Guillermo del Toro is a gift that keeps on giving to fans of the weird and macabre. Not only has he produced plenty of esteemed contributions to cinema, but his interviews, commentary tracks, art books, Blu-ray extras, and tweets are a veritable smorgasbord of additional recommendations from a gourmand of the strange and unusual.
The award-winning director of films such as The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Pacific Rim loves horror with a passion that few others can boast. He even has a personal museum of horror movie memorabilia and monster ephemera, a collection so impressive that he’s loaned out parts of it to various museums.
Related: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: 6 Spine-Tingling Tales by Horror Master Guillermo del Toro
When it comes to his influences, Del Toro wears them on his sleeve. The commentary tracks that accompany his films are full of references to the ideas and objects that have inspired them, from symbolist art to Japanese pop culture toys, from comic books to Catholicism. If Del Toro likes it, you’re probably going to hear about it—which means that one way or another, he’s recommended plenty of movies over the years.
If you find yourself in a bit of a rut when it comes to scary movies, Guillermo del Toro’s got you covered. Here are 13 weird, terrifying, and uniquely original horror flicks with del Toro’s stamp of approval—all of which can be streamed today.
Del Toro’s recommendations will likely stretch your personal viewing habits. Haxan is a silent documentary about witchcraft that was originally released in 1922. But don’t let that make you think it’s dull or dated. “Sheer terror and sheer poetry” is how Del Toro characterized this amazingly odd flick in a top 10 list of his favorite Criterion films. “It’s a strangely titillating record of sin and perversity that is as full of dread as it is of desire and atheistic conviction, and a condemnation of superstition that is morbidly in love with its subject.”
Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
Film: Phantom Of The Paradise by Brian De Palma. One of my most beloved films ever. A deranged, romantic, unique film w a perfect soundtrack— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) December 13, 2015
This 1974 rock musical horror comedy film (yes, you read that right) by Brian De Palma was a flop upon its initial release, but has since become a cult classic. Guillermo del Toro loves this “deranged, romantic, unique” film with a “perfect soundtrack” so much that he actually bought a 35mm print of it and donated it to the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. He also has props from the set in his personal collection, and has called it one of his “most beloved films ever.”
Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)
Film lovers in Toronto- Give this one a shot. Truly beautiful Cinema moments in it. https://t.co/je7aSSzsu2— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) August 25, 2019
This stunning film by Issa López received plenty of (apt) comparisons to Guillermo del Toro’s canon of work. Del Toro has embraced the comparisons and the film itself, championing it on Twitter, praising it in his acceptance speech when he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and mentioning it in a list of contemporary horror movies that are “thematically strong, artistically strong” in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
Related: 11+ Horror Movies You Need to See, According to Jordan Peele
Angel Heart (1987)
RIGHTING A WRONG: ANGEL HEART by Alan Parker. An amazing movie, a perfect Rourke. A Borges-like noir mystery. An audiovisual feast.— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) October 18, 2015
Who else but Del Toro would use a tweet to describe any movie as “a Borges-like noir mystery”? Especially a movie as weird and impassioned, as dark and hot as Alan Parker’s Angel Heart, a supernatural noir thriller that reminds us of Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions, if only it took place in New Orleans with a soundtrack by Dr. John. “An audiovisual feast,” as Del Toro says.
Perfect Blue (1997)
PERFECT BLUE by Satoshi Kon. A Giallo for all. And, dare I say it? Perhaps one of the most intricate ones ever made. In any medium.— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) October 23, 2015
Del Toro called Satoshi Kon’s groundbreaking anime “a giallo for all. And, dare I say it? Perhaps one of the most intricate ones ever made. In any medium.” Tall praise, but this 1997 film about the price and perils of fame, as well as the blurring and breakdown of reality, has won almost universal acclaim since its debut.
The Stone Tape (1972)
Some of my favorite Ghost Stories on film. (exc. anything I've done as prod. or dir.) Here we go:— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) February 23, 2019
1) Personal Shopper
2) The Innocents
3) The Uninvited
5) The Haunting
6) The Stone Tapes
7) The Shining
8) The Others
9) The Sixth Sense
Along with several recognizable classics, Guillermo del Toro included this comparatively unknown TV film in a 2019 tweet that listed his top 10 favorite ghost movies. Written by British writer Nigel Kneale, who’s best known for the various Quatermass films, The Stone Tape is an eerie and almost Lovecraftian ghost story that makes the old saw about “if these walls could talk” terrifyingly literal.
