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31 Days of Halloween: A Ranking of the ‘Friday the 13th’ Films from Crystal Lake to Outer Space

By Jordan Peterson |

The blockbuster film franchise Friday the 13th began life as a cheap rip-off of John Carpenter’s Halloween (a fact producer/creator Sean S. Cunningham openly acknowledges). That’s not too surprising. After all, success begets imitation (and Halloween had plenty of imitators).

What is a bit shocking though is just how popular the hockey mask-sporting serial killer has become. Since the release of the 1980 original, Friday the 13th has spawned 10 sequels plus a reboot. According to Box Office Mojo, the series as a whole has scared up north of $821 million at the box office (adjusted for inflation). Add to that the millions more in subsequent home video, merchandising, and video game sales.

All this success has branded Jason Voorhees a pop culture icon and his bloody odyssey a cornerstone of the slasher genre. In lieu of his lucky day, I retrace the footprints of the notoriously unhappy camper and recount his barbarous trail of carnage and dismemberment.

These are all the Friday the 13th films ranked worst to best:

12.) Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

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Jason Goes to Hell finds itself burred at the very bottom of my list because it ignores everything that came before and plays more like a demon possession flick than a Friday the 13th film. Here Jason gains the ability to transfer his soul between victims after the corner responsible for his remains devours the killer’s still-beating heart. It’s a disgusting gimmick and clearly only exists to set up the inevitable Freddy vs. Jason matchup. One of these things is most certainly not like the others.

Director: Adam Marcus

Year: 1993

Box office (adjusted for inflation): $34.2 million

Behind the mask: Kane Hodder

11.) Friday the 13th- Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

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Props to the filmmakers for exploring new territory here (literally) and for trying to keep the franchise fresh on its eighth outing. Unfortunately, that’s where the compliments stop for Friday the 13th- Part VIII. This seventh sequel reeks of a cash grab. Laughably lame kills and the weakest story of the entire series quickly sink any intrigue this follow-up might have bore on the printed page. The movie’s called Jason Takes Manhattan, so why does two-thirds of it take place on a ship in the middle of the ocean? And why does Jason suddenly decide to up and leave his beloved camp? So many unanswered questions!

Director: Robin Hedden

Year: 1989

Box office (adjusted for inflation): $34.2 million

Behind the mask: Kane Hodder

10.) Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

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This is the Season of the Witch of the Friday the 13th films. For those not in the know, the third Halloween movie did not feature the series’ famed shape Michael Myers. Similarly, the masked maniac terrorizing the halfway house in A New Beginning isn’t Jason, at least not the genuine article. It’s admirable of Director Danny Steinmann to want to return the IP back to its POV/mystery roots, but we’ve been there and done that. Ultimately, if you’re a diehard Jason fan then this twist may leave you feeling a bit– ahem– empty on the inside.

Director: Danny Steinmann

Year: 1985

Box office (adjusted for inflation): $54.9 million

Behind the mask: Dick Wieand, Tom Morga (Dream sequences)

9.) Friday the 13th- Part III

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The third Friday the 13th film has a lot going for it. Director Steve Miner is back on board following the superior ‘Part 2.’ The setting is aptly wooded and off the beaten trail. The  counselors are a rowdy, horny assortment of personalities. Henry Manfredini introduces his funky take on the theme. Oh, and Jason finally gets his iconic mask. Unfortunately, the film itself is sort of a bore. None of the kills stand out, supposedly “funny” exchanges go on for far too long and do nothing but provide fluff, and the acting is as stiff as a rock Jason would use to bash in their skull.

Director: Steve Miner 

Year: 1982 

Box office (adjusted for inflation): $104.5 million 

Behind the mask: Richard Brooker 

8.) Friday the 13th (2009)

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This Friday the 13th reboot is arguably the best constructed film in the series, technically speaking. The makeup is upsettingly realistic and the detailed set design and cinematography recreate the familiar eeriness of Camp Crystal Lake. Outside of that, however, this film does nothing to distinguish itself from the other gritty, soulless 80’s remakes of the 2000s. If anything it adopts from them the unfortunate trend of grounding its villain, which ultimately takes away from them that which made them so scary in the first place.

Director: Marcus Nispel

Year: 2009

Box office (adjusted for inflation): $77.4 million

Behind the mask: Derek Mears

7.) Jason X

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Much like the entire series, Jason X is ridiculous. On the page, the idea of sending Jason Voorhees into outer space reads like a desperate attempt to keep the character relevant (because it is). Thankfully, on screen it’s a bit more fun than that. Director James Isaac cleverly intertwines tropes established by previous ‘Friday’ films with tropes from the sci-fi genre in general. The result is an often uneven but fully enjoyable Frankenstein’s monster of a slasher movie.

Director: James Isaac

Year: 2001

Box office (adjusted for inflation): $20 million

Behind the mask: Kane Hodder

6.) Freddy vs. Jason

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This film was stuck in development hell for over a decade, but as far as this writer is concerned, it was well worth the wait. Though it’s obviously designed to service a highly anticipated fight between two horror juggernauts, Freddy vs. Jason actually provides a compelling story and justification for why such a thing would happen. Up to this point, Jason had had a continuing run of movies (since 1980). On the other hand, it’d been nearly a decade since Freddy had hit the big screen in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. So in a world where people have seemingly forgotten about Krueger, it makes sense that the dream killer would want to be remembered and reviving Jason to do his dirty work is kind of a cool plot incentive as well as a reflection of real life. The story also mixes the two mythologies without one ever overshadowing the other. The characters feel real and the acting is some of the best in either series. Though the actual fight at the end leaves much to be desired, the joy of Freddy vs. Jason is the journey and not its final destination.

