The original is considered a horror classic, but the Hellraiser movies have definitely been a mixed bag - here's every entry ranked worst to best. Hellraiser was the directorial debut of Clive Barker. The author had made a name for himself with his unique, gory horror tales but after being disappointed with the adaptation of his short story Rawhead Rex, he decided to make his own movie.
He secured a low budget to adapt his novella The Hellbound Heart, about a man who tries to escape the sadomasochistic demons he summoned with an ancient puzzle box. The resulting movie version, 1987's Hellraiser, would become a word of mouth success and made an icon out of lead cenobite Pinhead. The franchise has a solid fanbase to this day - even if the quality of later entries would prove disappointing.
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Here are all the Hellraiser movies, ranked worst to best.
10. Hellraiser: Revelations
Hellraiser: Revelations was slapped together in a matter of weeks after, legend has it, an intern realized Dimension was on the verge of losing the franchise rights if they didn't produce a new sequel. Revelations bears these scars, with amateur acting, a paper-thin premise, and an overall low-rent feel. Pinhead's original performer Doug Bradley refused to return due to the rushed nature of the production, and his replacement lacks the gravitas needed for the role.
9. Hellraiser: Hellseeker
Hellraiser: Hellseeker briefly got fans excited when it was announced Ashley Lawrence, the lead actress of the first two movies, was returning, but Hellseeker would prove to be one of the most tedious entries of the series. Lawrence is essentially a gloried cameo, with an arc that will anger most fans, the main character is an unlikeable douche and the film is comprised of about 90% hallucinations/dream sequences that fail to elicit a single scare.
8. Hellraiser: Hellworld
Hellworld is one of the strangest of the Hellraiser movies and revolves around a bunch of friends who are invited to a Hellraiser themed party. It's essentially a generic 2000s horror movie with a silly twist, but the cast, including a young Henry Cavill (Justice League) and Lance Henriksen, make it enjoyable and it features plenty of easter eggs/callback to the series. Turning Pinhead into a typical slasher was a huge mistake though.
7. Hellraiser: Deader
Deader actually has a pretty creepy premise, with a grungy journalist investigating a cult that can supposedly resurrect the dead. Like most of the straight to DVD Hellraiser movies, Deader was an original script retrofitted to be a sequel and it shows. The overall plot has little connection to the mythology, and while it has a couple of creepy moments and interesting ideas it's a mediocre horror tale.
6. Hellraiser: Judgment
The tenth and to date final entry, Judgment was another low-budget effort to keep the franchise rights. That said, its an improvement on Revelations, making an effort to expand the mythology and featuring a solid performance from new Pinhead Paul T. Taylor. The Seven-style serial killer plot is boilerplate stuff and the tiny budget shines through in places, but it also features some unnerving (and gross) horror sequences.
5. Hellraiser: Inferno
Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange) made his directorial debut with 2000's Inferno, the fifth entry and the first to go straight to DVD. The story follows a sleazy detective investigating a missing children's case and finding a connection to the puzzle box. Inferno marked a turn towards making the Cenobites more traditional, Christian demons but while Derrickson directs with flair and produces disturbing imagery like an under-the-skin massage, the execution is clunky. Pinhead's lack of screentime also angered fans.
4. Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth
Hellraiser III attempted to turn Pinhead in a Freddy Krueger-style figure, but while Doug Bradley is a hammy delight in the part, Hell On Earth is a mess. The Cenobites were turned into gimmicky monsters like Camerahead, the story is a slog until the final act and Pinhead is far more interesting the lead heroine, making it hard to root for her.
3. Hellraiser: Bloodline
Bloodline has by far the most ambitious concept of the Hellraiser movies, being split between three timelines. The first story follows Philippe Lemarchand in 1796, the creator of the infamous puzzle box, and how his actions cursed his bloodline. The second story follows his descendant in modern-day while the finale takes place in space. There are genuinely creative ideas in Bloodline but it's hampered by a small budget and sloppy re-edits on behalf of the studio to make it shorter. Ultimately, this sequel/prequel is a fascinating mess.
2. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2
Hellbound picks up from the end of the original, with Kirsty sent to an asylum after surviving the Cenobites. This sequel greatly expands the premise, bringing viewers into Hell - AKA the labyrinth - and revealing the being that runs it. It also features an origin story for Pinhead and like the original features plenty of stomach-churning gore. Surprisingly, the filmmakers didn't initially see Pinhead as the star, and returning villainess Julia was pegged to lead the franchise. The fan response to the character, and this solid sequel, soon changed their opinion.
Hellraiser was a shot in the arm for the genre in 1987 and brought Clive Barker's unique vision to the screen. The main plot is essentially a love story, where a cheating wife agrees to help her cursed lover - her husband's brother - regenerate feeling a stint in Hell by feeding him victims. The effects and gore are shocking to this day, but the classy direction and music score elevate the material. Pinhead is very much a background threat in Hellraiser - he's even credited as "Lead Cenobite" - but even in his brief screentime here it's clear a new icon was born.