Top 10 Films Celebrates The Work Of Wes Craven

Top 10 Films‘ horror lists have unsurprisingly been dominated by the incomparable talent of the late, great horror maestro Wes Craven. He features more than any other director…

Wes Craven - Top 10 Films

The greatest compliment paid to Wes Craven is the amount of times his contemporaries blatantly copied his work. He was a leader within the genre; a genuine innovator who was described by one critic as having reinventing horror at least four times. That’s why ambitious genre filmmakers looked up to him – they followed his lead. From the gritty anger of The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes in the 1970s to the dominance of the slasher film in the 1980s (Nightmare on Elm Street) and its self-reflexive modernisation in the 1990s (New Nightmare, Scream), Craven was a filmmaker determined to take horror in new directions.

It is little wonder that his best movies feature so heavily on Top 10 Films. To celebrate his greatest work, the team look at some of our favourite Wes Craven movies…

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

The Hills Have Eyes, Film, Wes Craven
Daniel Stephens says:
Wes Craven brought a little paranoia about nuclear fallout into the trappings of a 1970s slasher film with the brilliant The Hills Have Eyes. A whitebread family find themselves shit out of luck in the Nevada desert. Stalked by a feral, inbred group of flesh hungry cannibals, they must band together in order to survive away from their suburban comfort zone. It’s a great depiction of two very different warring families when the theme of the family unit was prevalent in American horror. In many cases it was the idea that the monster was within the family itself; here Craven muses on the idea that there is still some hope for suburban Mums and Dads and their 2.4 children.
The film features in our Top 30 Horror Films 1967 – 1979

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street - Top 10 Films
Neal Damiano says:
A Nightmare on Elm Street truly is a unique film. I refer to it as the intelligent slasher because it broke away from the traditional storyline of teenagers having sex and getting slashed up in the woods. It added a sci-fi element where the killer stalks his victims in their dreams. Wes Craven’s concept was groundbreaking for a slasher film in its time. Freddy Krueger became one of the scariest figures in modern day horror. The cinematography was top notch and the overall essence of the film to this day frightens me. As a kid I could not sleep for a week after seeing this movie.
The film features on Neal’s Top 10 Slasher Films

Dan Grant says:
Fred Krueger, as we all know, was a child molester who was hunted down by the local Elm Street parents after he beat the court system on a technicality. They trapped him in his basement and lit his house on fire and then watched him burn. Somehow he comes back and haunts their children’s dreams and murders them while they sleep. This sets up the premise of the film. Writer-director Wes Craven said he got the idea while reading a story in an Asian newspaper about kids dying in their sleep and telling their parents that they knew something bad was going to happen to them in their dreams. It is an interesting concept and because it is done to perfection here, it has now become one of the cornerstones of American horror. There are few horror films that are better than this one. This is perfect on every level and it actually makes one of my top 50 films of all time. Wes Craven is a genius. He has the propensity to make an iconic film once every decade. This is his crowning achievement. “Come to Freddy….”
The film features on Dan Grant’s Scariest Films of All Time

The Last House On The Left (1972)

Last House On The Left, Wes Craven, horror - Top 10 Films
Dan Grant says:
Watching The Last House on the Left is an exercise in terror. Wes Craven wrote, directed, produced and edited this film, and although it is scary, it has to be said that it is without a doubt the most disturbing film I have ever seen. I have seen Salo, Men Behind the Sun and Cannibal Holocaust and they can’t match the intensity of this film. To watch films that degrade human beings is tough. This film degrades, dehumanizes and reduces them down to peons or trash that you toss out the window. This was 1972. The climate was changing then and this film reflects the anger in society at the time. It’s brutal, tough to watch, unflinching in its approach. This is Craven’s second best film and one that many haven’t seen. The remake is good but it can’t duplicate the sheer gut wrenching terror that this film has in abundance. Although this has a “happy ending” where the parents get their revenge, by the time it happens you have been dragged through 90 minutes of sheer desperation that you just want it to end. A word of caution, it is not for the faint of heart.
The film features on Dan Grant’s Scariest Films of All Time

Daniel Stephens says:
Sadistic, violent and uncompromising, Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left was notoriously banned in the UK during the “video nasty” scare of the 1980s. It is a story of savage torture, rape and murder followed by a similarly violent revenge attack. The film is not a particularly good one but it is worth experiencing if only for its ability to torment the viewer. The film does indicate a period of American film when violence seeped into the mainstream. It isn’t a movie you’ll need to see twice.
The film features in our Top 10 Horror Films 1967 – 1979

