Guillermo del Toro’s Best Movies According to Rotten Tomatoes

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Guillermo del Toro is one of the most prolific contemporary filmmakers. Since emerging in his native Mexico in the early 1990s, he has directed, produced, wrote, and even lent his voice to numerous films. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences took notice and nominated del Toro for six Oscars over his career (of which he has won two), with his most recent nomination as producer of Nightmare Alley, which was nominated for Best Picture.

Perhaps more impressively, del Toro has garnered much acclaim for films in typically infamous genres — creature features, ghost stories, fairy tales, and B-list superhero movies (Blade II, Hellboy). But regardless of genre or approach – highbrow or lowbrow – his vision and style are recognized as the most distinctive in cinema. These are the best feature films Guillermo del Toro has directed, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

10. Mimic (1997) – 64%


Mimic was Del Toro’s first anglophone film after he rose to prominence on the arthouse circuit for his feature film debut, Cronos (1993). The film stars Mira Sorvino, whose work in light comedy (including Mighty Aphrodite, for which she won an Oscar) in no way foreshadowed her as an evolutionary biologist responsible for creating and then going to war against human critters.

The critical consensus was that the film was disgusting, but not particularly scary or compelling. While Mimic was not considered a success, it still shows that Del Toro worked with visual and thematic preoccupations that he would later develop into more mature works.

9. Crimson Peak (2015) – 72%

Legendary Photos

A bloody, beautiful bastard. In Crimson Peaks, Mia Wasikowska plays a young American named Edith who marries a rambunctious Englishman (Tom Hiddleston) and returns to live with him and his sister (Jessica Chastain) at their childhood family home in England. Once there, Edith uncovers a villainous conspiracy and suspects the house is haunted.

Crimson Peak is lush and gorgeous and the actors, especially Chastain, are ready for the Gothic histrionics, but it suffers from the one unforgivable sin of a haunted house picture: it’s not even remotely scary. The film represented something of a creative low for del Toro, who must have thought so too, as he bounced back two years later with the equally visually dazzling — but much more emotionally involved — The Shape of Water.

8. Pacific Rim (2013) – 72%

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Del Toro’s foray into blockbuster science fiction pays tribute to Japanese genres of Kaiju, or giant monster movies (he’s a lifelong fan of Godzilla), and mecha, or tales of giant human-controlled robots like Robotech or Voltron. As it should be, Pacific Rim shows humans building and piloting gigantic robots to fight gigantic monsters that come from the deep.

Critics praised the IMAX-worthy scope and visual imagination, but were less pleased with the plot. (Let’s face it, you’re either a fan of such material or not, and the sophistication of the stories isn’t often a consideration.) Not surprisingly, the film was more popular worldwide than it was in the United States (especially in China) , and did well enough globally to spawn Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018), which Del Toro didn’t direct, perhaps due to its underpowered status compared to the original.

7. Nightmare Alley (2021) – 80%

Searchlight Pictures

Despite the Oscar nomination for Best Picture 2022, critics found the neo-noir remake of the 1947 original starring Tyrone Power to be more visually striking than narratively compelling. The Academy agreed and nominated the film in the Cinematography, Production Design and Costume categories, but not for screenwriting or directing. Del Toro’s version features Bradley Cooper as a carnival worker who teams up with a fellow carney (Rooney Mara) to bring their talents as “psychics” to the big city, only for him to discover that a psychiatrist with connections to powerful people (Cate Blanchett in full femme fatale mode) fits better with his twisted ambitions.

Though the story takes off in fits and starts, the performances are memorable, and Del Toro reunites with cinematographer Dan Laustsen (The Shape of Water, Crimson Peak) to create a visual world that is as lush as it is disturbing. The last scene in particular is a highlight, as the ultimate toll of Cooper’s crooked schemes is fully revealed to shattering effect.

6. Hellboy (2004) – 81%

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The director returned to making superhero movies a few years after Blade II, but with a vision of his own. Based on Mike Mignola’s popular graphic novel Dark Horse Comics, the film is a quintessential origin story, dramatizing the hero’s birth and the formation of his team, including a psychic fisherman (voiced by Frasier’s David Hyde Pierce) and a firestarter (Selma Blair) for whom the grown-up Hellboy (Ron Perlman) ignites a, well, spark.

