Top 10 Best Wes Craven Movies

Written by George Pacheco Wes Craven is not only a pioneer of modern horror, but by many accounts has also set the standard for the genre! WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Scariest Wes Craven Movies! But what will take the top spot on our list? Will it be 'Scream', 'A Nightmare on Elm Street', or 'The Hills Have Eyes'? Watch to find out! Watch on WatchMojo: Big thanks to Henners250, EpicJason2000, sarahjessicaparkerth, Walter Johnson, Jedimperial96, David NM, mac121mr0, David North, simeon anderson, Louie M Solivan Jr, Ditmas148, Zach Heher, MikeMJPMUNCH and Fin490 for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out the suggest page here: WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Wes+Craven+Movies

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He was considered one of the finest creative voices in the world of horror, and his work has stood the test of time. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Wes Craven Movies.

For this list, we’re looking at the most influential and successful films from Wes Craven’s diverse filmography, while also taking into account how strong a connection there is between those movies and Craven’s equally diverse fan base.

#10: “Scream 2” (1997)

This first sequel to Wes Craven’s smash hit “Scream” not only satirized the validity of extended horror franchises; it also defied the odds by successfully building upon what was the director’s most popular film in years. “Scream 2” did well with fans and critics, despite script elements leaking the identities of the killers to an Internet audience, and continued the series’ mixture of frights, laughs, and self-referential humor. Of course, the fact that so many members of the original cast returned to the scene of the crime also made it easy for “Scream 2” to once again score big with horror fans in the late nineties.

#9: “Red Eye” (2005)

This 2005 film proved that Wes Craven didn’t necessarily have to work within the realms of horror or fantasy to frighten us to our very core. “Red Eye” was a taut and tension-filled thriller based very much in the real world, dealing with a hotel manager, played by Rachel McAdams, who ends up in close quarters with a disturbed terrorist, portrayed to the hilt by Cillian Murphy. Both of these actors hold “Red Eye” together with their strong performances, and Craven proves to be a capable pacemaker as his film delivers nail-biting anxiety at thirty thousand feet.

#8: “SCRE4M” (2011)

It had been over ten years since Wes Craven last visited the world of Sidney Prescott, with “Scream 4” landing at just about the right place and time. For one, it had been long enough for fans to look back on the first “Scream” with a sense of nostalgia. Secondly, Craven collaborated with original “Scream” writer Kevin Williamson on the screenplay, although “Scream 3” writer Ehren Kruger was brought in for rewrites. This led to a film that, although not a financial windfall, did well with critics and fans. Sadly, it was Craven’s last directed film before his death in 2015.

#7: “The Serpent and the Rainbow” (1988)

Perhaps one of the most underrated films in Wes Craven’s extensive filmography, “The Serpent and the Rainbow” tackles the dark and mysterious world of voodoo. Bill Pullman stars as a Harvard anthropologist who visits Haiti on behalf of a large pharmaceutical company in search of a drug linked to the ancient practice of Voodoo zombies. Craven’s film drips with atmosphere, and boasts some intense performances from Pullman and his costar Zakes Mokae, as the commander of Haiti’s local paramilitary force. If you’re looking for a deep Craven cut to watch in the dark, this is the one.

#6: “The Last House on the Left” (1972)

Keep telling yourself, “It’s only a movie!” “The Last House on the Left” shocked and horrified audiences back in 1972, and it continues to disturb newcomers today, thanks to its palpable atmosphere of sleaze and depravity. The film takes inspiration from Ingmar Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring,” as it describes the aftermath of the torture and sexual assault of two young women. Craven’s take actually started life as an idea for a hardcore adult film, and even went so far as to cast adult pioneer Fred Lincoln in the role of Weasel. Grimy and grim, this exploitation classic pulls no punches.

#5: “The People Under the Stairs” (1991)

Although the horror genre’s golden age was starting to be tarnished back in 1991, no one told Wes Craven. A fan favorite, “The People Under the Stairs” is a unique film that not only follows a young African-American protagonist; it also balances the sort of laughs and scares Craven would become known for. The horror flick sees feral, cannibal children dwelling beneath the floorboards of a disturbed slumlord couple. The villains meet their match when placed against Poindexter “Fool” Williams, an inner city youth determined to discover the secrets behind these people under the stairs. This one may’ve come out in the early-‘90s, but it holds up remarkably well.

#4: “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” (1994)

Wes Craven first experimented with meta-humor and self-referential content in this early nineties entry into the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise. Fans who were tired of the smart-alecky Freddy Krueger of late period “Nightmare” sequels would be given a very serious wake-up call here in “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare,” as the dream demon child murderer enters reality to stalk actress Heather Langenkamp, the actress who played Nancy in the original film. Craven appears as himself in “New Nightmare,” alongside Robert Englund and “Elm Street” co-star John Saxon, creating a surreal world where death imitates art, and no one is ever safe from their deepest, darkest nightmares.

#3: “The Hills Have Eyes” (1977)

Wes Craven was on a roll when he released “The Hills Have Eyes” in 1977, working hard to cement himself as one of the most intense and visceral filmmakers of the decade. “The Hills Have Eyes” follows a family whose ride breaks down while on a road trip. As you can imagine, they soon run afoul of a wandering group of violent, cannibalistic maniacs. Craven ramps up the conflict and tension here in this film, utilizing the desolate landscapes, creepy antagonists and Don Peake’s unsettling musical score. “The Hills Have Eyes” would haunt fans for years to come, even receiving a dreary, violent remake from director Alexandre Aja in 2006.

#2: “Scream” (1996)

This is where it all hits home for many younger fans of Wes Craven’s cinematic output: the landmark meta-slasher known succinctly as “Scream.” Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson would strike gold with this smart, witty, and genuinely frightening take on classic slasher tropes, combined with a classic “whodunnit?” script that packs one hell of a final twist. “Scream” may have been indirectly responsible for a glut of uninspired rip-offs after its 1996 release, but Craven’s film thankfully holds up pretty well years later, thanks to its cast of talented actors delivering memorable, powerful performances. “Scream” is a nineties horror classic for the record books.

No honorable mentions this time around.

#1: “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)

Could there really be any other film at the top of our list? Wes Craven may be gone, but he’s left us with one iconic horror villain in the form of Freddy Krueger - that demonic, razor-fingered man of our dreams. The idea of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” was actually based on an article Craven had read about a rash of Khmer refugees who were suffering crippling nightmares that eventually led to their deaths. Combine this fascinating perspective with fantastic special effects and Robert Englund’s classic performance as Krueger, and you have an enduring horror legacy that continues to haunt audiences of all generations.

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