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Film Brew – Guillermo del Toro: Best to Worst

With Pinocchio coming we look back at Guillermo del Toro’s best and worst films…

Guillermo del Toro has proven to be one of the hottest directors of the 21st century. Despite only ten feature films under his belt, plus two shorts, his work has won OSCARS, Golden Globes, BAFTAS and more. 

He’s also proven to be an adept writer and a producer with a keen eye for talent. Guillermo’s skills at marrying horror and fantasy, as well as stunning creature design, leaves each of his movies with a unique feel that brings you back for more.

Although this list is entirely subjective, I’d like to discuss del Toro’s works and where I rank them from best to worst.

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del Toro’s best films are the ones where he lets his incredible horror-fantasy vision go wild. That is why I consider Pan’s Labyrinth the pinnacle of his career (so far). The way he combines a period piece with disturbing creatures, a mythical plot, and an ambiguous ending, showcases his talents.

The Devil’s Backbone was just as good, and it was hard to choose which I liked more. I think it was the shift to ghost story/murder mystery that put it in a very close second. The eerie nature of the ghosts that lead you into the horrors of the living makes this film a must-see.

Guillermo’s Oscar-winner, The Shape of Water, was also a showcase of the beautiful way in which he can combine horror, fantasy, and drama. I think the only reason this one ranks slightly lower is that it’s more intimate and focused on relationships than the fantastical stories of the other two.

My final top film is Cronos, his first full-length feature, and a film that should not be ignored. It has more gore than the others but still retains a fun plot with excellent writing; it falls beneath the other three because of its older, more amateurish style.

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The “Summer Blockbuster” triple-threat includes both Hellboy films and Pacific Rim. The common thread between these is that these feel less like del Toro creating his own horror-fantasy genre and more like how he perceives popular genres (namely comics and anime).

Pacific Rim was much maligned by those who didn’t understand it as an homage to kaiju and mecha series. For those of us who did, however, the interpersonal drama and over-the-top characters felt perfectly at home mixed with dramatic battles between robot and monster.

The Hellboy franchise worked so well that even Mignola enjoyed it enough to let del Toro have the reins. The reason the second film ranks higher, even compared to Pacific Rim, is because it wasn’t an adaptation like the first. Once more, Guillermo showcased his talents with Hellboy II by creating a brand-new script and creatures that focused on fantasy over the horror.

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As we reach the “bottom of the barrel”, what we see is how del Toro’s style was constrained when he attempted to cater to American audiences. Crimson Peak was a decent adaptation of the French folktale of “Bluebeard,” but it lacked the oomph to make it stand apart from other supernatural mysteries.

Similarly, Blade II was, in many ways, superior to its predecessor, in no small part thanks to del Toro’s work. Unfortunately, constrained as it was by the expectations of its American producers and writer, it was a mediocre entry in an average franchise.

The “worst” film that Guillermo del Toro directed was Mimic, which is a shame because it has its endearing qualities as a horror film. Unfortunately, this was also his first foray into American productions, and he was not given full control (including the final edit). This limitation shows because Mimic is visually stunning but lacking in plot and cohesion.

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One thing to be clear about, however, is that even del Toro’s worst still manages to be enjoyable. He showcases an astounding eye, for everything from the relationships between the characters to creature design to cinematography. You really can’t go wrong with a Guillermo del Toro film, and his fans eagerly await his next production.

Putting him behind the twisted fairy tale of Pinnochio is possibly one of the best decisions Disney has made regarding its remakes. Now we only hope they keep him on the project rather than fall victim to the pitfalls of other franchises.

What are your favorite Guillermo del Toro’s films? Which ones do you think are meh? Let us know in the comments!

About Brook H. (221 Articles)
Generalist, polymath, jack-of-all-trades... Brook has degrees in Human Behavior and Psychology and has majored in everything from computers to business. He's worked a variety of jobs, including theater, security, emergency communications, and human services. He currently resides outside Baltimore where he tries to balance children, local politics, hobbies, and work. Brook is HoH and a major Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing advocate, a lifelong gamer (from table-top to computer), loves everything paranormal, and is a Horror-movie buff.
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