Wes Craven was a renowned horror film director and screenwriter who is best known for his innovative and boundary-pushing contributions to the horror genre. His films are often characterized by their suspense, violence, and unsettling themes, and have become cult classics in the genre. Here is an introduction to some of Wes Craven’s best films:
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): This classic horror film centers on a group of teenagers who are terrorized by a supernatural killer named Freddy Krueger in their dreams. The film spawned a long-running franchise and cemented Craven’s reputation as a master of horror.
Scream (1996): This slasher film subverts many of the traditional tropes of the genre and features a self-aware and meta approach to horror storytelling. The film follows a group of teenagers who are stalked by a masked killer known as Ghostface.
The Hills Have Eyes (1977): This film follows a family on a road trip who become stranded in a deserted area and are subsequently attacked by a group of cannibalistic mutants. The film is known for its graphic violence and intense suspense.
The Last House on the Left (1972): This controversial film follows a group of teenage girls who are kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by a group of sadistic criminals. The film has been criticized for its graphic depictions of violence and sexual assault, but is regarded as a landmark in the horror genre for its use of psychological terror.
Best Wes Craven Movies
Wes Craven’s films are marked by their innovation and boundary-pushing approach to horror storytelling. His films continue to inspire and terrify audiences to this day.
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a classic horror film that was released in 1984. Directed by Wes Craven, the movie is known for its iconic villain, Freddy Krueger, a child killer who haunts the dreams of teenagers in the fictional town of Springwood, Ohio.
Here are a few reasons why A Nightmare on Elm Street is considered a horror classic:
The character of Freddy Krueger: Freddy Krueger is one of the most iconic villains in horror movie history. With his distinctive burned face, striped sweater, and glove with razor-sharp knives, he is a terrifying and unforgettable presence on screen.
The concept of a killer who haunts dreams: The idea of a villain who can attack people in their dreams is a unique and terrifying concept. It blurs the line between reality and fantasy, making it difficult for the characters (and the audience) to know what is real and what is not.
The use of practical effects: A Nightmare on Elm Street was made in the days before computer-generated imagery (CGI) was widely used in films.
As a result, the movie relies on practical effects to create its scares, including elaborate makeup for Freddy Krueger and the use of puppetry and animatronics for some of the film’s more gruesome scenes.
The film’s impact on horror movies: A Nightmare on Elm Street was a huge box office success and spawned a franchise of sequels, spin-offs, and even a television series. The movie also had a significant influence on the horror genre, inspiring other filmmakers to experiment with the concept of a killer who attacks people in their dreams.
Overall, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a horror classic that has stood the test of time. With its unforgettable villain, unique concept, and use of practical effects, it remains a favorite among horror fans today.
2. Scream (1996)
“Scream” is a 1996 horror film directed by Wes Craven. The film tells the story of a group of high school students who are being targeted by a masked killer known as “Ghostface.”
The film stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette, and features a self-aware and satirical take on the horror genre, with characters frequently commenting on the cliches and conventions of horror films.
One of the most notable aspects of “Scream” is its use of suspense and tension, as well as its blend of humor and horror.
The film was both a commercial and critical success, earning praise for its fresh take on the horror genre and its clever subversion of audience expectations.
It spawned several sequels and became a cultural phenomenon, influencing numerous other horror films in the years that followed.
3. New Nightmare (1994)
“New Nightmare” is a horror film released in 1994 and directed by Wes Craven. Here’s a brief introduction to the film:
The movie is a self-referential and metafictional take on the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise, in which the character of Freddy Krueger escapes from the realm of fiction and starts haunting the real-life actors who played the roles in the films.
The story follows the actress Heather Langenkamp, who played Nancy Thompson in the original “Nightmare on Elm Street,” as she is stalked by the vengeful Freddy Krueger in her real life.
As Heather becomes more and more entangled in a surreal nightmare, she realizes that the only way to defeat Freddy is to confront him in a new movie that she has agreed to make, which will be the final showdown between her and the demonic killer.
“New Nightmare” is unique in its approach to the horror genre, as it blurs the lines between reality and fiction and comments on the nature of horror storytelling.
It also features a self-aware and meta performance by Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, who plays himself as well as the character he made famous.
The film received generally positive reviews for its innovative approach to the horror genre and its clever use of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” mythology.
