All Of Eli Roth’s Horror Films, Ranked

Eli Roth
ph: Takashi Seida /© MGM /Courtesy Everett Collection

Eli Roth has never been all that interested in subtlety. Throughout his two-decade career, the director, screenwriter, producer, and actor has made movies that run the gamut from fantasy to erotic thriller to, of course, horror, but all along he embraced a heightened sense of realism, one that does not benefit from understatement. Roth’s movies are fast, aggressive, and, at their best, a hell of a good time. His latest, the holiday-themed slasher Thanksgiving, promises to be all three, a well-timed reminder that there are not many filmmakers working who do things quite like the crown Prince of the Splat Pack.

In honor of his latest film, we have ranked each of Eli Roth’s eight feature films.

8. The House With A Clock In Its Walls (2018)

The House With A Clock In Its Walls Eli Roth

Listen, sometimes it is okay to try to stretch the edges of your established comfort zone. Eli Roth has long been well-known for his ability to shock, awe, and gross out audiences. But with The House With A Clock In Its Walls, he seemed to be going for something a little different. Yes, the plot of this 2018 feature, which follows a young orphan boy named Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) as he delves into a world of mystery and horror, has some of the characteristics of Roth’s more successful films. But, it’s very much a children’s movie and the only film of his to approach a PG rating.

Based on the 1973 John Bellairs’ novel of the same name, The House With A Clock In Its Walls is not totally charmless. Jack Black and Cate Blanchett do their best to keep things from getting too silly but, in the end, this is simply not the kind of movie anyone seems to want Roth to make, himself included. 

7. Death Wish (2018)

Death Wish Eli Roth

2018 was clearly, in this writer’s opinion, not a banner year for Eli Roth. Along with the previous film on our list, 2018 also saw the release of Death Wish, an ill-conceived remake of the 1974 movie of the same name. Starring Bruce Willis as Paul Kersey, a man hell-bent on avenging the death of his family, this movie is revenge porn in its purest form, continually amping up the violence in ways both creative and trite. Part of the issue here, once again, could be the fact that Roth is working outside of the horror genre.

There was controversy at the time about his depiction of gun violence, criticism that is certainly valid. But it seems clear that Roth was not attempting to make a statement in either direction. He simply wanted to include the lurid scenes he seems so fascinated with throughout his filmography. The fact is, the graphic violence and blood-soaked imagery of movies that will appear later on our list work better when presented through the filter of pure horror than they do with a vigilante story like Death Wish

6. The Green Inferno (2013)

How does one follow up the Hostel movies? With a cannibal horror film, of course. The Green Inferno actually has quite a lot in common with his previous work, again aiming to lampoon the hapless American tourist who, in the end, might just deserve what’s coming. Here our hero is Justine (Lorenza Izzo), a college freshman who is sure she can make a difference and be the “white savior” of the people of Peru. Things don’t quite work out like that, as Eli Roth gives us his typical blend of visceral horror and cynical storytelling. It doesn’t all work but that is surely not for lack of vision and effort on Roth’s part. 

5. Hostel: Part II (2007)

Hostel Part II Eli Roth

Hostel—a movie we will obviously get to a bit later on our list—made $82 million on a budget of under $5 million. When an original film can hit like that, especially when it’s a horror film, you know damn well you are going to get a sequel. Eli Roth wasn’t about to miss his opportunity to cash in on his surprise hit. The result is a movie that doesn’t quite hit the mark of the first film, choosing to essentially genre-swap the original by placing three female protagonists rather than male. Hostel: Part II suffers from diminishing returns as much as anything but still delivers the kind of torture terror one might expect. 

4. Knock Knock (2015)

Everyone is always begging for the return of the erotic thriller and 2015’s Knock Knock certainly does its best to deliver. Starring Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, and Ana de Armas, Knock Knock—a remake of the 1977 thriller Death Game—tells the story of a happily married family man who cannot keep it in his pants, despite his best effort. The man in question is played by Reeves in the kind of campy, physical performance for which he is perfectly suited. His character, Evan, just wants to be left alone, but when he is visited by two soaking wet, beautiful, and troublesomely horny young women things go predictably awry, leaving him in a battle of wits with what we soon learn are pure psychopaths.

There’s something to be said about the way Evan is so harshly punished for his sexual transgressions, a theme that seems of particular interest to Roth throughout his career. 

3. Hostel (2005)

Speaking of psychosexual examinations of depravity, we now arrive at the movie that officially put Eli Roth on the map, and made him the poster boy for a new wave of filmmakers that would be deemed the Splat Pack. Roth’s first film, Cabin Fever, was a surprise success and even garnered the attention of Quentin Tarantino who agreed to help Roth get his next feature off the ground. According to Roth, the idea for Hostel comes from a story he came across on the dark web which detailed something called a “Thai murder vacation” in which tourists could pay to kill another person.

Roth moves the action for his film to Europe and follows two exceptionally annoying American tourists, and their somehow even more annoying Icelandic buddy Oli, as they try their best to get drunk, high, and laid despite being essentially charmless. Their punishment for such degeneracy is death and dismemberment. Upon watching Hostel again for the first time in years, I was struck by how tame the scenes of torture were compared to my memory, perhaps dulled a bit by years of Saw and the like. And yet, the movie still works as an exploration of capitalism, illicit desire, and exploitation. 

2. Thanksgiving (2023)


“This year, there will be no leftovers.” This line is, in many ways, the climax to Roth’s latest, a campy, hilarious, and gory holiday-themed slasher flick that hits all the pleasure points of such a movie. Thanksgiving, based on a mock trailer that Eli Roth produced back in 2007 for the film Grindhouse, centers around a Black Friday tragedy and a serial killer named “John Carver” who seeks revenge on those responsible.

Starring Patrick Dempsey, Addison Rae and Nell Verlaque, Thanksgiving is, in many ways, a return to form for Roth and the best movie he has made in years. It’s the kind of film where, after you see it, you want to recount every increasingly gnarly kill in vivid detail with anyone who will listen. Most impressive, though, is how well Roth balances the movie’s playful tone with genuine horror. Thanksgiving is a movie where, even if you might see where it’s headed, continues to surprise and delight throughout. 

1. Cabin Fever (2002)

For the top movie on our list, we go back to the very beginning with Roth’s debut feature. Cabin Fever has a classic horror movie setup with five college students packing up their truck for a weekend in the woods. What could go wrong!? What’s most refreshing about Cabin Fever is that there is not going to be an ax-wielding killer knocking on their door, not exactly. Roth instead finds a way to blend the tropes of another genre, the flesh-eating zombie flick, with the more classic slasher film. The titular “cabin fever” turns out to be some kind of flesh-eating disease set loose in the water supply. It slowly moves through our hero’s cabin until nearly everyone is left covered in scabs and, in some cases, barely any skin at all.

Cabin Fever has all of the things that make Eli Roth such an exciting filmmaker, blending the gruesome, the absurd, and the extravagant with the mastery that would lead to such an impressive career. 



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