In the movie, Hellboy fights Nazis like any good superhero should, and is faced with choices of whether to use his powers for good or evil. Critics and audiences alike appreciated the film’s humor and visuals. as well as the charismatic, witty presence of Ron Perlman as the titular hero.

5. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) – 86%

Universal photos

Hellboy II, the expensive follow-up to the 2004 original, is nothing more than an excuse to parade as many del-Toro-esque creatures as possible across the screen, including a gigantic city-destroying plant monster that, once conquered, grows into an enchanted garden that covers the center. Critics and viewers alike appreciated this kind of imaginative detail, even if the plot—an ancient elf prince (Luke Goss) trying to take over the world by activating a long-dormant army of mechanized soldiers—seems distracting.

In fact, the details of the story world are so reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings that it’s kind of amazing that the Tolkien estate wasn’t involved. (It’s easy to see from this movie why Del Toro was originally hired to direct The Hobbit before he quit and Peter Jackson replaced him.) The movie is packed with so many characters that Hellboy (Ron Perlman returning in the title role) is everything. but reduced to a supporting role in its own sequel.

4. Cronos (1993) – 89%

Ventana Movies

The director’s first feature film, after ten years of making short films and working as a makeup effect artist, tells the story of an antiques dealer (Federico Luppi) living in Veracruz, Mexico, who finds an ancient artifact that hides him in a vampire changes. This brings him into conflict with an evil, dying businessman who has been searching for the device for years, hoping to restore his youth.

Although the film was not widely distributed in the United States, critics nevertheless praised the confident and stylish filmmaking and praised Del Toro as a fresh movie voice. The film also marked Del Toro’s first collaboration with Ron Perlman, who would later appear in many of his films.

3. (TIE) The Devil’s Backbone (2001) – 92%

Canal+ España

The Devil’s Backbone represents Del Toro’s first exploration of the Spanish Civil War, the horrors of which had captured his imagination. The film opens with 12-year-old Carlos (Fernando Tielve) arriving at an orphanage in the Spanish countryside. Negotiating with bullies and dodging the vicious caretaker (Eduardo Noriega) is the least of his problems, as he soon discovers the ghost of a young boy (Junio ​​Valverde) haunting the place. Meanwhile, the fighting spreads across the country to reach their remote mission. Del Toro combines the supernatural with the political to show the evil of war, especially as it affects children.

The Devil’s Backbone contains much of the raw material that Del Toro would reform in Pan’s Labyrinth, although the texture of this film is very different, as are genre influences such as the western. Browns and dusty browns dominate the color palette and men with guns stare out the windows at the flat landscapes, waiting to kill those who would threaten their home and relatives. It’s an unforgettable film worth rediscovering.

2. (TIE) The Shape of Water (2017) – 92%

An ancient love story as only Del Toro could tell – between a woman and a fisherman held in a secret government laboratory. The seeds can be found in Hellboy 2, in which Abe Sapien falls in love with an elf princess (Doug Jones plays the fishman in both films). The seeds would also have been found elsewhere, as del Toro was accused of plagiarism on this one. This misses the point, however, as a close review of Del Toro’s body of work shows him working the same materials over and over again until he massages them into magic.

In this way, much of his work can feel familiar. But he turns lead into gold in The Shape of Water and won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director for his efforts. As usual, the photography and production design are stunning. But this film achieves transcendence through its performances. Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon and Octavia Spencer bring this dark fantasy to vivid, emotional life.

1. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – 95%

Fox Searchlight

The director had shown great flair in his early genre shots and found admirers even in critical failures like Mimic and Blade II (2002). And his early Spanish-language productions were well regarded. But Pan’s Labyrinth marked a quantum leap in artistic expression. Del Toro returned to the prolific material of the Spanish Civil War that The Devil’s Backbone had provided, creating a genre hybrid of fantasy, horror and war, mostly seen through the eyes of 11-year-old Ofelia.

In the film, Ofelia travels with her mother and her new stepfather, Captain Vidal, to an outpost where Vidal brutally suppresses the rebels fighting the new Franco regime. To escape her increasingly dire situation, Ofelia embraces a fantasy world full of exotic creatures. The film mixes potentially discordant tones – the fantasy scenes alongside the realism of the violence – as any film has ever done, leading to a truly heartbreaking climax. Pan’s Labyrinth is considered one of the great movies of the early 21st century and should be seen by anyone who values ​​a great story told with intelligence and compassion.

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