The Correct Order To Watch The Hills Have Eyes Franchise

Wes Craven's 1977 film "The Hills Have Eyes," like Tobe Hooper's "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" before it, features a vanload of city folks who find themselves waylaid in a forgotten corner of the American wasteland. In Craven's film, the wasteland is not rural Texas, but the irradiated deserts of Nevada. The protagonists (Dee Wallace is among them) are beset by the brood of the sadistic Papa Jupiter (James Whitworth), including Mars (Lance Gordon), Mercury (Arthur King), and Pluto (Michael Berryman). Years ago, Jupiter moved into the hills with his wife (Cordy Clark) and raised their children to attack and cannibalize passers-through in order to survive. "The Hills Have Eyes" is raw and brutal, but possessed of a winking sense of humor that horror fans will appreciate.

The original film only cost about $700,000 to make (although the actual budget isn't very well recorded), yet it went on to make over $25 million, making it a legit cult hit. It was only Craven's second feature after "The Last House on the Left" and it proved that he was a legitimate presence in the '70s horror scene. While many might assume that Craven was merely doing a "Texas Chain Saw" knockoff, the director later revealed that "Hills Have Eyes" was inspired by the Sawney Bean clan, a real-life 17th century Scottish family who lived in a cave and attacked anyone who passed through a certain nearby plain.

"The Hills Have Eyes" spawned a straight-up sequel, a sort-of sequel, a remake, and a sequel to the remake. That's a long way to take a "hillbillies attack city slickers" premise, but natural for a genre that thrives on strained sequels and useless remakes.

The release order is the best way to approach The Hills Have Eyes

There's no need to get fancy with your viewing order with the "Hills Have Eyes" movies. You might as well stick with the release order as listed below:

  • Wes Craven's "The Hills Have Eyes" (1977)
  • Wes Craven's "The Hills Have Eyes Part II" (1985)
  • Joe Gayton's "Mind Ripper" (1995)
  • Alexandre Aja's "The Hills Have Eyes" (2006)
  • Martin Weisz's "The Hills Have Eyes 2" (2007)

Craven only returned to "The Hills Have Eyes" in 1985 for mercenary reasons, wanting to turn the '70s classic into an '80s slasher series, a la "Halloween" or "Friday the 13th." Little did Craven know that something similar was about to happen with his 1984 film "A Nightmare on Elm Street."

Craven wrote the screenplay for "The Hills Have Eyes Part III," a film he originally wanted to take place in space (!), although that version of the project eventually fell through. Instead, Craven oversaw a more earthbound iteration of "The Hills Have Eyes III," co-written by his son Jonathan and Phil Mittleman. At the last minute, however, "The Hills Have Eyes III" was rewritten to remove all the references to "The Hills Have Eyes Part II" and became a separate entity called "Mind Ripper." Craven only produced that one, and it only kind of counts as a "Hills" movie. True completionists, however, should include it.

Alexandre Aja's 2006 remake altered the premise of Craven's film somewhat, stating explicitly that the desert-bound hillbillies were mutated by local bomb tests and have been made blood-thirsty — and much stronger — through exposure to radiation. 2006 saw an uptick in horror nihilism, so Aja's film is gritty, brutal, and filthy. It was originally meant to be released with an NC-17 rating, but was later toned down to an R.

The 2007 sequel to the remake dispatched the military to assassinate the mutants. It's a silly premise and a silly film. There hasn't been a "Hills" film since.

The Hills Have Eyes and the Craven-Raimi 'beef'

"The Hills Have Eyes," as many horror fans can tell you, started a playful "beef" between Wes Craven and contemporary low-budget horror filmmaker Sam Raimi. There is a shot in "The Hills Have Eyes" wherein characters pass by a ripped poster for "Jaws" hanging on a wall. When Raimi saw the poster, he assumed it was Craven's playfully presumptuous attempt to paint Steven Spielberg's 1975 blockbuster as mere "popcorn horror," and, in so doing, declaring his own film to be the real deal. Raimi, wanting to one-up Craven, included a similarly ripped "The Hills Have Eyes" poster in his 1981 film "The Evil Dead."

Craven saw "The Evil Dead" and immediately recognized what Raimi had done. In playful retaliation, Craven featured a scene in "A Nightmare on Elm Street" wherein the main character falls asleep watching "The Evil Dead" on TV. Raimi, not to be outdone, included a Freddy Krueger glove in a notable shot of his 1987 film "Evil Dead II." At this point, however, the glove was more of a winking signal to Craven than it was some kind of playful attack. Nevertheless, the ball was in Craven's court, and he lobbed it back in his 1996 film "Scream" with a scene where teen character loudly announce that they'd rather watch John Carpenter's "Halloween" than Raimi's "The Evil Dead."

It took Raimi a few years to respond, but in a 2015 episode of Raimi's TV series "Ash vs. Evil Dead," one can again see the same Freddy Krueger glove. Craven passed away in 2015, so he never had a chance to "reply." Instead, Raimi tastefully included an unripped poster for "The Hills Have Eyes" outside of a movie theater in a 2016 episode of "Ash." It was a sweet gesture.