The Evil Dead movies ranked, including Evil Dead Rise
With Evil Dead Rise now in cinemas, we’re looking back at the frightening franchise, and ranking all five movies, from worst-to-best.
Evil Dead is one of the greatest franchises in horror history. It’s also one of the most confusing and confounding, with a jumbled timeline thanks to sequels that are remakes and remakes that are sequels.
But even if the storylines are all over the place, the quality of Evil Dead movies is always high, delivering laughs when they are funny, scares when they are terrifying, and action when the series turns into a war movie set in the Middle Ages.
With Evil Dead Rise currently scaring up a storm in cinemas worldwide, we’re ranking all the films in the franchise, from worst-to-best.
How many Evil Dead movies are there?
There are now five Evil Dead movies in existence, thanks to the release of Evil Dead Rise this week.
The films have a complicated through-line. First film The Evil Dead hit screens in 1981, and revolved around Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his friends holidaying in a cabin in the woods, only to be terrorised by demons.
Evil Dead II was released in 1987, and told pretty much the same story, only on a bigger budget, and with more humor. So in spite of the fact that Ash seems to die at the end of The Evil Dead, Bruce Campbell is back as Ash in the sequel, very much alive, and embarking on much the same journey.
Army of Darkness came out in 1992, and saw Ash doing battle with Deadites in 13th century England, as teased at the end of its predecessor. The film then concluded with the character waking up in post-apocalypse London.
All three films were directed by Sam Raimi, while the 2013 Evil Dead found a new helmer in the shape of Fede Alvarez. A remake of the original, it focusses on a new group of youngsters battling demons in and around a similar cabin. And while Ash is nowhere to be seen for the duration of the movie, he does show up in a post-credits scene, suggesting the remake was actually a sequel.
As for Evil Dead Rise, that’s a new story, with new characters, in a new location. Though it’s filled with callbacks to the previous movies. And does feature a Bruce Campbell cameo.
The Evil Dead movies, ranked from worst to best
That’s a very brief overview of the complicated timeline. Now it’s time to rank the Evil Dead movies from worst-to-best. Though it must be said, there are no losers here, as each and every Evil Dead movie is a winner.
5. Army of Darkness (1992)
Official Synopsis: Back to do battle with the hideous ‘Deadites,’ Bruce Campbell reprises his role from the Evil Dead series as Ash, the handsome, shotgun-toting, chainsaw-armed department store clerk from S-Mart’s housewares division. Demonic forces time warp him and his ’73 Oldsmoobile into England’s Dark Ages, where he romances a beauty, and faces legions of un-dead beasts, including a ghastly army of skeletons. Can Ash save the living from the evil dead, rescue his girlfriend, and get back to his own time?
The only Evil Dead entry that doesn’t play out in a cabin in the woods, Army of Darkness sees Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell transporting Ash back in time so the former can torture the latter in a different century.
As much remake of Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court as horror sequel, Army of Darkness places our hero slap-bang in the middle of two wars: one between Lord Arthur and Duke Henry, the other pitting humans against Deadites.
This is the most arrogant Ash we’ve yet seen, which also frequently makes him the most annoying. And while the shift in both genre and time period is fun, the resulting film is far less exhilarating than the horror either side of Part III. But the artistry on display in Army of Darkness is superb, most notably during monstrous stop-motion sequences that are up there with the best of Ray Harryhausen.
4. Evil Dead Rise (2023)
Official Synopsis: Moving the action out of the woods and into the city, Evil Dead Rise tells the twisted tale of two estranged sisters whose reunion is cut short by the rise of flesh-possessing demons, thrusting them into a primal battle for survival as they face the most nightmarish version of family imaginable.
Director Sam Raimi, producer Rob Tappert, and star Bruce Campbell have said that they see the Evil Dead movies as a way to nurture new horror talent, in the same way the first movie helped launch their collective careers.
In 2013, they handed the reigns over to Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues (see below). While this year, it’s the turn of Lee Cronin to take a crack. The Irish filmmaker both writes and directs Evil Dead Rise, and in the process changes the formula, while maintaining what makes the movies work.
So while there’s s wraparound story concerning a cabin in the woods, the bulk of the movie plays out in a brand-new location – namely a dilapidated high-rise in downtown LA. There the demons are unleashed via a cursed record. And then proceed to tear a family apart, both metaphorically, and literally.
Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates on Esports, Gaming and more.
It’s a great way to push the franchise forward, and this is what we had to say about the movie in the Dexerto review: “Evil Dead Rise is a brutal assault on the senses, which means it’s a lot like its predecessors. But the kills are great, the scares effective, and Beth deserves to take her place alongside Ash and Mia as not just an Evil Dead legend, but one of the great horror heroes.”
3. The Evil Dead (1981)
Official Synopsis: Ever-present, ever-listening, the Evil Dead lie in wait for the one ancient incantation that will give them license to possess the living. Watch in horror as five vacationing college students unwittingly resurrect these slumbering demons, and are forced into battle with the supernatural forces that occupy the forests and dark powers of man’s domain. The innocent must suffer. The guilty must be punished. One by one, students are possessed by these demons whose thirst for revenge in insatiable. As the night wanes only one man remains… Ash. He must now defend himself whilst trying to uncover the horrible secret of The Evil Dead.
The movie where it all began is also the scariest entry in the Evil Dead series. Bruce isn’t a great actor yet. Ash isn’t a brilliant character yet. The prosthetics aren’t where they need to be yet. But at the age of just 20, Sam Raimi is already a master storyteller.
On a shoestring budget, he combines tricks and techniques unlike anything that had ever been seen onscreen, turning the camera into a character with both personality, and a sense of humor.
But while there are funny scenes, this is also the least funny Evil Dead movie, running to a taut, tight 85-minutes that terrifies from start-to-finish.
2. Evil Dead (2013)
Official Synopsis: Five twenty-something friends become holed up in a remote cabin where they discover a Book Of The Dead and unwittingly summon up dormant demons living in the nearby woods, which possess the youngsters in succession until only one is left intact to fight for survival.
Whether sequel, re-quel, reboot, or remake, one thing is certain – 2013’s Evil Dead is a great horror movie. Written by Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues – with Fede directing – this iteration leans into horror rather than comedy, and delivers countless shocks and scares.
The genius of this iteration is in the conceit, as the kids aren’t just vacationing at that cabin in the woods. One of them is there to detox, having recently overdosed and briefly died. So leaving the woods could kill her. But staying increasingly looks like it will kill them all.
There’s body horror that would make David Cronenberg proud. And there are rules, logic, and interesting group dynamics that the previous films lacked. Jane Levy successfully steps into Bruce Campbell’s sizeable shoes, transforming from antagonist into kick-ass final girl. Plus, this Evil Dead features the most bloody, brutal, and brilliant climax in the entire series.
Evil Dead II (1987)
Official Synopsis: Whilst visiting a secluded broken down cabin in the woods, teenagers Ash and his girlfriend Linda play a professor’s tape of recitation of passages from the Book of the Dead. Evil supernatural powers are unleashed that turn Linda into a monstrous Deadite and threaten Ash’s life. When the professor’s daughter and her friends arrive at the cabin, the night turns into a non-stop bloodbath with chainsaws, shotguns, and flying eyeballs.
Evil Dead II is the movie where it all comes together. There’s no messing with back-story – after a brief prologue, Ash reaches the cabin, and within a few minutes, has lopped his girlfriend’s head off and buried her out front.
From here-on-in Evil Dead II is a Bruce Campbell tour de force as he’s tortured, driven mad by demonic spirits, and transformed from douchebag romantic into horror Mad Max. Whether fighting himself in the kitchen, chasing his hand round the house, or sticking a chainsaw where his arm should be, Campbell delivers one of the truly great physical performances.
While Raimi is doing what Raimi does, he’s on a bigger budget and with better resources and collaborators, resulting in big scares and even bigger laughs. Part II is pure, unfiltered, unrelenting Evil Dead, combining hardcore horror with Looney Tunes antics and Three Stooges humor. It’s the best film in the series thus far. And one of the greatest horror comedies of all-time.
Updated on 21 April, 2023 with Evil Dead Rise.
Evil Dead Rise is in cinemas now. For more on the movie, check out the following features…
Evil Dead Rise review | Runtime explained | Is the movie based on a true story? | Ranking the Evil Dead movies | Bruce Campbell cameo | Is Evil Dead Rise streaming? | Ending explained | Post-credit details | Evil Dead sequel plans