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In the last decade, few filmmakers have provided greater contributions to the world of cinematic horror than Mike Flanagan. From big screen features to streaming movies to miniseries, the man has demonstrated an immense skill when it comes to balancing substantial and emotional themes with monsters and supernatural forces. It’s been a wonderful thing to watch his filmography grow, and he seems to only be getting better at what he does.
But how do Mike Flanagan’s movies and TV shows rank up against each other? That’s not an easy question to answer given that each individual project has its own unique qualities, but I’ve done my level best to work it out and have presented my final list for you below.
12. Before I Wake
There isn’t a Mike Flanagan title that I actually don’t like, but one title had to be last, right? In his first post-Room feature, Jacob Tremblay delivers a wonderful performance playing a child whose dreams and nightmares become reality, and Flanagan meaningfully explores grief through the characters played by Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane: parents who emotionally struggle following the death of their young son. Really the only significant issue in Before I Wake is the monstrous Canker Man, which is brought to life with sub-par visual effects that undercut the scares it is supposed to deliver.
11. The Haunting Of Bly Manor
The Haunting Of Bly Manor doesn’t begin as strongly as Mike Flanagan’s better miniseries, but it finds its footing in Episode 4 as Victoria Pedretti’s Dani confronts her guilt, and then it begins to soar in Episode 5 as T’Nia Miller’s Hannah Grose experiences a surreal trip through her own memories and discovers a dark truth. From that point on, it’s all excellence, from the budding romance between Dani and Amelia Eve’s Jamie, to the dark origins of the Lady in the Lake, to the nefarious plot of Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s Peter to selfishly try and stay with Tahirah Sharif’s Rebecca Jessel forever.
Released before Mike Flanagan’s big breakout hit (which I’ll get to shortly), Absentia doesn’t get the love that most of the filmmaker’s other projects do, but that’s not fair. With themes about guilt, loss, and addiction and a strained sibling relationship front and center, the movie is cutting his teeth on a lot of big ideas that would ultimately become massive in his work. It’s not Flanagan’s scariest work, but you certainly find yourself holding your breath every single time that Katie Parker’s Callie Russel jogs through the ominous tunnel in her neighborhood that houses and invisible monster.
9. Ouija: Origin Of Evil
2014’s Ouija was utterly trashed by critics upon its release, which didn’t exactly outfit Ouija: Origin Of Evil with a lot of natural buzz prior to its release in 2016… but that was also a time before most people knew about Mike Flanagan’s special skills. Starring Elizabeth Reaser as a well-intentioned-but-fraudulent medium and Annalise Basso and Lulu Wilson as her two daughters, the movie first has you fall in love with the principal characters, and then it takes you through a roller coaster of terror as they end up realizing that they broke a key Ouija rule: never play in a graveyard. In addition to being a surprisingly freaky PG-13 horror film, it’s also one of Flanagan’s most beautiful works with the 1967 setting giving him terrific excuse to employ the look of grainy film stock, cigarette burns, split diopters and more.
8. The Midnight Club
With its ensemble of young, terminally ill characters, The Midnight Club is arguably Mike Flanagan’s heaviest work yet, as the show goes to some incredibly dark and sad places, but the weight of all the sadness is buoyed by effervescent personalities, inspiring creativity, and captivating mystery. There is so much in this Netflix original to keep you enthralled throughout, including the various genre tales told by the titular group, the unwillingness for Iman Benson’s Ilonka to give up hope for remission, and the enigmatic history of the Brightcliffe Home hospice. It’s a shame that we won’t be getting a Season 2 – particularly because of the finale’s cliffhanger.
A large number of the scares in Mike Flanagan projects come from supernatural sources. Hush is different in that it’s more of a straight-up home invasion thriller… but, of course, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have special creative energy and plenty of surprises. Kate Siegel’s Maddie being deaf adds extreme new levels to the terror in her circumstances, and John Gallagher Jr.’s unnamed killer is presented as the exact right kind of sick bastard to amplify his cat-and-mouse antics and fend off the “why doesn’t he just go in and killer her?” question. It also gets some special points for being the first Flanagan movie to star three actors who would become regulars in his projects: Siegel (who is also his wife), Samantha Sloyan, and Michael Trucco.
