Guillermo del Toro celebrates his 54th birthday on October 9, 2018. The Mexican-born auteur hit the Oscar jackpot earlier this year with his fantastical love story “The Shape of Water” (2017), which took home four prizes including Best Picture and Best Director. But that’s just one of many eye-popping fantasies he has crafted throughout his career. In honor of his birthday, let’s take a look back at all 10 of del Toro’s films, ranked worst to best.
Del Toro made his feature directing debut with the Spanish-language horror drama “Cronos” (1993), which established him as a maker of dark, visually-stunning fright-fests. The film wrote him a ticket to Hollywood, where he helmed the creepy chiller “Mimic” (1997). Over the next two decades, he would bounce back-and-forth between mainstream American productions (the “Hellboy” films, “Pacific Rim,” “Crimson Peak”) and more personal stories in his native language (“The Devil’s Backbone,” “Pan’s Labyrinth”).
It was for “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006), a fable about a young Mexican girl escaping into a terrifying fantasy realm during the falangist Spain of 1944, that del Toro reaped his first Oscar bid for Best Original Screenplay. The film took home prizes for its cinematography, art direction, and makeup, but lost Best Foreign Language Film to “The Lives of Others.” Del Toro, meanwhile, was bested by Michael Arndt (“Little Miss Sunshine”).
It took 11 years for del Toro to return to the Oscar race with “The Shape of Water,” a romantic fantasy about a mute janitor (Sally Hawkins) who falls in love with a fish man (Doug Jones). The film amassed a whopping 13 nominations and won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Production Design, and Best Score. In addition, del Toro swept the major industry prizes for directing, taking home the DGA, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Critics’ Choice awards.
Take a tour through our gallery of del Toro movies, including a few for which he should’ve received Oscar nominations.
10. MIMIC (1997)
After stunning international audiences with “Cronos,” del Toro brought his unique vision to Hollywood with the creature feature “Mimic.” Mira Sorvino stars as Dr. Susan Tyler, an entomologist who genetically created an insect to kill cockroaches carrying a deadly disease. Three years later, Dr. Tyler must battle her own monsters before they destroy humanity. Del Toro famously fought with executive producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein over every aspect of the film, eventually disowning it. Luckily, the newly released director’s cut restores his vision, clearing up some of the narrative confusion caused by too many scissors in the editing room.
9. BLADE II (2002)
The original “Blade” (1998) wasn’t exactly crying out for a sequel, yet this followup to the Wesley Snipes vampire hunter saga is more entertaining than it has any right to be because of del Toro’s visual flair and obsession with viscera. Snipes stars as the half-man, half-vampire crusader who forms an unholy alliance with the bloodsuckers to combat a new breed of ravenous killers known as the Reapers.
8. CRONOS (1993)
Del Toro first came to the attention of audiences with this stunning debut about an antiques dealer (Federico Luppi) who discovers an ancient device that grants immortality by drinking the blood of its user. But everything has a price, and the user must in turn consume blood to stay forever young. “Cronos” explores many themes and tropes that would become staples of del Toro’s work: the use of horror and fantasy as metaphor, religious iconography in images, a delicate mixture of comedy and pathos.
7. HELLBOY (2004)
With “Hellboy,” del Toro found the ultimate outcast anti-hero. Ron Perlman has the time of his life as the cigar-chomping, demon-slaying devil, who battles the underworld after being conjured by Nazis. The director brings Mike Mingola’s comics to life with splashy, colorful visuals that seem lifted right off the page and onto the screen.
6. CRIMSON PEAK (2015)
And the award for del Toro’s most underrated feature goes to “Crimson Peak,” a seriously spooky ghost story wrapped in a romance with some gothic humor thrown in. The story centers on Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), an aspiring author who falls in love with a mysterious outsider named Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). When tragedy strikes, she abandons her childhood friend (Charlie Hunnam) to marry Thomas and live with him and his sister (Jessica Chastain) in a mansion filled with secrets and spirits.
5. PACIFIC RIM (2013)
“Pacific Rim” may be del Toro’s most exhilarating entertainment yet, a monsters and robots mashup that’s part “Godzilla,” part “Transformers,” and all fun. Set in the not-too-distant future, the film centers on a war between mankind and giant sea creatures called Kaiju. When conventional weaponry wont do, brave soldiers must operate massive automatons, known as Jaegers, piloted with their bodies and minds. The film is basically an excuse for a bunch of rock ‘em sock ‘em fight sequences, and del Toro stages them with visual style and bravura.
4. HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008)
Nobody has a knack for sequels like del Toro, and “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” is that rare followup that’s better than the original. This installment finds the red devil with a heart of gold (Perlman) doing battle against the mythical underworld when it starts a rebellion against humanity to rule the Earth. Brimming with invention and overflowing with eye-popping creatures (the film reaped an Oscar nomination for its makeup design), this feels like the “Hellboy” movie del Toro wanted to make.
3. THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE (2001)
“The Devil’s Backbone” is in many ways a spiritual cousin to “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006), a ghost story set against real life horrors. In the final days of the Spanish Civil War, a twelve-year-old boy (Fernando Tielve) is sent to live at an ominous orphanage after his freedom fighting father is killed in action. He finds the home haunted by the ghoul of a recently murdered child with unfinished business. Yet as is always the case with del Toro, the real monsters are the human ones.
2. THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017)
Del Toro’s affinity for monsters has never been so beautifully expressed than in “The Shape of Water,” a romantic creature feature about a mute janitor (Sally Hawkins) who falls in love with a giant fish man (Doug Jones). The screenplay by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor is a delicate balancing act of sci-fi chills, Cold War espionage, and musical comedy, held together by a cineaste at the top of his game. Every character is given multiple dimensions, from Richard Jenkins as the maid’s gay neighbor to Octavia Spencer as her faithful confidant, from Michael Shannon as the villainous government official bent on destroying the creature to Michael Stuhlbarg as the Russian spy anxious to save it.
1. PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006)
With his masterpiece “Pan’s Labyrinth,” del Toro found the perfect blend of fantasy and horror, wonder and gore. It is at once a frightening fable and a hauntingly realistic chronicle of war. At its center is Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a bookish girl who uses her imagination to escape into a magical realm to avoid her dictatorial stepfather (Sergi Lopez), a sadistic army officer in the falangist Spain of 1944. With the faun and the Pale Man (both played by Doug Jones), del Toro creates his most terrifying monsters, yet neither compares to the fascism from which Ofelia hopes to break free.