All 15 Sam Raimi Movies, Ranked

The stylish director known for 'Spider-Man,' 'Evil Dead,' and 'Drag Me to Hell' returns after nine years away from the camera.

Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

Few filmmakers have a directing style as immediately recognizable as Sam Raimi, who manages to sneak little bits and homages from his favorite genre conventions into even the most tonally locked-down superhero blockbuster, all while moving his cameras and sets in ways that shouldn't even be physically possible. A champion of practical effects and a loyal collaborator with his longtime friend Bruce Campbell and former roommates Joel and Ethan Coen, Raimi is seated among the pantheon of Hollywood weirdos whose name in a film's credits elicits an electric zing of excitement.

But Raimi isn't all Deadites and Marvel heroes. Did you know that, between his two wildly successful series, the Evil Deads and the Spider-Mans, Raimi tried his hand at directing a Western, a neo-noir crime film, and a straightforward baseball drama? We weren't about to let any underappreciated directorial efforts slip through the cracks, and so, on the eve of Raimi's return to directing after nine long years with Marvel's delightfully creepy Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, we've watched and ranked all 15 of his feature films, from the demonic horror flick that got slapped with a "video nasty" rating by the United Kingdom's film censorship committee, to a certain world-famous bug-themed superhero, and everything in between. It has been, as an iconic Raimi character might say, groovy.

kevin costner in for the love of the game
Universal Pictures

15. For the Love of the Game (1999)

After starring in Bull Durham and Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner picked up a baseball again for this ill-conceived romance, a movie that lacks the wit or the poignancy that made his previous ballpark outings so memorable. Instead, as Detroit Tigers ace Billy Chapel, the actor gives one of his sleepiest performances in a story that hits about as hard as the many adult-contemporary songs that paper the soundtrack. Raimi, applying a mostly workmanlike approach to treacly material, takes great pleasure in staging the baseball sequences, which do manage to put you right on the mound in Yankee Stadium. But the movie's key structural conceit—an aging pitcher pondering what went wrong in his relationship with the woman he loves (Kelly Preston) while throwing a perfect game—never generates much tension, passion, or even curiosity. With a running time of 138 minutes, it's at least shorter than an actual baseball game. —Dan Jackson

michelle williams in oz the great and powerful
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

14. Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Before his nearly 10-year absence from the big screen, Raimi made Disney's largely forgotten Wizard of Oz prequel Oz the Great and Powerful. Even some Raimi-isms in the camera ork can't stop this from feeling like an attempt from the studio to find another Alice in Wonderland-style hit packed to the brim with CGI. Raimi's leading man does him no favors. James Franco, reuniting with his Spider-Man director, approaches Oz with a level of winking "I'm better than this" irony even when his leading witches (Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, and Rachel Weisz) try their best. —Esther Zuckerman

brion james in crimewave
Columbia Pictures

13. Crimewave (1985)

Following the critical and commercial success of The Evil Dead, Raimi and Bruce Campbell wanted to make another project together, and fortunately Raimi was in the middle of collaborating on a script with some guys named Joel and Ethan Coen that combined elements of '50s noir with black comedy and heightened slapstick violence. Getting financial backing from a studio was easy, and at first Raimi was granted a modicum of creative control—before clashing with the company on almost everything, resulting in perhaps one of the weirdest and worst Hollywood nightmares of relentless studio nitpicking to the detriment of pretty much the entire film. The producers wanted a "Hollywood actor" in the main role, and so replaced Campbell with Reed Birney as a shrimpy security technician who uknowingly stumbles into a murder plot involving two killers disguised as rat exterminators who "kill all sizes." Teensy bits of zazz remain, but Crimewave is engaging only when you can see the Raimi touch (and good luck with that, since the studio wouldn't even let him edit it), and an interesting watch only if you're a Raimi completionist. —Emma Stefansky

tobey maguire in spider man 3
Sony Pictures Releasing

12. Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Don't let our current era of flop revisionism fool you: Spider-Man 3 just isn't very good. It's far from the worst film Raimi ever made, and it's certainly better than a lot of films of its kind that came after it, but it is crammed so full of stuff that none of its multiple plot arcs is allowed any room to breathe. Peter Parker is about to finally propose to Mary Jane Watson when an extraterrestrial symbiote turns him into a fuckboy, an escaped convict gets stuck in a particle accelerator and turns into a sand monster, Peter's best friend Harry is out to kill Spider-Man and is turning himself into the next Green Goblin, and an upstart photographer is out to steal Peter's job by selling fake Spider-Man pictures to J. Jonah Jameson. Any one of these plots could have been a movie of its own, but because Spider-Man 3 tries to do everything all at once, it loses focus on the things that made these movies great in the first place. At least we got an iconic dance number out of it. —ES

benedict cumberbatch in dr. strange and the mutltiverse of madness
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

11. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

Fans' excitement when none other than Sam Raimi was announced to direct Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was twofold: he's responsible for some of the best superhero movies ever with his Spider-Man trilogy, and, with the Evil Deads and Drag Me to Hell under his belt, he's well suited for the horror-ish movie Multiverse of Madness was styled to be. Now only too aware of the dangers of the multiverse, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) stumbles into a teen girl named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) who possesses the uncontrollable ability to universe-hop and claims to have met another, darker version of himself while on the run from a demonic force. To help the kid out, Strange hits up Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), which might not be the best idea—especially when the lure of a universe in which Wanda and her family are happily together becomes too much to resist. The film plays out the requisite Marvel story beats, but allows plenty of room for Raimi to do his thing, essentially trapping his characters in a haunted house version of a superhero movie. —ES

cate blanchett in the gift
Paramount Classics

10. The Gift (2000)

Working from a script co-written by Billy Bob Thornton, who based Cate Blanchett's main character off his own psychic mother, Raimi gets to do a little bit of everything in this refreshingly odd supernatural drama. Blanchett plays Annie Wilson, a fortune-teller who gets wrapped up in a mystery surrounding the disappearance of a young woman (Katie Holmes) and the possible involvement of a whole town's worth of sleazy, mercurial men. Part court-room thriller, part psychological potboiler, and part sweaty Southern melodrama, the movie recklessly bounces between genres and provides its ludicrously stellar cast (Keanu Reeves, Giovanni Ribisi, J.K. Simmons, Hilary Swank, Greg Kinnear, Kim Dickens) with plenty of scenery to chew. Somewhere between the cool quasi-prestige formalism of A Simple Plan and the daredevil shenanigans of his earlier horror work, The Gift feels like "The Road Not Taken" for Raimi, a mid-budget character-drama packed with visual flair but devoid of blockbuster spectacle. —DJ

zombie in the evil dead, the evil dead 1981
New Line Cinema

9. The Evil Dead (1981)

For all the movie-geek mythology surrounding its production, hilariously documented in star Bruce Campbell's memoir and beyond, The Evil Dead still retains the ability to frighten. All those inventive visual tricks (the "shaky cam" mounted to a piece of wood) and low-budget special effects (the unsettling contact lenses worn by the possessed), implemented through a combination of invention and desperation, actually create an atmosphere of dread and unease. The bare-bones plot, which follows Campbell and friends as they summon demons via a skin-covered book, allows Raimi and his crew to focus on mood, tension, and, yes, the grotesque. As a go-for-broke splatter-movie formalist, Raimi controls the frenzied tone and delivers the requisite shock value with great style. He doesn't exactly make it look easy—from Campbell's performance to the buckets of blood, the hard work is all on-screen—but he does make it look fun. —DJ

sharon stone in the quick and the dead
Sony Pictures Releasing

8. The Quick and the Dead (1995)

Sharon Stone recruited Raimi to direct this Western in which she plays a revenge-seeking gunslinger who rides into a town built around a shooting competition. Working with a truly wild cast of acting titans (Stone, Gene Hackman) and people who were about to become acting titans (Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe), Raimi takes a simple premise and turns in a wildly creative thrill. In an attempt to take down the evil sheriff (Hackman) who ruined her life, Stone's steely heroine must participate in a shooting tournament. Faced with standoff after standoff, Raimi finds ingenious ways to show the paths of bullets and the men and women shooting them. Along the way, however, he never loses the emotional drive at the heart of the story. —EZ

bill paxton in a simple plan
Paramount Pictures

7. A Simple Plan (1998)

Because of Raimi's close association with the Coens—they were roommates—you might think this wintery crime drama follows in Fargo's footsteps, from its winking humor to its murderous plot. But Raimi's turn to serious drama is very much that: It's serious, a morality tale that makes you feel like you need a million showers after watching. Adapted by Scott Smith from his own novel, A Simple Plan follows two brothers, Hank and Jacob (Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton), and their friend (Brent Briscoe), who find a downed plane hidden in the snow containing a fortune of cash. They decide to take the money with a plan for how to get away with what essentially amounts to stealing. Hank will keep it until they are sure no one is coming after it, then they will divide it up. But with the life-changing cash under their noses, the situation spirals, spurred in part by Hank's pregnant wife (Bridget Fonda), who is initially skeptical but then maniacally strategic in protecting her own interests. Without any of his familiar camera tricks, Raimi keeps building dread until it feels overwhelming. —EZ

liam neeson in dark man
Universal Pictures

6. Darkman (1990)

Given the way Raimi's career has worked out, it's tempting to view Darkman, an original superhero tale in the vein of The Shadow that stars Liam Neeson as a disfigured vigilante seeking justice, as a warm-up for the comic-book blockbusters that awaited his future. Certainly, the $14 million production gave the young filmmaker, fresh off the cult success of Evil Dead II, a chance to play with Universal's resources: The shadow-strewn sets, the noirish costumes, and the stunts all remain striking and distinct. (It's also Raimi's first collaboration with composer Danny Elfman, who would go on to pen the Spider-Man themes.) But Darkman, a strange and often sinister spin on the standard origin story, deserves to be seen as more than a footnote to bigger projects. It casts its own eerie, singular spell. —DJ

