(Photo by Rogue Pictures, Dimension Film, New Line, DreamWorks / courtesy Everett Collection)
All 20 Wes Craven Movies Ranked by Tomatometer
Wes Craven’s debut, 1972’s scarring rape-revenge thriller The Last House on the Left, was among the first cross-cultural grindhouse flicks out there: It cost $87,00 to make and made back 36 times as much. At the time, America was mired deep in a losing Vietnam War slog just as its citizens lost faith in their social institutions, a mood reflected in Last House‘s success, announcing audiences’ new appetite for gritty, grubby, boundary-pushing cinema. Craven, already hardened beyond most normal sensibilities after a previous career directing pornographic films under different nom de guerres, knew how to push the violence, sex, and rage right up to the edge.
With aspirations to emerge from the horror grotto, Craven nonetheless returned to the genre in 1977 with the agitated, belligerent The Hills Have Eyes, which transported the menace of Last House into the desert mountains.
The ’80s were the golden age of slasher movies, with thanks in no small part to Craven. He dipped his toe into the subgenre with 1981’s Deadly Blessing, before making the enormous slashy splash with A Nightmare on Elm Street. Dozens of slashers were being released a year by 1984, but it was Craven’s bright idea to freshen things up by bringing the supernatural into the mix, thus creating one of horror’s great icons: Freddy Krueger, as portrayed by Robert Englund.
Horror films had a tough go at it in the ’90s, both creatively and at the box office, with Craven one of few genre directors to survive with a career intact. Always one to infuse satire and literacy into the shocks wherever he could, Craven turned to meta-textual tricks for New Nightmare and Scream. The latter fit like a knife in snug flesh with the decade’s laid-back cynicism, ushering in a new age of teen slashers.
Highlights of Craven’s post-Scream career include, of course, the well-received first sequel, directing Meryl Streep to an Academy Award nomination in Music of the Heart, and the Certified Fresh thriller Red Eye. Scream 4, in 2011, would become his final movie – and it just recently ticked over onto Fresh territory. Here, we look back on a storied film journey from one of the undisputed masters of horror, with all Wes Craven movies ranked by Tomatometer! —Alex Vo
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
It's been eight years since Bobby (John Laughlin) barely survived being terrorized and held captive by a group of desert-dwelling... [More]
Adjusted Score: 12256%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
A teenage whiz kid (Matthew Laborteaux) puts his robot's brain in the head of a nearly dead girl (Kristy Swanson).... [More]
Adjusted Score: 11540%
Critics Consensus: Neither scary nor very funny, this misguided effort never lives up to its premise.
In the wake of her mother's death in a mental institution, detective Rita Veder (Angela Bassett) is assigned to a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 10818%
Critics Consensus: Dull, joyless, and formulaic, My Soul to Take suggests writer/director Wes Craven ended his five-year filmmaking hiatus too soon.
In the small town of Riverton, a local legend tells of a serial killer's oath to come back and kill... [More]
Adjusted Score: 13715%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Friends visit a recent widow (Maren Jensen) who is frightened by the leader (Ernest Borgnine) of a neo-Hittite sect.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 18722%
Critics Consensus: A predictable plot and cheesy special effects make Cursed a less-than-scary experience.
In Los Angeles, siblings Ellie (Christina Ricci) and Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) come across an accident on Mulholland Drive. As they... [More]
Adjusted Score: 25107%
Critics Consensus: With an intriguing enough premise and horror legend Wes Craven on writer-director duty, the real Shocker here is just how lame the end results turned out to be.
After being captured for a series of gruesome murders, Horace Pinker, a television repairman, faces execution by the electric chair... [More]
Adjusted Score: 45397%
Critics Consensus: Despite some surprising twists, Scream 3 sees the franchise falling back on the same old horror formulas and cliches it once hacked and slashed with postmodern abandon.
In the final installment to this trilogy, a murdering spree begins to happen again; this time targeted toward the original... [More]
Adjusted Score: 67561%
Critics Consensus: The franchise is showing its age, but Scream 4 is undeniably an improvement over its predecessor, with just enough meta humor and clever kills.
It has been many years since the Ghostface Killer cut a deadly path through the town of Woodsboro. In order... [More]
Adjusted Score: 70823%
Critics Consensus: Held aloft by gonzo black comedy and socially conscious subtext, The People Under The Stairs marks a unique -- though wildly uneven -- change of pace for director Wes Craven.
When young Fool (Brandon Adams) breaks into the home of his family's greedy and uncaring landlords, he discovers a disturbing... [More]
Adjusted Score: 65774%
Critics Consensus: Its visceral brutality is more repulsive than engrossing, but The Last House on the Left nevertheless introduces director Wes Craven as a distinctive voice in horror.
Teenagers Mari (Sandra Cassel) and Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) head to the city for a concert, then afterward go looking for... [More]
Adjusted Score: 66528%
Critics Consensus: Meryl Streep's depiction of an ordinary person doing extraordinary things transcends, inspires, and entertains.
After being abandoned by her husband, depressed music teacher Roberta (Meryl Streep) lands a job teaching violin to underprivileged children... [More]
Adjusted Score: 68038%
Critics Consensus: When it's not bludgeoning the viewer with its more off-putting, cruder elements, The Hills Have Eyes wields some clever storytelling and a sly sense of dark humor.
Wes Craven's cult classic about cannibalistic mountain folk on the trail of stranded vacationers in the arid Southwest.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 64825%
Critics Consensus: Although it's occasionally overwhelmed by excessive special effects, The Serpent and the Rainbow draws on a chilling atmosphere to deliver a intelligent, politically informed story.
In a time of social and political unrest in Haiti, anthropologist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) travels to the torn country... [More]
Adjusted Score: 60927%
Critics Consensus: Unabashedly campy -- often to its detriment -- Swamp Thing is not without its charms, among them Adrienne Barbeau as the damsel in distress.
On the verge of a breakthrough in his quest to wipe out world hunger, altruistic botanist Dr. Alec Holland (Ray... [More]
Adjusted Score: 83765%
Critics Consensus: Horror icon Wes Craven's subversive deconstruction of the genre is sly, witty, and surprisingly effective as a slasher film itself, even if it's a little too cheeky for some.
The sleepy little town of Woodsboro just woke up screaming. There's a killer in their midst who's seen a few... [More]
Adjusted Score: 87300%
Critics Consensus: With solid performances and tight direction from Wes Craven, Red Eye is a brisk, economic thriller.
In the wake of her grandmother's funeral, hotel manager Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) is waiting to fly back home when... [More]
Adjusted Score: 80125%
Critics Consensus: Wes Craven's New Nightmare adds an unexpectedly satisfying - not to mention intelligent - meta layer to a horror franchise that had long since lost its way.
Reality and fantasy meet in unsettling ways in this installment of the long-running horror series, which finds director Wes Craven... [More]
Adjusted Score: 85632%
Critics Consensus: As with the first film, Scream 2 is a gleeful takedown of scary movie conventions that manages to poke fun at terrible horror sequels without falling victim to the same fate.
Sydney (Neve Campbell) and tabloid reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) survived the events of the first "Scream," but their nightmare... [More]
Adjusted Score: 97675%
Critics Consensus: Wes Craven's intelligent premise, combined with the horrifying visual appearance of Freddy Krueger, still causes nightmares to this day.
In Wes Craven's classic slasher film, several Midwestern teenagers fall prey to Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a disfigured midnight mangler... [More]