Sam Raimi’s Horror and Fantasy Movies (So Far), Ranked

Sam Raimi’s Horror and Fantasy Movies (So Far), Ranked

With Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness arriving on Friday (read Gizmodo’s review here!), now’s the perfect time to revisit the uniquely weird and often gruesome filmography of director Sam Raimi — a horror icon who’s achieved blockbuster success while also retaining his cult-beloved status.

Today we’ll be ranking his genre films to date — his preferred turf, though he has made forays into other realms, including neo-noir (A Simple Plan), dark comedy (early entry Crimewave, written with the Coen Brothers; he also co-wrote the Coens’ The Hudsucker Proxy), Western (The Quick and the Dead), and Regrettable Kevin Costner Maudlin Baseball Drama (For the Love of the Game). He’s also had a hand in some of our favourite TV series, including Xena: Warrior Princess and Ash vs. Evil Dead. But today, it’s all about Raimi’s pre-Strange movies. Most of these are top-notch, so the ranking is really more of a formality, but without further ado…

10) Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

You’d be forgiven for forgetting that Raimi made this great-looking but sluggish Wizard of Oz riff starring Mila Kunis (as the Wicked Witch of the West), Rachel Weisz (the Wicked Witch of the East), Michelle Williams (Glinda the Good Witch), James Franco (Oz), and flying monkeys that are somehow more terrifying than the ones from the original Oz. He’d probably be relieved if you did, to be honest.

9) Spider-Man 3 (2007)

“It’s a movie that just didn’t work very well,” Raimi said in 2014 of this franchise entry, which Gizmodo ranked late last year as the worst among Spider-Man films to date. “I tried to make it work, but I didn’t really believe in all the characters, and so that can’t be hidden from people who loved Spider-Man. If the director doesn’t love something, it’s wrong of them to make it when so many other people love it.”

8) The Gift (2000)

Screenshot: Paramount Classics
Screenshot: Paramount Classics

Here’s where it starts to get tough, because The Gift — starring (deep breath) Cate Blanchett, Keanu Reeves, Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank, Katie Holmes, Kim Dickens, Giovanni Ribisi, Gary Cole, future J. Jonah Jameson J.K. Simmons, and future Aunt May Rosemary Harris — is an atmospheric, enjoyable supernatural whodunnit. Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson co-wrote the script about a single-mum psychic (Blanchett) in small-town Georgia whose “gift” embroils her in a spooky mystery.

7) Drag Me to Hell (2009)

Its “gypsy curse” plot point hasn’t aged well (it was problematic back in 2009, and it somehow feels even worse now), but its recession-era career horrors feel more prescient than ever — and its gleeful gore is absolutely timeless.

6) Spider-Man (2002)

These days it’s difficult to imagine a pop-culture landscape not dominated by superheroes, but when Spider-Man was released in 2002, Marvel Comics was not yet the cinematic behemoth we know it as today. With its then-cutting-edge special effects, effective plotting, and savvy casting (the Tobey Maguire-Kirsten Dunst upside-down kiss was instantly iconic; Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of the Green Goblin was so potent, he was the natural choice for the most dreaded Spidey-foe 20 years later in Spider-Man: No Way Home), Spider-Man was a critical and commercial success — and provided momentum for the wave of box-office heroes that would follow in its wake.

5) Darkman (1990)

One of the best (and bleakest) superhero movies ever made is also a monster movie in disguise. It was Raimi’s studio debut and is based on his own original story idea — no cinematic universes or multiverses here whatsoever! — and it features a memorably tortured performance by then-rising star Liam Neeson.

4) Army of Darkness (1992)

Most filmmakers could die happy knowing they’d made a near-perfect film like Army of Darkness — the third in the Evil Dead series, it sends Bruce Campbell’s reluctantly heroic Ash Williams back to the Middle Ages, where proves just as adept and also inept (“Klaatu! Badada! … Necktie?”) at fighting the demonic undead. But most filmmakers aren’t Sam Raimi, which is why Army of Darkness is merely number four on this list.

3) The Evil Dead (1981)

Screenshot: New Line Cinema
Screenshot: New Line Cinema

In this low-budget masterpiece, a group of friends head to a cabin in the woods and stumble upon a copy of the ancient Book of the Dead. What could possibly go wrong? Multiple careers were kick-started, a DIY Steadicam created some of the scariest shots in cinematic history, and the entire horror genre would never be the same. And the franchise is still going, with a made-for-HBO-Max Evil Dead entry due this year or next.

2) Spider-Man 2 (2004)

No surprise here. Gizmodo recently dubbed Spider-Man 2a perfect sequel” — something of a Raimi specialty, as this list’s next (and tip-top!) entry suggests.

1) Evil Dead II (1987)

Just as groovy now as it was in 1987. Groovy forever, baby!

Want more Gizmodo news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.