Neal Damiano says:
Wes Craven directed one of the most disturbing and tormenting films in cinema history. On the eve of her birthday, Mari Collingwood and friend set out to the city to see a rock concert. Along the way they get lured into an apartment with hopes of scoring some pot. What they find is a group of savage convicts who rape, drug, and torture the two girls relentlessly. They eventually drag the girls into the woods to finish killing them. What makes The Last House On The Left so insane is the deeply perverse ways the criminals torture them. For example, forcing the girls to perform lesbian acts, having them urinate on themselves, and pointing a gun in their face while laughing. The parents getting retribution at the end really makes the film over the top, including a castration by teeth and a chainsaw. The film was banned in theaters and later released on video.
The film features in Neal Damiano’s Top 10 Disturbing Films

The People Under The Stairs (1991)

Wes Craven - Top 10 Films
Daniel Stephens says:
Poindexter “Fool” Williams, a kid from a Los Angeles ghetto, decides to break into the wrong house when he discovers the owners, who suspiciously refer to themselves as “Mommy” and “Daddy”, appear to be housing some ungodly creatures beneath their floorboards. Scary, funny, thrilling and fast-paced, one of director Wes Craven’s most purely enjoyable horror movies.
The film features in our Top 10 Horror Films For Adults That Star Children In Lead Roles

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

Wes Craven's New Nightmare - Top 10 Films
Daniel Stephens says:
Wes Craven’s smartly conceived post-Scream horror adds to the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise with a defined air of self reference. Long after the original film’s success, the cast and crew are celebrating its 10th anniversary when the “nightmare” becomes “reality”. Heather Langenkamp, who played chief protagonist Nancy, and Robert Englund, who plays Freddy Krueger, appear as themselves in the film.
The film features on Daniel Stephens’ Top 10 Horror Sequels

Scream 2 (1998)

Scream 2 - Top 10 Films
Daniel Stephens says:
Wes Craven’s sequel to the popular slasher horror Scream was, in some people’s eyes, better than the original. From the self-referential opening in a film theatre (I first saw it in Scotland and believe me when I say it is more than enough to put you off checking the local cinema listings Edinburgh for fear of your life!) to film school classmates mulling over the virtues of film sequels, the film celebrates the very fact it is a movie. The cast – those who survived the first film at least – all return for more as screenwriter Kevin Williamson again plays on the conventions of the genre to produce a funny, scary and, at times, intensely thrilling film.
The film features on Daniel Stephens’ Top 10 Horror Sequels

Where else do Wes Craven movies feature on Top 10 Films:
Top 10 Slasher Films – The Last House On The Left & A Nightmare on Elm Street
Scariest Films Ever Made – The Last House On The Left & A Nightmare on Elm Street
Top 10 Horror Film Sequels – Scream 2 & Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
Top 10 Horror Films For Adults That Star Children In Lead Roles – The People Under The Stairs
Top 10 Horror Film Beginnings – Scream
Top 30 Horror Films – 1967 – 1979 – The Hills Have Eyes & The Last House On The Left
Top 10 Films To Have Driven People To Murder – Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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    Dan Grant Reply

    Nicely done Dan. Craven really has no equal in horror circles. With the exception of Hitchcock, no one, imo, made more Incredible and iconic horror films in Wes Craven. As Dan says he is truly a pioneer and he was a trailblazer. He will certainly be missed and I’m sure many of us will be having a Wes Craven movie-a-thon sometime this week.

  2. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    Terrific piece Dan.

    With the exception of Alfred Hitchcock nobody in my opinion was more iconic in the horror industry than Wes Craven. He has made more top notch horror films than just just about anybody. It seems like every 12 years he would make an iconic film starting in 1972 and then culminating in 1996. The man was a pioneer and a trailblazer and he will certainly be missed.

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    Wendell Reply

    Excellent post. Really happy to see Scream 2 get some love here. Sad, Craven is no longer with us, though.

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    Neal Damiano Reply

    Nice tribute, Dan
    More than thrilled to see two pieces of mine included in this amazing tribute. Wes Craven defined the horror genre and reinvented it several times. His work here is immeasurable and highly influential. He took horror seriously with a no holds barred attitude, shunning conventional ways especially in his earlier work.. He did what he wanted and for that I respect him. He is one of the greatest directors in horror and a personal favorite of mine. He will be missed.
    Thanks Dan Stephens

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    Rodney Reply

    Great list of films, Dan. he truly was an inspiration for many of his contemporaries, and gave us two genuinely frightening iconic of popular horror.

    His influence will be missed.

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    Evan Crean Reply

    I haven’t seen a ton of Wes Craven’s films, but I really enjoyed the ones that I have. Nightmare on Elm Street is one of my favorites for many of the reasons you guys mention. It disrupts the slasher film formula and it’s incredibly creepy. I also appreciate the meta, self-referential qualities of New Nightmare and the Scream films. I was fortunate enough to interview Craven once when Scream 4 came out on DVD and he was such a kind individual. His presence in the horror genre will be missed.

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