Spanning 8 years and 8 movies, The Conjuring Universe has demonstrated what Universal’s Dark Universe could have been. Starting as a just a standalone movie, the franchise organically grew between sequels and spinoffs to the point that each movie does a great job of standing on its own, while giving dedicated fans tons of references and Easter Eggs to connect the dots with.
All of these stories are based around the work of famed (and sometimes controversial) paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. In most horror series, the writers struggle to find reasons for the characters to keep coming back, but given that the Warrens move from case to case, this is a franchise that could seemingly go on forever.
So with the recent release of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, we thought it would be fitting and fun to look at the franchise as a whole and rank every movie, from the worst to the best!
8. The Nun (2018)
Giving the infamous Annabelle doll a spinoff worked because it remained one of the most iconic cases the Warrens did, and it was lasting image and icon from the first Conjuring movie. So Warner Brothers attempted to do the same thing with the villain from The Conjuring 2.
While the titular nun (who was just a form taken by the demon Valak) looked really cool, there really wasn’t enough substance there to make a whole movie. The result is a genuine attempt that merely swings and misses.
Casting Vera Farmiga’s younger sister Taissa was an excellent choice for this franchise, but given that she looks nearly identical to her sister, it was a huge missed opportunity to not have her play a younger Lorraine.
The Nun itself does boast a really cool setting and production design, reminiscent of an old school Universal horror film. But it’s a bit too in your face, over the top in a way that it feels more like Evil Dead than a Conjuring spinoff.
7. The Curse of La Llorona (2019)
This was a truly odd entry in that most people didn’t even realize this was part of the Conjuring Universe when it came out. Its loose connection comes in the form of Father Perez (Tony Amendola), who also appeared in the first Annabelle movie.
For those familiar, La Llorona is a legitimately creepy story that’s been told and adapted many times before. It’s not a bad movie by any stretch, and it has a decent cast with Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, and Patricia Velasquez.
But it ultimately winds up being forgettable because there’s nothing really to set it apart from the countless paint by numbers ghost thrillers from the early 2000’s. Had it come out back then, it would have been in better company. But being released as an official entry in this franchise, it really doesn’t hold up to some of the other movies here.
6. Annabelle (2014)
When it was announced that Warner Brothers was making an Annabelle spinoff just one year after The Conjuring, it seemed like a shameless cash grab (which it very much was). The movie itself took a very unique approach with a 1960’s, Rosemary’s Baby aesthetic and actually kind of worked as its own spinoff.
Granted it still falls into the trap of hashing out a bunch of old clichés, and if you’re at all familiar with the real Annabelle doll, the entire story was pretty much told in the first movie’s opening prologue.
There was also a legitimately interesting Manson cult subplot that only gets a few minutes of screen time and it doesn’t really go anywhere. But it was popular enough to spawn an entire trilogy that thankfully got better with each installment.
5. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)
The long awaited third Conjuring movie was delayed by the production of 4 spinoffs, as well as its own release date getting pushed back due to the global shutdown. And sadly, after all that time of waiting, it was a bit of a letdown.
Arne Johnson murder trial remains one of the most disturbing and fascinating cases the Warrens ever did. Between David Glatzel’s possession/exorcism, Arne Johnson’s trial, and the alleged curse placed on the family, there are three entire movies worth of material present.
The trailers leaned heavily into the murder trial, implying this would an Exorcism of Emily Rose type film. But in the final movie, the trial is treated like an afterthought, instead focusing on Ed and Lorraine trying to find a witch who cursed the family.
The result is a movie that is a bit all over the place, and loses all heart, charm, and subtlety that the first two Conjuring movies had. This was the first Conjuring film not directed by James Wan, and it really shows.
Michael Chaves, who previously directed The Curse of La Llorona takes over directing, and let’s just say that show as well. For a more detailed breakdown, check out our full review on YouTube!
4. Annabelle: Creation (2017)
Following previously mentioned cash grab that was Annabelle, Warner Brothers continued to milk the franchise further with a prequel that actually turned out way better than it should have been.
Director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) went all out with creating a sense of atmosphere that really works. Sandberg took the approach of making a compelling/dramatic story with good characters first, then scares second so that we cared about the characters
The movie works both as a prequel or a standalone, and that’s very much a credit to its strength. It goes out of its way to subvert expectations, and its final few minutes even help the first Annabelle movie make more sense.
3. Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
While audiences waited patiently for the next official installment, this movie served as both an Annabelle sequel, and a sort of quasi-Conjuring prequel in that we see what happened when Annabelle was first brought home.
Featuring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren, this movie gives us an interesting glimpse into their home life, particularly with the toll their work takes on their daughter Judy.
It was really interesting to see her as the focus, and for any fans of the Warrens’ cases, there are references galore as we get the closest and most detailed looked into their basement that we ever have before.
It’s sort of a Conjuring movie in the same way that Captain America: Civil War is sort of an Avengers movie.
2. The Conjuring 2 (2016)
To the surprise of no one, the top two spots are of course the first two Conjuring movies. Both are brilliantly written, acted, and directed. What it really came down to was this sequel gets a little bit more over the top with its villain (as well as the stop-motion on the Crooked Man).
And while it does go deeper into the characters of Ed and Lorraine, complete with a really touching love story, it’s just not quite as effective or subtle as the first one was. All that said, this is still an absolute masterpiece, and was rightfully praised upon release as one of the best horror sequels ever made.
Where The Conjuring 2 particularly shines (other than its compelling character development) is the overall collaboration between the Warrens and the British team with Maurice Grosse. It’s really interesting to see them working with non-religious investigators, or even a skeptic like Anita Gregory, who was really part of the case as well.
It was no easy task following up The Conjuring, and this sequel managed to deliver on the scares, while being different and unique in its own way.
1. The Conjuring (2013)
After co-creating Saw and Insidious, two massive franchises that would start new trends in the horror genre, James Wan gave us his true masterpiece: The Conjuring. Horror has always struggled to gain respect and recognition from critics, but even critics were raving about this movie and how effectively scary and paced it was.
Wan had taken everything he learned from his previous work, and gave us a haunted house movie that was legitimately terrifying, but also felt grounded in reality, which in turn made it all the more effective. By focusing on Ed and Lorraine Warren, it successfully subverted the trope of bringing the “expert” in the second or third act, which is very common.
There were stakes for the Perron family as they dealt with their haunted house, but also for the Warrens, which is made clear from the very beginning. Plenty of horror films spawn sequels, but almost none organically launch an entire cinematic universe that’s still popular nearly a decade later!
Which one is your favorite and least favorite? Let us know in the comments!