A Definitive Ranking of "The Conjuring" Franchise
From Worst to best
The Conjuring. Whether or not you like horror movies, audiences everywhere have been captivated by the franchise. James Wan first introduced audiences to the saga in 2013, with the first film, rightly named “The Conjuring”. Since then, seven more movies have been released in the universe, and at least two more are known to be in talks of production. The main draw to the films is no doubt their connection to Lorrain and Ed Warren. Ed, a famed demonologist, and Lorrain, a skilled psychic medium, have taken on hundreds of cases throughout their lengthy career. Some include the Amityville Horror house, the Smurl haunting, and The Snedeker House ( best known from the film The Haunting in Connecticut, though not a part of The Conjuring franchise).
Despite the initial commercial success, the franchise has struggled to continue their momentum with every film throughout the years. Many films in the saga were met with mixed reviews as audiences continued to blow box office records.
So for those who have yet to dive into this horror staple, allow me to assist your search for scares! Ranking these movies, though no easy feat, may help you decide which titles are worth your time and which are simply scary bad!
Let’s start with the worst...
8th - The Curse of La Llorona
The Curse of La Llorona was the sixth release in the franchise, one that was heavily anticipated by fans, given the contrast to previous films.
For those unfamiliar, La Llorona is a lore mostly told throughout Central America. Her origin story varies, but what is widely agreed upon is she is a “wailing” or “weeping woman”. She uses loud shreeks and cries to draw individuals, mostly children, into woods or close to waterways where, depending on the version of the tale, she either eats them or drowns them in the water.
Now, this one ranks the lowest for many reasons, both from my personal perspective and that of professional critics. Starting with the professionals, The Curse of La Llorona failed to become a hit, mostly because it relied on a completely different scare tactic than the films before it. Most reviewers felt the film relied too much on cheap jump scares and overly-dramatic scenes, rather than the true terror that the La Llorona legend could’ve brought.
My personal take - the movie was hard to engage with. This is for many reasons, but I would argue the primary one is pretty simple: it was too white. Lead actress Linda Cardellini is known for captivating audiences with distinguished and recognizable characters. And while that is probably why she was chosen for this role, casting a white actress to terrify an audience with a Mexican legend just feels wrong. It’s hard to connect with the lore and understand the story if you don’t feel you're being taught the true terror of the legend by the culture who fears it most.
7th - The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me do It
This ranking is, again, based on my personal thoughts. But it isn’t hard to find where critics also had a hard time finding this movie comparable to it’s two Conjuring counterparts.
Most of the professional distaste for the film comes from the pacing of the movie and how much the film would have never been as acclaimed, had it been a stand-alone movie. The movie begins with a grizzly and truly horrifying scene (I’ll spare you the details). Most reviewers agree that this is the scariest and most captivating part of the film. After the initial shock and ew run off, however, the film fades into a slow-paced leaving viewers less than captivated.
And for my personal take - The movie's premise is interesting. How the devil may or may not have driven a man to murder, but the execution and ideas behind the film felt forced. It was almost as if pity should be taken on a man who performed a heinous act, all because he may or may not have been possessed, a fact that hasn’t, and can never be proven.
Overall the film is lackluster when compared to it’s predecessors and still leaves a lot to be desired.
6th - Anabelle Comes Home
Oh, Anabelle...Beloved Raggedy Anne doll turned sociopathic demon. The Anabelle movies, as a whole, left a lot to be desired. Creating a unique and interesting haunted doll movie is quite the feat, given the saturation of the market. And this particular film was not a bad representative of the franchise, but this one, I would argue, lacks the most believability and fascination in the story line.
Critics were mixed on this particular release. I think that can, in part, be attributed to the movie's ability to be captivating and assemble characters well-established in the saga. That also being said, the movie carried the most unrealistic and dull horror in the franchise. The terror was palpable, but the complex horror and intrigue found in other films of the franchise was continually lacking.
5th - Annabelle
Arguably the most anticipated film in the saga, Annabelle was a slight let down for many. The film promised complex scares and real-life events and instead provided another fictional look into the world of the haunted doll narrative.
