Open the Warren Files: Every Conjuring Movie Ranked

Movies Lists The Conjuring
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Open the Warren Files: Every <i>Conjuring</i> Movie Ranked

The Conjuring franchise has somehow made the con artists known as Ed and Lorraine Warren (as played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) into everyone’s favorite horror parents. The chemistry between Wilson and Farmiga is electric, providing the emotional core for the already terrifying films based on the Warrens’ actual case files. Unfortunately, they don’t star in every film, which is a detriment to the other entries in the world of The Conjuring. The franchise, which includes plenty of spin-offs that expand The Conjuring universe, has its ups and downs, delivering some of the best scares of the 2010s and also some of the most disappointing follow-ups to James Wan’s 2013 original. With the release of the eighth film in the franchise, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, it only makes sense to rank the entries in this expansive series and examine what a roller coaster these horror movies really are.

Here is every movie in The Conjuring franchise, ranked worst to best:

The Curse of La Llorona

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Year: 2019
Director: Michael Chaves

Did you know that The Curse of La Llorona is actually part of The Conjuring universe? This little twist was supposed to be a shocking and exciting revelation for audiences, but it didn’t make much of an impact due to the film’s lack of actual scares. La Llorona is a terrifying piece of Latin American folklore that is perfect for a horror film, but unfortunately this interpretation of the tale falls short. It doesn’t help that the film stars, for some reason, a white lead (sorry Lisa Cardellini). There is no complexity to the story and writers Tobias Iaconis and Mikki Daughtry focus on a plethora of jump scares instead of building dread or tension. Connecting this film to The Conjuring universe did it no favors.—Mary Beth McAndrews


Annabelle

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Year: 2014
Director: John R. Leonetti

Annabelle the doll is perhaps one of the most well-known and terrifying parts of the Warrens’ collection of possessed objects. The porcelain-faced doll with a haunting smile that screams “demonic possession” got her own spin-off series as her origins were explored, starting with a pregnant woman and her excited husband whose bliss is rudely interrupted by cultists trying to summon the Devil. Part Chucky, part Rosemary’s Baby, Annabelle tries to make the terrifying doll even more sinister through her violent origins. The film followed closely behind the first Conjuring film but failed to deliver the top-notch scares and tense atmosphere of its predecessor. In trying to capitalize on the first film’s success, Annabelle falls short in capturing just what made The Conjuring so unique.—Mary Beth McAndrews


Annabelle: Creation

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Year: 2017
Director: David F. Sandberg

At almost two hours, Annabelle: Creation is far too long for a cheapo spin-off horror flick. It’s as if screenwriter Gary Dauberman stuffed the script with every single idea for one of these set pieces, and director David F. Sandberg decided to keep every one of them without any care for pacing and storytelling rhythm. Sandberg is a stylish horror director with a unique vision. His previous feature, Lights Out, also wasn’t strong in the screenplay department, but showed a clear talent for building on genre expectations. He shows some of that flair here, with a smooth steadicam shot that introduces the orphans to the dollmaker’s house, as well as some trippy transitions, like the one that ends in a spinning shot from inside a well. But no amount of style can save Annabelle: Creation from ending up as yet another utterly forgettable, predictable and ultimately dull piece of cynical PG-13 horror franchising.—Oktay Ege Kozak


The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

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Year: 2021
Director: Michael Chaves

In The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, the third film in the main series started by James Wan (who gives up the reins this time to director Michael Chaves), Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are afflicted by problems both familiarly spiritual and refreshingly mortal as they lean most heavily on the “investigator” part of “paranormal investigator.” It’s not a positive tweak to their résumés. In fact, the only thing keeping its loose look at the Arne Cheyenne Johnson trial from entirely going to hell in a handbag is the established, warm rapport of Wilson and Farmiga. With few scares and a marked decrease in this entry’s level of filmmaking, The Conjuring series is now a shadow of its old self. Its handling of the real-life murder committed by Johnson (a charismatic but underutilized Ruairi O’Connor), whose lawyer argued that he was possessed at the time, lacks the patience and virtuosity that helped make the first two films’ traditional hauntings so delightfully freaky. It’s got too much on its mind, as Ed and Lorraine (and the film) abandon Johnson’s case/trial—fertile ground for some paranormal novelty—pretty much immediately in favor of a road tripping whodunnit. Ambitious as its larger story may be, moving Ed and Lorraine beyond the trappings of haunted homes, its ghoulish gambles rarely rise above mediocrity and its craftsmanship rarely shows the refinement of a twig-and-bone witch’s totem.—Jacob Oller


The Nun

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Year: 2018
Director: Corin Hardy

