Horror movie

Every Guillermo del Toro Horror Movie Ranked From Worst To Best

The shape of water director Guillermo del Toro has made a name for itself in the horror genre, but how do its many efforts stack up against one another? Although his name is also associated with fantasy films, successful director Guillermo del Toro is best known for his many horror films. Like Wes Craven and John Carpenter, del Toro’s name is synonymous with fear on the big screen, with the majority of his movies being some form of horror release.

Some of del Toro’s biggest releases like the kaiju movie Pacific Rim and the Hellboy franchise allow their horror elements to take precedence over sci-fi, action and fantasy. However, del Toro has also made a series of horror films, many of which are deservedly critically acclaimed. The first outings The Devil’s Backbone and Chronos, for example, are pure horror movies that show just how good del Toro is at scaring viewers.


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It’s unclear when moviegoers will be able to see del Toro return to horror. But how do his horror efforts stack up against each other so far? To date, among his ten films, del Toro has directed no less than six horror films (not counting genre-blending experiments like The shape of water and The dark psychological thriller of 2021 alley of nightmares), and their receptions ranged from acclaimed to disappointing. So with people like Imitate largely forgotten as Blade II was, on the other hand, a massive hit, which is del Toro’s best horror to date, and what releases in the genre have been rare duds for the otherwise famous director?

6. Mimicry

imitate 1997

It’s not easy to call one of del Toro’s horror films the director’s “worst.” He’s yet to do a bad horror movie, which means the movie that ends at the bottom of the recap is still a pretty solid release. Imitate is a 1997 monster movie that heads into the sewers beneath New York in search of the Judas race, a species of killer insect created by genetic engineering. The film’s conflicted heroine created the species to fight cockroach infestations, but they have since grown too powerful for their own good and have begun to take over the underground setting. Imitate is a perfectly fine creature feature, but del Toro hasn’t received the final edit on this one and it shows. Like the similarly dull Alien: Resurrection, which watered down director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s unique visual style that same year, Imitate tries to downplay del Toro’s visionary flourishes, resulting in his most forgettable horror. Imitate was a financial success though, and would spawn two pretty terrible direct-to-video sequels, which del Toro thankfully chose not to get involved with.

5. Crimson Woodpecker

A scene from 2015's Crimson Peak featuring lead actress Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing.

Yes Imitatedel Toro’s biggest problem was downplaying and cutting del Toro’s unique style too often, Crimson Peak suffers from the opposite problem. For better or worse, this lavish and colorful period piece is del Toro through and through, and at its best, the screaming nightmare is a feverish mix of melodrama and gothic horror. However, the plot is fairly predictable and a few performances are overcooked to be enjoyable (mainly Jessica Chastain’s squeaky baddie turn), which means Crimson Peak is often less scary and more silly. The film is beautiful to watch, but like the last The Haunting of Bly Manor, this underwhelming gothic horror fails because it lacks the satirical bite of its inspirations. Fans of Guillermo del Toro’s films and visual style should still check it out at least once, if only for its visually striking appearance.

4. Chronos

1993 merrily naughty Chronos is a huge step up from previous titles on this list, and the most purely fun horror in del Toro’s back catalogue. As later titles prove, the director often imbues his horror stories with a sense of tragic melancholy, as seen in The Devil’s Backbone, or fast-paced heroic actions, as seen in Blade II, Pacific Rim, and the Hellboy franchise. Chronos, by contrast, tells the simple, comedic story of an amoral antiquarian who uses an ancient scarab to give himself eternal life at the cost of becoming a soulless bloodsucker. This scary story could be an exit from one of acclaimed horror anthology Tales from the CryptSeasons best, and del Toro’s assured direction ensure the twisty, unsettling narrative keeps its tongue in cheek no matter how bloody the proceedings become. The pettiest of del Toro’s horrors, Chronos is also one of the best of the group.

Related: Pan’s Labyrinth: The History and Symbolism of the Pale Man Explained

3. Blade II

Blade II is an awesome sci-fi action movie that received unfortunate press

While Chronos may be the most comedic of del Toro’s horrors, it’s not the most action-packed vampire movie the director has made. This title goes to Blade II, a bloody mile-per-minute superhero flick that sees Wesley Snipes’ human-vampire hybrid smash his way through dozens of imaginatively designed monsters. The plot is pure nonsense and a bit too hard to follow for this movie to take the top spot, but Blade II is by far the fastest and most thrilling of del Toro’s horrors, and also the the best of Blade movies. Blade’s status as a vampire/human hybrid makes him a particularly tough antihero, the gore is abundant, and the Reapers make for a far scarier and more formidable foe for the titular character than the disappointing villain of the first film. Unfortunately, the Blade the franchise would continue to be somewhat tarnished by the utterly lackluster of 2004 Blade Trinity, who could have really benefited from having someone like del Toro in the director’s chair.

2. The Devil’s Backbone

The ghost boy in The Devil's Backbone.

A huge change in tone from Chronos and Blade II, The Devil’s Backbone takes the opposite approach to horror of del Toro’s previous outings. The scares here come from tragically abused characters trying their best to hold their own in life, and the monsters in the film are very human, heartless as they can be. A devastating horror drama, The Devil’s Backbone tells the story of Carlos, a young orphan taken in by a Republican children’s shelter whose parents were killed during the Spanish Civil War. At first glance, the movie’s villain seems to be the scary one Pet sematary-ghost child style whom Carlos encounters on the school grounds, but as the story unfolds, a more convoluted and sad story comes to light. The Devil’s Backbone isn’t del Toro’s scariest horror, but it’s his most moving, and the film achieves the impressive feat of being both genuinely unsettling and poignant, a tonal balance that many directors fail to achieve. not to find. If del Toro hadn’t led the No. 1 pick in this standings, The Devil’s Backbone would certainly be its crowning achievement in the horror genre, and arguably one of the most effective ghost films ever made.

1. Pan’s Labyrinth

pale man maze pans

Located in Franco’s Spain, Pan’s Labyrinth is a fantasy horror that sees its heroine Ofelia retreating into an imaginary abandoned maze to escape her abusive stepfather, the fascist Captain Vidal. However, this eponymous place is far from being a comforting refuge for the deranged young girl, and the heroine meets monstrous characters there like the pale man eating a child as well as the gruff but well-meaning Faun during his time in Neverland. Pan’s Labyrinth fuses freddiefantasy-style horror sequences with the very real horror of war to create a uniquely horrifying hybrid of fantasy, horror and coming-of-age tragedy, and this disarming tale transcends genre to become one of the Guillermo del Torothe strongest films to date. Pan’s Labyrinth can stand face to face with The shape of water among the director’s finest and is by far his strongest horror film to date. Looking back, it’s a crime that this masterpiece didn’t earn Best Picture and Best Director Oscar nominations. Fortunately, del Toro would end up getting his moment at the Oscars in the spotlight.

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