The Definitive Ranking of Wes Craven’s Horror Movies

When Wes Craven passed away, we lost one of the greatest horror creators of all time. He was poignant and smart, but never felt like he was above the audience. If you only know a few pieces of his work, this is definitely a great time to catch up. Here is the definitive ranking of Craven’s horror movies. We didn’t include the made-for-television films, but if you make it through these, be sure to check them out next.

20. The Fireworks Woman (1975)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, the fireworks woman
OK, so technically it was never 100 percent confirmed that Craven directed this awful film (the credit is given to someone called Abe Snake), so we can always cling to a sliver of hope that he didn’t…even though he totally did. The whole thing is a mess involving incest and subpar acting, but they can’t all be grand slams, right?

19. My Soul to Take (2010)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, my soul to take
I can watch a lot of below average horror movies, but “My Soul to Take” was a chore to finish. It doesn’t even feel like a Wes Craven movie. The concept is fine, but the story gets so sluggish and confusing that you honestly lose track of what’s even going on. Let’s just chalk this one up to Abe Snake, as well.

18. The Hills Have Eyes II (2007)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, the hills have eyes ii
The problem with “The Hills Have Eyes” sequel is that there was no use for it whatsoever. It honestly feels like one of those cheap knockoff movies where they create a similar title to a hit and hope people at Redbox will accidentally grab the wrong one. There’s also a scene where a dog has a flashback. That’s not a joke.

17. Cursed (2005)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, cursed
If you watch the director’s cut, “Cursed” is at least tolerable. The cast is solid and loaded with young talent, but Craven didn’t even want to be involved in it, so why would audiences? The PG-13 version is edited down to the point that it barely holds together as a logical story. You can definitely skip this one.

16. Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, vampire in brooklyn
Eddie Murphy has had some real bombs, but the collaboration of Craven and Norbit just doesn’t seem like a recipe for success. Audiences didn’t really jump on “Vampire in Brooklyn” because it just feels a bit off. It’s not quite bad enough to be a guilty pleasure and not quite good enough to be an actual quality film.

15. The People Under the Stairs (1991)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, the people under the stairs
The title and idea were definitely the scariest parts of “The People Under the Stairs,” but Craven proved he was still a master of suspense (blended with a little bit of comedy). There’s also a little bit of a “Home Alone” vibe to this film, but on a much more intense level.

14. Deadly Friend (1986)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, deadly friend
There is no movie that embraces the title of guilty pleasure quite like “Deadly Friend.” It follows the story of a young girl, played by Kristy Swanson, who ends up brain dead after an accident. She is then brought back to life with a computer chip implanted into her brain. So there’s that.

13. Swamp Thing (1982)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, swamp thing
As far as campy horror movies of the ’80s go, “Swamp Thing” may be one of the most underrated. By no means does it hold up as an actual quality film, but the characters are fun, the Swamp Thing suit is ridiculous and the deaths are over the top. What more could you ever want?

12. Deadly Blessing (1981)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, deadly blessing
This is definitely the forgotten classic out of Craven’s catalog. I don’t want to give too much away because it’s one of those movies that’s better the less you know about it, but if you want to find a new classic that you’ll kick yourself for not seeing sooner, this is the one for you.

11. Scream 3 (2000)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, scream 3
Out of all of the “Scream” movies, this was definitely the weakest installment. But a bad “Scream” is still better than most horror movies. You can tell that the franchise was stretching a bit, but it’s a nice ending to the original trilogy that defined ’90s horror.

10. Red Eye (2005)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, red eye
“Red Eye” never reached the level of love that, say, “Scream” received, but it’s sleek, smart and constantly fun. Out of all the Craven classics, this one always flies under the radar. It’s definitely worth checking out if you missed it. And if you haven’t seen it, get ready for a nice little thriller with some genuine shocks and surprises.

9. Shocker (1989)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, shocker
If you don’t enjoy “Shocker,” you need to learn to take more pleasure in life. After all, it’s a movie about a serial killer that gets put to death in the electric chair but comes back to life in electronic devices to get revenge. How does that not sound like the greatest achievement in the history of cinema?

8. The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, the serpent and the rainbow
Instead of using a virus outbreak like every other zombie movie, Craven used voodoo to create white zombies, which are so much more terrifying. In a world that’s now flooded with zombie films, TV shows and games, this just might be the alternative you need.

7. Scream 4 (2011)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, scream 4
Years after the original, fans were optimistic about finally getting another installment, but obviously nervous that it was just a desperate attempt to cash in on the name. It’s not perfect, but “Scream 4” is wildly entertaining and does a fantastic job of introducing the franchise to a whole new generation of viewers.

6. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, the hills have eyes
Normally people in horror movies get lost in the woods because the woods are notoriously creepy. With “The Hills Have Eyes,” Craven flipped the script and stuck his victims in the middle of the desert. It was imaginative and terrifying, and will always be remembered as an all-time classic. The 2006 remake isn’t completely awful, but there’s nothing quite like the original.

5. The Last House on the Left (1972)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, the last house on the left
Craven’s first film shocked and horrified audiences while setting him up to be one of the most iconic horror directors of all time. “The Last House on the Left” is based around more human evil than any monsters or creatures, but boy does it stick with you days after you’ve watched it.

4. Scream 2 (1997)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, scream 2
Most sequels feel forced and uninspired. “Scream 2” may actually be scarier than its predecessor. The twists are just as good and, best of all, it flows perfectly from the original without relying on simply retelling the previous film’s plot. It’s proof that a sequel doesn’t instantly mean a disappointment.

3. New Nightmare (1994)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, wes craven's new nightmare
By 1994, Freddy Krueger had gotten downright silly. He was basically a cartoon character with no resemblance to the classic monster that haunted our dreams in the original film. “New Nightmare” brought back scary, evil Freddy in full force. It’s arguably the most terrifying film Craven ever made.

2. Scream (1996)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, scream
Horror was on life support in the ’90s and seemed to be fading into an afterthought. That is, until Craven came along with “Scream” and totally reinvigorated everything. It was fresh, original and poked fun at all the tropes of the genre, but from a place of love instead of disrespect. Best of all, it still holds up and probably always will despite severely outdated technology.

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
best wes craven films, ranking wes craven movies, a nightmare on elm street
While “Scream” reignited the genre, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is a cornerstone of horror. Even if you care nothing about scary movies, you know about Freddy Krueger because he’s become an intricate part of pop culture. It’s one of the greatest fright flicks of all time. Even if Craven stopped making movies after this one, he would still be a legend.