The Nun may have been critically panned but there’s no denying how fun it is. The fifth installment of The Conjuring franchise is a spin-off of The Conjuring 2, where a demonic nun named Valak plagues the Warrens, particularly Lorraine. Played by the stunning Bonnie Aarons, Valak is one nasty villain who flits around in the shadows. So of course an origin story was in order. In The Nun, Valak is terrorizing a convent in Romania, causing the suicide of one of the nuns. A priest (Demián Bichi) with a troubled past—is there any other kind?—travels to Romania with a science-minded nun (Taissa Farmiga) to figure out the truth behind the haunting. The truth includes a vial of Jesus Christ’s blood, World War II bombings and a blood-vomiting scene, which is pretty incredible. Say what you will about The Nun, but it brought us more Bonnie Aarons, some wild setpieces and Farmiga following in her sister Vera’s creepy footsteps.—Mary Beth McAndrews


Annabelle Comes Home

annabelle-comes-home-movie-poster.jpg Release Date: 2019
Director: Gary Dauberman

After five years and seven films, the Conjuring franchise has developed a glossy house style and nearly exhausted its repertoire of scares. There are, it turns out, only so many ways to make the same setups frightening: Ghosts popping out of unlit corners to scare the willies out of unsuspecting humans, ghosts appearing right in front of unsuspecting humans who have just cast a cautious glance over their shoulders, ghosts gliding about in the background of a shot, ghosts stalking past windows and through walls in 360 arcs. Each tactic gets deployed with the same deliberate care in each movie, but the craftsmanship isn’t the issue. The routine is. So props to Annabelle Comes Home, the third film to center on the creepy doll of the title, for playing all of the series’ hits with gusto. Annabelle Comes Home is lively, energetic and even fun. “Fun” is what most of these movies aspire to be: They’re carnival rides built to entertain, uniting audiences in shared terrified delight. But that funhouse energy fluctuates in each entry. Their common flaw is inconsistency. Annabelle Comes Home remains a hoot from start to finish, in part thanks to the joys of variety and in part because it pulls a fast one by reintroducing Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, once again playing famed demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, before quickly ushering them out of the picture. Gary Dauberman, stepping into the role of director after writing screenplays for just about every Conjuring spin-off project, pivots focus to Judy Warren (McKenna Grace), Ed and Lorraine’s daughter, who’s a good deal more compelling as a protagonist than her folks after this many movies into the franchise. There’s not much to the film outside of ghoulish amusements; refreshingly, Judy’s struggles have nothing to do with being haunted but with living a haunted life. Dauberman understands how death isolates people who have experienced it from people who haven’t. This isn’t a movie in search of a greater meaning. It just needs to be entertaining. It does both, and better still, it bothers to be creative. —Andy Crump


The Conjuring 2

conjuring-2-poster.jpg Year: 2016
Director: James Wan

Even on his worst day, James Wan is one of the most talented 2000s-era horror filmmakers working in Hollywood. He is a man of many signatures with a knack for surrounding himself with equally talented collaborators. You can instantly identify Wan’s films (Saw, Furious 7) by their distinct production and set design, strong casting, memorably rattling boogeymen and bravura cinematography. The last of these is the most important element of his work: Unlike many of his peers, Wan treats the camera as a character more than as a tool. His DPs are often more essential to his ensemble than his principal and supporting actors. The Conjuring 2 is standard-issue haunted house stuff, filtered with Wan’s nonstandard gifts for aesthetics and engineering scares. He plays visual sleight of hand with the audience, convincing us to look at the center of the frame as terror closes in around the edges. We vault from our seats before we notice his deceptions. The film is a blast as a funhouse-style genre exercise, but there’s very little holding it all together. If The Conjuring offended some with its historical revisionism, at least that film had cohesion. The Conjuring 2, meanwhile, plays with themes that never wind up being fully developed.—Andy Crump


The Conjuring

conjuring.jpg Year: 2013
Director: James Wan

Let it be known: James Wan is, in any fair estimation, an above average director of horror films at the very least. The progenitor of big money series such as Saw and Insidious has a knack for crafting populist horror that still carries a streak of his own artistic identity, a Spielbergian gift for what speaks to the multiplex audience without entirely sacrificing characterization. The Conjuring can’t be denied as the Wan representative because it is far and away the scariest of all his feature films. Reminding me of the experience of first seeing Paranormal Activity in a crowded multiplex, The Conjuring has a way of subverting when and where you expect the scares to arrive. Its haunted house/possession story is nothing you haven’t seen before, but few films in this oeuvre in recent years have had half the stylishness that Wan imparts on an old, creaking farmstead in Rhode Island. The film toys with audience’s expectations by throwing big scares at you without standard Hollywood Jump Scare build-ups, simultaneously evoking classic golden age ghost stories such as Robert Wise’s The Haunting. Its intensity, effects work and unrelenting nature set it several tiers above the PG-13 horror against which it was primarily competing. It’s interesting to note that The Conjuring actually did receive an “R” rating despite a lack of overt “violence,” gore or sexuality. It was simply too frightening to deny, and that is worthy of respect. —Jim Vorel