All 9 of M. Night Shyamalan horror movies, ranked worst to best

What are your favorite M. Night Shyamalan movies?
Knock at the Cabin, image courtesy Universal Pictures
Knock at the Cabin, image courtesy Universal Pictures /

With M. Night Shyamalan's next movie Trap headed to theaters this August and his daughter's directorial debut The Watchers premiering in June, now feels like a great time to rank the director's most iconic films of all time.

I'll note here that I didn't include Unbreakable or Glass because, despite trying a few times, I haven't been able to invest in either. I know they are fan favorites, but I never found Unbreakable compelling, and Glass was so boring that I ended up turning it off. As it stands, it didn't feel fair to include them in this ranking! This list focuses on the horror movies Shyamalan has written and directed (so no Wide Awake or The Last Airbender here).

9. The Happening (2008)

Mark Wahlberg isn't the strongest actor to begin with, but couple that with the nonsensical script of this sci-fi thriller film, and you've got a real mess on your hands. Even Zooey Deschanel, who usually is pretty decent, can't do much to salvage this one. The Happening has become infamous for just how bad it is, which, of course, means plenty of people unironically enjoy it for its unabashed lunacy. I'm just not one of those people.

8. Old (2021)

Old is very close to "so bad it's good" territory, but I think it drags on too long to fully embrace that aspect. The plot itself (based on Pierre Oscar Lévy's graphic novel Sandcastle) is intriguing, and there are a few really freaky moments, most notably Chyrstal's death scene, yet overall, Old is a tedious slog with a terrible script and poor acting. It often feels like each person is acting in a different movie.

7. Lady in the Water (2006)

Lady in the Water is more of a dark fantasy than straight horror, and it's also surprisingly straightforward and a little bit dull for an M. Night Shyamalan movie. It's far from the worst of the bunch, but the worst crime this movie commits is that it's just not very memorable.

6. Split (2017)

Split is a Shyamalan movie where I'm probably most in the minority as I wasn't very impressed with it despite many others feeling it was exemplary. For starters, I've already established I'm not into the Unbreakable saga, and while Split is better than both of those movies, in my opinion, and James McAvoy does a decent job, I still felt that Split was a little too cringey and the storyline is an absolute mess. Not to mention the unfortunate implications this film makes about people with mental illnesses.

Knock at the Cabin, image courtesy Universal Pictures /

5. Knock at the Cabin (2023)

I don't think Knock at the Cabin is a bad movie as much as it was tremendously disappointing. Had I not read the book its based on (The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay), I probably would have enjoyed it more, but I did. Tremblay's book is one of my all-time favorites, hence why it was so disappointing when Knock at the Cabin neutered the story and made significant changes to it, most notably with the ending, which removed all the fantastic ambiguity from the novel's ending.

4. The Village (2004)

The Village will always have a soft spot in my heart because it was the first horror movie I ever watched alone. A 12-year-old me was trying to test my limits when it came to horror (back then, I was terrified of everything), and The Village still absolutely terrified me and gave me nightmares. It's still one of my favorite folk horror movies, though I feel like the twist ruins the vibe.

3. The Sixth Sense (1999)

An Academy Award-nominated movie, The Sixth Sense is one of Shyamalan's most iconic and acclaimed movies of all time. It's also the film that really established Shyamalan's reputation as the master of twists. It'd be hard to find someone ranking these movies without this one ending up somewhere near the top!

2. The Visit (2015)

The Visit is an M. Night Shyamalan movie that is, dare I say, underrated? It feels like whenever people talk about Shyamalan's movies, this one gets forgotten, but I think The Visit is an absolute blast. It's a perfect melding of some of his sillier tendencies meshed with genuine horror. I can think of multiple scenes and images from this movie that stand out in my mind (Nana crawling under the house comes to mind) as frightening. While the twist is somewhat easy to predict, it's a perfect addition that further enhances the terror rather than detracting from it.

1. Signs (2002)

I don't care if it's basic to put this as my number one movie. I genuinely loved Signs the first time I saw it, and I still do! It's one of the best alien movies out there, in my humble opinion. A masterclass in suspense-building, Signs excelled because of how much it kept in the dark throughout most of the film, taking its time to build up to that iconic birthday party clip as seen above. Sure, it might not be as scary to people watching it for the first time today, but I think a lot of modern horror could learn a thing or two from the incredible tension this movie creates from the start.

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