Director: Ronny Yu

Year: 2003

Box office (adjusted for inflation): $121.8 million

Behind the mask: Ken Kirzinger

5.) Friday the 13th (1980)

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It might be a Halloween rip-off, but Friday the 13th possess its own unique identity and much of that is thanks to the 1980 original. The gruesome deaths, Harry Manfredini’s hair-raising score, Pamela herself and Kevin Bacon were all introduced in this film. Thanks to Betsy Palmer’s crazed performance, Pamela Voorhees is one of cinema’s most underrated villains. She’s insanely evil, but you completely understand why she’s doing what she’s doing. Though Friday the 13th went another direction with Jason as the killer after 1980, the O.G.’s influence can be felt all the way through and into the remake.

Director: Sean S. Cunningham

Year: 1980

Box office (adjusted for inflation): $131.3 million

Behind the mask (camera): Betsy Palm

4.) Friday the 13th- Part VII: The New Blood

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Jason Voorhees is a supernatural force of nature who punches above the weight class of his promiscuous prey. However, he may finally have met his match come The New Blood in the form of a teenage girl named Tina who possesses telekinetic powers. It’s a fascinating, pulpy premise and the majority of the film plays out like an elevated game of cat vs. mouse. Beneath this film’s campy façade, however, lies a compelling character study about a young girl coming to grips with the fact that her psychic influence caused the death of her abusive father. It’s a powerful conflict and it adds a whole new layer of emotions and stakes for moviegoers, which is something most of the other ‘Friday’s’ lack.

Director: John Carl Buechler 

Year: 1988

Box office (adjusted for inflation): $41.4 million

Behind the mask: Kane Hodder

3.) Friday the 13th- Part II

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 Then you should know Jason’s mother, Mrs. Voorhees, was the original killer. Jason didn’t show up until the sequel. — Scream (1996)

That’s right. Prior to Friday the 13th- Part II, Jason only existed as a passing reference made by his mother, Pamela, to justify her slaying of the original Crystal Lake counselors. Everything comes full circle this time around as her son returns to the camp where he died, seeking revenge. Director Steve Miner knows this series and in the hands of a lesser talent, the extension of Jason’s mythos here could have come across like a bad joke. Instead, ‘Part 2’ is an unsettling and ballsy addition to the cannon. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the sack (still my favorite look for Jason), which is to this day the creepiest thing a mass murderer has put over his face this side of a spray painted Captain Kirk death mask.

Director: Steve Miner

Year: 1981

Box office (adjusted for inflation): $69.4 million

Behind the mask (sack): Warrington Gillette

2.) Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

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Had The Final Chapter truly been the swan song for Friday the 13th, the series would have gone out on a high note. The film is sharper and deadlier than those that came before it, as if the filmmakers behind it had perfected the craft of a Jason movie. Legendary special effects artist Tom Savini returns and realizes some of the series’ goriest and most violent kills. The performances are also an improvement, with additions like Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman as Jason’s young nemesis, Tommy Jarvis. And thanks to a nighttime setting and the inclusion of rain (sort of a big deal in this world), The Final Chapter boasts a haunting atmosphere of dread and despair. This movie embodies everything people have come to love (and hate) about the Friday the 13th.

Director: Joseph Zito

Year: 1984

Box office (adjusted for inflation): $87.2 MILLION

Behind the mask: Ted White

1.) Friday the 13th- Part VI: Jason Lives

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Jason Lives is a Friday the 13th film on steroids. It’s everything fans have come to know and love about the franchise turned all the way up to eleven. Director Tom McLoughlin’s installment whole-heartedly embraces the identity of its brand then unabashedly goes hog wild with it, to the point where nothing is without excess. Jason can’t even smash a guy’s face into a tree here without that guy’s face leaving behind a preposterous smiley face dent. This movie exudes that type of joy and it’s full of similarly outrageous kills and self-referential jokes. The characters are a motley crew and the dialogue pops off the screen. Even when Jason is murdering random stragglers, those scenes feel like comedic horror shorts. But it’s not all fun and games. The humor is well balanced with a deadly serious Tommy Jarvis and some truly spooky camp scares. In all, Jason Lives is so much fun that it gives off the impression that Jason enjoys his job.

Director: Tom McLoughlin

Year: 1986

Box office (adjusted for inflation): $46.6 million

Behind the mask: C.J. Graham

That’s my ranking of all 12 Friday the 13th films! What do you think? Do you disagree on any of these film’s slots? What does your ranking look like? Let me know in the comments below!

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31 Days of Halloween: All 7 Chucky Movies Ranked Worst to Best

You’ve noticed by now Hollywood’s proclivity for remaking and rebooting any and all franchises with any sort of brand recognition, including those featuring cherished slasher icons. Jason, Freddy, Michael, and Leatherface have all been revived within the last fourteen years (much to the chagrin of horror fanatics).

One maniacal mainstay of the genre, however, has managed to elude the reboot bug since his debut back in 1988. Enter Charles Lee Ray, aka The Lakeshore Strangler, aka Chucky. Though there was once upon a time talk of rebooting the original Child’s Play, America’s favorite killer doll has lived on through a slew of sanguinary sequels.

This week marks the release of the highly-anticipated seventh installment (sixth sequel) in the series, Cult of Chucky. Does the latest outing rank towards the top of the toy chest? Find out for yourself as I rank all seven Chucky films from worst to best:

7.) Seed of Chucky (2004)

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One thing about the Chucky movies and their progenitor Don Mancini is that they are not afraid to take risks and try something different. Each installment takes the character to bold new places. Obviously that doesn’t always guarantee success, which is something both fans and filmmakers found out the hard way with Seed of Chucky. This film desperately tries to recapture the tongue-in-cheek humor of its predecessor by introducing Chucky and Tiffany’s transsexual son/daughter Glen/Glenda. Ultimately, ‘Seed’ was such a mess that it killed the franchise for nearly a decade. The once-terrifying toy had become the punch-line of his own joke.

