All Evil Dead Movies, Ranked: The “Evil Dead” movies have been the brainchild of Sam Raimi, who was very much inspired by the works of HP Lovecraft and the mythology of the “Necronomicon.” The Necronomicon is usually a fictional grimoire appearing in Lovecraft’s horror tales. In the Evil Dead movies, the “Necronomicon Ex-Mortis” is the fictional grimoire usually playing havoc upon a group of unsuspecting inhabitants who chance upon the book (usually in a cabin in the woods) and attempt to read it, causing chaos.
Practical effects usually characterize the “Evil Dead” movies, with ample amounts of gore and a blend of horror and dark comedy, at least in terms of the original trilogy that Raimi directed. The newer versions skew more towards a dark, horror bent, but the gore remains consistent. Also consistent is the protagonist, Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), who appears in all five films as well as the television series.
This list contains a ranking of only the five feature films. It does not contain the concept horror short film “Within the Woods,” which inspired “The Evil Dead,” nor does it contain “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” though that is one blind spot I aim to fill. Other than that, here are the five “Evil Dead” movies ranked:
5. Evil Dead (2013)
Fede Alvarez’s 2013 soft reboot of the franchise truly goes back to the horror roots of the franchise, if the horrifying opening sequence of the film is any indication. If judged solely based on the gore and the blood-spattering effects, this new Evil Dead is one cathartic movie. However, based on the previous installments, the reduction of the farcical humor is extremely noticeable, made all the more noticeable because of the underdeveloped characters and the decisions made by these characters to keep the plot moving.
There is, however, a dream-like quality to the hallucinatory moments before the genesis of the violence, which does give this new reboot a sense of uniqueness, even as its homage to the original “Evil Dead” becomes downright uncomfortable. Jane Levy as Mia is also a pretty good “final girl” for the franchise, lending credence to the previous plans of her and Ash Williams appearing in subsequent installments.
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4. The Evil Dead (1981)
Taking the short film “Within the Woods” as the jumping-off point, “The Evil Dead” is one of the pioneers of the “Cabin in the Woods” horror movies. There is an absolute amateurish passion and a DIY attitude in this installment, which hits the ground running. The gore, splatter, and ejection of bodily fluids are some of the core features without which the Evil Dead movies would be unrecognizable.
There are noticeable low-budget quirks, a certain edginess bordering on the uncomfortable, and of course, the ethos of “the gorier, the merrier,” which Raimi would evolve in its direct sequel. But the trademark inventive camera angles and the zoom-ins are all present here, contributing to the absolute commitment and fun with which the franchise continues to this day. And, of course, the Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi partnership in the “Evil Dead” movies would become the trademark of the franchise.
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3. Army of Darkness (1992)
If nothing else, you have to admire the gumption of making this movie as a sequel to Evil Dead II and making it within the studio system. It’s impossible even to imagine what the pitch was, but an Arthurian pastiche does make sense, with a healthy dose of Monty Python humor added for good measure. This is easily one of the goofiest installments of the franchise, which is also why the “Evil Dead” movies are mostly classified under the “horror-comedy” label.
The horror is present at intermittent moments here. Still, the comedy ranges from situational to downright slapstick, all held together by Raimi’s camerawork, a surprisingly well-done stop-motion animation amidst back projection in conjunction with shoddy VFX, surprisingly good action choreography, and of course, Bruce Campbell’s charm. This is ultimately Bruce Campbell’s moment to shine as a comedic lead. He truly perfects the “idiotic American hero” down to a tee, with some of the most quotable lines ever to permeate pop culture. “Give me some sugar, baby” or “Groovy” will forever be associated with the “Evil Dead” franchise, for better or worse. It doubles down on the bonkers consistency of the franchise overall, but it is such a tonal shift from the previous venture that it is not surprising that this is a divisive installment.
2. Evil Dead Rise (2023)
The latest and most recent installment in the franchise, Lee Cronin’s directorial addition, again goes back to the serious tonality that the 2013 soft reboot had done before. However, Cronin wisely chooses to flesh out his key characters and their relationship dynamics so that when the horror, gore, and violence splatter over the screen, there is an emotional investment for all the characters involved. It is also fascinating how Cronin uses the modern-day “Cabin in the Woods” approach by transplanting the inherent claustrophobia and terror within apartment complexes.
Alyssa Sutherland as the mother who becomes a deadite is also exceptionally creepy in changing her facial expressions, ratcheting up the horror as the Necronomicon infects the whole family. Whereas Lily Sullivan, as Beth, “the final girl,” is a relatable and flawed protagonist. Her sibling dynamic with Sutherland’s Ellie and their family is explored enough in the first act that the emotional quotient grounds the absolute visceral horror and gore that is the trademark of the “Evil Dead” movies. Cronin also manages to sneak in homage to not just “Evil Dead” but other horror films as well. But does it cleverly enough for the sake of the increasingly ratcheted-up plot, which finally ends with a bloodied frenzy and, of course, a chainsaw.
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1. Evil Dead II (1987)
Evil Dead II is pure relentless maximalist horror, which hits the ground running within the first ten minutes and never stops letting go. The ethos of “Evil Dead” being a gory, visceral slugfest and a Hanna-Barbera cartoon finally gets crystallized in this installment. There are moments where the audience is in the perspective of the monsters, contributing to Ash’s misery. However, what makes Ash so uniquely relatable as a protagonist is that he is a blue-collar guy stuck in an impossible situation.
Director Sam Raimi utilizes the relatively higher budget to its fullest potential, from the innovative transitions to the practical puppetry of the monsters, the makeup and gore, to even the stop-motion animation, all of it held together by his signature manic style of directing and camera angles. You have essentially a “groovy” time, made all the more so because this installment is such a step up from the original. Raimi essentially remakes the original, doubling down on some of the comedic elements while removing some of the edgier tropes, and what you have is a stone-cold horror classic.