Wes Craven was known as the master of horror for a reason: he managed to scare generations through iconic characters and terrifying stories.
Whenever there’s a list of the best horror movies of all time, it’s hard not to see Wes Craven named with at least one of his many terrifying films. Through a very consistent filmography (except a couple where he delves into other genres), he’s explored the roots of our fears and anxieties, to the point that he’s often considered the true master of horror in cinema. Who didn’t freak out when hearing the iconic “One, Two, Freddy's Coming For You”? He didn’t only give us the best characters that have become icons of our modern pop culture, but he also pretty much defined what we know today as slasher films.
What made his movies particularly frightening and really appealing was his interest in exploring the limits of reality. In other words, his films are always about the impact that supernatural forces or episodes could have in our reality or even play with how we understand and conceive our materiality in what we consider reality. With over twenty feature films, he definitely was a game-changer in the genre, and had a huge impact in modern culture. So, without further ado, here are 10 of his best movies that will leave you feeling the creeps.
The Last House On The Left (1972)
As his debut film, Craven didn’t start out shy, he went into the studio with all he had. This is the story of two teenage girls being abducted by a group of sociopath convicts that have just escaped from prison. With really explicit and brutal scenes, it has become a cult movie for those who love gory stories. A word of advice from the trailer “to avoid fainting keep repeating, it’s only a movie.”
The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Speaking of cult classics, this movie has been called one of Craven’s darkest films. A normal family on a road trip has an accident, while driving through the Nevada desert. The moment they’re away from the main road, they’re spotted by a group of outcasts who survive by robbing and cannibalizing those who dare to go through their territory. This movie has a sequel, but it's not as good as the original.
Deadly Blessing (1981)
A couple living in a farm next to an Amish-like (but more strict and severe) community are constantly harassed to make them leave the land, to the point that they end up killing the husband who was a former Hittitesand managed to leave. With this movie, Craven managed to prove that he was also quite capable of delivering a suspense film that merges reality with the supernatural, able to frighten us on a more psychological level.
Swamp Thing (1982)
Swamp Thing was Craven’s first big-budget project through which he managed to gain the respect and trust of big studios. Based on the character of the same name from DC Comics, it tells the story of a scientist who turns into a monstrous creature called the Swamp Thing, the work of a paramilitary leader who wants to take over their operation.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Finally, we get to what’s probably his biggest and most celebrated film (or better said horror franchise). We don’t really have to go over the film's plot because we all know who Freddy Krueger is and how he terrified and killed his victims. Plus, there's a really young Johnny Depp who looks unrecognizable. All we can say is that it was an instant classic that still fuels our nightmares.
The People Under the Stairs (1991)
This one is like if a classic murder-house horror story had a baby with Home Alone plus an attempt to make social commentary on racism in the US. It’s the story of a young boy and two robbers who get trapped in a house that belongs to a strange couple. This one is also one of Craven's most famous works and was very well received mainly for the satirical way in which he approached these social matters without losing the horror element of the story.
This is probably the ultimate 90s slasher movie and one of Craven’s most popular and successful ones, which ended up turning into a franchise as well. What's great about this one is that it’s one of the first horror movies to change the way women are portrayed, mainly the character of "the final girl." The sequels aren’t as great as this one, but if you want to binge-watch Craven, it's a great choice.
Wes Craven was well known for his two successful franchise characters and stories, but as you can see, his contributions to the genre were bigger than that. He wrote, directed, produced, and acted on many of them, making him a real master of the genre in all ways, but beyond all that, perhaps, what we horror lovers owe him is his acute understanding of society and our anxieties captured in epic, legendary films.
Here are other films you’ll love, if you live and breathe horror stories: