There are few directors out there quite as divisive as Rob Zombie. You either enjoy his films for what they are, or you despise them and refer to them as literal garbage with very few people in the middle. Between his surrealist music video approach to visuals, and characters that are incredibly trashy and hostile towards one another, he’s almost a genre to himself.
So it was a bit odd to see him go family friendly with his adaptation of The Munsters. But in light of that movie (which everyone seems to have strong opinions on), we thought it would be fun to look back and Rob Zombie’s career as a whole and rank all of his movies!
9. The Haunted World of El Superbeasto
This raunchy animated feature is by no means terrible for what it is. Zombie had dabbled into animation and the result is fun and creative…at times. In a lot of ways, El Superbeasto feels like an even more inappropriate version of Family Guy. But much like Family Guy, the jokes can be very hit or miss. It’s a fun watch, but it’s not exactly something you feel the need to rewatch ever, so that’s why it bottoms out the list.
8. The Munsters (full review here)
Much like the rest of Zombie’s work, the reactions to his infamous Munsters adaptation have ranged from people hating it completely or justifying it as “not that bad”. Having given it a review that highlights the latter, we’re by no means saying it’s one of his best.
It’s incredibly campy and cheesy with jokes that range from corny but fun to cringe-inducing, but that’s very much the point. It achieves the exact goal it set out to do, mimicking a corny 60’s sitcom. However, just because it’s not the worst movie ever made doesn’t mean it ranks high on this list. Most fans of his other work who liked The Munsters would probably still prefer those other works.
7. 3 From Hell
The more times I watch 3 From Hell, the lower it seems to rank on Zombie’s filmography. As much fun it was to see the iconic three back, albeit for just a scene in Sid Haig’s case (RIP), this movie’s whole existence undoes the absolutely perfect ending from Devil’s Rejects. And the story here isn’t strong enough to justify that level of retcon.
To its credit, the first half of the movie is genuinely intriguing and entertaining. We’ve seen the Firefly family on the run, but seeing them on trial, in prison, and trying to escape from prison made for a fun prison break movie. And had the whole movie just been them plotting and executing their escape, it might have been better.
But once they get out, the entire second half of the movie just sort of retreads Devil’s Rejects, but it’s nowhere near as compelling or interesting. It just feels like a cheaper imitation of a movie we all liked much better.
A lot of people can’t stand this movie because of the way it shows Michael Myers’ backstory and humanizes him. However, that’s honestly the better part of the movie. It’s the second half, which does nothing new with the source material that lands it lower on this list (and even lower than his sequel).
The entire point of a remake is to take a new approach, and the first half of this movie runs with that. Seeing Michael as a child and witnessing his descent into psychopathy was a new and interesting approach and honestly it’s the best part of the movie. It almost makes up for the second half doing the exact same thing as the original.
Even with the more recent entries into the Halloween series, they’ve relied heavily on nostalgia and reminding us why we love the original. But we don’t need to be reminded of that, we can just go watch the original. Rob Zombie’s take was something new and refreshing. People complained that it wasn’t enough like the original, but if it was going to be, why bother remaking it to begin with?
Often overlooked in his filmography, Rob Zombie’s 31 doesn’t connect to any larger franchise or lore, but it’s sort of the perfect representation of his hyper violent and ultra hostile style. It’s filled with creative set designs and is as intense and nasty as a Rob Zombie fan would expect. It doesn’t involved the Firefly family, but you could easily see these characters existing in that same world.
The real standout is of course Richard Brake. He had previously appeared in a brief part in Zombie’s Halloween II, but this movie is very much his, which is saying something because he only appears in the opening scene and then the third act. But in that short amount of time he crafts a villain so disturbing and memorable that countless fans wanted to see Brake play the Joker one day.
What it lacks in plot originality (there are a ton of other movies about deadly games), it more than makes up for with just how intense and grotesque it is. This movie, more than most just allows us demented Zombie fans to let loose and unleash our inner psychopath.
