Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Every Paranormal Activity Movie Ranked From Worst To Best

Every so often, in the world of horror cinema, a movie comes along that's not only a smash hit but also changes the game. "Paranormal Activity" is definitely one of those movies, and we're still feeling its aftershock well over a decade later. Written and directed by Oren Peli, the first film was only made for $15,000 — which is staggeringly low for a horror film, even in the late-2000s.

Needless to say, with a nearly-$200 million box office gross, the film definitely left a sizable impact on people. From there, Paramount Pictures got dollar signs in their eyes and began pushing out a new entry almost every year throughout the 2010s. So the "Paranormal Activity" franchise became a yearly staple of the Halloween season for a good while, right alongside the "Saw" films.

However, not all sequels are created equal, especially in this series, with some delivering big screams and others falling flat on their faces. So grab your crucifix and flip on night vision mode because this is every "Paranormal Activity" movie ranked from worst to best.

7. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

It's safe to say that the 3D movie craze of the 2010s, jump-started by the likes of "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland," is now long dead. While the format is far from fully defunct, it's certainly no longer pushed with the same frequency and ferocity that it was 10 years ago.

We mention this because it feels like "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension" was only made to cash in while the trend was still vaguely hot. Still, even by 2015, people had caught onto just how cheap of a gimmick 3D could be, and nowhere is that more evident than here. Found footage horror and 3D could be a potentially intriguing combination, but this test run was far from a home run.

Even as far as the story goes, it's a mediocre culmination of all the series' convoluted plot threads, barely bolstered by average performances from the leads. The film's biggest highlight, and we're using that term in the loosest sense, are the various callbacks to previous films. Additionally, the only other slightly noteworthy development is finally getting to see Tobi, the oft-mentioned demon, in physical form for the first time. However, the 3D effects serve as nothing more than moderately intriguing window dressing to decorate an otherwise underwhelming movie. It's as generic a horror film as you can get and a true disappointment when you consider how influential the first film was back in 2009.

6. Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin

"Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin" is definitely a step up from "The Ghost Dimension," but truthfully that's not saying much. The film is, as of this writing, the final "Paranormal Activity" entry and stands as a rather weak final gasp for the once-dominant horror franchise.

This stands as the first and only entry in the series to bypass a theatrical release in favor of a spot on the Paramount+ streaming service. A major improvement over "The Ghost Dimension" that becomes evident immediately is the lack of any 3D, making for a far easier viewing experience. That said, however, the improvements really begin and end right there as the film's story is just as underwhelming as its predecessor. This is where the storyline concerning Tobi, Kristi (Sprague Grayden), and Katie (Katie Featherson) is fully abandoned in favor of a new self-contained narrative. Instead we meet Margot (Emily Bader) and Chris (Roland Buck III), two documentarians who travel to an Amish community to make a film about Margot's past. What ensues is something more in line with "The Last Exorcism" more so than anything resembling a "Paranormal Activity" movie. If this is truly the series' swan song, then it's a lukewarm conclusion to what was once a staple of the Halloween cinematic season.

5. Paranormal Activity 4

Jumping the shark is defined as a television show or a film series that has finally exhausted any of the creativity it started with. Simply put, "Paranormal Activity 4" is the film that finally jumped the shark for this series, abandoning any of the effective qualities of its predecessors.

"Paranormal Activity 4" starts off with some promise, introducing us to a new protagonist, Alex Nelson (Kathryn Newton) who becomes suspicious of the neighbor next door. Following an incident, the neighbor's son, Robbie (Brady Allen), is forced to stay with Alex and her family, including her younger brother, Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp). As the film goes on, things begin going bump in the night with its presence even highlighted by an Xbox Kinect — one of the film's only highlights. However, things get confusing when not only is it revealed that Robbie's mother is Katie, but it seems that Wyatt is actually Hunter from "Paranormal Activity 2."

So does this mean Katie lost track of Hunter between the events of the second and fourth films? And if so, how did the Nelsons come to adopt him? We're given very little time to digest this as in zero time flat, and the film slams into a very rushed climax, even ending on a cheap jump scare. While we can't speak for every fan of the franchise, this was most certainly the film that caused more than a few to abandon ship entirely.

4. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

After the downgrade that was "Paranormal Activity 4," the franchise definitely needed a bit of fine-tuning. The result of this was the pseudo-spin off film, "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones," which was released in early 2014. After the rather confounding ending of the fourth film, fans wanted some answers, and they most certainly got them ... sort of.

The film opts to diverge from Katie and Kristi's story in favor of a new protagonist, a high schooler named Jesse Arista (Andrew Jacobs). After the death of a strange woman in his apartment building, Jesse, along with his two friends, Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) and Hector (Jorge Diaz), soon find themselves thrust into a strange situation. Soon enough they find themselves unraveling the mystery around the cult of which Katie and Kristi were forced into. They eventually stumble across a mysterious door in the house of Lois (Hallie Foote), Katie and Kristi's cultish grandmother, which sends them back in time. Soon Jesse finds himself back in 2006, where he emerges in Katie and Micah's house, revealing what happened off-screen during the first film's climax.

It's a solid twist and one that keeps the film from being fully disposable — which it sadly is for the most part. Despite some above-average acting from the main cast, there's little to say about this film, as it lacks the subtlety that made the first three films so creepy.

3. Paranormal Activity 2

With how big of a hit the first "Paranormal Activity" was," a sequel was greenlit and put into production almost immediately. This resulted in "Paranormal Activity 2," made for a $3 million budget and released in late 2010 to another impressive Halloween season box office gross.

In this sequel, which is actually a prequel, we meet Katie's sister, Kristi, and the rest of her family. This includes her husband, Daniel (Brian Boland), his daughter, Ali (Molly Ephraim), and their infant child, Hunter, as well as their housekeeper, a Latina woman named Martine (Vivis Colombetti). After what is suspected to be a home invasion, the family invests in a full setup of security cameras inside and outside of their house. What then ensues is night upon night of doors slamming, kitchenware flying everywhere, and pool equipment malfunctioning. Add to that the realization that this entity is after Hunter, and it definitely raises the stakes in a big bad way.

The sequel also does a good job of teasing details of Katie and Kristi's childhood, saving the major elaborations for the third film. Also, with the addition of more cameras, it gives the film the chance to try different setups and scares, expanding beyond the first film's limited scope. While not quite as terrifying as the first film, "Paranormal Activity 2" still delivers on more of the same tense, low-key atmosphere.

2. Paranormal Activity 3

"Paranormal Activity 3" had an admittedly tough task ahead of it, finally revealing Katie and Kristi's backstory that'd been teased throughout the first two movies. This presented a unique challenge as Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) were children during the 1980s, meaning the film needed to embrace the format of the era: VHS. Through these old tapes, we see the two sisters living life alongside their mother, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and her boyfriend, Dennis (Chris Smith), a videographer. This provides the perfect excuse for Dennis to have various cameras, as well as the know-how to create the film's main gimmick: a camera mounted on an oscillating fan.

This results in some effectively chilling moments, wherein the threat is slowly revealed as the camera gradually moves from left to right. Through these haunting moments we learn that the demon we've seen throughout the first two movies was originally masquerading as Kristi's imaginary friend, Tobi. We also learn that Katie and Kristi have been groomed for demonic purposes since childhood, as their grandmother is revealed as a member of a cult.

"Paranormal Activity 3" is admittedly where the series began teetering on shark-jumping, but the film doesn't end up doing anything to insult the audience's intelligence. If you want to end your jaunt with the series early, this is not a bad conclusion.

1. Paranormal Activity

When it comes to the "Paranormal Activity" series, its first outing will always stand as its the best one in the series. The film follows Katie and Micah, a couple who've just moved into their new home in San Diego. However, not long after arriving, things begin going bump in the night, with Katie noting this has been happening to her since she was little.

This leads Micah to set up a camera while they sleep, capturing footage night after night of the titular paranormal activity in their home. However, as the film goes on, it becomes clear that, whatever this sinister entity is, it's after Katie, eventually possessing her near the film's conclusion. The film concludes with Katie, fully possessed, killing Micah before revealing her demonic face in an effective final jump scare.

Simply put, the first "Paranormal Activity" came out at a time where the horror genre needed new life amidst a sea of remakes and sequels. Forgoing any flashy gimmicks, the film makes do with very little, eliciting effective scares with its sound design and frequent stretches of quiet. The film is honestly tailor-made to be watched in your living room with the lights off very late at night.