The appeal and the folly of any broad top 10 list—favorite movies, favorite bands, favorite foods— is the misguided belief that you can derive a clear-cut top 10 out of so much disparate material. This is especially true for buffs of any artistic medium, who, when forced to make top 10 lists, find themselves strung between genres, having to cherry pick one from many. Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy director Guillermo Del Toro was having none of it. When the Criterion Collection asked him to put together a top 10 list of his favorite Criterion movies, he chose to tweak the format.
“Del Toro humorously bemoaned the ’unfair, arbitrary, and sadistic top ten practice,’” Criterion writes, “so instead he decided on ties or rather, ‘thematic/authorial pairings.’”
Honestly, it’s a better approach. It’s rare that the filmmakers who influence us most can be boiled down to a single project, or that a theme can be best encapsulated in a single script or performance. Del Toro offers up multiple films from artists like Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, Kaneto Shindo, Ingmar Bergman, and more—declaring his selections from their respective filmographies to be a tie—as well as films that best illustrate themes centering around topics like horror, fragility, and childhood.
His accompanying blurbs are revealing as well. When musing on The Night Of The Hunter and The Spirit Of The Beehive—movies that merge themes of youth and fear and were a clear influence on his The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth—he says:
The two supreme works of childhood/horror. Lamentations of worlds lost and the innocents trapped in them. Sublime fairy tales of despair that depict the adult world as a toxic environment for kids to exist in. Secret treasures kept in the hearts of children must be safeguarded from the corruption of an adult world full of certainty and arrogance. Both films are so beautiful and so dark—they truly make me weep in awe.
It just wouldn’t have been the same if he had to choose one.