The best Conjuring Universe movies, ranked

Vera Farmiga as Lorraine and Patrick Wilson as Ed in The Conjuring
(Image credit: Warner Bros. )

Back in July 2013, Warner Bros. released The Conjuring, a small budget scary movie directed by Saw creator James Wan – and inadvertently kickstarted the highest grossing horror franchise of all time. In honor of its ten-year anniversary, we decided to rank the best Conjuring Universe movies.

Starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, the original centers on real-life demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, who were among the first investigators of the famous Amityville haunting. Set in 1971, it sees them try to save a family from a vicious demonic entity in Rhode Island. 

Costing a modest $20 million to make, it grossed over $319 million worldwide so it's no wonder a follow-up, which focused on another of the Warrens' actual case files, was greenlit almost immediately. 10 years and seven sequels, most of which take inspiration from the Warrens' life, later, we've taken a look back at the films that make up the series so far and pitted the best Conjuring movies against one another. Want to find out whether our list matches up to yours? Put down your rosary beads and prayer book, and get scrolling...

9. The Curse of La Llorona

Sean Patrick Thomas and Linda Cardellini in The Curse of La Llorona

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Let us begin by stating that Linda Cardellini can do wrong, whether she's playing an ill-fated otter, a Great Dane's mystery solving pal, or a murderer with a perfect perm. That said, The Curse of La Llorona is not very good – and undoubtedly the weakest entry in The Conjuring Universe.

For starters, its connection to the larger franchise is tenuous, which might explain why director Michael Chaves recently argued that it's not connected. Like The Conjuring, it's set in the early 1970s, and follows single mother and social worker Anna who, you've guessed it, is being targeted by a malevolent spirit. Desperate, Anna seeks out the help of Father Perez (Tony Amendola), a character also featured in 2014's Annabelle. Thanks to his own horrific experiences, the priest points her in the direction of another, and thus concludes his involvement – and the film's link to the others in the series.

There's interesting stuff at play here. Taking inspiration from Mexican folklore, it makes early comments about how some people ignore or, worse, dismiss other cultures, as well as the social care system. But all of that quickly gets side-stepped in favor of something much more generic and way too jumpscare-heavy. Shame.

8. Annabelle

Annabelle movie

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Annabelle's prologue is killer; a surprisingly nasty, 1960s-set sequence that sees a young doctor and his expectant wife attacked by the murderers of their next-door neighbors in the middle of the night. During the blood-soaked assault, one of the killers takes her own life while holding a vintage porcelain doll the soon-to-be parents received recently as a gift for their baby. You can see where this is going, right? Later, the deceased woman is identified as their neighbors' estranged daughter, Annabelle, who had not long joined a devil-worshipping cult with her good-for-nothing boyfriend. Never a good sign!

The rest, though, is kind of boring? As it was the first spin-off in the series, it was hard to vibe with the sudden lack of Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson's Warrens, and writer Gary Dauberman and director John R. Leonetti never seemed to capture the atmospheric flair present in Leigh Whannell and James Wan's The Conjuring.

At the time of its release, critics claimed the movie to be "a cliched mess, lacking humor and surprises" and a "routine run-of-the-mill horror flick." Ah well, at least the doll is creepy AF, eh?

7. The Nun

Taissa Farmiga as Sister Irene in The Conjuring spin-off The Nun

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment)

After the character proved popular in The Conjuring 2, Bonnie Aarons' demonic Valak got her own origin story in The Nun – and the finished product is a mixed bag. Any genre fan worth their salt knows that religious horror is the best kind of horror – the iconography! the camp! the ultimate embodiment of good VS evil! – and The Nun certainly delivers on the visual front. 

The production design is gorgeous, as it follows Taissa Farmiga's novitiate Sister Irene, who gets sent to a remote Romanian monastery to investigate one mysterious death and a suicide on the holy ground. Casting Vera Farmiga's real-life sister proved a genius way of further connecting it to the wider franchise, like an in-joke for fans, and she's endlessly likeable as the forward-thinking heroine. The movie itself, though, fails to offer up any truly memorable scares.

6. The Nun 2

Bonnie Aarons as Valak in The Nun 2

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Well, it's better than the first Nun movie, we'll give it that. Set a few years after its predecessor, The Nun 2 sees Sister Irene forced to face Valak once again, when she learns the demon is murdering its way across Europe with the help of her old pal Maurice (Jonas Bloquet).

The set pieces are more adventurous and exciting here, while the nastiness director Michael Chaves, who takes over from Corin Hardy, injects into some of the more violent scenes makes it stand out from The Conjuring series' meeker movies. Farmiga is predictably good as Irene while The Last of Us star Storm Reid offers up some comic relief as reluctant novice Sister Debra. 

That said, we're not entirely sold on Irene's interesting backstory, which connects her to The Conjuring's Lorraine Warren – and a saint, too. Aside from those very specific reveals, we've seen genre films of this ilk a million times over.

5. The Conjuring 3

Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is arguably the darkest of the trio, given that it revolves around a real-life murder trial. It also happens to be our least favorite.

