By Josh Williams
Guillermo del Toro is one of the few filmmakers with the ability to bring the world of fantasy to life. With his brilliantly accurate creature design and painstaking attention to detail in his sets, the fantasy world that del Toro has written on paper magically comes to life before our eyes. Whether it be with his large budget films like “Hellboy” or “Pacific Rim”, del Toro perfectly balances style and substance. Never choosing to compromise one for the other, he is constantly focused on telling an intriguing and moving story while also setting out to dazzle us with his spectacle. And with the release of his latest film “The Shape of Water,” we here at Next Best Picture have decided to take a trip into the filmography of Guillermo del Toro. So without further ado here is our ranking of Guillermo del Toro’s films! You can read Matt’s review of “The Shape of Water” here!
For the purposes of this list “The Shape of Water” has been excluded until more people have a chance to see it.
9. PACIFIC RIM (2013)
”Pacific Rim” is what del Toro can achieve when he’s handed a $190 million dollar budget. Making it his most expensive film to date, “Pacific Rim” is del Toro’s most massive film. With giant fighting robots and horrifying looking monsters that are born from the Earth’s core, this film has the del Toro signature written all over it. Now while the visuals are stunning (as expected) and the action sequences are pretty impressive to watch, the film does move at a pace that is not expected from a giant robot monster fighting movie.
While it is enjoyable on the forefront, it does begin to lose some steam during its second act. The first act of the film is really strong and exciting and so is the finale. But the film does start to delve into some pretty heavy exposition. While there are some interesting scenes discussing how the Kaiju came to be and why they have returned, it does start to get a tad old when that becomes the only focus of the film for a good portion of the second half. But despite some missteps in the story overall, the film is stunning to look at. The action sequences are a ton of fun and well edited together. “Pacific Rim” is not a bad film by any means, we just prefer when del Toro sticks to labyrinths and peaks.
8. HELLBOY (2004)
Based off of the comic series of the same name by Mike Mignola, “Hellboy” is what brought del Toro into the public eye. Allowing him to show off what he can do in terms of his creatures, to how he can construct action sequences, “Hellboy” is the perfect film that would allow del Toro to show the world what he is made of. With an all-star ensemble cast that posses some truly great performances, “Hellboy” is a film that lands in the same realm as “Pacific Rim,” a really enjoyable film but seems to be lacking that slight extra bit of mystical.
The scope of “Hellboy” is massively impressive and the world that del Toro creates is stunning. But when it comes to the story of this film, it doesn’t really tickle our fancy. The concept of the Hellboy character and his team of “mutants” are fantastic in terms of character. But the story that all of the characters find themselves in is not as interesting as the characters themselves. It instead is a more bland telling of one of the Hellboy comics with some really fantastic characters. Again, “Hellboy” is a great film but there are some storytelling points that make the film come up short in spots.
7. MIMIC (1997)
Making for del Toro’s sophomore film, “Mimic” is a monster film that seamlessly fits into the mold of late 90’s filmmaking. What makes “Mimic” so enjoyable is the fact that he mixes two different genres, which is something he tends to do much more often later in his career. But this is his first jab at mixing genres and different filmmaking techniques. The first half of “Mimic” is mainly focused on the science aspect of the story. Without diving too deep into the scientifical aspect to where the audience cannot follow, the entire theme of the creation of life through science is done flawlessly.
Then when the second half of the film rolls around, it moves into something much more action orientated. The second half of the film is practically one long chase sequence that is actually really exciting. The whip pans and smash cuts make the chase scenes so intense and high octane. Even on repeat viewings, the chase between the scientists and the monsters is so nervewracking. “Mimic” is the film that proved that del Toro would not fall victim to the sophomore slump.
6. BLADE II (2002)
Making for the only franchise film that he did not kickstart himself, “Blade 2” is just a downright badass action/fantasy film. Allowing del Toro to find his footing as a filmmaker in a studio film, “Blade 2” is full of over the top action sequences, witty dialogue scenes, and a boatload of swearing. But after all the cake and watermelon the film is actually quite an achievement. The visuals are a tad dated but the editing and shot sequencing during the fight scenes is on the level of the first “Matrix” film.
While “Blade 2” might be one of del Toro’s least memorable films, it is one of his best from a technical. From how the fights are choreographed to how they are edited together to show the action in its entirety, “Blade 2” is a definitely a film with the del Toro stamp that is the perfect film for fans of the director to watch if they wish to relish in his abilities as a filmmaker.