6.) Child’s Play 3 (1991)

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Regarded by many (including series creator Don Mancini himself) as the worst entry in the franchise, Child’s Play 3 was released a mere nine months after Child’s play 2. Though military academy seems like the next logical step for the young and unlucky Andy Barclay, the resulting film feels rushed and often uninterested in fully exploring its new playground. That’s a shame too because ‘CP3′ features one of the series’ spookiest set pieces (a carnival ride from Hell) as well as some of its most brutal kills (anybody up for some paintball?).

5.) Bride of Chucky (1998)

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Following Scream in the mid 90s, it seemed as if the slasher genre as a whole suddenly became self-aware. Sadistic serial killers started cracking jokes at their own tropes as spine-tingling scares gave way to knee-slapping wisecracks. Luckily, Chucky always possessed a sense of humor so the tonal shift wasn’t too jarring. On the contrary, a more whimsical and wed Chucky seemed to be just what the series needed after the dismal misfire that was Child’s Play 3. Jennifer Tilly gives 100% of herself to the role of Tiffany, Chucky’s blushing, psychotic bride who is every bit as stubborn and dangerous as her husband. The couple’s chemistry is insanely infectious.

4.) Child’s Play  (1988)

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The film that started it all. Child’s Play introduced the world to the Good Guys dolls and their infamous homicidal icon. The film also introduced audiences to Chucky’s long-time nemesis, Andy Barclay (who at least makes a cameo appearance in five of the seven films), as well as to the serial killer’s crucial voodoo practices. While Child’s Play serves as the bedrock for crazier, future installments, it definitely takes the fewest risks. Still, it’s a solid, frequently scary slasher flick that earns its spot on this ranking for making me scared of a child’s toy.

3.) Curse of Chucky (2013)

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After Seed of Chucky nearly killed the franchise nine years prior, Curse of Chucky reinvigorated the redheaded icon by returning him to his horror roots. The film introduced us to Nika (Fiona Dourif) as Chucky’s latest recurring adversary with some intriguing ties to Charles Lee Ray. Obviously ‘Curse’ returns the series to a darker place but it also expands upon the established history of its titular butcher. Though he was steering his ship in a slightly new direction, creator/director Don Mancini managed to maintain the essence of what makes the series so special.

2.) Cult of Chucky (2017)

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Cult of Chucky is the boldest Chucky film yet. It takes the most significant stride forward for the series in terms of narrative while introducing some disturbing and unique twists. Following the bloodbath that was Curse of Chucky, Nika (Fiona Dourif) has come to believe that it was truly her and not the Chucky doll who murdered her family, resulting in her commitment to an asylum for the criminally insane. ‘Cult’ takes advantage of its apt, new setting in some diabolically fun ways without completely caving into those comedic tendencies. ‘Cult’ is also the prettiest film in the franchise, providing some of the most frightening and haunting imagery to date.

1.) Child’s Play 2 (1990)

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When debating the entries of a long-running franchise such as the Chucky movies, inevitably the discussion turns to the original when siting which is “the best.” And when you’re talking about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, or A Nightmare on Elm Street, it’s tough to argue against that. However, narrative speaking, Child’s Play 2 builds off the original in interesting ways. With Andy’s mom committed to a psychiatric hospital, Andy is placed in foster care where we meet Christine Elise’s charming Kyle. We also get a peak inside the company responsible for the Good Guys dolls as they try to rebuild their damaged brand. Director John Lafia displays a tighter grip on the film’s scares and truly ups the anty from the original film. Plus he gets some credit for the improved performances by the cast, including star Alex Vincent.


Well there you have it! That’s my ranking of the seven Chucky movies so far. What’s your ranking look like? Hit me up in the comments below and let the discussion begin!

The Best Recent Horror Movie Prequels

Speaking in general terms, prequels get a bad rap and that seems to go double for horror prequels. This weekend sees the release of Annabelle: Creation, the prequel to Annabelle, which itself is a prequel to The Conjuring. If social media is any indication, it seems many have prematurely dismissed the forthcoming origin despite its official release still two days out.

It’s tough, though, to blame potential moviegoers for a lack of enthusiasm on their part regarding a second Annabelle movie. Sure the original scared up huge box office success, but the film was critically panned and nobody since has been clamoring for another go-around with the world’s creepiest doll.

Thankfully, recent history is on our side. No longer does a horror movie prequel automatically mean a horrible film. In fact, some have gone on to be better films than the original. Here are five recent examples of great prequels to horror films.

5. Insidious: Chapter 3

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Horror Master James Wan is a household name. After establishing two mega-popular tent poles (Saw and The Conjuring) and refueling another (Furious 7), he should be. But not every swing is a hit, even for great filmmakers. Insidious: Chapter 2 is a critical stain on Wan’s otherwise beloved resume. It left such a sour taste in audiences’ mouths that the third chapter shares so few ties with the first two installments, with of course the exception of Lin Shaye, who is an absolute delight as the series’ psychic. By stepping away from recognizable names and faces of Insidious and focusing on a new family while keeping a tight leash on tension, this prequel has breathed new life into these movies. Bring on Chapter Four!

4. Final Destination 5

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Where is a franchise to go following a fourth film called The Final Destination? Back to the beginning, of course! As it turns out, not such a bad call for the Final Destination franchise. While Final Destination 5 doesn’t do anything to win over new audiences, hardcore horror heads will no doubt revel in the prequel’s tongue-in-cheek sense of mischief and its effectively silly application of 3D technology. What’s more, ‘FD5′ features some of the series’ most ludicrous and memorable deaths (see: acupuncture Buddha and gymnastics splat-tastics).

3. Prometheus

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Prometheus is undoubtedly one of the most polarizing films to come out of the last decade. Many moviegoers praised Director Ridley Scott for imaginatively exploring new possibilities within the Alien universe and an equal number of people criticize the filmmaker for unnecessarily squatting over his cherished property (hence Ridley “Squat”). By its inclusion on this list, I’m sure you’ve already surmised that I tend to hang my hat on the former. That wasn’t always the case, though. Prior to Alien: Covenant, I thought Prometheus was a pretentious cash grab that promised answers but ultimately left me with more questions. After seeing where Ridley Scott plans to take the series, I’ve since changed my tune and see this film as the first act of a larger story featuring Michael Fassbender’s David, who is slowly becoming one of modern cinema’s greatest villains.

