Wes Craven's Most Terrifying Films, Ranked

A frightfully memorable filmographyHorror fans have lost their king. Over his decades-long career, Wes Craven made some of the most memorable horror films ever; his legacy goes way beyond the Scream and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises. If you’re looking to honor him – or just get to know him – via your favorite streaming service this weekend, we’ve got your definitive watch list all pick out for you, ranked from worthy to all-out best. (Photo: Corbis) 16. My Soul To TakeDon't you just hate finding out that you're schizophrenic and a serial killer? And just when your baby is about to be born too, darn it. The premise sounds silly, and to many critics, it was, but Craven's take on ripper films (including a killer actually named the Ripper) is still essential viewing for anyone wanting the comprehensive Craven experience. (Photo by: Rogue Pictures) 15. ShockerHere's a shocker: This wasn't Craven's best film, but anybody who's ever had nightmares about being sent to the electric chair will get chills from this one. (Photo credit: Universal Pictures) 14. Deadly BlessingIs this Craven’s best work? Hardly. Is it even his most memorable? Actually … maybe. Consider: Critics have called this 1981 flick an early sign of Craven’s promise as a director who could elevate a mundane, cultists-on-a-farm flick into something fresh and interesting. Plus: There’s an early appearance by a budding actress named Sharon Stone. (Photo by: United Artists) 13. The Hills Have Eyes 2 (Metacritic score: 32)Believe it or not, there was a time when the bloodthirsty-cannibal-inbred-hillbilly genre was not a well-known thing. We largely have Craven to thank for our enlightenment. Craven’s second installment about said bloodthirsty cannibal inbred hillbillies is not his best, but if you like your horror with a heaping helping of hatchet murders with a side of exploitation, this 1985 film is a must-watch. (Photo by: Castle Hill Productions) 12. Scream 3 (Metacritic score: 56)One of Craven’s hallmarks was his ability to not take his horror too seriously. That approach hit its peak with the Scream series, a self-aware, self-parodying look at teen slasher films. This third installment, from 2000, was hailed by critics as being equal parts funny and scary, thanks in large part to comedy-savvy series regulars such as David Arquette and Courtney Cox. (Photo by: Dimension Films) 11. Scream 4 (Metacritic score: 52)It’s rare to see a fourth series installment that’s better than the third, but according to fans and critics, that’s exactly what happened to the Scream franchise in 2011. American Horror Story fans will recognize a 20-year-old Emma Roberts, whose purported victimhood at the hands of the Ghostface killer isn’t all it’s sliced up to be. (Photo by: Dimension Films) 10. Swamp ThingThere may be better iterations of this comic book classic out there, but for what’s essentially a rubber-suited monster movie, this 1982 flick is actually pretty good, forgoing any attempt at grandiose statements for 91 minutes of pure popcorn fun. Even Roger Ebert gave the film three out of a possible four stars, saying, ”There's beauty in this movie, if you know where to look for it.” (Photo by: Embassy Pictures) 9. The Hills Have EyesThis 1977 movie is the big, bad granddaddy of hillbilly cannibal slashers. Plus, it’s based on a very real inspiration: Sawney Bean, head of a 48-member, people-eating clan operating out of 15th-century Scotland. That said, do not look for high historic Oscar-bait here. In fact, do not look directly at your screen at all if you’re not into exploitation horror. This is rape and cannibalism at its starkest…or most inventive, depending on your point of view. (Photo by: Blood Relations) The Last House on the Left (Metacritic score: 42)Two fun-loving teenage girls are on their way to a concert when they’re captured and tortured. This could make for a really rotten movie, but Roger Ebert gave the 1972 film three and a half stars out of four, calling it "about four times as good as you'd expect.” (Photo by: MGM) 7. The People Under the StairsOpening at No. 1 when it debuted at the box office in 1991, this film is once again about cannibalism, but among children. We won’t say much more than that, except to add that this film, too, was inspired by a true story, which makes it all the more terrifying. (Photo by: Universal Pictures) 6. The Serpent and the RainbowReal life can inspire some pretty terrifying horror, and Craven knew he had gold when he got his hands on Wade Davis’s real-life account of zombie-chasing in Haiti. Was the movie anything like the book? No. But does the movie do an excellent job of exploiting everybody’s very real fear of being buried alive? Heck. Yes. (Photo by: Universal Pictures) 5. Wes Craven's New NightmareIf you’re obsessed with the Scream franchise, you must see this 1994 film. Unlike earlier installments in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, this one makes the wise choice to poke fun at itself and the genre as a whole–a decision that film historians see as a foreshadowing of Screams to come. (Photo by: New Line Cinema) 4. Red Eye (Metacritic score: 71)No, it’s not horror. But it is a thriller, and it’s plenty disturbing. Rachel McAdams stars as a women kidnapped while on a passenger plane. Passenger planes are unnerving enough without kidnappers operating unchecked, and Craven knows exactly how to ratchet up the tension in small spaces. (Photo by: DreamWorks) 3. Scream 2 (Metacritic score: 63)Craven was very aware of how audiences saw sequels. So in 1997, when he needed to create a sequel to the hit Scream, he did so with plenty of self-referential humor about why “sequels suck.” Moviegoers loved it. Craven’s murderer, motivated by a desire for fame and media coverage, now seems more than ahead of his time. (Photo by: Dimension Films) 2. Nightmare on Elm Street (Metacritic score: 35)Yes, this was Johnny Depp’s first feature movie. But more importantly, this 1984 slasher flick was scary as hell, thanks to a brand-new boogeyman named Freddy Krueger and very relatable theme: the nexus between teen anxiety and sexuality. (Photo by: New Line Cinema) 1. Scream (Metacritic score: 65)These days, the best genre films, whether they’re comic book or sci-fi or fantasy or horror, seem to be stories that are aware of how silly and cliched they can be. Craven seemed to have figured this out before anybody else, blending meta-references with genuine horror in this 1996 smash hit. This film is also credited with–sorry, not sorry–infusing new blood into a tired genre, as well as inviting women to the party by considering their needs as much as male audience members. (Photo by: Dimension Films)
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Found: 01.09.2015


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