4. The People Under the Stairs (1991)
“The People Under the Stairs” is a 1991 horror film written and directed by Wes Craven. Here are three reasons why you should watch this cult classic:
Unique and Creepy Premise: “The People Under the Stairs” tells the story of a young boy who attempts to save a friend from a bizarre and terrifying household where the family’s children are kept hidden in the basement.
The film’s premise is both unique and unsettling, and it makes for a suspenseful and engaging viewing experience.
Strong Performances: The film features strong performances from its cast, particularly Everett McGill and Wendy Robie, who play the disturbing and enigmatic couple who are keeping the children captive.
Brandon Adams also delivers a compelling performance as the film’s young protagonist, who is determined to uncover the secrets of the house and save his friend.
Social Commentary: “The People Under the Stairs” incorporates elements of social commentary and satire into its horror storyline.
The film tackles issues such as class inequality, gentrification, and the exploitation of marginalized communities, making it both thought-provoking and unsettling.
Overall, “The People Under the Stairs” is a well-crafted and memorable horror film that remains a cult favorite among fans of the genre.
Its unique premise, strong performances, and social commentary make it a must-watch for horror fans and those interested in exploring the genre’s broader themes.
5. The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
“The Serpent and the Rainbow” is a supernatural horror film directed by Wes Craven, based on the book of the same name by Wade Davis.
The film follows an anthropologist named Dennis Alan (played by Bill Pullman) who travels to Haiti to investigate a local legend about a powerful voodoo drug that can bring the dead back to life.
Here are some key features of the film:
It explores the cultural and historical context of Haitian voodoo and its practices: The film is set against the backdrop of Haitian politics and society, and it explores the practice of voodoo and its relationship with death and the afterlife.
It blends reality with supernatural elements: The film incorporates a mix of realistic depictions of Haitian life with supernatural horror elements, blurring the line between reality and fantasy.
It features intense and graphic depictions of violence and gore: The film contains graphic scenes of violence, including scenes of torture and murder, which are depicted in a visceral and unsettling way.
Overall, “The Serpent and the Rainbow” is a haunting and intense film that showcases Wes Craven’s ability to explore complex themes and create deeply unsettling horror experiences.
6. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
“The Hills Have Eyes” is a 1977 horror film directed by Wes Craven. Here are three reasons why you should watch it:
It’s a classic horror film: “The Hills Have Eyes” is considered a classic horror film, and has influenced many horror movies that came after it.
It’s known for its intense and graphic violence, and for pushing the boundaries of what was considered acceptable in a horror film at the time.
It’s a commentary on society: The film is set in a remote area of the desert, where a family is attacked by a group of savage and deformed cannibals.
The film can be interpreted as a commentary on the fear of the “other” in society, and how we often demonize and ostracize those who are different from us.
It’s a well-crafted film: Despite its low budget, “The Hills Have Eyes” is a well-crafted film that uses its limited resources to great effect.
The film’s use of sound and music, as well as its visual style, add to its overall impact and make it a memorable and effective horror film.
7. Red Eye (2005)
“Red Eye” is a 2005 American thriller film directed by Wes Craven and starring Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy. Here are three reasons why you should watch “Red Eye”:
Tension and suspense: “Red Eye” is a tightly paced thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
The film’s plot is centered around a woman who is abducted during a flight by a mysterious man, and the tension builds throughout the film as she tries to find a way to escape.
Strong performances: Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy deliver powerful performances in “Red Eye,” bringing depth and complexity to their characters.
McAdams, in particular, shines as a resourceful and resilient woman who refuses to give up in the face of danger.
Direction and cinematography: Wes Craven’s direction and the film’s cinematography add to the overall tension and atmosphere of the film.
The tight shots and claustrophobic feel of the plane create a sense of unease and help to build the suspense. Overall, “Red Eye” is a well-crafted thriller that is both engaging and thrilling to watch.
8. Deadly Blessing (1981)
“Deadly Blessing” is a horror film directed by Wes Craven and released in 1981. The film follows a young woman named Martha Schmidt (played by Maren Jensen) who is married to a former member of a strict religious cult known as the Hittites.
When her husband is killed in a suspicious accident, Martha is left alone in the Hittite community and begins to experience a series of terrifying events.
The film also stars Sharon Stone in one of her early film roles, as well as Susan Buckner, Jeff East, and Ernest Borgnine.
“Deadly Blessing” received mixed reviews upon its release, with some critics praising its suspenseful moments and others criticizing its reliance on horror movie clichés.
However, the film has since gained a cult following among horror fans.
Notably, “Deadly Blessing” is also notable for being the first film written and directed by Wes Craven after the success of his 1977 horror film “The Hills Have Eyes.”
9. Scream 2 (1997)
“Scream 2” is a 1997 horror film directed by Wes Craven and is a sequel to the 1996 film “Scream.”
The film picks up the story two years after the original, with the same masked killer targeting a new group of characters, including survivors from the first film.
Like the first film, “Scream 2” features a self-aware and satirical take on the horror genre, with characters commenting on the conventions of sequels and horror films.
The film also continues to use suspense and tension to great effect, with a number of intense and suspenseful set pieces.
“Scream 2” received generally positive reviews upon its release and was also a commercial success. While some critics felt that the film was not as fresh or original as the first installment, it was still praised for its entertainment value and clever writing.
It has since become a cult classic and is considered one of the best horror sequels of all time.
10. The Last House on the Left (1972)
“The Last House on the Left” is a controversial horror film released in 1972 and directed by Wes Craven. Here’s a brief introduction to the film:
The movie follows two teenage girls, Mari and Phyllis, who go to the city to attend a rock concert, but end up being kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by a group of sadistic criminals who take refuge in a nearby house.
The parents of Mari, upon realizing what has happened to their daughter, take matters into their own hands and seek revenge against the perpetrators in a gruesome and violent way.
“The Last House on the Left” is known for its graphic and brutal depictions of violence and sexual assault, which caused a great deal of controversy upon its release.
\However, the film is also considered a landmark in the horror genre for its realistic and unflinching portrayal of the evil that humans are capable of.
The film was also praised for its gritty and realistic tone, and its use of hand-held cameras, which added to the documentary-style feel of the film.
Despite its controversial nature, “The Last House on the Left” has since gained a cult following and is considered an important work in the history of horror cinema.
11. Scream 4 (2011)
“Scream 4” is a horror movie that was released in 2011. It is the fourth installment in the “Scream” franchise and was directed by Wes Craven, who also directed the previous films in the series.
The movie features returning cast members Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette, as well as new cast members Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, and Rory Culkin.
The plot of the movie revolves around Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), who returns to her hometown of Woodsboro ten years after the events of the previous film..
As soon as she arrives, a new series of killings begins, with a new Ghostface killer targeting Sidney and her friends.
As the body count rises, Sidney, Dewey (David Arquette), and Gale (Courteney Cox) work to uncover the identity of the killer before it’s too late.
The movie received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising its self-awareness and clever writing, while others criticized it for being too formulaic and relying too heavily on references to the previous films.
Despite this, it was a box office success and has gained a cult following among fans of the series.
12. Scream 3 (2000)
“Scream 3” is a slasher film directed by Wes Craven and the third installment in the “Scream” franchise.
The film follows the character of Sidney Prescott (played by Neve Campbell) as she is targeted by a new killer who is stalking the set of a horror movie based on the events of the previous films.
Here are some key features of the film:
It continues the meta-narrative of the “Scream” franchise: Like the previous films in the series, “Scream 3” is self-referential and plays with the conventions of the horror genre.
It also features references to other horror films and the movie industry as a whole.
It maintains a sense of humor while still being a horror film: “Scream 3” features comedic elements alongside the horror and suspense, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
It explores the past and motivations of the killer: The film delves into the backstory of the new killer and their connection to Sidney Prescott and the events of the previous films.
Overall, “Scream 3” is a fun and suspenseful horror film that continues the legacy of the “Scream” franchise while also exploring new themes and characters.
Wes Craven’s direction and the film’s self-awareness make it a must-watch for horror fans.
13. Swamp Thing (1982)
Swamp Thing is a 1982 science fiction horror film directed by Wes Craven and based on the DC Comics character of the same name created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson.
The film stars Louis Jourdan, Adrienne Barbeau, and Ray Wise.
The plot of the film follows Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise), a scientist who is working on a secret formula that can create a new species of plant life.
.When a group of mercenaries led by Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan) attempts to steal the formula, a chemical explosion transforms Holland into a swamp creature known as Swamp Thing (played by Dick Durock).
As Swamp Thing, Holland must protect the beautiful government agent Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) from Arcane and his henchmen, who seek to use the formula for their own evil purposes.
Swamp Thing received mixed reviews upon its release, with some critics praising the film’s action and special effects while others criticized its dialogue and plot.