2. Paranormal Activity 3

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The original Paranormal Activity reinvigorated the found footage horror fad that lasted the better part of a decade. Paranormal Activity 2 was just more of the same. Instead of giving the same ol’ situation one more try, the third installment straight up jumps back to the eighties to explore the haunting of its lead heroines as young material girls living in a material world. The lack of contemporary tech forced Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost to roll with it and craft once in a lifetime scares. The result was a truly terrifying thriller.

1. Ouija: Origin of Evil

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Prequels are the life support systems of the horror genre. They’re a studio’s attempt to keep a lucrative franchise alive. Typically, that involves upping the ante on whatever the gruesome gimmick of that particular series is at the expense of coherent, compelling storytelling. Director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) managed to achieve both with his prequel to the dumpster fire that is Ouija. Through the course of a deliberately paced slow burn, Flanagan simultaneously builds his characters and his scares. Consequently, ‘Origin of Evil’ is as tender as it is frightening and a decided improvement over the first film.

There you have it. Good horror movie prequels do exist and we’ve been fortunate to get as many as we’ve had the past few years. Speaking for Annabell: Creation, David F. Sandberg showed us he knows original horror when he put out last year’s Lights Out. Plus he recently landed the Shazam! gig, so James Wan isn’t the only visionary who thinks Sandberg’s capable of creatively spinning existing material.

Let us know what you all thought about our list in the comments section below and be sure to include your list of best horror movie prequels.

The 5 Best, Most Complex Villains in the MCU

Thus far, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a super-sized success, both financially and critically. Still, that hasn’t deterred the passionate online community from ragging on Kevin Feige and company for the undercooked depictions of their big screen baddies (collectively dubbing the issue “Marvel’s Villain Problem”).

While evil-doing duds like Dormammu and Malekith (you’re looking him up, aren’t you?) leave much to be desired, Marvel Studios doesn’t get enough credit. It’s true Marvel’s villains mostly service the stories of their heroes, but by combining multilayered writing with charismatic performances, they’ve brought to life a noteworthy number of threatening, complex cads who possess just enough humanity to identify with.

With the recent release of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Michael Keaton’s apparent inauguration into the elite ranks of Marvel’s rank, now is the perfect time to shine the spotlight on the best villains that the MCU has had to offer.


*CAUTION: THE FOLLOWING LIST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR ALL DISCUSSED MOVIES.

5. Adrian Toomes/ Vulture (Spider-Man: Homecoming)

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The opening scene in Spider-Man: Homecoming is special. Not only are we introduced to Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes right off the bat, but we get a glimpse into the life of a MCU villain pre-feather jacket. Toomes was a working class hero who found himself unfairly bent over by the system. Despite his misfortune, he found a way to thrive and for the betterment of his family. It’s the MCU’s most honest origin story and one that unfortunately speaks to a desperation that’s too real for too many people.

Toomes succeeds once he embraces his inner Vulture. He channels his anger for Tony Stark and wealthy industrialists like him into becoming endlessly organized and tactful. From that, Toomes builds and runs an underground criminal organization that specializes in the obviously illegal retail of extraterrestrial WMD’s under the nose of Stark Tower for nearly a decade without so much as a word from any authority or Avenger.

Now all grown up and desperate to impress Mr. Stark in the hopes of officially becoming a member of the Avengers, fifteen-year-old Peter Parker/Spider-Man tries to put an end to Toomes’s long-running scheme. What the naïve Wall Crawler underestimates is Vulture’s loyalty. Like the fatherly fowl he is, Toomes will do whatever it takes to provide for his families.

It’s a lesson Peter learns in the hardest of ways. In a third act shocker (haha), Peter goes to the house of his biggest crush to pick her up for the school homecoming dance and who should answer the door but Toomes himself. No, he isn’t holding Liz (that’s the girl’s name) hostage. He’s her father.

Peter is suddenly hit by the realization that he and the supposed bad guy he’s been trying to stop share a common love. Here Toomes becomes an even more integral part of this Peter Parker’s origin story and all the more menacing. Michael Keaton is chilling and his performance is particularly effective in one scene just before the dance where he literally scares the color from Peter’s face.

Throughout all of this, Vulture’s Chitauri tech poses a real threat to the Web Head, who’s dealing with a reality he’d only previously read about in school. Now he’s experience the devastation of these alien devices for himself and at the near risk of countless lives, including those of the people he holds dear.

Other than his writing, Keaton’s performance, his important to Peter as a character, and the greater threat he poses, there is one more thing that makes Vulture such a great villain. Spider-Man, the hero of this story, isn’t even the one who stops Vulture in the end. It’s his own ignorance about the combustibility of his own cargo. After it explodes and takes Vulture down, Spidey just webs him up.

4. Ego the Living Planet (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)

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The biggest question coming out of the first Guardians of the Galaxy was “Who is Star-Lord’s father?” Thankfully, the main through line of ‘Vol. 2’ offers up answers and then some (thanks, Drax). For starters, we learned that not since Darth Vader has a father been such a pain in his son’s ass.

In this case, Peter’s ass pain goes by the name Ego. He’s the smoothest sailor this side of Andromeda with a smile that could charm the stripes off an alien Zebra. He’s also a Celestial, which is a fancy name given to immortal cosmic beings in the Marvel universe. Essentially, he’s a god with a god complex who decides he wants to cover the universe in his gooey life force (not a euphemism) because nothing could ever possibly be as awesome as he is. Ever.

Unfortunately, one Celestial isn’t enough to get the job done. He needs another. So, like a self-loathing teenager with daddy issues, Ego decides to procreate a solution into existence. He hops planet to planet, knocking up exotic women only to kill his darlings (literally) once they fail to demonstrate signs of his superior genetics.

