(Ch)Op-Ed #10: The Top 15 Wes Craven Horror Films

Wes Craven is one of the most highly revered directors in horror, often battling John Carpenter for the top spot of modern horror maestro. But when you get down to it and examine his filmography, it’s pretty top heavy. He launched two of the biggest horror franchises in history, but beyond that, his movies are a little different. His reliance on booby traps, wise cracking villains, over the top endings, and very weird tonal shifts, all can make for uneven films. With that out of the way, I present to you my top 15 Wes Craven horror films. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves the good and the bad points of my list. Enjoy. 


15. My Soul to Take (2010)


“A serial killer returns to his hometown to stalk seven children who share the same birthday as the date he was allegedly put to rest.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 10% 

IMDb: 4.7 

Profit:  21.5 million dollars box office vs. 25 million dollar production costs 

An interesting concept is thrown in the trash with heavy inhuman dialogue.

14. Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)


“A ship docks in Brooklyn with all its crew dead, but someone gets off and the killing continues on land. A Caribbean vampire is searching for a specific woman, half-human half-vampire. Rita is the detective investigating the many killings.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 12% 

IMDb: 4.6 

Profit:  35 million dollars box office vs. 14 million dollar production costs 

Tonal shifts ruin a potential dream super team of Craven and Murphy make for a confusing movie. Is it a comedy? Or is it horror?

13. Cursed (2005)


“A werewolf loose in Los Angeles changes the lives of three young adults who, after being mauled by the beast, learn they must kill it in order to avoid becoming werewolves themselves.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 15% 

IMDb: 5.0 

Profit:  29 million dollars box office vs. 75 million dollar production costs 

Studio interference ruined any chance for this Gen X horror film to find any success.

12. Deadly Friend (1986)

“After his friend is killed by her abusive father, the new kid in town attempts to save her by implanting a robotic microchip into her brain.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 20% 

IMDb: 5.5 

Profit:  8.9 million dollars box office vs. 11 million dollar production costs 

MPAA cuts be damned, this is a fun albeit uneven, amateurish and very awkward film. 

11. Shocker (1989)


“After being sent to the electric chair, a serial killer uses electricity to come back from the dead and carry out his vengeance on the football player who turned him in to the police.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 30% 

IMDb: 5.5 

Profit:  16. million dollars box office vs. 10 million dollar production costs 

Another tonal mess that walks the line of over the top wisecracking pre-Scream idol worshipping weirdness and pure horror. 

10. Last House on the Left  (1972)


“Two teenage girls heading to a rock concert for one’s birthday try to score marijuana in the city, where they are kidnapped and brutalized by a gang of psychopathic convicts.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 63% 

IMDb: 5.9 

Profit:  2.3 million dollars box office vs. 90,000 dollar production costs 

Another tonal mess that walks the line between bad taste and horror. 

9. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)


“On the way to California, a family has the misfortune to have their car break down in an area closed to the public, and inhabited by violent savages ready to attack.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 67% 

IMDb: 6.3 

Profit:  25 million dollars box office vs. 350,000 dollar production costs 

Tonally a mess, this film had a remake that was ten times better than the original. On the other hand, it’s also a fun exploitation cult classic. 

8. Scream 3 (2000)


“While Sidney and her friends visit the Hollywood set of Stab 3, the third film based on the Woodsboro murders, another Ghostface killer rises to terrorize them.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 41% 

IMDb: 5.6 

Profit:  161 million dollars box office vs. 40 million dollar production costs 

The sequel that put the franchise into hibernation for 11 years, this one jumped the shark with crazy cameos that came off as desperate and no longer innovative. 

7. People Under the Stairs (1991)


“Two adults and a juvenile break into a house occupied by a brother and sister and their stolen children. There, they must fight for their lives.”  

Rotten Tomatoes: 70% 

IMDb: 6.4 

Profit:  31 million dollars box office vs. 6 million dollar production costs 

An adult fairy tale that is as fun as it is ludicrous, while also meditating on race and class. 

6. Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)


“An anthropologist goes to Haiti after hearing rumors about a drug used by black magic practitioners to turn people into zombies.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 62% 

IMDb: 6.4 

Profit:  19.6 million dollars box office vs. 7 million dollar production costs 

An interesting idea that gets even more interesting as you dive into the behind the scenes drama that occurred, this film is hampered by an over the top ending that erases the fine acting involved by Zakes Mokae.

5. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)


“A demonic force has chosen Freddy Krueger as its portal to the real world. Can Heather Langenkamp play the part of Nancy one last time and trap the evil trying to enter our world?” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 79% 

IMDb: 6.4 

Profit:  19.8 million dollars box office vs. 8 million dollar production costs 

The first attempt at meta-horror by Wes that would later be perfected by Scream, this interesting idea is plagued by constant real world explanations including numerous earthquakes. 

4. Scream 4 (2011)


“Ten years have passed, and Sidney Prescott, who has put herself back together thanks in part to her writing, is visited by the Ghostface Killer.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 60% 

IMDb: 6.2 

Profit:  97 million dollars box office vs. 40 million dollar production costs 

The film that ended the franchise for over 10 years, it’s not as bad as history would dictate, instead ushering in a new generation of characters while blending the legacy characters perfectly.

3. Scream 2 (1997)


“Two years after the first series of murders, as Sidney acclimates to college life, someone donning the Ghostface costume begins a new string of killings.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 82% 

IMDb: 6.3 

Profit:  172 million dollars box office vs. 24 million dollar production costs 

One of the rare times that a sequel builds and perfects the world in which the original exists. 

2. Scream (1996)


“A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a masked killer who targets her and her friends by using scary movies as part of a deadly game.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 81% 

IMDb: 7.4 

Profit:  173 million dollars box office vs. 14 million dollar production costs 

The original, genre defining, force of nature that turned 90s horror on its head, ushering in a new era of Gen X box office dominance. 

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)


“Teenager Nancy Thompson must uncover the dark truth concealed by her parents after she and her friends become targets of the spirit of a serial killer with a bladed glove in their dreams, in which if they die, it kills them in real life.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 95% 

IMDb: 7.4 

Profit:  57 million dollars box office vs. 1.1 million dollar production costs 

One of the biggest horror franchises starts here, in one of the most horrifying nightmare inducing films of all time, creating one of the most iconic and popular horror icons of all time. 


Did I miss anything? I chose not to include The Hills Have Eyes Part 2, as it’s production was ceased before finishing and clips from the first were inserted to pad runtime, as well as any of his made for television films, which are difficult to find let alone castrated by the networks. Swamp Thing is a superhero movie, and Deadly Blessing is quite honestly, the one movie in his filmography that I have never seen. I have added it to my queue. Red Eye is more of a thriller as opposed to anything remotely scary. And I’m so sorry to disappoint all of you Music of the Heart fans out there, but as scary as that film is, it’s not horror. 

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I like the 80s, slasher films, Italian directors, Evil Ed, Trash and Nancy, Ripley and Private First Class Hudson, retro crap but not SyFy crap, old school skin, Freddy and Savini, Spinell and Coscarelli, Andre Toulon, and last, but not least, Linda Blair.