From Stephen Strange to Ash Williams, Sam Raimi’s Movies Ranked


This article contains spoilers for every film Sam Raimi has directed, including the just released Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. You’ve been warned.

Sam Raimi was one of America’s best B-movie directors, and then he got picked to direct a trilogy of the biggest movies of all time. He didn’t necessarily intend to kickstart the comic book movie revolution, but a filmmaker who was once defined by geysers of blood and crude animation became a name almost synonymous with Marvel blockbusters. Where does his latest – Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – land? Read on to find out.


Oz the Great and Powerful

Year: 2013
Studio: Walt Disney

Colorful but empty, this soulless “prequel” to The Wizard of Oz will never be beloved, and with good reason. At least two of its leads are seriously miscast, and the weak script doesn’t give the other actors much to work with. There are some decent special effects sequences, but it’s a completely anonymous failure.


For Love of the Game

Year: 1994
Studio: Universal

No actor believes in the mythological power of baseball more than Kevin Costner. The star of Bull Durham, Field of Dreams and this extremely corny romantic drama must really love America’s favorite pastime. As an aging pitcher throwing his last game, he’s focused on taking down each batter while he reflects on his relationship with Jane (the late Kelly Preston). This movie isn’t bad so much as aggressively mediocre. Raimi probably got his biggest payday to date, but there’s not a single identifiable moment here. Even Oz had some scenes that were clearly his idea. Your dad probably loves this movie. In 20 years, I might grow to like it myself.



Year: 1985
Studio: Columbia

On paper, this should be a match made in heaven: Raimi *and* the Coen Brothers? Sign me up. Alas, this dark comedy fails to be compelling or funny. It does have a mean, madcap energy that at least distinguishes it. Unfortunately, that’s about the only positive thing to say about it. The filmmakers hated the experience and final product, though they would collaborate again on the much better Hudsucker Proxy.


Spider-Man 3

Year: 2007
Studio: Sony

As I mentioned when I ranked all the Spider-Man movies, this movie is overstuffed and miscast. But the bits that once felt like Raimi mocking the audience – especially Peter Parker’s post-symbiote douchebag persona – actually work. They just stand out in the midst of an overly serious, oversized blockbuster.


The Gift

Year: 2000
Studio: Paramount Classics

This Southern Gothic horror would work better if Cate Blanchett’s accent weren’t such a distraction. She plays a fortune teller who witnesses the murder of a local woman (Katie Holmes), but only in a vision. It’s got a good hook, a good cast and a good twist. But it’s often ridiculous instead of scary. With a few more tweaks, it probably could have been great.


Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Year: 2022
Studio: Walt Disney

Inevitably, any director who tries to make an MCU movie this late in the game will have his or her style tampered by the demands of Kevin Feige’s machine. Whether the story supports it or not, it must connect to the larger world, which now includes TV shows and movies that may not come out for years. Raimi’s first movie since 2013 is no exception. But when he wrests control – which is more often than you might think – it rules. Fighting a giant octopus, turning musical notes into throwing stars, getting accosted by Bruce Campbell; that’s all him. The MacGuffin of the film is even a book with evil powers!


Army of Darkness

Year: 1993 (United States)
Studio: Universal

This is where ranking gets tricky. Every movie from here on out is excellent, and it all comes down to personal preference. Some people will be aghast this wacky time-travel comedy is so low, but it’s always been my least favorite of the Evil Dead films. Bruce Campbell is terrific as usual, and it’s a fun mix of Ray Harryhausen visual effects and Three Stooges-esque slapstick. But if the first Evil Dead is almost all scares, Evil Dead II is a blend of scares and laughs, Army of Darkness is almost all laughs. I prefer the mix.



Year: 1990
Studio: Universal

Long before Liam Neeson brought his “particular set of skills” to more than a dozen interchangeable action movies, he starred as a mad scientist in this low-budget superhero flick. Though not based on a comic book, it has elements of Batman, The Shadowand The Phantom of the Opera. Neeson’s ability to turn on a dime from reserved to unhinged makes this one especially memorable.


The Evil Dead

Year: 1981
Studio: New Line

Of all the low-budget horror films that came in the wake of John Carpenter’s Halloween, this one’s clearly the best. Its set-up is familiar to anyone who’s ever watched a horror flick: a group of attractive young people head to a cabin in the woods and get picked off one by one. But there’s a level of care and innovation that makes this one unpolished but not “cheap.” Still, it loses some points for taking things too far in an early scene when one of the women is, uh, raped by a tree.



Year: 2002
Studio: Sony

Whether he intended to or not, Raimi is partly responsible for our current predicament: There are superhero movies seemingly every month, plus at least a dozen TV shows on broadcast or streaming. It’s too much of a good thing, but then and now this one feels special. Even if Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst are too old to be believable teenagers, there’s a playfulness and imagination on display that feels absent in a lot of superhero content today. Want proof it endures? How many people adored Dafoe’s reprise of Green Goblin in Spider-Man: No Way Home.


Drag Me to Hell

Year: 2009
Studio: Universal

A lean, mean horror flick, Raimi returned to his roots after the excess of Spider-Man 3. Alison Lohman gives the performance of her career as a junior banker who’s mercilessly tormented after cruelly denying a mortgage extension to an elderly woman. It’s dark and hilarious, and possibly the grossest movie to ever earn a PG-13 rating. This was an incredible in-theater experience and a fun, scary movie to show friends or younger family members.


The Quick and the Dead

Year: 1995
Studio: Sony

Criminally underrated, this Western doesn’t initially seem like a match for Raimi’s skill set. A mysterious woman (Sharon) arrives in a corrupt town for a shooting competition, ready to claim the top prize and expose some evil men. Its storytelling is old-fashioned, but its action and gore are decidedly modern. The incredible cast includes Gene Hackman (essentially reprising his Oscar-winning role from Unforgiven) and early turns from Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio.


Spider-Man 2

Year: 2004
Studio: Sony

A strong case can be made for this as the greatest of all modern comic book movies. Everything that worked in the first film is done even better here, with an all-time villain turn from Alfred Molina. The scene in which Doctor Octopus’s tentacles attack unsuspecting doctors and nurses is a signature moment.


Evil Dead 2

Year: 1987
Studio: Rosebud

Essentially a remake of the first film, there’s something about Bruce Campbell’s go-for-broke performance that makes it more than the sum of its (dismembered) parts. There’s more time and money for better gags, grosser zombies and crazier camerawork. In a word: Groovy.


A Simple Plan

Year: 1998
Studio: Paramount

Can a film that’s hardly representative of a filmmaker’s distinct style be No. 1? It’s my list, so I say yes. This is a cold, devastating film about greed. Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton give career-best performances as two brothers who discover a downed plane with millions of dollars in the woods, and go to great lengths to keep the money for themselves. One snap decision leads to another, and soon two average guys are responsible for multiple murders. Unlike a lot of movies on this list, this one is no fun at all, and all the better for it.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.