These are the best Wes Craven movies, ranked

Beginning his career in the pornography industry (which seems oddly appropriate), the late director Wes Craven would go on to a gradual and consistent string of successes in commercial cinema. With the first low-budget indie pictures that focused on vile creatures preying on innocent suburbanites, Craven had been making chilling classics since the early 70s. Horror now seems far too fond of reuse.

During the 90s and early 2000s he would continue in the genre while parodying and subverting it, bringing postmodernism into mainstream horror even returning to his own works and bringing them to life as something again for a fresh-faced audience. Much like many of the villains he had introduced on screen, with each new work Wes Craven came back stronger and his contributions to the groundbreaking Scream series would make its name known for almost five decades. With the release of Cry 5 (a film that ends with credits specifically dedicated to the man himself), we take a look at some of Wes Craven’s back catalog.

9 Shock (1989)

Shocker ranks dead last on our list of the best Wes Craven
Live movies

shock is, well, exactly that. feel like a hangover Nightmare on Elm Street, a teenager, through his dreams, may witness a serial killer (Mitch Pileggi) as he commits grisly murders as they happen. He never seems to stick to any of his ideas and transforms all over the place in an effort to use too many ideas at once. shock looks like it could have been really cool X-files episode, but not an entire feature, and starts making up her own rules – only to break them with the next scene. The weirdest takeaway is that a crazy Mitch Pileggi sounds like a normal Tommy Lee Jones.

8 The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

The Serpent and the Rainbow is a weird movie that doesn't look like Wes Craven at all
Universal images

Most Craven fans won’t even recognize The Serpent and the Rainbow, and rightly so: looking at it, it looks nothing like a Wes Craven movie. That’s not necessarily a bad thing at all but, while functional, it also lacks the director’s usual tense flair. This is an unconventional zombie movie, in that it’s not really about zombies, or at least it’s about true Haitian zombie lore rather than the cinematic equivalent western. On the contrary, people are drugged, their bodies essentially “die” before they can be recovered. Bill Pullman plays the most American tourist ever in a movie that never really accomplishes much when it comes to the horror genre, but is a pretty unique dramatic and anthropological film. Think angel heart meets Revelation now, but much drier. A+ for quirkiness though.

seven Scream 4 (2011)

Scream 4 needs a review as it's confident and a reminder of just how good the series can be
Dimensional films

A black sheep from the series, Cry 4 was frowned upon when it was released in 2011. It’s a shame, because the film (dubbed “Scr4amat the time) just seemed to miss being able to really partake in the 2010s remake trend. no doubt the low point With a truly brilliant young cast (Hayden Panettiere stands out as the resident movie madman), confident execution, and a labyrinthine script, Cry 4 recalled how Craven and Ghostface were still relevant.

Related: Certified Fresh Scream Dices Up Score at Rotten Tomatoes

6 Last House on the Left (1972)

The Last House Left Remains a Low-Budget Treat for Horror Fans
Hallmark releases photos of American International

Craven’s feature debut Last house on the left focuses on a story of rape-revenge and lots of misanthropy. Mostly reminded of how shocking and controversial it was at the time (alongside its claims to be based on a true story), by today’s standards it seems kitschy and relatively tame, though still extremely cynical and morally disturbing. Don’t skip this one though, with its interesting, frugal sound design and obligatory chainsaw scene, it’s an upper-class grindhouse image, adapted as it was from the art and music classic. swedish essay The Virgin Source. Beneath the grime is a tight and interesting debut film that would showcase Wes Craven’s talent to the world.

5 Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

the new nightmare was meta long before the scream
New line cinema

New nightmare market, then Scream could run. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare offered the metafictional scenario, “What if the actors who played these characters were attacked by the (supposedly) fictional killer?” New nightmare is a weird and weird experience, and, given the real lack of risk in much of Hollywood, it’s truly extraordinary that it exists. It has nothing on the true ingenuity of the original Nightmare on Elm Street, but it’s still a hugely intriguing horror film that changed everything that followed it, using techniques of irony and self-reflection to create horror in a surprisingly original way. The mythology it builds regarding Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger character is also fantastic.

4 The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Wes Craven specialized in suburban families terrorized by monsters
Blood Relations Society

Scrappy and obviously low budget, The hills Have Eyes is a stripped down, nasty, wicked little movie. This shoddy affair – both technically and narratively – almost adds to the overall minimalist discomfort of the picture. Following similar themes from his previous Last house on the left, Hills adds the threat of cannibals as an American family is ambushed while on vacation. In hindsight, this was another controlled horror movie with methods that set up so many tropes that would become overused conventions for the genre. It’s tight, scary and brutal. Craven would go on to direct the sequel as well.

3 Scream 2 (1997)

Scream 2 is a very worthy sequel that might even be better than the original

Cry 2 only misses the point, because it could never have shown how original and how fresh the original Scream felt. That said, this film does exactly what a sequel should do – it moved the characters forward, while expanding on their stories and remaining spooky; it got the blood pumping and even poked fun at what the sequels should be, retaining its own relevance and mocking, critical edge. Cry 2 is just as good as its predecessor, maybe even better on a good day, but lacks the innovative ideas of its original. The opening to this is spellbinding, too.

Related: How Scream Perfected The Art Of Open Cold

2 Scream (1996)

Scream narrowly misses out on our top spot for best wes craven movies

At the time, Scream was a total shock to the system. Screenwriter Kevin Williamson complained that the horror genre had been obsolete for ages, and so he penned this meta, cliched whodunit masterpiece. With a fairly unknown and courageous cast (apart from Drew Barrymore’s ten minutes), Scream was a product of the 90s that saluted the slashers and chillers of the 70s and 80s, alongside its director’s own works. A brilliant film that still doesn’t feel remotely aged or battered, and just utterly flawless and exquisitely paced, Wes Craven’s marvelous horror flick defined a generation of moviegoers.

1 Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Nightmare On Elm Street Gets Our Top Spot In Best Wes Craven Movies
New line cinema

Creepy, spooky, classic, and sometimes sticky and rubbery, Nightmare on Elm Street has every right to have his Freddy Krueger character announced as one of horror’s main villains. In such a simple yet ingenious premise, teenagers are sent by a dead serial killer via the one place they can’t hide: their dreams. Turn off the lights and close the blinds, and nightmare on Elm Street remains incredibly scary. The many sequels would be a fully mixed bag (dream warriors is excellent, Part 2 and the remake are just abysmal), but this original is perhaps Craven’s crowning achievement.

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