10 Movies Like ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’

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10 Movies Like ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’

Few movies from the 21st century are quite as great as Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s essentially a perfect movie, simultaneously being an intense war film, a dark fantasy story, and a heartbreaking drama all at once. It tells the story of a young girl in Spain during the 1940s who escapes her tyrannical stepfather – and the tragedies around her – by retreating into a bleak fantasy realm that’s nevertheless a relief from the horrors of the real world.



It’s a unique movie, to say the least, which does ensure there’s nothing out there directly comparable to it. Simultaneously, not much else can really touch it quality-wise either. That being said, there are other dark movies that have certain similarities (particularly other striking entries within del Toro’s filmography), with the following movies likely to appeal to anyone who loved Pan’s Labyrinth and is in the mood for something with a similar flavor.

10 ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ (2001)

When it comes to picking Guillermo del Toro’s darkest and creepiest fantasy movie, The Devil’s Backbone might well be an even more suitable selection than Pan’s Labyrinth. It takes place almost at the same time – 1939, compared to Pan’s Labyrinth’s 1944 setting – and is more outwardly a horror movie, being something of a slow-burn ghost story with a continually unsettling tone.

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It follows a young boy instead of a young girl, and also explores the trauma caused by the Spanish Civil War, with ghosts metaphorical and physical aplenty. It’s a darker and more unsettling spiritual predecessor to Pan’s Labyrinth, and is almost guaranteed to appeal to anyone who appreciated del Toro’s better-known 2006 fantasy film.

9 ‘The Spirit of the Beehive’ (1973)

The Spirit of the Beehive - 1973
Image via Bocaccio Distribución

Though it can’t be described as a particularly disturbing fantasy/drama film, The Spirit of the Beehive is an emotional and certainly unique watch, and feels like it was an influence on Pan’s Labyrinth. It takes place in the same decade as del Toro’s film, and is also a Spanish movie concerned with the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War that focuses on the children in a fractured family.

The plot kicks off when a young girl becomes impacted by seeing 1931’s Frankensteinat an impressionable age, and begins to escape into her own fantasy world loosely inspired by the classic horror movie. It’s a slow-paced film that doesn’t exactly spell out everything for the viewer, but it does have a certain beauty and mystique to it that makes it a fascinating viewing experience.

8 ‘The Fall’ (2006)

The Fall - 2006
Image via Roadside Attractions

The Fall came out the same year as Pan’s Labyrinth, and was also an imaginative fantasy movie that featured a young girl as one of its central characters. Namely, it centers on the bond between her and an injured stuntman in hospital at the same time as her, with the film depicting – with spectacular visuals – the epic fantasy story he tells her over an extended amount of time.

It’s a criminally underseen movie, and worth watching for the colorful visuals alone, given it might well be one of the best-looking movies of its decade. It’s a fantasy movie that gets dark, unsettling, and violent at points, with its central premise and fantastical worlds making it feel like something of a cross between The Princess Bride and Pan’s Labyrinth.

7 ‘The Shape of Water’ (2017)


The Shape of Water is another dark fairytale movie from Guillermo del Toro, but at the same time, is also the filmmaker’s most romantic movie. It takes place in America during the Cold War, and centers on a mute woman who works in a facility with a strange creature that’s being held in captivity there, and the way her meeting this amphibious man changes her life forever.

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It’s a strange premise for a movie, especially given it combines its fantasy so directly with romance, but del Toro makes it work somehow. Just as Pan’s Labyrinth was a surprisingly effective mix of war and fantasy, The Shape of Water was a shockingly good 20th-century fairytale/romance movie, and was also a huge success at the Academy Awards.

6 ‘Sleepy Hollow’ (1999)


Tim Burton’s no stranger to nightmarish fantasy movies, but Sleepy Hollow took the director’s love of the macabre to new heights. It follows detective Ichabod Crane as he travels to the titular Sleepy Hollow and investigates a series of violent murders where all the victims have been beheaded, potentially by a feared Headless Horseman.

