Hellraiser Movies Ranked from Worst to Best


Pinhead in Hellraiser: Bloodline

3. Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

A prequel and a sequel, the fourth movie in the series is the most ambitious of the franchise. The opening third is a Gothic historical chiller set in 1796 France chronicling the construction of the infamous Lament Configuration puzzle box, as well as the curse laid upon its inventor Phillip LeMarchand and his descendents. Bloodline goes on to trace the LeMarchand curse from the past, to present day, and finally to the distant future in outer space, where a descendent of its inventor has created a spaceship to trap and banish the Cenobites. 

The movie unfortunately becomes a very rote slasher by the time it goes to space. Which is a shame given the quality moodiness of the 18th century sequences and the idea of a spaceship as a large-scale puzzle box. Fan favorite demon Angelique takes center stage here as well, another in Hellraiser’s tradition of having some solid female villains. In retrospect, it would’ve been nice if Hellraiser had gotten a Prey-style standalone prequel set in a particularly decadent time. (Maybe the franchise still can?) Bonus points for this being Parks & Recreation’s Adam Scott’s very first film role. 

Ashley Laurence in Hellbound: Hellraiser II

2. Hellraiser II: Hellbound (1988)

Did we need a deeper look behind the Cenobites’ chain curtains? Not really, but the expansion of Clive Barker’s dark mythos was compelling and the return of the original’s best characters meshes so well with the first movie that both pictures could nearly tie for the top spot. Clare Higgins (now in Netflix’s The Sandman) takes her rightful spot center stage as we find out what happened after the adulterous, libidinous, dangerous Julia Cotton was sent to Hell by her stepdaughter Kirsty.

Even without skin, hell, maybe even because she’s without skin, Julia oozes malicious sex appeal as she gets revenge on Kirsty and especially Frank (Sean Chapman,) the cowardly ex-boyfriend who jilted her for an eternity in exquisite torment. The movie also gets bonus points for revealing a dark origin story of sorts for Pinhead, who develops an unlikely bond here with Kirsty, the would-be heroine who is eager to play in Hell, but never wants to pay the toll when she enters the abyss to find her father. The movie’s hellscape is also still delightfully ‘80s, labyrinthine matte paintings and all.

Uncle Frank on Hooks in Hellraiser (1987)

1. Hellraiser (1987)

A true pinnacle of body horror, where existential despair and darkest desire intersect, this debut film made Clive Barker a successful director after already becoming an award-winning author. In a horror video landscape of teens getting picked off by a masked slasher, there was something decidedly adult about Barker’s tale of Frank Cotton and his existential ennui compelling him to open a puzzle box to a dimension of sadomasochistic interdimensional demons in search of new boundaries to explore.

Frank’s skinned man look still holds up, particularly when practical FX is used to show his resurrection, layer by gooey layer. Pinhead’s most famous, most chillingly aloof, poetic lines are all here, as well as some killer one-liners delivered by Ashley Laurence’s Kirsty Cotton and Andrew Robinson as her mild-mannered dad, who remains oblivious to the evil within his own family.



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