Ranked: All Five Evil Dead Films from Worst to Best
By Daniel Rester
Sam Raimi announced himself as an inventive director with The Evil Dead (1981), which pushed gory horror mayhem to its limits in the early ’80s. Raimi went on to have a successful career behind the camera and has made a variety of films in different genres. He continues to add to the Evil Dead franchise all these years later as well, alongside original star Bruce Campbell and producer Robert Tapert.
With the release of Evil Dead Rise recently, the franchise now contains five films – and a TV series called Ash vs Evil Dead (2015-2018). It has proven to be one of the more consistently solid horror franchises in history in terms of quality. Here is how I rank the films from worst to best, which is really more like least best to best best since I enjoy all of them.
5. Evil Dead Rise (2023)
Raimi enlisted Lee Cronin to write and direct a fifth film in the series after Ash vs Evil Dead came to an end. Cronin’s film, Evil Dead Rise, moves the Deadite action into a Los Angeles apartment complex and focuses on a mother, her children, and their estranged aunt. Alyssa Sutherland gives a ferocious performance as Ellie, the mother-turned-Deadite. There are a number of sequences that shine too, including a slaughter of many viewed through a peephole. Unfortunately, the camerawork and editing in Evil Dead Rise mostly lack the usual energy of the series. The theme of motherhood that runs throughout the narrative feels half-baked too and the bookend scenes of the film feel awkwardly tacked on as well. Even so, there’s enough bloody goodness in Cronin’s feature that works. Grade: B (7.5/10)
4. Army of Darkness (1993)
The third in Raimi’s original trilogy, Army of Darkness sees Ash Williams (Campbell) sent back to the Middle Ages where he must collect a Necronomicon and battle rising skeletons. This entry is goofy as it leans more on silly comedy than horror. Seeing Ash fight mini versions of himself, for example, is pretty dumb. That said, Campbell gets in a lot of good wisecracks and Raimi keeps most of the set pieces lively. Army of Darkness is wacky entertainment that flies by in 81 minutes. Grade: B+ (8/10)
3. Evil Dead (2013)
It took twenty years, but Raimi’s series finally came back in the form of a reboot/remake helmed by Fede Alvarez – in his directorial debut. Evil Dead returns to the bleaker horror roots of the original film and doesn’t hold back on the gruesome violence as a drug addict and her friends unleash demonic forces at a cabin. Despite being filled to the brim with blood, the film also has plenty of gorgeous frames courtesy of cinematographer Aaron Morton. Jane Levy is great in the lead as Mia, both in human and Deadite form. Alvarez manages to both honor Raimi and make the material his own (the climax with the raining blood is a wild touch) with this terrifying and awesome reboot. Grade: A- (8.3/10)
2. The Evil Dead (1981)
There’s a reason The Evil Dead struck a chord with the horror community and became a classic. Raimi’s original film may look cheap, but it’s made with such style and energy that it doesn’t matter. Raimi takes the simple plot of five friends fighting against demonic forces in a remote cabin and turns it into a rollercoaster ride. The movie is often disgusting, exciting, and surprising as Raimi stages and films the hell out of every scene. The last thirty minutes especially shine as Ash has to step up in order to survive. And who could ever forget the tree attack scene? Some days I pick this film as the best entry of the series. Grade: A (9.3/10)
1. Evil Dead II (1987)
Evil Dead II is one of the best sequels ever made, providing a perfect balance of wild horror and dark comedy. After recapping the first film, it follows Ash as he continues to battle Deadites in the same cabin. This entry gave the character many of his trademarks, including the wisecracks, chainsaw arm, and double barrel shotgun; Campbell is just awesome in the role and made Ash an icon with his performance here. The film also features an unforgettable scene where Ash has to fight his own possessed hand. Such inventiveness runs throughout Raimi’s fresh and influential sequel. Groovy. Grade: A (9.3/10)