Pan's Labyrinth is a fairy tale with a child-aged protagonist, but it is hardly a film for children. It is filled with plot lines about war, horrific and often gory violence, and unflinching depictions of death and destruction. Guillermo del Toro's critically acclaimed fairy tale takes the tropes and themes of children's fairy tales and adapts them for an adult audience, to show the ways that even after adolescence, people are searching for answers through the archetypes and imagery of fairy stories.
Indeed, there are many films that, like Pan's Labyrinth, present adult stories within the aesthetics of traditional fairy tales. Directors from Tim Burton to Terry Gilliam to Jean Cocteau to Neil Jordan have taken on traditional children's fare and turned them into adult stories for the cinema. Examples of adult fairy tale cinema include Matthew Bright's Freeway, starring Reese Witherspoon in a modern adaptation of Little Red Ridinghood, Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes, Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bete, and Jaromil Jires's Valerie and her Week of Wonders.
The possibilities and special effects of cinema are well-suited to the genre of fairy tale, and have been since the form's invention. In 1899, Georges Mélies made a film version of Cinderella. In an article about the genre on The BFI, Michael Brooke writes, "Because the cinema has always sought to offer an escape route from the pressures of the modern world, it comes as little surprise that fairytales offered huge appeal to filmmakers almost from the medium’s very dawn."