It pushes its fantasy story into such violent and frightening areas that it in turn becomes something of a horror movie at the same time, albeit one that’s divorced from the real world, which may come as a relief to some viewers. It’s narratively and stylistically different from Pan’s Labyrinth, but is comparable in the sense that it’s also a violent fantasy movie that’s definitely not aimed at younger audiences.

5 ‘Tigers Are Not Afraid’ (2017)

Tigers Are Not Afraid
Image via Shudder

Tigers Are Not Afraid is a Mexican film that got favorably compared to Pan’s Labyrinth upon its release, which was just over a decade on from del Toro’s film. Its plot centers on several children who are haunted by the violence and horror around them, growing up in an area that’s ravaged by cartels fighting in an ongoing drug war.

At the same time, it’s also dark enough and appropriately ghostly to make it similarly comparable to the aforementioned The Devil’s Backbone. As a grim fantasy movie with horror and crime movie elements, it’s certainly a brutal and difficult film to watch at times, but it’s undeniably effective at cinematically depicting nightmares that are a reality for some young people living today.

4 ‘Hellboy II: The Golden Army’ (2008)

Ron Perlman and Doug Jones in Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Image via Columbia Pictures

Guillermo del Toro directed the first Hellboy movie in 2004, then Pan’s Labyrinth in 2006, and then a second Hellboy movie in 2008, The Golden Army. It was a huge improvement on the already decent first movie, and still stands as an incredibly underrated superhero movie that never quite got the attention it deserved.

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Its plot is very straightforward, seeing Hellboy and his allies clash with an ambitious and evil elf prince who has a mechanical army he wants to set loose on the world. It’s a good deal lighter and more entertaining than del Toro’s other fantasy movies, but even if it doesn’t scratch the darkness/horror itch, it’s still fantastically imaginative, creative, and filled with amazingly well-designed creatures and sets.

3 ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (1946)

Beauty and the Beast - 1946

Beauty and the Beast might well be the most romance-heavy classic fairytale story out there, even if a big part of it kind of revolves around what people would nowadays call kidnapping. The Disney version from 1991 is probably more well-known to modern audiences, but anyone wanting a live-action version that’s a little more eerie should check out the 1946 film adaptation.

It’s an iconic French film that was the first cinematic adaptation of the story, with events (and visuals) differing somewhat from the Disney version most are probably more familiar with. It’s unsettling in parts, but never too intense, feeling like an appropriately dreamlike and sometimes even surreal fantasy film.

2 ‘Excalibur’ (1981)

Helen Mirren as Morgana le Fay.

Excalibur is a classic old-school fantasy movie that brings a little more edge and grit than might be expected for its familiar story. That story revolves around the legend of King Arthur, centering on his quest with the Knights of the Round Table to locate the Holy Grail, and the consequences that came from such a relentless search.

As far as R-rated fantasy movies go, they don’t get much more out-there or ferocious than 1981’s Excalibur. Its style might not be for everyone, but those who like adventure/fantasy movies with a bit more edge will find a great deal to appreciate (and potentially be shocked by) here.

1 ‘Princess Mononoke’ (1997)

Princess Mononoke riding her wolf and holding a spear in 'Princess Mononoke'
Image via Studio Ghibli

Though it’s an animated film, Princess Mononoke deserves to be mentioned alongside other mature, potentially not kid-friendly fantasy movies. It’s one of many films that show animation isn’t just for children, and as far as Hayao Miyazaki movies go, this is perhaps his most violent and mature film, as well as one of his most moving.

It follows a young man who goes on a journey to heal himself of a dark curse that’s been placed upon him, with him eventually becoming embroiled in the conflict between various creatures who live in a forest and the people in an industrial town who want to use the area for their own purposes. It presents an effective environmental message with a great, sometimes dark fantasy story, and truly brings something unique to the genre it belongs within.

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