The Top 9 Sam Raimi Films - Horror and Otherwise
If you can't land the rights to direct a big-time superhero movie from an established icon of the comic book world, what do you do? If you're Sam Raimi, you just create your own character and go from there! Raimi attempted a film adaptation of The Shadow but could not secure the rights. (Also, before he became Mr. Spider-Man, Raimi lobbied to take the Batman reins after Tim Burton was booted but was passed over in favor of Joel Schumacher. Nice move, Hollywood.) So, unable to move forward with an established hero, Raimi dreamed up Darkman, and a cult hero was born. This was Raimi's first big studio Hollywood film. Played originally by Liam Neeson, Darkman (or Peyton Westlake for those with a penchant for alter-egos) set out to avenge those who wronged him, burned him alive and basically destroyed all he lived for. A heroic monster risen from the ashes. "I am everyone and no one. Everywhere. Nowhere. Call me... Darkman."
A Simple Plan (1998)
One of the most underrated films you'll ever stumble upon, A Simple Plan seemed to come and go ever so silently with just a $16 million take at the box office. Based on the book of the same name by Scott Smith, A Simple Plan starts out quietly enough, but when a crashed plane containing nothing but a dead pilot and a bag containing $4.4 million is found, things begin to get very exciting very quickly. The outstanding cast of Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton and Bridget Fonda bring this tale of lies, greed and deceit to life; and the result is a dark film that makes the audience unable to think about anything but what they'd do in the same situation. A stellar example of things going from good to bad to oh shit, A Simple Plan is stripped down movie-making at its best. Thornton was nominated for both the Oscar and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role of slightly dim Jacob Mitchell. One of Raimi's most brilliantly woven tales.
Army of Darkness (1992)
"This is my boomstick!" The third and final installment in the Evil Dead trilogy took everything that was great about Evil Dead 2 and went even further with it. Originally in Evil Dead 2, Raimi wanted Ash to be thrown into a time portal and be whisked back to the Middle Ages. Due to budget constraints, that angle had to be scrapped, but when it came time to dust Ash off one more time, Raimi went right for the portal, and we got Army of Darkness. In this one Campbell ramps up the smarmy cheesiness to 11, and the humor is off the charts. (Dig Raimi's love for "The Three Stooges" in the clip below.) More physical laughs accompanied by fantastic special F/X work made Army of Darkness the perfect way to wind up the series. We see our hero, Ash, return to his normal job at S-Mart ("Shop Smart! Shop S-Mart!"), but as we know by the high-octane final scene, life will never be the same for him again. "Groovy."
For Love of the Game (1999)
I thought maybe if I buried this one in the middle of the list I could slide it by you Dreadies. Honestly, I know this is a completely self-serving entry to the list, but there is something about this film I adore. After horror, my next true love is baseball, and although it's cheesy and sappy and predictable, For Love of the Game managed to get me a misty in a Rudy kind of way. However, it was after that misty emotional well-up that I vowed never to watch another film that doesn't have at least one character meet their untimely demise at the hands of some kind of beastie or baddie. Thank you, Sam Raimi, for that! And I appreciate you Dreadies' forgiveness and allowing me to place For Love on the Game on this list of Raimi's best.