5. CRONOS (1993)
“Cronos” is del Toro’s debut film and it is as mystical as could be. Revolving around a device named Cronos that grants eternal life to its owner, the film is soaked in the world of the fantastical. “Cronos” holds so many brilliant qualities it’s strong, especially for a debut. While this film lacks a tad in the visual department compared to his later films, the story is very well told. His ability to poetically weave between scenes and focus on something other than action or violence is truly remarkable. While del Toro does fascinating work when he operates within the world of violence, he is much more prolific when it comes to the minimalistic stories.
The biggest strength of del Toro’s debut is the screenplay. Though it does unite the lovely friendship of del Toro and Ron Perlman, the writing is truly where the film shines. Not only is every character interaction done with perfect intent and patience but the way the story flows is in such a professional manner you would never guess this was someones first film. But if we could only reward one thing to “Cronos” it would be a thank you for kickstarting the amazing career of Guillermo del Toro.
4. CRIMSON PEAK (2015)
”Crimson Peak” is a sleek, sensual, gothic romance story that was perfect for the talents of del Toro. With a stunning color palette and haunting performances from the trio of actors in the film, “Crimson Peak” is an unsung hero within del Toro’s career. While the visuals are mouth-watering, the thing that truly shines atop the crimson peak are the performances. While Tom Hiddleston is dynamite in a career-best performance, the two MVP’s of the film are Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain.
Chastain and Wasikowska are both a tour de force within the film, especially in the film’s climax which is absolutely riveting and filled with tension. Causing a slow effect of constant anxiety, “Crimson Peak” manages to elicit all of its deeper themes through the performances. Whether that be the innocence and romance of Wasikowska’s character or the rage-filled, hell-bent on revenge of Chastain’s character, the film is an absolute powerhouse from start to finish. Proving to be what might be del Toro’s best character study, “Crimson Peak” is a film that was not received well at first but definitely should be given a second chance.
3. HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY
Now while del Toro has done his fair share of blockbusters there is one of them that shines above the rest and that is “Hellboy 2,” which served as the culmination of all the groundwork laid in the first film amplified by a thousand. Cranking up the action scenes, the witty dialogue, and the fantastic performances from the cast, “Hellboy 2” is blockbuster del Toro at his absolute best. Not only is the film much larger in scale compared to the first installment, but everything feels much more intimate in the sequel. We connect much more with the characters this time around and the story actually has some stakes to it.
Instead of just Hellboy and the gang fighting evil, there is something that they are desperately in need of. Channeling what makes him a fantastic storyteller onto a much grander scale, “Hellboy 2” does not miss a single beat throughout. From the way that the golden army itself, hell all of the creatures for that matter are designed, to the nuanced performances of Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, and Doug Jones, “Hellboy 2” is easily the best big budget del Toro film.
2. THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE (2001)
Guillermo del Toro has always been a fan of horror. Ever since he began making films, the horror genre had always intrigued him. While he has dabbled in the genre from time to time it is safe to say that the project that comes closest to a downright horror project is “The Devils Backbone.” Revolving around a young boy who is left in an orphanage that happens to be haunted, the film is absolutely chilling. Not only do all of the sequences with the ghost that haunts the orphanage just drip in fear, but the deeper themes of the film are rather disturbing in their own right.
Focusing on constant themes of greed or betrayal, the film weaves its way in and out of what is right and wrong through the vessel of a spirit. Touching on some themes that are clearly of importance to del Toro, “The Devils Backbone” is a fascinating piece of filmmaking from del Toro. Visually rich and stunningly told, the film is a perfect fit for a “best horror films of the 2000’s” style list. If there is one thing del Toro has sought out to do with his films it is to discuss themes that are important to himself and also ensure he is telling a fascinating story while continuing to make our jaw drop with every cut.
1. PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006)
As if our #1 could be anything else, the magnum opus of del Toro and the culmination of everything that makes him an auteur, “Pan’s Labyrinth” is undoubtedly the director’s masterpiece. The difficult part about talking about “Pan’s Labyrinth” isn’t what to say but what not to say. Everything about the film is so jaw-droppingly stunning that it’s almost unbearable. It is a film that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime so that they can understand the feeling of watching something so imaginative. The world of the film takes on such a life of its own that it almost becomes difficult to keep up.
With stunning production design, an absolutely gorgeous visual approach, there is not a single unenjoyable aspect to “Pan’s Labyrinth.” With the countless types of monsters and creatures within the film, they are all flawlessly made and placed for dramatic effect. “Pan’s Labyrinth” garnered six Oscar nominations, taking home Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Makeup. “Pan’s Labyrinth” is definitely a classic and without a doubt the best film that Guillermo del Toro has ever made.
You can follow Josh and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @josh_williams09