I’m not going to beat around the bush. In my opinion, Evil Dead is the greatest horror franchise of all time. The first three movies are all bona fide classics, the 2013 film is one of the best remakes of the 2000s/early 2010s era, Ash vs Evil Dead is arguably the best horror TV show ever created, and Evil Dead Rise is one of the best movies of 2023. Nothing else in the genre even comes close to that level of consistent quality, so for my money, it’s a no-brainer.
And of course, that leads us to the age-old question fans ask about every classic horror franchise: how do the Evil Dead films stack up against each other? That’s the $64,000,000 question, and in this article, I’d like to add my voice to that conversation by giving my personal ranking of all five Evil Dead movies.
Update: Evil Dead Rise added on April 23, 2023.
5) Evil Dead (2013)
Unsurprisingly, at the bottom of the list, we have the 2013 Evil Dead remake. Much like the 1981 classic that started it all, this one is about a group of five young adults who go to a remote cabin in the woods and find themselves under attack by an evil spirit that possesses them one by one. On the surface, that might sound like little more than a bland, soulless rehash of the original film, but this remake actually manages to carve out a unique space for itself in the franchise and give fans something we’ve never seen before.
To take just one example, in the original movie, the characters go to the cabin for a vacation, but in this one, they’re there to help a friend of theirs get sober. That one small change gives the film a very different feel from any of the other Evil Dead movies, so even when it reuses the same tropes and plot points we’ve seen multiple times before, it never succumbs to “been there, done that” syndrome. It makes for a fresh take on the material that doesn’t step on the original film’s toes, so it’s hands down one of the best remakes of the 2000s/early 2010s era.
That being said, the remake’s unique feel is a bit of a two-edged sword. While the movie definitely sets itself apart from its predecessors, it also loses something in the process. See, one of the best things about the Evil Dead franchise is its fun, campy humor, but this film completely eschews the comedy and goes for straight-up horror instead. It takes itself way too seriously, so despite the narrative similarities to the rest of the series, it doesn’t really feel like an Evil Dead movie. It’s just not the Evil Dead I fell in love with as a kid, so even though I do like this remake, I have to put it at the bottom of the list.
4) Evil Dead Rise
I love Evil Dead Rise. At the time of this writing, it’s my favorite movie of 2023, and even though it’s only April, I wouldn’t be surprised if it holds that top spot for the rest of the year. Sure, the plot is pretty much the same Evil Dead formula we’ve seen multiple times before, but everything in this film is executed so well that the lack of originality simply doesn’t matter.
The characters are super likable, the horror is both incredibly gory and genuinely scary, and even though this movie isn’t exactly a comedy, it has a sense of playfulness that makes it a perfect fit for this franchise. Evil Dead Rise is pretty much everything fans could want, so hands down, it ranks higher on my list than the 2013 remake.
But how does it stack up against the original trilogy? Well, I think two things make those movies better. First, we have the character of Ash. While he’s pretty bland in the original film, in Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness he becomes one of the greatest fictional characters ever created, so he tips the scales in those movies’ favor. As for the first Evil Dead film, I think it’s about on par with Evil Dead Rise, but I’d give it a slight edge because it’s the movie that invented this entire mythology.
So when all is said and done, I have to put Evil Dead Rise in the number four spot on this list. It’s behind the original trilogy but ahead of the 2013 remake, and as any Evil Dead fan will tell you, that’s not a bad place to be.
3) The Evil Dead
Next up, we have the original Evil Dead film. This is the movie that introduced the world to Ash Williams and the Deadites (although that name for the demons isn’t spoken until Evil Dead 2), and it kickstarted the greatest horror franchise of all time. It set the template for what an Evil Dead film should be, and while it was surpassed by its two sequels, it’s still an absolute classic. This movie is super gory, it’s incredibly atmospheric, and it’s chock-full of the campy fun the series has since become known for.
But as much as I love The Evil Dead, even I have to admit it’s not a perfect movie. In fact, when you compare it to the next two films, it almost feels more like a prototype than a finished product. For example, it’s not nearly as comedic as the sequels. In fact, much like the remake, this movie wasn’t supposed to be campy or funny at all. Sam Raimi set out to make a straight-up horror flick, but his budgetary constraints caused The Evil Dead to turn out way sillier and more comedic than it was supposed to be. However, even with that unintentional humor, it’s still not a full-on horror comedy. It doesn’t completely embrace its campy, humorous side the way the next two movies do, and that keeps it from being quite as good.
Similarly, even though Ash eventually went on to become arguably the greatest protagonist in horror history, he’s actually pretty bland in this movie. He’s not the cool, witty badass we know and love from the sequels and the TV show. Instead, he’s just a normal, uninteresting guy who more or less stumbles his way to victory over the Deadites, and once again, that holds the film back just enough to put it behind Army of Darkness and Evil Dead 2.
2) Army of Darkness
Putting Army of Darkness this high on the list is a bit controversial. While the movie is definitely a bona fide cult classic, it also has its fair share of detractors. Some people think it goes too heavy on the comedy, but in my opinion, it’s the second best entry in the Evil Dead franchise.
So why do I love it so much? First and foremost, I think it’s absolutely hilarious. Army of Darkness eschews the extreme blood and gore of the first two films and goes all in on the humor, so your opinion of it will depend almost entirely on how the jokes hit you. If they make you laugh, you’ll love this movie, but if you think they fall flat, you’re going to have a bad time. Thankfully, the comedy in this film totally works for me, so I enjoy every single second of it.
Along similar lines, Army of Darkness also features the best version of Ash in the entire trilogy. As I said before, he’s pretty bland in the first movie, and he’s even a bit subpar in Evil Dead 2. Sure, he starts turning into a badass demon slayer in that film, but Army of Darkness is where he really comes into his own. Right from the opening scene, he’s an arrogant, witty jerk who can mow down Deadites like it’s his job, and watching him is an absolute joy. This iteration of Ash is worth the price of admission all by himself, and when you add in the rest of the laugh-out-loud humor, you get the second-best entry in the Evil Dead franchise.
1) Evil Dead 2
To the surprise of no one, the top spot on this list belongs to Evil Dead 2. It’s widely considered the best film in the franchise, and I completely agree with that assessment. If The Evil Dead set the template for what these movies should be, Evil Dead 2 perfected it. This film flawlessly captures everything that made the first movie so great, and it surpasses its predecessor by fully embracing its campy, comedic side.
Seriously, this is quite possibly the best mix of humor and horror ever put to film. While it’s not quite as gory as the original movie, it still features enough blood and violence to satisfy even the most ardent gorehounds, and Bruce Campbell puts on an absolute masterclass in physical comedy. It’s the best of both worlds, so it essentially combines the biggest strengths of the other two original Evil Dead movies into a single film.
In fact, when you compare it to those movies, it only falls short in one area, and not by much. Like I said before, Army of Darkness features the best iteration of Ash in the original trilogy, but the version we get in Evil Dead 2 isn’t too far behind. In this film, he starts becoming the badass quasi-superhero we all know and love, and even before that transformation, he’s already a much more interesting character than he ever was in the first movie. He’s a real joy to watch from beginning to end, so even though he’s not quite the definitive Ash Williams, he’s still pretty damn great.
Because of that, this one slight deficiency isn’t enough to outweigh the film’s nearly perfect mix of comedy and horror. On the whole, Evil Dead 2 is hands down the best entry in the best horror franchise of all time, so it’s not just one of the greatest horror sequels ever made. It’s one of the absolute best films the genre has ever produced.
3 CommentsLeave a Reply
Evil dead 2 friend 1334 box DVD
Number 2 is great, but i enjoyed the remake a lot more than the rest. One of the best remakes ever, in my opinion…and i was not happy at the prospect of a remake when i heard it was in the works. A great surprise.
You need to check out evil dead the musical
It’s on YouTube