Remember what I was saying about Mike Flanagan’s big breakout? That would be 2013’s Oculus, and it’s not exactly hard to see why the movie garnered the director so much attention. The movie takes a high-concept plot – two siblings investigate a haunted mirror that inflicted trauma in their childhoods – and it unleashes spectacular horror. The story, cinematography and editing weaving in between the past and present is majestic, the clever antics of the reflective antagonist are chilling, and the dark ending that it unfurls is among the best that the filmmaker has crafted.
5. Midnight Mass
As evidenced by special Easter eggs in both Hush and Gerald’s Game, Midnight Mass is a story that Mike Flanagan wanted to tell for a long time before he got the opportunity to do so, and he most definitely made his swing count. The miniseries is akin to a Stephen King mixtape – blending elements of books like Dolores Claiborne, Salem’s Lot, Revival, and more – and it’s a brilliant execution of a story about a closed-off community unknowingly dealing with a vampire infestation. Some of the best performances that Flanagan has cultivated in his career are in this show, including Kate Siegel as Erin Greene, Zach Gilford as Riley Flynn, and Hamish Linklater as Father Paul Hill, and part of that is because it also features many of the writer’s best monologues.
4. The Fall Of The House Of Usher
Mike Flanagan can most definitely be trusted to honor the works of the authors he loves. Prior to 2023, he proved that in adapting the books of Stephen King, Christopher Pike, Henry James, and Shirley Jackson, and The Fall Of The House Of Usher is a practically perfect love letter to Edgar Allan Poe. While built around the short gothic fiction from which it gets its name, the miniseries is another mixtape work that ingeniously finds ways to introduce elements from Poe’s most beloved stories – from “The Cask Of Amontillado” to “The Black Cat” to “The Pit And The Pendulum” – and utilize them for inspired contrapasso death sequences.
3. Gerald’s Game
For a long time, Mike Flanagan brought a copy of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game to studio pitch meetings, just waiting for the conversation to finally turn to passion projects, and we can all be thankful that Netflix finally let him execute his vision. It’s not what one would call King’s most cinematic book – centered on a woman handcuffed to a bed and delving into tough subject matter like child abuse – but that just makes Flanagan’s adaptation all the more magical. Carla Gugino’s emotional turn as Jessie Burlingame is unforgettable, the drifting between reality and imagination is gripping, and as far as horror is concerned, it unleashes one of the most brutal, scariest moments in the history of Stephen King movies.
2. The Haunting Of Hill House
Who could have known that Mike Flanagan was so amazing at making miniseries? After making six professional features, the filmmaker took a crack at 10-episode storytelling in 2018 with The Haunting Of Hill House, and it’s the best small screen work that he’s done to date. Younger and older, every character is fascinating in their own way, including the denial of Steven (Natalia Rosminati/Michiel Huisman), the empathy of Theo (Mckenna Grace/ Kate Siegel) and the twin connection of Luke (Julian Hilliard/Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and Nell (Violet McGraw/Victoria Pedretti) – and the orchestrations of the ghostly happenings at the titular haunted mansion are masterful. To date, no episode of anything Flanagan has done has matched the excellence of “Two Storms.”
1. Doctor Sleep
Stephen King has never been shy about expressing his lack of affection for Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, but a big part of what makes Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep so phenomenal is the way in which it helps heal that pop culture wound. The story is a perfect parallel to The Shining – it’s about recovery, while its predecessor is about addiction – and it both has a thrilling tale to tell with the battle against the villainous True Knot and is a stunning catch-up with the ever-traumatized Danny Torrance (played by the excellent Ewan McGregor). Again, Flanagan took one of the trickiest King novels to adapt and ended up making one of the best Stephen King movies of all time.
Next up, Mike Flanagan is working on his third Stephen King adaptation, and while we’ll have to wait and see how it turns out before it gets added to this ranking, you can check out our handy guide to learn everything we know about The Life Of Chuck.