spider man kiss, kirsten dunst in spider man
Sony Pictures Releasing

5. Spider-Man (2002)

A director who understands the visceral appeal of gooey body horror and yet also knows how to deliver a well-timed emotional gut punch was perhaps the perfect person to adapt a story about a teenager who develops bug-themed superpowers after being bitten by a genetically mutated spider. Blade and 20th Century Fox's X-Men series are often credited with launching Hollywood's superhero craze, but Raimi's Spider-Man is the one that everyone saw and everyone loved. Tobey Maguire is perfectly cast as this movie's weirdo-nerd version of Peter Parker, giving him a certain baby-faced vulnerability during the slower, calmer scenes that contrasts the rest of the film's almost cartoon-like action led by Willem Dafoe's utterly terrifying Norman Osborn/Green Goblin. It works in every way it possibly can, and is only improved upon by its fantastic sequel. Raimi's Spider-Man may have birthed our current era of assembly-line superhero blockbusters, but it also shows us the era that could have been. —ES

bruce campbell in army of darkness
Universal Pictures

4. Army of Darkness (1992)

Most sequels present a problem: How do you top what came before? Army of Darkness, the third entry in the Evil Dead series, has the even more difficult task of following up a movie that hacked off its protagonist's arm and replaced it with a chainsaw. How could you possibly go any bigger? Luckily, that same sense of madcap one-upmanship drives Raimi and his collaborators into even wilder territory here, transporting Bruce Cambell's shotgun-wielding hero Ash to the 14th century and staging a number of bonkers comedic set pieces. Equal parts Monty Python and Ray Harryhausen, Army of Darkness revels in its own absurdity, serving as the ultimate portrait of a director and actor pal getting away with something ridiculous—and grinning the whole way through. —DJ

Alison Lohman in drag me to hell
Universal Pictures

3. Drag Me to Hell (2009)

Reeling from the disappointment of Spider-Man 3, Raimi went back to his horror roots with this delightful romp of a scarefest he co-wrote with his brother Ivan. Alison Lohman plays Christine Brown, who gets cursed by an old Roma woman (Lorna Raver) when, trying to get a promotion, she refuses to give the client a house loan to avoid eviction. Christine tries to return to life as normal with her boyfriend (Justin Long), but now she's being pursued by a Lamia demon who offers up hallucinations and various other terrors. Drag Me to Hell brings Raimi back in the Evil Dead 2 orbit, where the audience has fun because the demons seem to be having a great time terrorizing not-so-poor Christine, whose self-interest ends up being her downfall. It's a whirlwind movie that keeps pulling you into its pit with glee. —EZ

bruce campbell in evil dead ii
Rosebud Releasing Corporation

2. Evil Dead II (1987)

Evil Dead II begins with a sort of recap of its predecessor, The Evil Dead, which launched both Raimi's and his friend Bruce Campbell's careers. But something is immediately off: Most of the characters from the first movie aside from Campbell's Ash Williams and his girlfriend Linda never reappear, and the pared-down retread of the first movie changes or outright ignores how it originally ended. Also, it's funny, taking a lot of its slapstick cues from Raimi's co-writer Scott Spiegel. This uncertain feeling immediately sets the stage for the hysterical and totally disgusting horror-comedy Evil Dead II turns out to be, once again trapping Campbell in a rickety cabin in the woods and pitting him against an army of interdimensional body-possessing Deadites while protecting a group of people researching the supernatural event. This time, though, his portrayal of Ash is far from the horror-stricken sole survivor of a demonic onslaught, instead greeting the bloody mayhem with an increasingly manic twinkle in his eye. He fights off disembodied hands and howling zombified creatures like he was born for it. By the time the film gets to the makeshift chainsaw-hand prosthetic and Ash's signature "Groovy," you barely feel like you're watching a horror movie at all. And then an enormous demon head with arms made of trees crashes through the doorway to remind you to scream. —ES

tobey maguire in spider man 2, spider man 2 train scene
Sony Pictures Releasing

1. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

With Spider-Man, Raimi reinvented and set the template for modern superhero movies. With Spider-Man 2, he perfected it. Raimi's sequel deepens the drama of Peter Parker and also has more fun with it. Maguire's Peter is now out of high school, a hapless college student and pizza delivery boy moonlighting as Spider-Man while watching Mary Jane's star rise as she performs The Importance of Being Earnest on Broadway. He finds a foe in Alfred Molina's Doc Ock, a good scientist gone mad by his own invention, infused with Molina's combination of menace and pathos. Doc Ock gives Raimi even more of a chance to lean into his horror origins, the tentacles acting like Evil Dead Deadites as they destroy a room full of surgeons. Raimi watches the carnage unfold from one of the unwitting doctor's eyeballs. It's just bravura sequence after bravura sequence wherein Raimi allows Spidey's saga to play out like an emo opera. All of the director's sides come out to play in Spider-Man 2: There's the kid merely playing with his cameras, and the man who knows how to wrest human drama and pain onto the screen. —EZ

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