The Changeling (1980)
Del Toro later amended his ghost movie list to include several other contenders, among them this classic by Peter Medak that stars George C. Scott. That one scene with the red ball bouncing down the stairs is enough on its own to cement this film’s place in the horror pantheon; and it’s been reproduced and ripped off enough times to prove it.
Session 9 (2001)
SESSION 9 Masterwork. https://t.co/20RzgbuxF7— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) October 29, 2018
Guillermo del Toro had one word to describe Brad Anderson’s eerie, low-budget ghost movie: “Masterwork.” That’s high praise, coming from a guy whose The Shape of Water nabbed 13 Academy Award nominations and ultimately won in four categories, including Best Director and Best Picture. Del Toro doesn’t toss out compliments casually, and this haunting 2001 flick does a lot with very little, squeezing some of its most effective chills from simple monologues done over shots of bugs crawling on plants.
Related: Stephen King Recommends 16 Creepy Horror Movies & Shows You Should Watch on Netflix
Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)
Film: Alice Sweet Alice by Alfred P Sole. Brilliant, smart, creepy-as fuck. Catholic Giallo about the psycho-sexual labyrinth of youth. A+— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) April 20, 2016
Del Toro is partial to gialli, a subgenre of Italian mystery fiction with horror elements, and anyone who has watched a handful of his films knows that he’s also drawn to Catholic imagery. So, Alfred Sole’s Alice, Sweet Alice seems a natural fit for Del Toro’s predilections. He confirmed as much on Twitter, calling it a “brilliant, smart, creepy-as-f*ck Catholic giallo about the psycho-sexual labyrinth of youth.”
Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
RIGHTING A WRONG. Film for Day13: BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO by Peter Strickland. Terrifying and intrinsically cinematic. A delightful Enigma.— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) October 8, 2015
“Terrifying and intrinsically cinematic,” is what Guillermo del Toro had to say on Twitter about this haunting and hypnotic flick from director Peter Strickland. “A delightful enigma.”
Eyes Without a Face (1960)
“The clash of haunting and enchanting imagery has seldom been more powerful,” Guillermo del Toro wrote of Eyes Without a Face and Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast in his list of Criterion favorites. “Both fables depend on sublime, almost ethereal, imagery to convey a sense of doom and loss: mad, fragile love clinging for dear life in a maelstrom of darkness.”
Related: 37 Fascinating Horror Movie Facts That You Probably Didn't Know
The Old Dark House (1932)
Film: The Old Dark House by James Whale. Made after the triumphant success of Frankenstein. Whale's twisted sense of humor and menace shines— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) February 25, 2016
Following the success of the original Frankenstein, director James Whale made this delightfully macabre horror comedy film, which was thought lost for a long time before a print was rediscovered by director Curtis Harrington (whose Queen of Blood Del Toro also recommends). Del Toro says that “Whale’s twisted sense of humor and menace shines” in this unforgettable rarity from the early days of cinema.
The Vast of Night (2019)
THE VAST OF NIGHT (2019, Andrew Patterson) I've seen it twice now and it gets better and better. Fantastic lead actors, powerful emotional punch (es) and never becoming a cliche are a few of its many virtues. Familiar format but done with unique talent. Watch it today. pic.twitter.com/wqrSOopaR2— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) June 20, 2020
As you’ve probably gathered by now, Del Toro tends to recommend a lot of older material—flicks that were made before their time, or have simply been missed by present-day audiences. But he doesn’t limit himself to dusty, overlooked classics. Just recently, del Toro recommended the 2019 UFO film The Vast of Night, written and directed by Andrew Patterson. “I’ve seen it twice now and it gets better and better,” Del Toro raved on Twitter not long after the film premiered on Amazon Prime Video. “Familiar format but done with unique talent. Watch it today.” Well, you heard the man…
Sources: Criterion, Entertainment Weekly
Featured still from "Pan's Labyrinth" via New Line Cinema