Set in 1962 in Baltimore, the movie revolves around mute janitor Elisa (Sally Hawkins) who works at a top secret government laboratory. Over time she gradually falls in love with an incarcerated aquatic creature (played by del Toro regular Doug Jones), which is scheduled for extermination by ruthless agent Strickland (Michael Shannon), setting in motion a romantic and suspenseful story laced with a love of classic cinema.
The concept, in the director’s words, springs from a desire to make a movie where "the monster gets the girl". Bizarre? You may be surprised to hear that this is far from the first time romance has blossomed between human and monster...
Liz and Hellboy (Hellboy)
Let’s begin with one of Guillermo del Toro’s previous films, as the director seems to have a real flair for pairing people with monsters.
Twisted firestarter Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) meets 'Big Red' aka Hellboy (Ron Perlman) while working for the B.P.R.D (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense). It’s a classic workplace meet-cute: girl burns down orphanage with her kleptomaniac powers, girl meets conjured demon from hell at top secret organisation, girl and demon fall in love.
OK maybe not so classic, but this is del Toro we’re talking about, purveyor of wonderfully twisted stories.
Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bete)
The quintessential romantic monster tale, and one that exerts a massive influence over The Shape of Water.
The origins of the Beauty and the Beast legend date from the mid-18th century novel by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, and most of the subsequent movie adaptations hew closely to the formula: innocent, wide-eyed country girl falls for a cursed prince, who remains trapped within the body of a hideous beast as a result of his vanity.
Poet turned filmmaker Jean Cocteau's visually luscious 1946 adaptation is considered by many the definitive take, particularly in the form of the facial prosthetics adorning star Jean Marais.
Oskar and Eli (Let the Right One In)
There’s nothing like young love, even between a 12-year-old boy and a 200 year old vampire.
Neglected and bullied by his peers young Oskar (Kare Hedebrandt) is instantly smitten when he meets the shy and mysterious Eli (Lina Leandersson), a vampire forever encased in the body of a young girl. Spending time together within their enchantingly snowy Swedish surroundings, love blossoms between the two, with Oskar completely unaware he has given his heart to someone who would more than likely prefer to eat it.
Oskar and Eli develop a deep bond, and their burgeoning relationship is eventually bound in blood when the former commits to becoming the latter’s carer at the end of the movie. It probably worked out badly for him, but at least they got to share some good times together.
King Kong and Ann Darrow (King Kong)
The tale of a lovesick giant gorilla originally dates from Hollywood’s Golden Age and has been remade and retold numerous times, never failing to tug at the heartstrings.
Perhaps one of the loneliest characters in film history, King Kong (played in Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake by Andy Serkis) is one of a kind, isolated on a jungle island with only savage dinosaurs for company and no queen with whom he can share his kingdom.
Then, one day, along comes a ship carrying blonde bombshell Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), an actress and expert screamer, to show this unloved primate what he’s been missing.
In all of its iterations King Kong is equally one of the most peculiar and most beautiful love stories ever told on the silver screen.
Seth Brundle and Veronica Quaife (The Fly)
David Cronenberg’s horror remake, The Fly is one of the most tragic love stories ever told. Imagine Romeo and Juliet but spliced with the genetic code of a mutating human-fly hybrid.
As a result of his teleporting experiment, scientist Seth Brundle’s (Jeff Goldblum) genes merge with that of a housefly. In the process he becomes one pretty grotesque monster.
As Brundle gradually transforms, with all the skin melting and fingernail removing you’d expect from a Cronenberg classic, it is the love of his life Veronica (Geena Davis) who keeps him clinging to his degrading humanity. When the monster finally takes over, it falls to Veronica to put him out of his misery.
Just goes to show, these monster-human romances rarely last.
Edward and Kim (Edward Scissorhands)
Another monster-human hook-up, another tragic tale of heartbreak – this time in the Tim Burton-directed guise of Winona Ryder’s small-town girl and Johnny Depp’s scissor-handed robotic creation.
Despite his nightmarish appearance it’s Edward’s gentle nature that attracts Ryder’s Kim, and although he may have walking lawsuits for hands, Edward manages to touch her heart in all the right places.
Whether it be dreamily carving her visage out of ice, or generally just treating her with respect and dignity, Edward, like the rest of the monsters on this list, can teach us all a lot about love.
Jon Fuge is an Unlimited card holder who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.