Guillermo Del Toro's Best Movies And How To Watch Them

One of the monsters in Pan's Labyrinth.
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

When it comes to one of the most famous directors, I’m sure there are many that might come to your mind. You could be thinking of Steven Spielberg, maybe the famous James Cameron, or perhaps even Wes Anderson, but for me, I’ve always thought about Guillermo del Toro. The man's work has impacted a good portion of my life, and from some of his movies, I’ve really learned to appreciate both good horror movies and fantastic fantasy films. 

But this list is for those who have never seen Guillermo del Toro’s movies before, and today, we’re going to talk about his best, from some of his earlier directed movies to some of the most recent. For anyone who wishes to see, these are Guillermo del Toro’s best movies. 

The device in Cronos.

(Image credit: Prime Films S.L./October Films)

Cronos (1993)

First up on the list, we need to talk about Cronos, the first feature film that Guillermo del Toro ever directed. In this horror film, the audience is let into a world where a strange device gives the user the ability to obtain eternal life. But with this kind of power comes destruction, and now, after four hundred years, it’s back to cause more pain. 

Even for a film from a first-time director, Cronos is still so good and deserving of being on this list. Not only is it a great international horror film, but it also features a stellar story that genuinely gives me chills to this day. I would suggest anyone watch this if they want to get into del Toro’s movies. It's utterly unique.

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Doug Jones as Fauno in Pan's Labyrinth

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Arguably, Pan’s Labyrinth is the most popular del Toro film, and for many reasons. This astounding dark fantasy film takes place in the 1940s in Spain, and mainly follows a little girl who starts to find herself in a magical world when she ends up moving in with her stepfather. But even if everything at first seems magical, there are creatures and darkness lurking around every corner. 

I could go on for hours about how much I love Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s, like, the perfect amount of both horror and fantasy, and something that pleases my movie-watching brain. This movie is the perfect film to show to anyone who doubts that del Toro is a master of horror and fantasy because it’s just fantastic. The film won and was nominated for several Academy Awards. 

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Ron Perlman holding gun as Hellboy

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Hellboy (2004)

Remember when Hellboy came out in 2019 and people were upset about everything with that film? It could be because it was nowhere like this version of Hellboy, released in 2004 and starring Ron Perlman. In this film, we follow a demonic beast who has turned into a superhero, and using these powers, he decides to help keep the world safe from the most dangerous monsters you could think of – all of the paranormal kind. 

Hellboy kicks ass in the best way. Guillermo del Toro really does prove that he can do it all by directing a superhero movie, but everything else in this film is great as well. I love the cinematography (which was also done by del Toro) and the story. And I’ll just say this here, I love David Harbour, but Ron Perlman’s portrayal of Hellboy just can’t be beat. 

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One of the monsters in Mimic.

(Image credit: Miramax Films)

Mimic (1997)

In this film, del Toro decided to step a little more into the science-fiction horror realm, and create the film Mimic. In this movie, we follow a scientist who takes it upon herself to create a mutant kind of insect to kill cockroaches that have been infecting and killing children in NYC. But sadly, over the course of a few years, she finds out that this insect has not died as she originally planned – but has only grown stronger, and much more monstrous. 

I’ll be the first to say that out of everyone, Guillermo del Toro really knows how to make the viewers squirm, whether that be how he’s able to build suspense, or for the gnarly prosthetics and makeup he uses for his monsters, but wow, does this film get under your skin in the best way. It’s truly unlike any horror film out there and one I believe every person who loves horror should see – just, ah… maybe stay away from it on a full stomach, is all I’ll say. 

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Charlie Hunnam in Crimson Peak

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Crimson Peak (2015)

When I say del Toro can direct anything, I mean anything, including gothic romance films. In Crimson Peak, we are taken back in time to the Edwardian era in England, and our main protagonist is Edith, a young woman and aspiring author who ends up moving to a beautiful mansion with her new husband and his sister. But as she moves in, she starts to have ghostly visions, and now it’s up to her to decipher what they mean. 

Something I really love about Crimson Peak is that at this point in del Toro’s film career, it had really been unlike anything he had ever done before. We’ve seen him do horror and fantasy and sci-fi but I had never seen him do romance so well, and yet there’s a romance in here that truly took my breath away. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but just go into this blind and watch it from beginning to end. I’ll always be upset that it didn't do better at the box office. 

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Some of the characters in the Devil's Backbone.

(Image credit: Warner Sogefilms A.I.E.)

The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

This film is amazing. The Devil’s Backbone is another horror film from Guillermo del Toro that is set in Spain and takes place during the Spanish Civil War, mainly focusing on a little boy who has lost his father in the war. But as soon as he arrives at an all-boys orphanage, he discovers that this place is haunted – and there are deep, dark secrets that are beginning to be discovered. 

This film is so well done from start to finish, and it is another example as to why Guillermo del Toro is a fantastic director all around. His ability to build suspense while still keeping the audience scared and on the edge of their seat is something that I truly love and need more of in my life. Even del Toro himself has said it’s one of his best movies

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the shape of water sally hawkins doug jones

(Image credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

The Shape Of Water (2017)

Moving on to a romantic fantasy film, we look at The Shape of Water. This is an interesting film that tells the story of a cleaner who speaks with sign language and works at a government facility which just so happens to be containing a humanoid amphibian creature – basically a fish person – but she ends up falling in love with him and does everything in her power to help him escape. 

Yes, the premise is a bit out there but trust me when I say that the movie really is expertly directed and beautifully shot. The performances are fantastic all around and I could go on for hours about how the love story is actually very sweet in many ways – I just, uh, never need to see a certain scene again and if you know, you know. I’ll just let you all be surprised. 

But the rest of the film is amazing – the film earned thirteen Academy Award nominations, won both Best Picture and Best Director, becoming the first fantasy film since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King to win. 

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Bradley Cooper sweating and worried in a dark room in Nightmare Alley.

(Image credit: Searchlight Pictures)

Nightmare Alley (2021) 

Last but not least, we need to talk about Nightmare Alley. While it unfortunately came out in 2021 and didn’t have a big debut at the box office since it was around the same time Spider-Man: No Way Home was in theaters, Nightmare Alley is an amazing neo-noir psychological thriller film that tells the story of a carnival worker who will do anything to try and make his career bigger and better – including using people to his advantage that could end dangerously. 

Nightmare Alley was nominated for four Academy Awards, and has some really cool visual design and skillful storytelling. The entire Nightmare Alley cast is great, but I have to give special praise to Bradley Cooper, who rocked it in his starring role and deserved way more credit than he got. 

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There are truly so many amazing films that Guillermo del Toro has had a hand in creating, but these were just some of his best directed films that I had to focus on. And if you’re craving more Guillermo del Toro after this, be sure to check out his new Netflix series, Cabinet of Curiosities, featuring even more creepy, scary stories. Happy watching!