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The Ultimate Guide To Watching the ‘Evil Dead’ Movies

ash screaming in pain in Evil Dead II

Out of all the horror franchises, Evil Dead has the most chaotic energy. From the aggressiveness and crudeness of the Deadites to Ash (Bruce Campbell) becoming the ultimate final boy, and the strange mutations of the series through multiple directors, Evil Dead is a wild ride.

Unlike its peers—Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13ththe Evil Dead franchise doesn’t have quite as many installments, so you can easily binge the whole series in a weekend. But where do you start? Is there a superior viewing order? Whether you have yet to watch the Evil Dead movies or you just need a quick refresher, this viewing guide should help.

The Evil Dead (1981)

Bruce Campbell as Ash in 'The Evil Dead'
(New Line Cinema)

This is where it all started: The Evil Dead. Sam Raimi’s 1981 feature directing debut introduced audiences to a different type of movie star—Bruce Campbell—and helped to establish the filmmaker’s signature style. The film follows a group of college students as they head to a cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway and unwittingly unleash demonic forces. Campbell stars as unlikely protagonist Ash, who is quickly isolated and forced to battle demons by himself.

Evil Dead II (1987)

deadite ash in Evil Dead II
(Rosebud Releasing Corporation)

Retcon, anyone? Folks are often confused about Evil Dead II, given its nearly identical plot to the first film. Ultimately, it’s considered a requel—a combination sequel and reboot—according to Bruce Campbell himself. Instead of Ash and friends heading to the cabin for a vacation, he goes with his girlfriend, which leads to them listening to a tape recording of incantations from the Necronomicon. Naturally, this unleashes a demon and all hell breaks loose. The events in Evil Dead II are more disastrous for Ash because his girlfriend is possessed and becomes a Deadite. Ash also gets possessed, cuts off his own hand, attaches a chainsaw to his stump, and is eventually transported to the Middle Ages.

The movie is batty in all the right ways because of how hard it leans into being a horror comedy. Plus, Ash’s one-liners are fantastic in this one. Out of all the Sam Raimi Evil Dead films, this one justifies its cult following the most.

Army of Darkness (1992)

ash in Army of Darkness
(Universal Pictures)

Army of Darkness is a direct sequel to Evil Dead II, and it leans even further into the comedic tone of the previous entry. Ash is stuck in the Middle Ages and must fight the Deadites in order to return to his time period. Out of all the movies, this one is the biggest departure in terms of setting and tone; it’s fun and doesn’t take itself seriously. That may be a hindrance to some, but Army of Darkness has a fanbase for a reason. Naturally, Ash gets up to some shenanigans in the Middle Ages, kicks some Deadite ass, and is able to return home—which doesn’t result in a happy ending, exactly, but he’s Ash; he’ll figure it out. 

Evil Dead (2013)

mia in Evil Dead (2013)
(Sony Pictures Releasing)

Evil Dead is 10 times scarier than all of the other entries in the franchise. It’s like the dial was turned up to 20 for this reboot, and it’s a gory blast! Directed by Fede Álvarez, the fourth installment serves as a soft reboot/continuation of the O.G. films. It follows Mia (Jane Levy), whose brother and friends take her to the cabin in the woods in order to help her kick a drug addiction. Of course, one of the friends finds the Necronomicon and stupidly reads from it, ultimately releasing a demon who terrorizes, then possesses an already unstable Mia. From there it’s a lot of violence, gore, death, and tragedy for almost everybody. This horror movie is not for the faint of heart. There are very few breaks from the madness. But the climax of the film is incredible and Mia is a great character. 

Evil Dead Rise (2023)

Beth being a badass with a chainsaw in Evil Dead Rise
(Warner Bros.)

Evil Dead Rise is a bloody good time, both literally and figuratively. Directed by Lee Cronin, the latest addition to the series has only just hit theaters, so we’ll refrain from spoilers. As for how it compares to the other Evil Dead films, Evil Dead Rise perfectly lines up with what you expect from the bloody, bleakly hilarious franchise. There are themes about motherhood and emotional beats that meld perfectly with the humorous moments and gore. The story centers on Beth (Lily Sullivan), who goes to visit her estranged sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), whose struggles as a single mother are disrupted violently by a demonic possession.

And believe me, it’s very bloody, gory, and quite scary, if I’m being honest. Not that 2013’s Evil Dead wasn’t good, but Evil Dead Rise takes it up a notch with its apartment complex setting. It’s guaranteed to blow your mind.

(featured image: New Line Cinema)

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Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.