10 Best Performances in Sam Raimi Movies, Ranked


Sam Raimi has had one of the most impressive careers of any director working today. While Raimi started literally making low-budget horror movies with his friends in the woods, he slowly became one of the most successful blockbuster directors in the industry. Regardless of the size and scale of his films, Raimi’s projects all feel personal. It always seems as if he’s simply a kid playing with action figures, and his big-budget films don’t lose the same jovial whimsy that his earlier, low-budget projects had. Raimi’s ongoing collaborations with actor Bruce Campbell and composer Danny Elfman make it feel like each new film is a family reunion of sorts.

Above all else, Raimi prioritizes characters, and he’s worked with some phenomenal actors to bring them to life. Indeed, many actors like Campbell and Tobey Maguire have given career-best performances under Raimi’s confident direction. No matter the genre, these actors have delivered stellar portrayals, enhancing the material and cementing Raimi’s reputation as a director or remarkable empathy who can effortlessly balance pathos and spectacle.

10 Elizabeth Olsen

‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ (2022)

Image via Marvel

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is one of the more controversial installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially when it comes to the depiction of Elizabeth Olsen‘s Wanda Maximoff. When taken as a continuation of Wanda’s storyline in the Disney+ series WandaVision, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness seems very incongruous. However, it feels like Raimi’s goal was to introduce an element of horror to the MCU, and on that front, he succeeded.

This is reflected in Olsen’s performance; her terrifying version of a crazed Scarlet Witch feels like it belongs in one of the Evil Dead sequels. Olsen leans into the eccentricity of the material, allowing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to feel unique in tone compared to other entries in the MCU. Although the universe doesn’t always nail its villains, the darker version of Wanda stands as one of the few antagonists who is just as compelling as the hero.

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9 Cate Blanchett

‘The Gift’ (2000)

Cate-Blanchett as Annabelle looking to the distance with a confused expression in the film The Gift.
Image via Paramount Vantage

The Gift is an outlier within Raimi’s filmography. While most of his horror films are more entertaining, The Gift utilizes its genre elements for the sake of making a grounded character drama. Cate Blanchett delivers an underrated performance as the widow Annie Wilson, whose psychological powers are used to help solve a murder investigation.

Even though Raimi adds an element of realism to The Gift, Wilson feels like a superhero in more than a few ways. She is terrified that her powers could be taken advantage of; it’s almost as if she understands that “with great power comes great responsibility.” While the film itself commits some storytelling cliches, Blanchett’s performance is never less than riveting, deftly guiding the action and preventing the story’s most ludicrous aspects from taking over.

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8 Ian Abercrombie

‘Army of Darkness’ (1992)

Ian Abercrombie as the Wise Man talking to someone in Army of Darkness
Image via Universal Pictures

Army of Darkness reshaped the Evil Dead franchise from a horror series to a comedy saga. The end of the previous film teased that Ash (Bruce Campbell) would be traveling back in time to the Medieval era, and Army of Darkness fulfilled that promise by turning the saga into a full-on historical comedy epic worthy of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The change allowed the Evil Dead franchise to change directions; it would be kind of dull if all of the sequels were confined to the same log cabin. Among the fun new characters added to Army of Darkness is the strange Wise Man, played by Seinfeld veteran Ian Abercrombie. Subdued yet endlessly entertaining, Abercrombie has the perfect dry sense of humor that serves as a great contrast to Campbell’s wild eccentricity. Watching the Wise Man grow irritated by Ash’s continued screwups is one of the funniest aspects of Army of Darkness.

Army of Darkness

Release Date
October 31, 1992



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7 Ellen Sandweiss

‘The Evil Dead’ (1981)

Ellen Sandweiss as Cheryl Williams in The Evil Dead
New Line Cinema

The Evil Dead holds up as one of the scariest films ever made because of how simple the story is. Raimi did not attempt to sensationalize the narrative with added mythology that wasn’t relevant to the scares at hand. Since the majority of the film takes place within the confines of one isolated cabin, the audience really gets to know all of the characters. Ellen Sandweiss’ character, Cheryl Williams, is one of the last protagonists to get killed, leaving Ash alone to fight another day.

The legacy of Cheryl and the Evil Dead franchise has continued in many unexpected ways. Cheryl is actually one of the main characters in the delightful musical version of The Evil Dead. Even if it spawned more comedic interpretations, The Evil Dead still resonates as a terrifying horror film because of the empathy that Sandweiss generates for Cheryl. When she becomes possessed, it’s both harrowing and heartbreaking, all due to Sandweiss’ effective portrayal.

The Evil Dead Film Poster

The Evil Dead

Release Date
October 15, 1981

Bruce Campbell , Ellen Sandweiss , Richard DeManincor , Betsy Baker , Theresa Tilly , Philip A. Gillis



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6 Bill Paxton

‘A Simple Plan’ (1998)

Lou, Hank, and Jacob standing in a snowy forest looking ahead in A Simple Plan
Image via Paramount Pictures

A Simple Plan feels like an outlier compared to the rest of Raimi’s filmography. The cosmic, supernatural, and horror elements that are so intrinsic to his style are completely absent, proving that Raimi had the gift for drama as much as any of the other genres he had tackled. In A Simple Plan, Raimi gives the late great Bill Paxton one of his best roles as Hank Mitchell, a Minnesota man whose greed gets the better of him when he finds a mysterious stash of cash.