Annabelle was jam-packed with jump-scares and unsettling clips of Annabelle (who was designed to be the epitome of a haunted doll, but in real life, is a Raggedy-Anne). But the theatrics of the film could not hide the cheap plot line and lack of complex horror found throughout it’s predecessor, The Conjuring.
Also to note, placing it fourth from worst to best is my personal rank. Many critics would argue Annabelle falls short to all of her co-films, including Annabelle Comes Home.
4th - Annabelle Creation
By now, you can probably guess the Annabelle films did not do it for me. Annabelle: Creation, however, proves to be the best of the trilogy. And for me it’s primarily because I’m a sucker for a good origin story! For others, it’s because of the films ability to explain Annabelle’s existence without denying audiences of terror.
Critics thought the movie was a good blend of explanatory and terrifying. Audiences develop a deeper understanding of where the fictional Annabelle originates and, if anything, it adds to the terror of her possession and actions.
I’m fond of this movie for a few reasons. The primary one being: it makes the most sense of all the Annabelle movies! Explaining her origin earlier, in my opinion, would have been beneficial to the plot line of the rest of the films based on the doll. Instead, saving this movie until after the release of the original Annabelle movie, while building suspense for an explanation, provided too little, too late for explaining events in the first Annabelle film.
All that being said - the true terror and complex scares of this movie felt perfect, and fit well with others in the franchise. Viewers can expect to be scared, but also, oddly satisfied after watching how the generation’s favorite doll came to be.
(Note: It’s important to acknowledge Annabelle: Creation does not share the true origin story of Annabelle the haunted doll. It instead offers a fictional telling of the movie props origin.)
3rd - The Nun
This one might just be me… but I love The Nun! This movie had to grow on me, but once it did, I couldn’t shake it off! The Nun proves to be witty, horrifying and extremely captivating! I also consider it a must watch, given it’s the origin story for my number one movie on this list, but we’ll get into that later!
Critics were a mixed bag with the release of this movie. The studio put out ad campaigns that many argue were a bit too much, but it definitely drove people to the box offices! The Nun soon became the highest grossing movie in the franchise, although reviews remained mixed. Many question the heavy spirituality of the movie, as the title implies, but theatrically, the film ranks well.
I consider this one a top contender given a few details. The storyline is confusing unless you’ve watched some of the other movies, and even then it can prove heavily detailed and extremely nuanced. But, as someone who has seen all the films, I will always recommend it as worth the watch! Mostly because it’s important to remember: the smaller the detail, the scarier it usually is.
2nd - The Conjuring
The classic, the OG, the one that started it all! The Conjuring proves time and time again that it has earned it’s place among some of the other horror greats! It commands audiences with likeable characters, played by a captivating cast and brings horror to the mainstream.
Critics will applaud the mood of the movie and set-up of scenes, preventing any shocks from ever feeling cheap. And while there are reviews that will accuse the creators of The Conjuring for trying to “reinvent the wheel” and failing miserably, I tend to disagree. I do believe that there is nothing exceptionally revolutionary about The Conjuring, but that isn’t what it’s trying to be. The Conjuring is created as an ode to horror, sharing the thrills and terror with a new generation using a few age-old tricks mixed with a sprinkle of modern effects and CGI.
Audiences still love this movie today, and it seems will continue to do so for quite some time to come. I know I’ll be a fan of this one for a long time!
1st - The Conjuring 2
The Enfield Poltergeist… One of the most terrifying paranormal cases of Lorrain and Ed Warren’s career, it wouldn’t make sense to not have it fall in with this franchise. Following a family in the UK and their terrifying encounters with both a possessive ghost and a demon, This film proves my favorite!
The tie-in of the other films is amazing in this film, answering questions from both predecessors and movies that came after it’s release.
Professional reviews of the film were mixed (when are they not), but most are considered favorable! James Wan is especially favored for this film, as the writer showcased his skills in old-school horror and “gotcha manipulation”. The movie, again, proves reinventing is not the way with horror movies, instead, re-energizing old takes for new generations proves the most effective!
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