With the release of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark sneaking ever closer, and the director getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, we thought it was a great excuse to revisit Guillermo Del Toro’s brilliant back catalog. Though he has literally never made a bad film we took on the unenviable task of ranking the ten incredible movies that he’s blessed us with since his debut in 1993. From vampiric clockwork spiders to demonic superheroes all the way through sexy sea monsters Del Toro has it all and we love every single one, so without further ado–but much umming and ahhhing–here’s our ranking!
Ever wanted to see Josh Brolin face down against a race of supersized humanoid-cockroaches? Well, then this 1997 American sci-fi offering will make all your dreams come true. This spooky and atmospheric flick is the most routine of Del Toro’s catalog but still manages to surprise and delight. After some questionable experimentation, a new breed of humanoid-bug monster known as the Judas has formed a colony in the subterranean world under Manhattan. Building on the modern monster movie he made his name on Mimic is an intriguing part of the filmmaker’s canon.
9. Pacific Rim
With his first really big blockbuster flick, GDT offered up something audiences just couldn’t really say no to: giant monsters fighting giant robots. His love letter to the Tokusatsu films and shows of his youth, Pacific Rim imagined a world overrun by giant monsters known as Kaiju that could only be beaten by Jaegers, huge human-piloted mechs that battle the interdimensional-invaders hand to claw. Though it couldn’t quite capture the magic of its inspirations, it’s still a super fun and unique action-adventure flick.
Del Toro and Mike Mignola are a match made in heaven as this wonderfully surprising superhero movie showcased. Centering on the titular demon and his ragtag group of powered buds, Hellboy showcased Del Toro’s skill for creature creations and character connections. Despite a slightly unnecessary avatar character the film’s originality and charm still shine through thanks to Del Toro’s keen eye for dark fantasy and magical moments.
7. Hellboy 2
This sequel just edges out the original as it showcases all of Del Toro’s skill as a visionary fantasy director. Leaning into the folkloric magic that makes the comics so special Hellboy II: The Golden Army is filled with incredible creature creations and an immersive dual world that hints at an entire locale of fairies and enchantment just below the pavements. Golden Army also features some radical action moments and awesome fight choreography that he first showed off in Blade 2.
6. Blade 2
Speaking of very good sequels, the second entry into the Blade franchise is a total highlight. Getting a horror director to direct a horror superhero movie was as it turned out, a very very good idea. Thematically it shares threads with Mimic and Cronos as it’s not only a vampire flick it’s also a monster movie that centers on a mutated population of nocturnal beasts dead set on the destruction of humankind. Dark, gritty, and far ahead of its time Blade II still stands as one of the most original and exhilarating superhero flicks of all time.
5. Shape of Water
Though he got his first nominations for Pan’s Labyrinth, it was this 2018 monster romance that won GDT his first-ever Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director. The sweet, sincere, and strange film focuses on a young mute woman who falls in love with a humanoid-amphibian creature that’s kept in the secret government base that she cleans. A homage to Hollywood and the monster movies that made him, Shape of Water and its success will likely define much of the director’s legacy.
4. Crimson Peak
Del Toro’s hugely underrated Gothic romance masterpiece had to be one of our top five films as it encompasses all of what makes him great. The period chiller centers on a young woman who falls in love with and marries an enigmatic, wealthy, and possibly murderous man only to discover that their marital home is drenched in the blood and ghosts of the past. Feeling something like a Giallo/Jane Austen fever dream, Crimson Peak is a Gothic tragedy, both beautiful and legitimately terrifying.
3. Pan’s Labyrinth
Arguably Del Toro’s most well-known and influential film, his dark fairy tale earned him his first Oscar recognition and took him from cult genre director to the visionary creator he is today. Set just after the Spanish civil war, the fantasy follows a young girl navigating the brutal Francoist regime as well as an overgrown and mythical world inhabited by a strange faun. The allegorical tale is powerful on multiple levels and delivers something that still feels truly unique.
2. The Devil’s Backbone
With the Spanish civil war ravaging the country The Devil’s Backbone centers on a young boy, Carlos, who ends up at an orphanage run by a small staff who are more concerned with protecting the large pile of gold hidden there than their young charges. Soon after Carlos shows up he begins to see strange and unusual apparitions that seem to hint at a dark past that’s tied to the death of a young child called Santi. Another of Del Toro’s period ghost stories gets the second-place spot on our list due to its gorgeous and atmospheric tone that still feels as scary today as it did when the film hit in 2001.
The original and in this ranker’s opinion still the best, Cronos is a masterclass in terror that set up many of Del Toro’s recurring themes, tropes, and traditions. Still one of Del Toro’s most ambitious films his debut centers on a clockmaker who stumbles across the gift of eternal life, but of course, as we know, that comes with a price. Stunning practical effects, a wonderful and intimate core cast, and an original take on vampires make Cronos one of the best horror movies ever made, and that’s why it easily tops or top ten.
Images: Dimension Films, Legendary, Columbia Pictures, Dark Horse Entertainment, Universal, New Line, Marvel, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Warner Bros., October Films, and Sony Pictures Classics.