4. Halloween II
So if this were a ranking of the Halloween franchise, this movie would rank lower than its predecessor. But since we’re looking through a strictly Rob Zombie lens, this sequel pushed more boundaries, took more risks, and it was just an overall more surreal and creative exercise.
To call Halloween II trippy would be an understatement. It has such a fascinating style that’s both dreamlike and almost feels like a music video at times. But in the end, this very surrealist approach winds up being the perfect representation of Laurie’s own trauma and the way in which she processes and sees the world now.
There’s also a fascinating philosophical question it raises about fate and destiny. Laurie is absolutely devastated to learn of her sibling connection to Michael and it makes her ponder the question of whether or not she’s doomed to his same fate. All of this culminates together in an ending scene that is far more poignant than anyone expected.
3. The Devil’s Rejects
This and House of 1000 Corpses are always in close proximity when ranking Zombie’s work, and the ultimate preference comes down to whether you’re more of an action fan or horror fan. Both are brilliant in their own respective subgenres, but I’ve always been more partial to the former’s homage to creature features and old school monster horror.
That being said, The Devil’s Rejects is an amazing action/thriller that features Bill Moseley’s Otis at his very best. It’s a far more straightforward narrative and the tension never lets up. Plus it’s fascinating as Zombie shows us the human side of his family of psychopaths, and also the psychopathic side of the sheriff hell bent on catching them.
All it comes together in an ending that might just be one of the best final scenes in any horror movie ever. Everything from the use of “Freebird” to the slow motion, to the blood lust in their eyes, to the blood they get covered in as they’re showered with bullets, it’s just a sequence unlike any other. It’s a blaze of glory that is the only fitting end for these characters, and it’s borderline unforgivable that it was undone for the sake of a lesser sequel.
2. House of 1000 Corpses
As previously mentioned, this and Devil’s Rejects are very close, but this one is just oozing with horror greatness. After Universal was shown a cut of the movie, they deemed it “un-releasable” and sold the rights to Lionsgate, wanting nothing to do with it. They felt that it was too unlike anything anyone had ever seen, and that’s very much the point.
Horror has always thrived when it was independent, and while this was studio financed, it feels very independent. Zombie went all out with gore and grotesquery, and there’s a reason this movie still holds up nearly 20 years later.
It strikes the perfect balance between stylized surreal and grounded brutality, and features amazing things like Spaulding’s murder ride, and of course Dr. Satan himself. In doing so, it creates an entire lore and feels like a spiritual callback to gritty grindhouse 70s horror.
1. The Lords of Salem
A lot of horror fans have often ranked this movie very low in Zombie’s filmography, and it boasts a mere 30% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes (compared to Devil’s Rejects’ 78% and House of 1000 Corpses 65%), which seems absurd. The simple fact (or opinion) is that Lords of Salem is Rob Zombie’s masterpiece, and it is sorely underrated and misunderstood.
Essentially, this movie is Zombie at his most uninhibited. It utilizes his sense of surreal, dreamlike sequences, incredibly vibrant and creative visuals, and the same philosophical ideas he touched upon in Halloween II. There are far too many gorgeously grim shots in this movie to even pick a top 5 or 10 favorite. And the fact that not a single one of them was done with CGI is even more amazing. Watching this movie is like dropping acid and having a portal to hell open right in front of you. More so than any of his others, it’s an experience.
And at the center of all of it is that same question of fate that Laurie struggled with Halloween II. The protagonist here (one of Sheri Moon Zombie’s better roles) seems doomed to a curse that she had nothing to do with. Thus turning her into a tragic character that no matter what she did, this was always going to be her ultimate fate.
The whole thing is like an experimental European expressionist film, and Zombie has never made anything quite like it before or since. It remains his most creative, and most bold film. Given that his two most recent movies were a sequel and an adaptation, it would be great to see him make something original like this again.
Which ones were your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
For more rankings, reviews, news and other fun horror/Halloween content, follow Halloween Year-Round on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!
You can also shop Halloween Year-Round merchandise on Redbubble and support us on Patreon!