Back when the horror movie genre was languishing, The Conjuring came out and proved that supernatural horror can still frighten us—and surprise us—with dramatic depth and new directions.
That original film centered on real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, and the horrific events of that story inspired what would become The Amityville Horror.
Over the year, more of their cases have been brought to life on the big screen, and those movies are all linked together as part of The Conjuring Universe. Some are great, some are questionable, but they'll all send chills down your spine as you watch.
How do all those movies compare? Here's our breakdown of all the movies in The Conjuring Universe to rank them and decide which of the Conjuring movies are truly the best.
8. The Curse of La Llorona (2019)
The Curse of La Llorona is inspired by Latin American folklore about a ghost who roams the waters where she drowned her children. That premise, though unoriginal, has potential to be a terrifying horror movie.
But when comparing it to other Conjuring movies, it's disappointing. First off, it puts too much reliance on jump scares—a horror trope that the other Conjuring movies deftly avoid. Second, the exposition slows down the pacing. Third, it has unintentionally silly moments.
Still, there are some solid moments, like the ghost's creepy design and Linda Cardellini's performance as the mother protecting her children from La Llorona. While they aren't enough to freshen up the franchise's effective formula, they are enough for fans.
7. Annabelle (2014)
Annabelle easily became a standout in the first Conjuring movie and sat right alongside Chucky as two of the most iconic horror movie dolls. Naturally, it made sense to give her her own origin story as an innocent gift cursed by a cultist group.
Even with all of that, Annabelle fell short of its potential. The story does not bear much weight; the dialogue is too clichéd; the production design is cheap and lacking; the scares can be seen from a mile away.
But, obviously, the titular doll is the main reason to watch this. Despite its cheap scares, when Annabelle does actually scare you, those scares really stick with you—and there are cleverly shot scenes to bring in those scares. Take them as you will.
6. The Nun (2018)
The Nun expands on the mythos behind Valak, the demonic nun that the Warrens battled in The Conjuring 2. In this spin-off, a priest and a nun are sent by the Vatican to Romania to examine the demise of a young nun, caused by a demon preying on the novices.
While not as deep or original as the Conjuring movies, The Nun succeeds in its job of creeping out audiences. It's all thanks to Valak, who made a huge impression with horror fans and audiences. She's hard to ignore.
Overall, it's the most financially successful of the Conjuring movies (by far), and it's easy to see why in hindsight: cinema-goers are apparently willing to turn up for scares by a terrifying nun.
5. Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
Annabelle Comes Home starts where the original Conjuring drops off: with the Warrens taking possession of the Annabelle doll. However, when their daughter and their babysitters are left at home, they unintentionally lead Annabelle to unleash more sinister spirits.
While that may look cool, the pacing doesn't sit well for those waiting for scares or tension. And, sadly, the central characters are dull and nonsensical with their bad decisions, even though they wisely redeem themselves in the end.
Nevertheless, it's awesome to see the evil spirit of Annabelle show its menace, and everything from the artifacts room is fan service heaven. Though it may feel disappointing and forgettable, Annabelle Comes Home works—even if only for a midnight binge.
4. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It takes inspiration from the real-life trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson who claimed: "The devil made me do it." The Warrens are sent to investigate the case, only to stumble into supernatural (and personal) battles among themselves.
This is the first of the Conjuring trilogy to not be directed by James Wan. While his absence really shows on the movie's run-of-the-mill quality (and reliance on jump scares), there are still merits that make this a watchable horror flick.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga gave a compelling performance as the Warrens, whose arc lets them assess their emotions. The scares are still effective, and the opening scene is tense.
3. The Conjuring 2 (2016)
The second Conjuring movie centers on the Enfield case, where two sisters come across a malevolent spirit that haunts their home. The Warrens are sent to aid the Hodgson family and protect them from the poltergeists that slowly corrupt them.
This movie packs several of the franchise's most recognizable moments, from the cross-turning inside the room to the Crooked Man to even the Valak painting. Even the many jump scares are shocking, and that's all thanks to its spine-tingling tension.
The Conjuring 2 shows that James Wan still has more tricks up his sleeves, even if this part reminds us of Insidious. Nevertheless, it works well as a sequel to the first movie, and it's responsible for the most frightening horror movie nun.
2. Annabelle: Creation (2017)
Annabelle was pedestrian, but Annabelle: Creation is a pleasant surprise. This prequel-of-a-prequel shows the origins of the Annabelle doll, which was made by a toymaker and his wife. When they help shelter a nun and several orphans, the doll is given sinister life and haunts the family.
The story of an unquiet spirit possessing a doll is nothing new, but director David F. Sandberg makes it fresh and inventive. His choice to pursue scares and tension using old-school tricks is ingenious, and he never loses sight of the story and the characters.
Annabelle remains an intimidating presence with the way she twists the family, which goes to show her frightening staying power.
1. The Conjuring (2013)
As of this writing, nothing beats the original Conjuring movie. It takes inspiration from the infamous Amityville Horror story. This time, famed paranormal experts Ed and Lorraine Warren aid the Perron family to remove a supernatural presence that's haunting their farmhouse.
While making this film, James Wan knew the tricks of the trade in horror movies—and he knew how to play with those expectations to bring more to the genre than mere jump scares and tension building. The "clapping hands in the basement" scene is proof of that.
But what makes The Conjuring stand out is its surprising emotional core between the Warrens and the Perron family. The Conjuring shows that modern-day horror can still look familiar but be fresh and inventive.