Set in the early 1980s, it sees Ed and Lorraine face horrors in their homestate of Connecticut, after an exorcism on a young possessed boy goes sideways. Instead of sending the demon back to Hell, the Warrens inadvertently transport it into the boy's sister's boyfriend Arne. Despite the 20-something's resistance to its evil, it forces him to violently kill his landlord, which prompts the Warrens to try and prove Arne wasn't in control of his own body in a court of law. 

For the first time in the series, the movie boldly touches on the public's thoughts about the Warrens' work and how, like in real-life, they were often accused of exploiting vulnerable people to make money or further their celebrity profiles. It also sidesteps ghostly villains for more realistic witchy ones, which makes for a welcome switch-up.

Unfortunately, it favors louder, cheaper frights than the Conjuring movies that came before it, which lets it down a bit, and the Warrens actually aren't in it all that much. But Ruairi O'Connor is truly wonderful as tortured Arne.

4. Annabelle: Creation

Annabelle: Creation

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Given Annabelle's reception, expectations for its follow-up Annabelle: Creation were low, which undoubtedly helped the prequel out in terms of impressing audiences. On the surface, it's pretty run-of-the-mill stuff, but it does feature Miranda Otto, a darkly decent origin story at its core, and a bunch of great scares. 

One knee-knocking highlight sees main character Janice stumble on the eponymous doll for the first time. Spooked, she covers the toy with a bedsheet but as the scene continues, the doll – still underneath the sheet – stands up in the background of the shot and eerily glides closer to Janice. The youngster turns around and freezes with fright, as Annabelle steps towards her, knees bending and all. Just as Janice is about to scream, though, the sheet drops to the floor, revealing nothing underneath. 

Up until that point, it's been spelled out repeatedly that Annabelle is a vessel for evil spirits so we've never actually seen her in action. While she's obscured in that scene, it still lets us revel in what it would be like if she went full Chucky and started moving about. 

Annabelle: Creation also features a cameo from Bonnie Aarons' The Nun, reinforcing how interconnected these movies are. Fun!

3. Annabelle Comes Home

Annabelle Comes Home

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Annabelle Comes Home may not be the best of The Conjuring Universe movies, but we'd happily make a case for it being the most enjoyable. It's essentially the franchise's answer to the Avengers if, you know, the Avengers were supernatural bad guys who wanted to kill everyone.  

Written by Wan and Dauberman, and directed by the latter, it follows Ed and Lorraine's daughter Judy (an always great Mckenna Grace), who gets herself into a world of trouble when she and her babysitters accidentally unleash the titular doll's spirit – and she, in turn, frees several other ghoulies previously trapped inside the Warrens' artifact room.

By refusing to center one baddie, the film offers up something for everyone, from skeletal ghost The Ferryman and a haunted board game to a freaking werewolf, and is able to seriously diversify its scares, too. (It's giving Goosebumps, and we mean that as a compliment). The variety gives the movie an energy that many of the previous instalments were missing and teen protagonists make for a refreshing change. Farmiga and Wilson also have decent-sized cameos. What more could you want?

2. The Conjuring 2

The Conjuring 2

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Conjuring 2 features a scene in which Patrick Wilson serenades his onscreen wife and a bunch of scared children, and for that reason alone it could've justifiably nabbed the top spot on this list. Alas, though, we've declared it runner-up instead. 

Set six years after the events of the first film, it sees the Warrens travel to Enfield, England to help single mother Peggy Hodgson (Frances O'Connor) and her four kids, who have become the target of a particularly malevolent, supernatural entity. You know... the usual. But James Wan breathes life into a familiar story with creepy set-pieces, heart-wrenching character drama, and an instantly iconic villain (The Nun, of course). The scene in which the ghostly Bill Wilkins "talks" to Ed through Janet, who's holding water in her mouth, and another where Lorraine gets spooked by a Valak painting, are masterclasses in building dread and utilizing artistic cinematography.

Its cold open is brilliant, too. At end of The Conjuring, it's teased that the Warrens' next case would be in Long Island, which led true crime aficionados to assume the second film would center on the Amityville murders. It didn't obviously, but Wan still gives us a taste of the infamous case here, as Lorraine channels Ronald DeFeo Jr in a vision, and acts out killing his whole family. Chilling stuff.

1. The Conjuring

The Conjuring

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

It had to be, didn't it? It may sound a bit twee to say but without The Conjuring, there would be no Conjuring Universe and with the films at the top of this list all being so good, it only seems fair to put the original at #1.

It's practically perfect, as it introduces us to the insanely likeable lovebirds Ed and Lorraine. It's become obvious as the years have gone on, and the more movies have been released, that the duo's romance is the franchise's secret weapon and they're never more charming than they are here. So often in horror, spouses are driven apart by supernatural goings on, as husbands doubt their hysterical wives and what not. Here, the Warrens are united, as dedicated to one another as they are helping those being terrorized by otherworldly threats. 

That's not to say that it skimps on frights, however. The Conjuring boasts several unforgettable scares, from that hide and clap moment and the dangling dead feet to Bathesba's reveal towards the end of the movie. It didn't need blood and gore to get its across, it did so with great writing, style – those costumes! – and fantastic performances. There's no denying The Conjuring's instant classic status. 

For more, check out our list of all the upcoming horror movies heading our way in 2023 and beyond.

Amy West

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.