Pan’s Labyrinth of Gold: Ranking Guillermo del Toro Movies
He’s brought to life some of the most visually beautiful and thematically-intelligent stories for the big screen, and with his upcoming romantic fantasy The Shape of Water, writer/director Guillermo del Toro looks to have struck gold again with glowing early reviews out of the Venice Film Festival. In honor of its upcoming release, let’s take a look back at what he’s given us so far and rank the Guillermo del Toro movies from worst to best.
Del Toro has become well-known for a number of stylistic choices in his films, ranging from darkly-lit areas to slimy creatures, and one film that illustrated every element was his first “studio” film, 1997’s Mimic. After introducing a genetically-engineered cure to the roach population in New York that is killing the city’s children, scientists discover that the cure roach has transformed into a six-foot-tall creature that is killing people in the subway tunnels of the metropolitan city and must kill it before it’s too late. Though Del Toro did not have final cut on the film, resulting in a clear studio-centric movie, there was still signs of an average monster movie, but thanks to his stylish direction, it makes it his worst film that is still a thrill to watch.
8. Pacific Rim
As mentioned before, Del Toro seems to have an affinity for monsters, and as his career has grown and risen to Hollywood’s top levels. So has his monsters, and in 2013’s Pacific Rim, he pitted these monsters against giant humanoid mechas in a war between the humans and the monsters called Kaiju. Its story didn’t offer a whole lot of originality in terms of concept and characters, but thanks to its stylish direction, colorful visual effects and a tone of fun, this Power Rangers vs. Transformers-esque film might not have been his best, but it was good enough to earn a sequel opening this March.
7. Crimson Peak
One of the most underrated genre tropes in recent film history is the gothic horror tale, with stories from authors such as H.P. Lovecraft not connecting with as many audiences today as they did in the past. However, Guillermo del Toro has worked hard in his films to bring back this tone into the modern style, and 2015’s ambitious Crimson Peak sought to tell a tale of romance and terror that, while not connecting with audiences as well as intended, was certainly a hit with critics. After falling head over heels for a seductive stranger, Edith (Wasikowska) marries Thomas (Hiddleston) and moves to his titular estate which is riddled with supernatural secrets that will leave Edith haunted forever by the end of the film. Unfortunately for the film, the marketing portrayed the film as a straight horror film, wherein the film was more of a gothic romance, telling of Edith falling in love with Thomas and discovering the horrible secrets he and his sister (Chastain) are hiding. Thanks to its stylish direction, moody atmosphere and captivating performances, Crimson was certainly an effectively-made film in Del Toro’s filmography.
6. Blade II
The Blade franchise was one of the key reasons why the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the X-Men series came to be, with the success of the trilogy proving that a comic book property could make money and connect with their fan bases, and the entry that fans frequently regard as the best is the first sequel, Blade II, helmed by none other than Del Toro in his second American and major studio film. As a mutant vampire seeks to wipe the earth of vampire and humankind and replace it with the mutant race he was created to be, the titular half-vampire hero joins forces with a group of special forces vampires to bring the mutant down. While the film has received mixed reviews for a lack of character development, it has received widespread praise for its stylish direction, strong performances and dark atmosphere, showing early on that Del Toro could successfully blend action and horror.
Every filmmaker has to start somewhere and in his first outing behind the camera, Del Toro delivered what has been regarded as one of the greatest horror films of all time in the 1993 horror drama Cronos. When an ancient and mysterious device that grants its owner eternal life resurfaces in a then-present day Mexico antique shop, in which the owner mistakenly reactivates the device and finds himself the target of an eccentric millionaire searching for it. Thanks to its gruesome visuals, intelligent concepts and mythology and balance of horror and drama, it’s become one of del Toro’s most acclaimed works in his career.
When the director with a penchant for mystical creatures and dark atmosphere got his hands on the big-screen adaptation of the Dark Horse Comics character Hellboy, it was a match made in Heaven — or, more appropriately, Hell. Following the titular demonic beast-turned-superhero and his fight to save the world from paranormal threats, Hellboy resonated strongly with both critics and fans for its stylish direction, imaginative imagery and stellar lead performance from Ron Perlman.
3. The Devil’s Backbone
While many filmmakers return to their debut genre with a firm grasp, Del Toro showed he could tweak his formula and deliver an intelligent and moving story alongside terrifying visuals while only on his third film. In the midst of the Spanish Civil War, a boy whose father died fighting in the war arrives at a run-down orphanage and discovers a sinister plot involving hidden gold and a malevolent spirit with dark ties to those running the orphanage. Thanks to a chilling story that delivered a smart political allegory and a captivating ghost tale, this is easily one of Del Toro’s most well-made films of his career.
2. Pan’s Labyrinth
The plot concept of a young girl journeying to a fantasy realm with minor ties to her own world has long been popular in both novels and films, with the Narnia franchise and Alice in Wonderland connecting to fans for decades following their release. Influenced by many classic fairy tales, Del Toro crafted his own fantasy story of a girl traveling to a mystical world, but twisted it to act as a parable delivering the horrors of war on screen while also telling a spellbinding tale of terrifying creatures and sacrifice in Pan’s Labyrinth. Thanks to its inventive creature and character design, moving story, beautiful direction and powerful performances, the spiritual successor to The Devil’s Backbone received widespread praise from critics and was nominated for six Oscars, winning three of them.
1. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Wait, wait, wait, not only did he not put Pan’s Labyrinth as Del Toro’s number one film, but he also chose a SEQUEL over the original as a best film? Yes, readers, I indeed committed both of these seemingly offensive acts, but hear me out before you break out the pitchforks and torches. The first Hellboy outing offered what comic book fans could expect from a debut outing, offering a fast-paced origin story for the red-tailed hero that also had a sense of fun. However, writer/director Guillermo del Toro took what made the original film a hit and doubled down, crafting an even better story that helped ground the characters and prove strong development as well as incorporating the director’s love for mythology and underworld creatures into the plot, and thanks to a bigger sense of fun and excitement from Perlman in the titular role, it’s easily the most re-watchable and well-crafted films of Del Toro’s career.
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