Riveting and tense, A Simple Plan showed a maturity within Raimi’s direction compared to his popular trilogies. Spider-Man and Ash had been heroes that the audience could invest in, but Hank was the type of character that they loved to hate. Paxton made Mitchell a continuously engaging yet completely unlikeable character, crafting a unique depiction of human complexity that ranks among the finest and most challenging of his illustrious career.

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5 Liam Neeson

‘Darkman’ (1995)

Liam Neeson as Darkman in Darkman
Image via Universal Pictures

Although he would eventually find success with the Spider-Man trilogy, Raimi first got his chance to break into the genre with his underrated superhero movie, Darkman. The 1992 fantasy revenge thriller stars Liam Neeson in one of his first action roles as the scientist Peyton Westlake, whose face and body are left disfigured after a band of criminals attack his lab. In the days before Taken proved that he was an action star, Neeson showed why he was such a remorseless presence on screen.

Neeson’s physicality is a significant reason why Darkman is so successful, but it’s also an emotional performance. None of Peter’s violent revenge missions would be as impactful if he wasn’t doing it to save the love of his life (Frances McDormand). He serves as the perfect mix between a “superhero” and “vigilante,” a contentious yet sympathetic figure that only Neeson could have played.

darkman poster


Release Date
August 24, 1990



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4 Tobey Maguire

‘Spider-Man’ (2002)

Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man with his mask off looking intently off-camera in Spider-Man (2002)
Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

Tobey Maguire’s performance in Spider-Man is essential to why the film works as well as it does. Raimi understood that Peter Parker wasn’t an overpowered superhero like Superman; he was just an awkward teenage boy who was struggling with the same issues as many other teenagers. This sense of goofy charisma that Maguire brought to the role makes the Spider-Man films so beloved to this day.

For many, Maguire’s take on Peter Parker remains the character’s definitive version. The actor defined the Web-Crawler for an entire generation, leaving a lasting impression on the hero’s rich history and the superhero genre as a whole. Interest in Maguire’s version of Spider-Man certainly intensified after his return to the suit with 2021’s mega-hit Spider-Man: No Way Home. Maguire admitted that co-starring with Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland and seeing the love and support from Marvel fans had revitalized his interest in acting.


Release Date
May 1, 2002



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3 Sharon Stone

‘The Quick and the Dead’ (1995)

Sharon Stone as Ellen aiming a gun at someone off-camera in The Quick and the Dead
Image via TriStar Pictures

Although Clint Eastwood’s neo-revenge thriller Unforgiven had revitalized the Western genre in the early 1990s, Raimi proved with The Quick and the Dead that it could be fun. The film embodied the style of classic Spaghetti Westerns, featuring some of Raimi’s most outrageous horror and comedy gags. While on its surface, The Quick and the Dead feels like a parody of the Western genre, Raimi pays his respects by keeping a familiar revenge story.

The film centers on Sharon Stone’s character, simply known as “The Lady,” who seeks revenge on the powerful ruler of the town of Redemption, John Herod (Gene Hackman). Stone brings a cold, discreet sense of justice to The Lady; her motivations are steadily revealed as The Quick and the Dead explores more of her backstory through flashbacks. Although the film was paid dust on its original run, it has aged quite well, largely thanks to Stone’s commanding performance. Although an Oscar nominee, Stone doesn’t get the recognition she deserves as a true and defining movie star of the 90s.

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2 Alfred Molina

‘Spider-Man 2’ (2004)

Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius looking back with his mechanical arms around him in Spider-Man 2
Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

Spider-Man 2 is the definitive superhero movie sequel because it gave Maguire’s Spider-Man a villain that was truly his match. Like Peter, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock is a science enthusiast who loses a member of his family due to a shocking tragedy. Molina seamlessly switches between Ock’s sympathetic and reprehensible aspects; although Doc Ock does some terrible things, he truly does consider himself to be the hero of the story. This makes his redemption towards the end of the film more powerful.

Although Doc Ock ultimately ends up on Peter’s side, that doesn’t make him any less intimidating. Raimi added an element of horror to Spider-Man 2 to the film to make Doc Ock feel more menacing. His return in Spider-Man: No Way Home was very rewarding for Raimi fans, as Molina proved that he hadn’t lost anything about the character along the way.


Spider-Man 2

Release Date
June 25, 2004



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1 Bruce Campbell

‘Evil Dead II’ (1987)

A bloodied Ash (Bruce Campbell) and a concerned Annie (Sarah Berry) in the cabin in 'Evil Dead'
Image via New Line Cinema

Evil Dead II is one of the rare films that is just as funny as it is scary. This is what makes Ash such a great protagonist; he’s a complete goofball, but his experiences are so terrifying that it’s understandable why he would want to keep a good sense of humor about everything. This is the film where Ash’s chainsaw and signature catchphrase, “groovy,” truly become iconic.

While The Evil Dead had opened the series on a fairly grim note, Evil Dead II introduced the absurdism that made the franchise so beloved. Evil Dead is a strong franchise with many good installments, but Evil Dead II stands head and shoulders above the rest, and it’s all thanks to Campbell’s spirited, effortlessly charming, yet fully in-control performance. Campbell and Raimi cracked the perfect mix of gore and goofiness and turned their low-budget enterprise into one of the most beloved sagas in horror movie history.


Evil Dead 2

Release Date
March 13, 1987



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NEXT: 10 Great Movies Recommended by Sam Raimi


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