors do well in their roles. Tom Hiddleston seems born to play this type of charming gentleman with a very dark undercurrent. Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain do well in their roles too, and Del Toro does manage a few scares and unsettling moments throughout. But the film falls in a middle ground unlikely to satisfy many people. It's too preoccupied with stuffy period drama romance for the horror fans, yet simultaneously too gory and violent for those who like the Gothic romance elements.
8. Mimic (1997)
Mimic was Del Toro's first Hollywood studio film. By most accounts, it wasn't a very happy experience. Del Toro was unhappy with the film released by the studio, and he failed to obtain the right to have final cut over it. It underperformed at the box office and was met with lukewarm reviews.
However, even though it's obvious that it isn't a great film, it is still an a fairly enjoyable one. It's a fun, scary and inventive creature feature that suceeds purely as a Friday night scarefest. It contains many of the hallmarks we would come to recognise Del Toro for. The man himself says he has a fetish for insects, clockwork, monsters, dark places and unborn things. All of these are present in this story of a giant mutated cockroach that can mimic humans and makes it's lair in the subway. Nice.
7. Pacific Rim (2013)
Sometimes a man just wants to watch a giant robot beat up a giant sea monster. If that robot can be swinging a cruiseliner at the monster in the midst of their tussle through a decimated cityscape? All the better.
Pacific Rim is a bit of a marmite film. There were plenty of people who were critical of the film for it's concept alone. It is kinda silly. There were some who liked the idea, but felt the execution was lacking somewhat. Equally, though, there were those who just went along with the inherent ridiculousness of the concept and had a blast watching the film. We fell into that camp.
Any movie that features Idris Elba bellowing heroicly about cancelling the apocalypse can't be all bad, after all.
6. Cronos (1993)
Before he made the leap to America and the land of Hollywood, Del Toro directed his first feature film in his native Mexico. Cronos is an artful and disturbing vampire film starring the veteran actor Federico Luppi, who would later go on to work with Del Toro twice more.
The film follows an antique dealer who finds an ornate, ancient mechanical object in the base of an archangel statue. The device is golden and shaped like a scarab, and after he winds it it suddenly unfurls spider-like legs that grabs him tightly, inserting a needle into his skin and injecting him with an unidentified liquid. There is a living insect entombed within the device, enmeshed in the clockwork, that is producing the liquid. The man begins to regain his youth and vigour, but of course, it comes at the cost of turning into a vampiric creature with a thirst for blood.
As you can see, even from his very first movie, Del Toro was a man who knew what he wanted and had a very particular style. And, even though it's in Spanish, it stars Ron Perlman in his first (of many) collaborations with Del Toro.
5. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Hellboy II is a worthy follow-up to its predecessor. In fact, it might have even received better reviews all around, given that this one feels even more 'Guillermo' than the first one. Hellboy had a darkly Gothic vibe, and played like a PG-13 superhero horror movie at points. But this one is a pure fairytale fantasy.
Del Toro loves monsters, and there are a ton of monsters in here. As well as Hellboy and the other heroic BPRD (Bureau For Paranormal Research And Defense) monsters like Abe Sapien and Johann Krauss, there is also the villainous Prince Nuada, the massive cave troll Mr Wink, and the virtuous Princess Nuala. Oh, and there's also the Troll Market scene in which the make-up artists and creature design guys have a field day with the sheer amount of monsters on screen.
Ron Perlman grounds everything with his usual sardonic wit and immense screen presence. It would've been awesome if this movie had been a bigger hit, but alas, it was released mere weeks around a certain pair of all-conquering superhero behemoths: The Dark Knight and Iron Man. Ouch.
4. Blade II (2002)
Del Toro's other sequel in his filmography, Blade II is a different beast from Hellboy II. While he shepherded Hellboy to the silver screen himself, Del Toro was brought into the Blade franchise from the outside. He wasn't involved in the mega-successful first film in 1998. But when original director Stephen Norrington declined to come back for the sequel, Del Toro was approached by producers and writer David Goyer, who admired his dark visual style. The choice was inspired, and Blade II went on to become the biggest hit of the franchise.
For our money, though, Blade II is also the best movie of the franchise too. Del Toro infuses so much of himself into the Blade story that it feels like a 'Guillermo' movie through and through. The Reapers, the new breed of vampires with faces that open grotesquely to reveal a sucker beneath, are memorable creations. Luke Goss (who also played Prince Nuada in Hellboy II) is genuinely frightening and tragic as Jared Nomak, the leader of the Reapers. The movie is filled to the brim with kick-ass action and gory set-pieces, and it even stars a pre-The Walking Dead Norman Reedus in a supporting role.
Oh, and Ron Perlman is in it. Natch.
3. The Devil's Backbone (2001)
After his disappointing experience making Mimic, Del Toro went back to the Spanish language for his next film. He has described The Devil's Backbone as his most personal film. It is a chilling yet poignant horror tale set in an orphanage in Spain in 1939, the last year of the Spanish Civil War. The film follows Carlos, a young orphan who is new to the facility. He strikes up a friendship with Jaime, the school bully, but soon begins seeing a mysterious apparition around the grounds. At the same, time he begins to hear stories of Santi, an orphan who went missing the day an unexploded bomb landed in the courtyard...
The Devil's Backbone is an unsettling and emotional film. It was compared favorably with The Others, a Hollywood ghost story released in the same year, but we reckon it's a better movie. It's one of the few Del Toro movies that doesn't fall back on his usual familiar tropes, and is altogether stronger for it. It'll tug at your heartstrings, which also sending chills down your spine.
2. Hellboy (2004)
In our opinion, Hellboy is Del Toro's greatest Hollywood film. It features everything that makes him great, and very few of his faults. In a world pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe and pre-The Dark Knight Trilogy, it gave cinemagoers a new comic book franchise to invest themselves in. It has elements of X-Men and Men In Black in its DNA, that's for sure, but it is altogether weirder and more off-kilter than either of those franchises.
Del Toro worked closely with Mike Mignola, comic book artist/writer and creator of Hellboy, in crafting the film. This attention to detail and love of the source material shines through. Del Toro was no hack brought in by the studio to take a crack at this Hellboy thing. Instead, he was a fan who fought tooth and nail to get the movie made and gave his all to it.
The movie is charming, funny, scary, exciting, atmospheric and inventive. It gave Ron Perlman the role of a career, and is undoubtedly his best collaboration with Del Toro. Perlman doesn't just play Hellboy, he seems to inhabit the role, giving a textured performance underneath layers of make-up and prosthetics. Superb.
1. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Pan's Labyrinth is the perfect intersection of art and commerce, as it pertains to Guillermo Del Toro. It is his most beautiful, lyrical film and is also a visual marvel to look at. Every frame is filled with wonderfully designed creature effects and settings. It gave the world some memorable monsters like The Pale Man and the mysterious Faun creature.
However, the film also functions as a clever parable, juxtaposing the fantasy aspects with a very real-world wartime setting: 1944, 5 years after the Spanish Civil War. The main character Ofelia (beautifully portayed by the precocious Ivana Baquero), escapes from the horrors of the real world into the fantastical labyrinth.
If this all sounds a bit like film-school noodling, well, that's because it is. Pan's Labyrinth is a film that lends itself to critical study. But, crucially, it's also a purely entertaining experience for anyone to watch and love. This is why it did so well at the box office, as well as with critics. It's also why it won 3 Academy Awards and 3 BAFTAS.
Admittedly, though, it would've received extra points from us if it had Ron Perlman in it.
It's weird to watch a Del Toro movie with no Ron, you know?
What do you all reckon? Is our list correct? Or do we have the order all mixed up? Lets us know!