Along the way, Ego stops by Earth for some Earth poontang. Instead, he fatefully falls head over heels for a Colorado hippie chick. From their impassioned union comes Star-Lord and Ego’s realization that gals cannot come before goals. Logically, Ego ends his lover’s life to eliminate that temptation and returns home.

After years of fruitless endeavor, Ego finally finds his demigod son and invites him back to his planetary pad. Here Ego charismatically charms Peter into a trance-like submission before revealing to him the tragic truth of his lineage; however, it’s not the evil, mustache-twirling reveal you might expect from an egotistical divinity.

Instead, Kurt Russell’s rockstar persona falls away to reveal a moment of genuine vulnerability. Ego feels guilty about murdering Meredith (Pete’s mom) but at the same time insists Star-Lord not let his emotional attachments get in the way of the bigger picture (they do, after all, have a universe to perfect).

But like all great villains, Ego’s unwavering commitment to his cause ultimately leads to his downfall. While he may have felt certain feelings for Meredith Quill, he underestimated human compassion. Thus it is up to the son to atone for the sins of his father by setting off a nuclear bomb inside his celestial skull.

Ego is a villain of mythic proportions whose story resembles both the rise and fall of similar divine characters from ancient myths. He is all-powerful and endlessly in love with himself because of it. His sense of entitlement poetically drives him to destruction at the hands of his jaded brood and Kurt Russell tragically portrays this downward spiral with one of his best performances in years.

3. Ultron (The Avengers: Age of Ultron)

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Perhaps no MCU villain is more motivated by his daddy issues than Ultron. Developed by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner to help achieve “piece in our time,” Ultron ultimately decides that peace can only be achieved at the cost of organic life on Earth. “Once the dust settles, the only thing living in this world will be metal,” the mad machine exclaims as he raises an entire city into the sky.

Ultron originally claims it’s the Avengers who are standing in the way of peace, calling them “killers” and accusing them of disrupting the natural order. It’s their obsession with power that drives this and what fuels Ultron’s hate for Stark, whom he refers to as “a sickness” during his temper tantrum after Ulysses Klaue compares Ultron to one of Stark’s robots.

If Ultron’s unsound leap in logic and emotional outbursts remind you of a child, that’s because he is one. Let’s not forget, Ultron is only a few days old during the course of this movie. He just happens to have access to all the world’s recorded knowledge and history. That makes him the world’s most dangerous newborn.

It’s an interesting concept for a mecha-villain. Typically, evil movie robots are depicted as being cold and calculated, like HAL 9000 or the Terminator. Ultron is special because, while he bears similar ideologies about his supposed superiority to humans, he is as emotionally compromised as the best of them. Moreover, Ultron seemingly inherited his short fuse from assuredly the angriest being in the Marvel Universe, Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Incredible Hulk.

These are shortcomings that Ultron strives to live above earlier on in the film. After his initial confrontation with the Avengers, he forms a sympathetic partnership with the twins Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver based on their common hatred for Stark. Ultron typically apologies for his outbursts or stops mid-sentence to keep himself in check, especially while dealing with the twins.

Of course Ultron ultimately suffers the sin of his fathers. At its core processing unit, that’s what Ultron’s story is all about. However, instead of loving himself securely as his own autonomous being, Ultron tries to get rid of everybody until he’s the last man, er, robot standing.

It’s this inconsistent worldview that makes Ultron so dangerous. He is a ticking time bomb with access to anything connected to the internet and in the modern world that’s just about everything. James Spader perfectly embodies the raw insanity of Ultron and his thunderous tones terrify even when he’s in his weakest forms.

2. Loki (The Avengers)

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Tom Hiddleston’s Loki truly earns his title God of Mischief during his many appearances in the MCU. He’s proven to be a ceaseless schemer who’s always thinking three steps ahead of everyone else and willing to do whatever it takes to whoever he must in order to get what he wants. Not even Odin, his own father, and Thor, his brother, are safe from Loki’s treachery.

Tom Hiddleston personifies the snake that Loki is. He’s handsome, charming, and charismatic. These are qualities that Loki fully embraces for himself in to lower the guards of any unsuspecting victims. And if that doesn’t work, the jerk can shape shift.

Like all memorable foils, Loki is more than just the bad guy. Like Ultron, he is wrought with fragile emotions. Unlike Ultron, however, there is a complex history to Loki that has shaped the character we know and love to hate in the Marvel movies.

For starters, Loki has always been physically inferior to his brother Thor. Despite the fact that Loki consistently demonstrated a higher intelligence than his beefy bro, Odin still looked favorably upon Thor as the next king of Asgard.

Loki was unable to reconcile his own idea of leadership with his father’s and this dilemma eventually spawned a deep hatred. This hatred only worsened when Loki discovered he was adopted from the Ice Giants, a race of beings whom the Asgardians are socialized from birth to despise. Having been lied to by those closest to him his entire life, Loki completely turns on his family.

Obviously, Loki’s thirst for having things his way comes from a deep-rooted insecurity. He’s felt lied to and never in control of his own life. This drives Loki in The Avengers to pull back the curtain on the illusion of choice to humanity. He is upfront with them and says their existence can be made much simpler by submitting to his control.

Loki’s self-assurance that he knows what’s best for everyone and his willingness to prove it is what makes him such a compelling and dangerous antagonist.

1. Helmut Zemo (Captain America: Civil War)

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At number one, this is surely a divisive pick. There seems to be just as much praise on the interwebs for Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo as there is protest. And the idea of placing him atop Loki as the best developed villain in the MCU seems ludicrous, doesn’t it? After all, Loki’s been in way more movies.

True. But Zemo has the advantage in a big, bad way. He defeated the Avengers. That’s right. Unlike any villain before him, Helmut Zemo actually accomplishes what he sets out to do: fracture the Avengers from the inside. In almost every case, the heroes topple the bad guy in the end. Here, however, even though he winds up behind bars, Zemo takes the day.

