Mankind & Monsters: Ranking The Films Of Guillermo Del Toro

Director Guillermo del Toro is a master of blending fantasy with reality. He takes the world of the supernatural and makes it feel all too genuine, sometimes forcing us to question what we call reality. But sometimes, del Toro also uses monsters and myths to show the resilience of mankind in the face of threats greater than ourselves. And in these fantastical stories, he also brings humanity, giving weight to larger than life scenarios.

The result is a relatively small but impressive filmography spanning just nine feature films, full of beautiful visuals, magnificent creatures, rich characters and a penchant for combining unreal terror with the very real threats of tumultuous sociopolitical times. And following the recently released Crimson Peak, we decided to have all of the Guillermo del Toro films ranked.


9. Mimic

It's a testament to the talents of Guillermo del Toro that his worst film isn't even all that bad. The problem is that Mimic just feels like an amalgamation of movies like Aliens and Jurassic Park, mixed with your average urban thriller, and it doesn't deliver anything nearly as good as those movies. There are some fantastic ideas inspired by the classic tale of Frankenstein, but the meddling of humans with the nature and playing God never goes anywhere beyond your average horror flick.

Hurting the film is a roster of characters that you never really care about enough to worry that they're becoming food for the evolved, genetically modified bugs living beneath the city – not unlike the homeless who have been rejected by humanity as well, in a not-so-subtle metaphor that is dead on arrival. Mimic has some decent scares and interesting creature design, which would eventually become a staple of the director's work, but the combined pressures of del Toro's personal life at this time (his father was kidnapped) and the interference from those pesky Weinstein brothers at Miramax ultimately hold it back.


8. Blade II

Unafraid of getting bloody and violent, Guillermo del Toro delivers what could be regarded as his most over-the-top comic book film – even more so than the two about a demon summoned by Nazis to do their bidding. Taking another cue from Frankenstein for the origins of the Reapers, del Toro takes action to the max with swarms of zombie-like vampires giving our hero quite a lot of trouble. The movie gets extremely goofy, including a cartoonish breaking of the fourth wall by Wesley Snipes, accompanied by endless amounts of wirework popularized by The Matrix. But somehow, del Toro pulls it off in a fun way that never feels dumb.

Crimson Peak - Mia Wasikowska

7. Crimson Peak

Between blockbuster comic book adaptations and monster movies, del Toro has always had a penchant for Gothic romance and horror. And while Crimson Peak certainly takes del Toro back to the roots of his debut feature Cronos and his breakthrough film The Devil's Backbone, it doesn't quite measure up to the quality of those preceding stories, even if the visuals and production quality have resulted in what may be del Toro's most striking film. Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain all deliver stupendous performances, but in the end, the strange relationships between them don't add enough weight to the proceedings to make the story feel like it matters.


6. Hellboy

Though it's held back by the restraints of introducing an assembly of strange characters from one of the more obscure comic book universes to grace the big screen, and though it has an unnecessary outsider of a character to act as the audience in the narrative, this still turned out to be one of the more satisfying comic book films that quickly came together following the success of X-Men in 2000. Ron Perlman is perfectly cast as the titular hero, and it's his performance, which shines through tons of prosthetic make-up, that really makes the hero stand out among an endless slate of other comic book properties. That, and a brand of humor that really didn't become more prevalent in comic book movies until Marvel Studios came along.

Pacific Rim

5. Pacific Rim

Perhaps the most divisive film in Guillermo del Toro's career, people either love Pacific Rim or hate it. Giant robots fighting humongous monsters isn't for everybody, and while this scale of action isn't unprecedented in the world of blockbusters, the world of kaiju and robots hasn't been given this big of a chance on film since Mighty Mophin Power Rangers. Thankfully, del Toro comes through with a story that is certainly derivative, but also an absolute delight, bolstered by a great ensemble cast to go along with the special effects spectacle. But in the end, it's the huge action that makes this movie worth watching. I mean, a Jaeger uses a cargo ship as a sword. It doesn't get much better than that.


4. Cronos

As Guillermo del Toro's first film, Cronos isn't quite as chock full of the director's trademark filmmaking techniques as we've become used to. But what's truly impressive is what del Toro does without all his creature effects and makeup wizardry. The Cronos device is the monster, not the person who becomes controlled by it. The film serves as a refreshing take on vampires that paints them in a pitiful light, as slaves to their own lives as opposed to sexualized predators who feed on their victims with satisfaction. Plus, the film contains del Toro's constant theme of self-sacrifice. If only this movie had come after The Twilight Saga to get people interested in vampires all over again.


3. Hellboy II: The Golden Army

This is easily Guillermo del Toro's best comic book movie, and it's easily one of the best the subgenre has seen, period. Superior to its predecessor in almost every way, the film could actually stand on its own without the first movie. A charming prologue, made all the better by a stupendous animated sequence, sets up exactly what we need to know about Hellboy's childhood, and his first assignment for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense gives us some insight into his character and his team. Meanwhile, the rest of the film is populated with astounding creatures, monsters and action sequences, including a climax that rivals the constant action of Blade II. Now if we could just get a concluding chapter.

The Devil's Backbone

2. The Devil's Backbone

A predecessor to the masterpiece that you'll find at #1, this ghost story has a fairytale vibe that makes it more than just terror for terror's sake. But the beauty of the film lies in the fact that the real threat in the movie isn't the ghost, but those responsible for his demise. With fascism providing the backdrop for the movie, del Toro paints a tragic allegory tied to the Spanish Civil War. The difference between Mimic and The Devil's Backbone is like night and day, and del Toro's skills as a storyteller and filmmaker are allowed to shine. It's subtle, smart and has a lot to say about humanity through the guise of a ghost story that is still chilling and haunting without using any cheap scares.

Pan's Labyrinth

1. Pan's Labyrinth

While The Devil's Backbone has a fairytale vibe, Pan's Labyrinth really shoots for the moon, weaving imagination and horror into another story about standing up to fascism. Through Alice in Wonderland-esque visuals by way of Luis Buñuel, the film puts forth the power of imagination through the eyes of a little girl – the next generation – fighting against the strict boundaries put forth by the dastardly fascist Captain Vidal (played by Sergi López). His worst traits are manifested as monsters in this fairytale that does not shy away from darkness. Self-sacrifice again comes through as a major theme, as it does in nearly all of del Toro's films. It's the ultimate defiance of Vidal, a refusal to live in the world controlled by such a monstrous man, no matter what the cost. The final moments of the movie are twisted to be sure, but ultimately a beautiful victory.

What do you think of our ranking of the films of Guillermo del Toro?