If you ask any film fan who the current king of monster movies is, there's a good chance a majority would say Guillermo Del Toro. No other director has embraced the aesthetics of classic monster films and effects in the same way as Del Toro, and no other director has stamped their taste onto it as well.
In his varied directorial career, Del Toro has created some of the most frightening and imaginative monster designs in the history of cinema. Whether he is scaring us with spirits in the halls of Crimson Peak or triggering a sense of empathy between ourselves and a surprisingly relatable fish-man, Del Toro has a way of crafting unique and unmatched movie creatures. Let's take a look at some of his best ever!
10 Judas Breed - Mimic
Though his first English language film wasn't that well recieved, there is no doubt that the creature work was some of the most impressive. The insect-like creatures known as Judas Breed were some of the most disgusting in Del Toro's repertoire.
Their ability to mimic human beings was even scarier than their natural form, blending human characteristics with those of insects. This early work is a prime example of Del Toro's ability to tap into the fears and nightmares of humans.
9 The Tooth Fairies - Hellboy 2
Perhaps one of the more obscure creatures here, due to their short screen time, the tooth fairies in Hellboy 2 were still some of the best-designed. Creepy beyond belief but with a hint of cuteness, these winged beasts harken to a Tim Burton-esque aesthetic.
Their giant teeth certainly live up their name, revealing themselves to be a threat behind an unassuming face and teeny frame. The tooth fairies were able to make their presence known, even with such a small amount of actual time on screen.
8 Thomas Sharpe's Ghost - Crimson Peak
The ghost design of Crimson Peak is one of its greatest strengths. While they could have been standard see-through spirits, they were instead designed with unique individual features. One of the best was the ghost of romantic lead Thomas Sharpe.
When he appears at the end of the film, he is starkly white, rocking some hauntingly dead eyes. The color palette and transparent features aren't the most original around, but it is the choice to have his bleeding eyes bleed upwards that makes the design stand out. It is a small but definite choice that allows this design to stand alone.
7 Abe Sapien - Hellboy and Hellboy 2
Abe Sapien is one of the many monstrous agents working for the BRPD in Del Toro's Hellboy films. Portrayed by Doug Jones, Abe Sapien is one of two fish-men in Del Toro's filmography.
Much of his design must be credited to Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, but like much of these films, Del Toro's limitless imagination translated Abe Sapien's look to fit his needs. The blend of Doug Jones' physicality and the outstanding make-up design brings Abe Sapien to glorious life.
6 The Goblin - Hellboy 2
This very minor character from Hellboy 2 was the creator of the titular golden army. In the film, he leads Hellboy and friends to Bethmoran and the Angel of Death. While he has a small role, there are such specific design choices that have to be celebrated.
The crabs, glass floats, fishing nets, and kelp immediately connect this being to the coast, giving him a salty personality to boot. The combination of practical effects and CGI to show that he only has half of his body is perfect, and a prime example of Del Toro's commitment to both kinds of effects.
5 The Monster - The Shape of Water
While Abe Sapien came first, this monster is a clear cut perfect example of Del Toro's influences and imagination. Sharing qualities with the infamous Creature from the Black Lagoon, this monster is far more intricate and beautiful.
The perfect combo of CGI enhancements to the practical suit brings the creature to life more effectively than almost any other of Del Toro's creatures. To believe in the relationship between human and monster, we needed to fall in love with its beauty and majesty. This design accomplished just that.
4 Pan/Faun - Pan's Labyrinth
One of the most iconic of Del Toro's monsters, it's Pan from Pan's Labyrinth. Doug Jones donned the horns for this beast as well, along with the stilts to increase his height for the role. The visage of the faun is beautiful, but also terrifying and decaying.
You can see in his body that he has rested for eons, waiting for the right princess to arrive. He is frightening yet alluring in his design. The etching all over his body harkens to both woodcuts and tattoos. Pan is both living yet part of the Earth.
3 House Ghosts - Crimson Peak
While Thomas Sharpe was an excellent twist on the traditional ghost, these spirits have no peers. Soaked in the red clay of the haunted manor, the house ghosts from Crimson Peak are some of the most terrifying spirits to ever grace film, but also some of the most beautiful.
They stand in sharp contrast to anything that has come before, bathed in the bright red of their blood and soil. The design to showcase their death is also significant, especially with the one who is missing part of their skull. We would rather appreciate this handiwork from afar.
2 Angel Of Death - Hellboy 2
The combination of the macabre and the beautiful is the established aesthetic of most of Del Toro's films. The Angel of Death from Hellboy 2 embodies that balance perfectly. The Angel, whose eyes are missing from its head and instead dot its feathered wings, is horrifying to witness, even for the monstrous-villain-laden Hellboy universe.
Nevertheless, the intricacies and majesty of the design ensure that you can't stop staring. The Angel of Death is an achievement on every level, exemplifying the make-up, puppetry, acting, and CGI mastery of all of Del Toro's team.
1 The Pale Man - Pan's Labyrinth
While the Angel of Death is a sight to behold, the Pale Man achieves even more with less. There is something about this starkly white figure that taps into such a primal fear (and no, it's not the eyes in the hands). The pale man is an embodiment of greed, evil, and hunger.
There is so much narrative work embodied in this design, and it never fails to frighten. It is the single greatest achievement in monster making on Del Toro's part, since it is a design born of thematic storytelling. It looks the way it does so it can contribute to the story being told.