Another thing to keep in mind when talking about Zemo as the best, most complex villain in the MCU is that he is only human. He does not possess any superpowers nor a high-tech super suit. He’s not in peak physical form and he’s not specialized in combat. He’s just a dude whose world came crumbling down literally and metaphorically when Ultron dropped Sokovia from the sky.

Daniel Bruhl portrays Zemo as cold and calculated after this, which makes sense seeing is how he’s lost his family. Bruhl’s performance is realistically chilling and unexpressive. It may not be as bombastic a turn as Spader with Ultron or Hiddleston with Loki, but it’s engrossing on a more human level.

Since ‘Age of Ultron’, Zemo blames the Avengers and seeks to spare anyone else the pain of their collateral damage by riding the world of them. This is where Zemo demonstrates maniacal brilliance. Like the movie going audience, Zemo is aware that nobody has every topped the Avengers before. He thus concludes that only the Avengers can best the Avengers.

So what does Zemo do? He brings to light the fact that it was none other than Bucky who murdered Tony Stark’s parents. By planting that seed, the human side of these superhumans does the rest and consequently arises the titular Civil War.

Captain America: Civil War is not just another movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a point of no return. It made such a splash that we have yet to see the long term effects. To this day no villain has scarred the MCU the way Zemo has.

There you have it! That’s our pick for the five best, most complex villains in the MCU. What did you think? Do you agree or disagree with our ranking? What’s yours look like? Let us know in the comments section!

Ranking ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ & the rest of the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movies

Believe it or not, Johnny Depp actually garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Actor with his iconic performance as the goofy Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. It’s fourteen years later and we’ve now got five of these things (that’s right, five films based on a Disney theme park ride). Obviously, certain films in this tired franchise are better than others, so with the release of ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ just on the horizon, now is the perfect time to reflect back on the series’ high and low tides.

*The list below is ranked from best to worse. Everybody knows which film is the best in the series so there's no reason to try and hold you in suspense.

1.) Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

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I’m just going to come right out and say it: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl is a perfect film. Now by no means am I asserting that it’s one of the greatest films ever made (although it’s certainty one of my favorites). I’m simply suggesting that the first ‘Pirates’ film is the best version of itself that it could possibly be. It’s funny, action-packed, and frequently heartfelt with strong characterization and memorable performances from its tremendous cast. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and make sure to cross this one off the ole bucket list.

2.) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

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To many critics and fans, this is where the ‘Pirates’ films start taking on water. And while I agree that this first sequel marks the beginning of the series’ over self-indulgence, by no means is this a bad film. Not only does Dead Man’s Chest expand upon the mythology of the first movie in new and interesting ways but it successfully grows the three leads beyond where they initially left off: Will and Elizabeth are arrested for aiding the escape of Jack (in the first movie) and in exchange for their freedom, the pair must hunt down their former partner in crime and return him to Port Royal. This film also marks the only time we see Captain Jack truly terrified as he’s simultaneously pursued by fabled infamy himself, Davy Jones. The new villains are equally well developed and Bill Nye as Jones is a strong addition to the already impressive cast. Dead Man’s Chest may not be a timeless treasure, but it’s a worthy follow-up to Curse of the Black Pearl.

3.) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

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Unfortunately, the latest film in the ‘Pirates’ franchise is not the greatest. That said, it’s still one of the better entries (if that means anything to you). There are flashes of inspiration here and there that come close to recapturing the adventurous spirit of the original light-hearted fare, particularly in terms of practical stunt work. And while Captain Jack is as static as ever, we do learn a bit more about his backstory and see just how he became Captain Jack. The series also continues to add talent. Javier Bardem is an outstanding addition to the ‘Pirates’ hall of infamy. Likewise, Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario are great as the “new” Will and Elizabeth, though they’re often overshadowed by Captain Jack’s predictable hijinks. Additionally, this film seems uninterested in the established ‘Pirates’ lore and does little to expand it. Essentially, it’s the Diet Coke of the Pirates of the Caribbean pictures. It’s not as sweet as the original but neither is it a detriment to your health… At least in small doses.

*You can catch our video review of the latest ‘Pirates’ here!

4.) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

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If Dead Man’s Chest is where these movies start taking on water, then At World’s End is where the whole thing gives way and sinks under the weight of its own bloated cargo. There are too many concurrent subplots, a bounty of useless characters, a convoluted development of the mythos, and most of the practical stunt work is replaced by special effects noise. Worst of all, this excess of nonsense racks up a total runtime nearing three hours. Thankfully, voyage isn’t entirely hopeless. There are a couple lifeboats. For one, the performances are still top notch despite the fact that most of the characters’ arcs head in some overly-silly directions. And some of the action lends itself to some pretty memorable sequences, particularly the three-way war at the end which features a magical whirlpool. I’m getting a headache just thinking about all this.

5.) Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

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Our reflection from first to worst ends here, On Stranger Tides. Before we dive into justifying this film’s ranking, let’s talk about the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. This, the fourth entry in the series, does boast the shortest runtime of the bunch, ringing in at only two hours and seventeen minutes. Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz jump aboard, once again keeping with ‘Pirates’ tradition of bringing in big-name talent. Unfortunately, none of it is enough to keep On Stranger Tides afloat. The film is a dreadful bore. The action is much too tame and Captains Jack and Barbossa are both caricatures of their former selves. This film plays out more like a fan fiction “What if?” scenario than a legitimate chapter in the life of one of cinema’s most iconic adventurers.

Yo-ho-how did we do? What do you think of our ranking and what would yours look like? We want to know! Drop down into the comments section and let us know!

