Mike Flanagan is one of the most prolific horror directors of the decade, with a body of work that has touched on multiple genres even within the field of horror. He has come a long way from his first feature film, Absentia, which he had to fundraise to produce. His latest series with Netflix, The Midnight Club, was released on Oct. 7 to positive reviews from critics and viewers.
From his first project to his latest, Flanagan has grown exponentially as a visual storyteller in film and television, and while his works are appreciated in varying degrees, there is no question of his incredible talent as a filmmaker.
Here are 11 of Mike Flanagan’s movies and TV shows ranked.
After gaining attention as a student filmmaker, Flanagan had to generate funding for Absentia through a kickstarter campaign. Absentia follows a woman seven years after her husband Daniel disappears when she and her sister begin to discover that there have been strange disappearances around a bridge in their neighborhood. Suspecting that this is linked to her husband’s disappearance, they begin to investigate, and a brief reappearance from Daniel turns things even more topsy turvy. Absentia may have suffered due to its small budget but still managed to be a memorable debut.
Adapted from a story by one of his students, Oculus was Flanagan’s second film, and remains one of his best. The film follows a pair of siblings named Tim and Kaylie whose family was gruesomely murdered when they were young. Tim was convicted of the murders, but decades after the incident, the pair discover that their misfortune was caused by a cursed mirror. As they work to figure out how to destroy it, the mirror slowly turns them against each other, causing them to harm themselves and others.
9. The Midnight Club
The Midnight Club is Flanagan’s latest collaboration with Netflix and it includes all the classic elements from his other creations. The series follows a group of terminally ill children who make a cult dedicated to trying to prolong their lives, and they promise each other to try to contact the rest of the group if any of them die. The show explores themes like mortality, suicide, drug abuse, and more, making it feel more grounded and real despite the supernatural elements included.
8. Gerald’s Game
Gerald’s Game is a deep psychological thriller based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. The movie is impressive because it essentially takes place in one location, and with one central character, but still manages to remain engaging from start to finish. It follows a woman and her husband who drive out to a remote cabin to try to reignite their sex life. Things take a horrid turn when he has a heart attack and dies, leaving her handcuffed to the bed with no escape. She begins to go delirious and the film explores her psyche and memories as she pieces together her traumatic past, all the while trying to escape and stay alive.
7. Ouija: Origin of Evil
After the commercial failure of 2014’s Ouija, it came as a surprise to many people when a prequel movie was green-lit, with Mike Flanagan listed as the director. However, Flanagan managed to not only make a worthwhile horror movie, but his influence made aspects of the original movie better. Origin of Evil is centered on a fake medium and her two daughters who buy an Ouija board to help their business, but unintentionally start to communicate with a malevolent spirit. The film had themes like grief, trauma, and hope which made it beloved by many horror fans.
6. Before I Wake
Mike Flanagan collaborated with Jeff Howard to create the script for Before I Wake. The movie follows a couple who adopts a young boy named Cody whose dreams come to life. This becomes a problem as Cody has terrifying nightmares. Before I Wake centers on a very human and vulnerable plot which is one of the major reasons it became a hit with viewers and critics.
Horror movies have historically used disabilities in characters as a way to portray them as monstrous and villainous. Many movies in the last decade have flipped the script on that, and included disabilities for the protagonist or major supporting character. Hush follows a woman named Maddie who is deaf and lives alone in the woods. Her isolation and disability make her the perfect victim for a serial killer on the loose, and Maddie has to fight for her life to survive.
4. The Haunting of Bly Manor
The Haunting of Bly Manor is the second entry in Flanagan’s The Haunting anthology series, following The Haunting of Hill House. It centers on a young woman hired to work as a governess to two children living in the haunted Bly Manor, though she doesn’t realize it yet. Bly Manor hits a home run with a supernatural mystery plot and elements of romance that reveal that it is the people who live in Bly Manor that are truly haunted, not just the building.
3. Doctor Sleep
The Shining is one of the most iconic horror movies of all time, which is why many people were wary when a sequel was announced. Doctor Sleep follows the plot of the sequel book by acclaimed author Stephen King, but Flanagan was adamant about ensuring that the movie reflected Stanley Kubrick’s vision from the first movie. The result was a horror adventure that included elements of fantasy and drama while remaining true to the roots of The Shining, continuing and concluding Danny Torrance’s story.
2. Midnight Mass
Flanagan’s Midnight Mass was rated as one of the scariest shows of 2021, and rightly so. It is set in a small island town that gets shaken up when a new priest arrives and starts performing unexplainable miracles. Midnight Mass may come off as a simple vampire story, but it is much more than that. In this thrilling series, Flanagan examines the ways that religious ideologies can be harmful to people who believe blindly, and poses existential questions about God and faith.
1. The Haunting of Hill House
The Haunting of Hill House is by far one of Flanagan’s best and most beloved works, and one of his most acclaimed projects. Due to its Netflix release, it reached a wide audience of people who may not have been previously interested in horror. The story follows a family who temporarily lived in a haunted house for years when the siblings were children and the traumas they left the house with. Hill House features non-linear storytelling that jumps back and forth between the past and the present – where the former inhabitants all come to realize that their time at Hill House affected them much more than they know.