Despite this, the film has gained a cult following over the years and spawned a sequel, The Return of Swamp Thing, in 1989, as well as a television series in the early 1990s.
14. Shocker (1989)
Shocker is a 1989 horror film written and directed by Wes Craven. The film stars Michael Murphy, Peter Berg, and Mitch Pileggi.
The film follows the story of a young athlete named Jonathan Parker (Peter Berg), who has psychic powers that enable him to track down criminals.
However, his abilities are put to the test when a serial killer named Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi) begins to terrorize his community.
Parker’s girlfriend and her family become victims of Pinker’s violent rampage, and Parker vows to stop him.
When Parker finally confronts Pinker, the killer is sentenced to the electric chair, but instead of dying, Pinker gains the ability to travel through electricity and continue his killing spree.
Parker must use his psychic powers to track down and stop Pinker before it’s too late.
Shocker received mixed reviews upon its release, with some critics praising its action and horror elements while others criticized its reliance on cliches and lack of originality.
Despite this, the film has gained a cult following over the years and is considered a notable entry in Wes Craven’s filmography.
15. Cursed (2005)
Cursed is a 2005 horror-comedy film directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson. The film stars Christina Ricci, Jesse Eisenberg, and Joshua Jackson.
The plot of the film follows siblings Ellie (Christina Ricci) and Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) who are involved in a car accident with a mysterious animal on a secluded road in Los Angeles.
After the accident, the siblings begin to experience strange symptoms and behavior, including increased strength, heightened senses, and a thirst for blood.
They soon discover that they have been cursed by a werewolf, and must find a way to break the curse before it’s too late.
As the siblings attempt to break the curse, they uncover a conspiracy involving werewolves, Hollywood celebrities, and a powerful werewolf clan.
Along the way, they receive help from their friend Jake (Joshua Jackson), who is a horror movie fan and believes he knows how to stop the werewolf curse.
Cursed received negative reviews upon its release, with many critics criticizing its weak script and lack of scares.
The film was also plagued with production issues, including multiple rewrites and reshoots. Despite its poor reception, Cursed has developed a cult following over the years, with some fans appreciating its campy humor and fun take on werewolf mythology.
16. Deadly Friend (1986)
Deadly Friend is a 1986 horror film directed by Wes Craven and starring Matthew Labyorteaux, Kristy Swanson, and Michael Sharrett.
The film follows the story of a teenage computer genius named Paul Conway (Matthew Labyorteaux) who moves to a new neighborhood with his mother.
Paul befriends his neighbor, Samantha (Kristy Swanson), and her abusive father, but tragedy strikes when Samantha is killed by her father.
Paul uses his skills to resurrect Samantha by implanting a microchip into her brain, but the process has unintended consequences, as Samantha begins to exhibit violent and uncontrollable behavior.
As Samantha’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic, Paul must find a way to stop her before she causes further harm. However, Paul’s efforts are complicated by the interference of a group of local bullies and a nosy neighbor who discovers Paul’s secret.
Deadly Friend received negative reviews upon its release, with many critics criticizing its lack of scares and its uneven tone, which veers between horror and comedy.
However, the film has developed a cult following over the years, with some fans appreciating its quirky charm and memorable scenes.
The film is also notable for featuring an early performance by Kristy Swanson, who would go on to star in the 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
17. My Soul to Take (2010)
My Soul to Take is a 2010 horror film written and directed by Wes Craven. The film stars Max Thieriot, Denzel Whitaker, and Raul Esparza.
The plot of the film centers on a small town called Riverton, where a serial killer known as the Riverton Ripper (also played by Max Thieriot) is believed to have died after being shot by the police.
Sixteen years later, on the anniversary of the killer’s death, a group of teenagers who were born on the same day as the killer are being stalked by a mysterious figure who may be the reincarnation of the Ripper.
As the teenagers are picked off one by one, they begin to suspect that one of them may be the killer, and they must work together to uncover the truth before it’s too late.
My Soul to Take received negative reviews upon its release, with many critics criticizing its confusing plot, poor character development, and lack of scares.
The film was also criticized for its use of 3D technology, which many felt was unnecessary and distracting.
Despite its poor reception, the film has developed a small cult following over the years, with some fans appreciating its campy humor and nods to classic horror tropes.
18. Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
Vampire in Brooklyn is a 1995 horror-comedy film directed by Wes Craven and starring Eddie Murphy, Angela Bassett, and Kadeem Hardison.
The film follows the story of a vampire named Maximillian (Eddie Murphy) who travels to Brooklyn in search of his soulmate, a half-vampire named Rita (Angela Bassett).
To win her over, Maximillian poses as a human named “Preacher Pauly” and befriends Rita’s best friend and potential love interest, Julius (Kadeem Hardison).
As Maximillian’s true nature is gradually revealed, he must also contend with a rival vampire queen who is determined to destroy him and claim Rita for herself.
Vampire in Brooklyn received negative reviews upon its release, with many critics criticizing its inconsistent tone and lack of scares.
The film was also criticized for wasting the comedic talents of Eddie Murphy and for its clumsy attempts to blend horror and comedy.
Despite its poor reception, the film has developed a small cult following over the years, with some fans appreciating its campy humor and Eddie Murphy’s over-the-top performance as the vampire Maximillian.
3 Characteristics of Wes Craven Films
Wes Craven was a well-known and influential filmmaker in the horror genre. Here are three characteristics that are often associated with his films:
- Subversion of Genre Tropes: Wes Craven was known for subverting and playing with the traditional horror film genre tropes. He often incorporated social commentary into his horror films, challenging the audience’s expectations and assumptions about the genre. For example, in his film Scream, Craven uses self-awareness and references to other horror films to create a meta-horror experience that both honors and critiques the slasher genre.
- Exploration of Fear and Psychology: Many of Wes Craven’s films delve into psychological horror, exploring the nature of fear and the human psyche. He often used dreams, nightmares, and hallucinations as a way to create unsettling and disturbing imagery, and he wasn’t afraid to tackle difficult or taboo subjects. For example, his film The Last House on the Left explores the themes of revenge, violence, and sexual assault in a way that was considered shocking and controversial at the time.
- Empowered Female Characters: Wes Craven was known for creating strong and complex female characters in his horror films, often portraying them as capable of overcoming their fears and taking control of their situations. He was one of the first filmmakers in the genre to create female characters that were not simply victims or objects of male desire. For example, in his film A Nightmare on Elm Street, the protagonist Nancy is a smart and resourceful character who fights back against the supernatural villain Freddy Krueger.
3 Reasons Why You Should Watch Wes Craven Films
Here are three reasons why you should watch Wes Craven films:
- Influence on the Horror Genre: Wes Craven is considered one of the most influential filmmakers in the horror genre. He helped create and popularize many horror tropes and sub-genres, including the slasher film with his work on the “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream” franchises. Watching his films can give you an appreciation for the history and evolution of the horror genre.
- Creative and Innovative Storytelling: Wes Craven was known for his creative and innovative approach to storytelling. His films often challenged the conventions of the horror genre and incorporated social commentary and psychological themes. His work is often thought-provoking and can leave a lasting impact on the viewer.
- Memorable and Iconic Characters: Many of Wes Craven’s films feature memorable and iconic characters that have become pop culture staples. From the menacing Freddy Krueger to the self-aware horror-fanatic Randy Meeks, his characters have had a lasting impact on the horror genre and beyond. Watching his films can introduce you to some of the most memorable and influential characters in horror history.
Best Wes Craven Films – Wrapping Up
Wes Craven was a highly influential and respected filmmaker in the horror genre. While opinions may vary on which of his films are the best, here are five of his most well-regarded films:
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – The original film in the iconic “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise, this movie introduced audiences to the terrifying and supernatural villain Freddy Krueger, who haunts the dreams of his teenage victims.
- Scream (1996) – This self-aware horror film, which spawned three sequels and a television series, helped revitalize the slasher genre in the 1990s. It cleverly subverts genre conventions while also being scary and suspenseful.
- The Last House on the Left (1972) – This brutal and controversial film was one of Wes Craven’s early works, exploring themes of revenge, violence, and human nature. While it may not be for everyone, it is still considered an important and influential horror film.
- The Hills Have Eyes (1977) – This film follows a family on a road trip who become stranded in a remote desert town, where they are terrorized by a group of mutants. It is a gritty and intense film that has become a cult classic.
- The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) – This film is a departure from Wes Craven’s more well-known horror films, as it is based on a true story about a man investigating the use of voodoo and other supernatural practices in Haiti. It is a tense and atmospheric film that blends horror with real-world issues.