Ranking ‘Alien: Covenant’ among the rest of the ‘Alien-Predator’ films

There is a lot of history to sink your teeth into between the Alien and Predator franchises. Both have experienced their high’s as well as their low’s. Despite the ceaseless debates about what exactly qualifies as what, it seems diehard fans are perpetually bursting at the chest for another chance to live inside this quasi-shared universe (whether it be the movies, comics, video games, whatever). If you’re among them (or just a casual fan of gory sci-fi action), then you’re in luck! Friday marks the release of the latest entry (directed by Ridley Scott, too!) in the series: Alien: Covenant.

To commemorate this surely divisive event, we here at Movie Minutes have ranked the eleven films (including ‘Covenant’) of the Alien and Predator (kind of) shared cinematic universe in an order we consider “worst” to “best.” Enjoy!

11.) Alien 3

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This film is so bad that its director, David Fincher (The Social Network, Gone Girl, Fight Club, if you can believe that), did not even want to be given credit on the project. It’s so bad that the Fox Studios, at one time, had officially announced plans to retcon the film with a Neill Blomkamp installment that was going to take place chronologically after James Cameron’s Aliens. And then there are the fans, who felt sleighed by (among other things) the unceremonious, unnecessary killings-off of two beloved characters in the first scene. Nobody wants this movie.

10.) Predator 2

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This film finds itself as low on our list as it is simply because of how forgettable it is. It’s your prototypical “copy-paste” sequel that plucks the titular extraterrestrial from the actual jungles of Central America and plops it into the concrete jungle of New York City. It’s an interesting idea on paper, but the film offers few new ideas or at least anything that sticks. Plus, Danny Glover just does not have the campy charisma of Arnold Schwarzenegger that helped make the iconic first film so much fun.

9.) Alien: Resurrection

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Unlike the last film on our list, Alien: Resurrection is anything but forgettable. It’s a weird, mixed bag of interesting ideas, poor visual effects, and fun performances. It focuses on the hybrid experimentation between the humans and the iconic xenormorphs, which not only revived Ripley but, in turn, granted her superhuman strength. It’s a completely ludicrous concept that actually lends itself to some fun action and some strange sci-fi sequences that almost play out like a send-up of the series itself. Plus it never hurts to put Sigourney Weaver, Ron Pearlman, Winona Ryder, and Brad Dourif in the same movie together.

8.) Alien vs. Predator

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I know already that this is where I’ll be taking the most gruff. You see, I enjoy the Alien-Predator throwdown flicks more than most. I love the idea that the Predators hunt the xenomorphs as a sort of right of passage/sport, though the more specific explanations necessary to bridge the two mythologies are a bit muddled. Regardless, there is a certain novelty is watching these two titans of sci-fi go head to head as they perfectly compliment each other’s weaknesses: the xenomorph with its brute strength and killer instinct and the Predator with its superior intellect and advanced technology. However, I don’t quite understand the math that says two brutally R-rated franchises come together to make a PG-13 film.

7.) Predators

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Slapping an “S” at the end of “Predator” was exciting. They did it to Alien and we got a whole bunch of aliens! What would Predators be like? Well, as it turns out, exactly like the first ‘Predator’ movie only with less believable characters. It’s not all bad though. The film does introduce some unique ideas such as the Predators dedicating entire planets to  the hunt and setting the film on one of those planets is an intriguing idea gushing with possibilities. Unfortunately, the filmmakers weren’t quite able to capitalize on it. Predators does, however, boast some exhilarating action sequences. Those combined with some fresh ideas and some pretty hammy performances (particularly from one Adrien Brody), is enough to warrant at least a once through.

6.) Alien vs. Predator: Requiem

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Here we are again. This is the movie I wanted the first film in this short-lived series to be: xenomorphs, Predators out in the open, duking it out in gory, R-rated fashion. ‘Requiem’ benefits from a simpler plot involving a rogue Predator visiting Earth to extinguish the abominable hybrid of their two species (the “Predalien”). It puts a sci-fi twist on the classic revenge Western. Unfortunately, the humans prove once again to be the weak link here. The dialogue is often cartoonishly unspeakable and the characters speaking it laughably lite on development.

5.) Prometheus

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There’s genuinely a lot to admire about Prometheus. It’s a technical splendor. The cinematography is gorgeous and the visual effects are out of this world (get it?). Scott’s premise of going back and exploring the origins of life within the beloved Alien universe is utterly fascinating. And, of course, there’s the stellar cast: Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, and Idris Elba, just to name a few. It’d be higher on my list if it had answered more questions than it asked. Prometheus was marketed as an Alien prequel but failed to deliver that connection.

4.) Alien: Covenant

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The latest in the long-running franchise is every bit the technical splendor that it’s predecessor, Prometheus, is. Unlike Prometheus, however, Alien: Covenant delivers the extraterrestrial goods. It more closely bridges the gap between Prometheus and Alien seamlessly, answering a lot of big questions while also leaving some big ones for Scott’s next couple installments to tackle. If those next films are anything like this tense, slow burning slasher, then I say keep ’em coming!

3.) Predator

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You know how everyone always says the original is the best? Well, in this case that’s true (at least so far). Like its featured band of beef cakes, Predator‘s savageness is rivaled only by its simplicity. One hyper-intelligent alien warrior vs. a squad of super-macho commandos (think of it as a beefier, sweatier, bloodier Ten Little Indians). Thankfully the film plays up the camp of its own premise and Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the outfit’s commander with just the right amount of tongue planted in his cheek. Plus, the guy knows how to sell an action scene and this film’s full of ’em!

2.) Alien

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This is by far the best true-to-form horror film on this list. Technically, yes, it is just Jaws in space, but who doesn’t want to see that? Director Ridley Scott masters the art of tone with this film. Every prop, set piece, and lighting configuration in every shot is meticulously designed to make you feel uneasy or on edge. That way when things do eventually go horribly wrong (and they do!), it feels that much worse. Alien also features the trippiest-looking shark ever in a space movie. H.R. Giger’s designs are so singular and so powerful that just gazing upon the xenomorph is enough to let you know that, whatever you’re looking at, it can’t be good for your health. Then there’s the fact that every movie about an alien aboard a spaceship ever has tried to be this film and that’s got to count for something, right?

