Ed and Lorraine Warren were two of the most prominent paranormal investigators in history. Ed was an author, lecturer, and self-professed demonologist, and his wife Lorraine claimed to be a psychic medium. The couple founded the New England Society for Psychic Research (NESPR) in 1952, and reportedly investigated more than 10,000 paranormal cases in their lifetimes. Whether you believe their research and involvement in these plentiful hauntings was an elaborate hoax or you stand by their otherworldly claims, you can't deny that theirs is a wholly interesting tale.
One of the most notable cases that the Warrens worked on was the Amityville haunting, which inspired quite a few films in and of itself. However, while the cases the Warrens examined have been the basis of dozens of movies, many of these cinematic tales leave the investigators themselves out of the story. Here are six movies that actually feature Ed and Lorraine Warren as characters, ranked from worst to best.
6. The Haunted
This 1991 made-for-TV movie was actually the first to feature Ed and Lorraine Warren as characters. The story is based on the real-life haunting of the Smurl family, who moved into a duplex in Pennsylvania only to be tormented by malevolent spirits. The Warrens—depicted in this film by Stephen Markle and Diane Baker—show up about halfway through this chilling journey, brought in to rid the house of evil.
The Haunted is a bit lacking in terms of production quality—unsurprising, considering this is a low-budget movie instead of a Hollywood blockbuster like the other films on this list. Still, it leans into the fear of the unknown instead of cashing in on heavy-handed CGI. This movie scarred quite a few kids who caught it on TV back then, and today some even call it the lost Conjuring movie. It's not a perfect movie, but it's well worth watching if you have a soft spot for the Warrens and the cases they investigated.
As an extra bonus, it's been uploaded in its entirety on YouTube and is free to watch below.
5. The Nun
Released in 2018, this movie is a spin-off of a subplot introduced by The Conjuring 2. The film begins with a young nun in Romania who committed suicide—a strange thing for someone so devoutly religious to do. In response, the Vatican sends Father Burke (Demián Bichir), a priest with a troubled past, and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), a novice about to take her final vows, to the abbey to investigate. But a terrible and unholy secret lies within the heart of the order, and Burke and Irene must risk their faith and their lives to put a stop to a demonic nun (Bonnie Aarons) and her malevolent intentions.
The Nun isn't altogether a bad film, but it really pales in comparison to its counterparts. The plot is a little flimsy and thin, making the movie drag at points. Is it scary? Well, that depends. It's a very atmospheric film, relying heavily on religious imagery, of course. But its scary moments come primarily from the plentiful jump scares, which can be a divisive staple of the horror genre.
As this film functions primarily as an origin story for the demon Valak, the Warrens aren't heavily featured at all. However, they do appear in a final scene to tie the Conjuring universe together in a neat bow.
4. Annabelle Comes Home
The third movie of the spin-off Annabelle franchise, this film was released in 2019. The evil doll at the heart of it all was first introduced in the original Conjuring film. However, like The Nun above, Ed and Lorraine Warren aren't a primary focus in this film. Instead, the meat of the plot focuses on their daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace), her babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman), and her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife).
While her parents are away, Daniela accidentally awakens several of the evil spirits in the Warren artifact room. What follows is a night of pure terror for the young girls—one that is extremely satisfying for lovers of the Conjuring franchise, as it features several really cool objects and spirits from the eerie room we see in every film. From the Ferryman, to the Bride, to a cursed and ominous television that torments viewers with visions of the near future, it's a wonderful collection of scares.
The terror hits a bit harder because everything is scarier when kids have to face down evil on their own. The sympathetic characters and emotional arc in the film also add to the watchability factor. In a world where most spin-offs and sequels fall flat, Anabelle Comes Home does a wonderful job of keeping it fresh and expanding the universe.
3. The Conjuring 2
The core movies of a franchise are always going to be fan favorites, but out of the main three Ed and Lorraine Warren movies, The Conjuring 2 ranks the lowest. This film takes place in North London, centered around the Hodgson family. The Warrens are called in to help rid their house—and the youngest daughter, Janet (Madison Wolfe)—of a malicious entity. But is the little girl truly possessed, or is it just an elaborate hoax?
This film doesn't rank as high as the others in the main series because it stretches itself a little thin. As mentioned above, this is the film that introduces the demon nun Valak, but it treads water with her a bit too long and convolutes the main focus. It also introduces The Crooked Man, an eerie character who doesn't really do much in the film, but is allegedly going to appear in his own spin-off at some point.
The stress and intrigue over the validity of the Hodgsons' claims is undercut a bit by the film's early depiction of the spirits. Had it played around with the unseen for a bit longer, it would have been a much more satisfying experience. Still, while overambitious, the film employed some deeply unsettling imagery and unfolded horrors that echo in viewers' minds for some time to come.
2. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
The most recent of all the Conjuring films, this 2021 release centers around a murder that may have been the result of demonic possession. After the Warrens rid a vicious evil from the body of a young boy (Julian Hilliard), the violent spirit is allegedly transferred into the body of Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O'Connor). After Arne murders his landlord in cold blood, United States history is made by the first use of demonic possession as a criminal defense strategy.
This movie is another ambitious installment in the franchise, but the ambition really pays off this go around. The contortionist horror implemented in the film has a skin-crawling effect, and the characters are so fleshed out that viewers' hearts ache for their complicated plight. An extra interesting layer is added in this film by having a dual antagonist of human and supernatural means.
If you're someone who is a Warren super fan, this film delves into an interesting exploration of their real lives and their intense romance. Some supernatural ailments nod to the health problems Ed experienced in real life.
1. The Conjuring
It should come as no surprise that the original Conjuring film reigns supreme. Pure of purpose and plot, its success inspired seven more films in the universe, with more on the way.
The movie follows the paranormal struggles the Perron family faces after moving into an old farmhouse in Rhode Island. The slow-burn start to the film is full of classic haunted house tropes—strange noises, hidden rooms, ghostly touches, and children behaving erratically. But what unfolds is far from your typical haunting. As Ed and Lorraine arrive to gather evidence of the paranormal to elicit help from the Church, it becomes clear that the Perron home is heavily steeped in satanic energy. After all, it's not just a ghost that lingers in their home, but the ghost of an evil, child-sacrificing witch.
This film knew when to withhold and when to show its hand. The effects were well executed and the tragedy that unfolded was as heartbreaking as it was nerve-wracking. It did a wonderful job of establishing the deeply devoted and intimate connection between the Warrens, which is really the backbone of the franchise.