1.) Aliens

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It’s pretty much a tossup between Ridley Scott’s original slow burn and James Cameron’s action-packed follow-up. It more or less depends on the day; however, on this particular day we’re giving the edge to Aliens. It never tries to be Alien. Instead, it takes the core concept of the original film and expands it into the mythology we know and love today by approaching the story through the lens of a different genre and introducing elements that have since become franchise fixtures, such as the xenomorph queen. Cameron also surrounded Signourney Weaver with a strong cast and introduced us to some beloved characters such as Hicks and Newt. Aliens is not only one of the greatest sequels of all time, it’s one of the greatest films of all time.

What do you think of our list? Hit up our comments section below and let us know and don’t forget to share how you’d rearrange this list!

9 Films That Justified the Found Footage Craze

After Blair Witch‘s disappointing box office run last year, the found footage fad has seemingly died down. This might be music to the ears of the many film fans who had grown weary of the overused trope, but it wasn’t all just shaky noise. Before Phoenix Forgotten once again sours moviegoers’ tastes this weekend, let’s take a moment to honor those films that justified the bygone found footage craze.

9.) The Visit

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To many, this film marks the beginning of the Shyamalanissance (you’re welcome): the reemergence of writer-director M. Night Shyamalan, whose reputation as “The Next Spielberg” infamously soured following the critical and financial flop that was The Last Airbender. It’s also Shyamalan’s foray into found footage and a solid thriller at that. Yes, you see Shyamalan’s signature twist coming from miles out, but what elevates this movie above the mass of forgettable found footage films is its charming self-awareness. It has fun with its premise and in turn the audience has fun.

8.) Unfriended

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While The Visit feeds off our fears of growing old, Unfriended gets its kicks from the new. It puts a scary spin on relatively recent technology like laptops, webcams, and social media. Not only does this make for some pretty innovative aesthetics, but the filmmakers take advantage of the medium to effectively stack the tension as the film builds towards its bonkers conclusion. There is also a deeper layer of horror hiding just beneath the surface scares, particularly for millennials.

7.) V/H/S

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Not only is V/H/S one of the most creative, creepy horror anthologies out there, but it’s also one of the best films to come out of the found footage craze. It benefits from being split into a handful of short stories, which means you don’t spend too much time on one thing. Each film introduces its horrifying hook and splits before you get bogged down in too much exposition. It also helps that these shorts are helmed by the rising stars in the genre, such as Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest) and Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers).

6.) Paranormal Activity 2

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The original Paranormal Activity may not have been the first found footage film, but it was the film that set off the craze in the late 2000’s. Arguably, Paranormal Activity 2 is a better film. It successfully lead the franchise in new directions. It expanded the single shaky cam premise from the first film and introduced security cams that were set up around the house. This allowed for the exploration of the family dynamic in new, exciting ways (let’s not forget about the poor baby!). It also paved the road for some of the most iconic scares, not just in the series, but in found footage as a whole.

5.) What We Do in the Shadows

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Who said a found footage horror flick can’t be funny? This quirky comedy centers around a flat of vampire mates who are desperately trying to fit in with the contemporary social climate. It’s your typical fish-out-of-water story but with a supernatural twist. Their failures result in some hysterical hijinks but there’s something ultimately charming about their undying (pun intended) persistence. Indeed, these guys are fun to watch and easy to root for despite their complicated natures. Though they live in the shadows, they’re moral dilemmas are not so black, nor white.

4.) The Last Exorcism

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This film puts an interesting religious spin on the seemingly played out “recording an exorcism” thing. Patrick Fabian gives a strong performance as Cotton Marcus, an evangelical minister who lost his faith long ago but continues to prey upon the religious beliefs of the families he exorcises by charging them to perform fake, theatrical exorcisms. Before retiring, he gets a letter in the mail from a family desperately seeking to exorcise their daughter. Marcus takes the job on the premise it will be his last exorcism. From there his faith is challenged by the increasingly insane Hell he and his camera crew endure. It’s one half intriguing character study, one half terrifying thrill ride.

3.) Creep

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This film is, well, creepy. Like The Last Exorcism, Creep too functions as an eerie character study. Mark Duplas gives a chilling, charismatic performance as a socially awkward but seemingly solicitous individual who employs the services of an amateur videographer for the purpose of shooting a documentary about his “life.” As events unfold in their palatably plodding manner, it becomes clear that Duplas is harboring sinister intentions. Every time I was sure I knew where this movie was going, the narrative took a sharp, 90 degree turn. And the ultimate ending left me shockingly stupefied and wanting to know more.

2.) The Blair Witch Project

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This movie gets a lot of love and deservedly so. Even after sixteen years, this bare-bones thriller still holds up. It features a simple setup and arguably three of the most deceptively plain performances ever. The kids look and act like kids. Even as the film takes its time building towards its now iconic finish, it’s difficult not to be hooked by the mythology. Every town has a haunted house (or forest) with a darkly fascinating history. Naturally, tales about these locations are handed down through the generations to the point where it’s difficult to separate what’s fact from fiction. In the end, though, the actual events, whatever may have truthfully transpired, are a moot point. It’s what we imagine those events to be that enamor us. The Blair Witch Project exploits this tradition to haunting effect.

1.) End of Watch

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It’s strange to think of the found footage craze and not think horror. I mean, just look at this list. Alas, the best film to come out of the fad was End of Watch. It’s the crime thriller that put Director David Ayer (Fury, Suicide Squad) on the map. It features two career-highlighting performances from both Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as partner cops who have a gut-wrenching run-in with the cartel. Equally gruesome and gripping, End of Watch represents the pinnacle of the found footage craze and will stay with you long after the credits roll.

What do you think of our list? Which ones did we get right and which ones would you swap out? Let us know in the comments below!