M. Night Shyamalan’s Films, Ranked

Sharing is caring!

For the past thirty years, M. Night Shyamalan has been shocking audiences with his high-concept thrillers that always deliver edge-of-your-seat thrills that accompany some mind-bending twist. Stepping onto the scene with his 1992 debut, Praying with Anger, his 1999 film, The Sixth Sense, broke him through to mainstream success. Shyamalan’s career has been an interesting example of peaks and valleys while being sold at the height of his popularity as a mix of Spielberg and Hitchcock. Each film feels like a reaction to the last one, making for an ever-evolving, always exciting career. 

We’ll be ranking all his films from best to worst, only including the films he directed. (Sorry to any Devil or Stuart Little fans reading this.) Without further ado, let’s dive in!

1. Old (2021)

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

Channeling back to his genre film roots, this sublime slice of holiday horror follows a group of people who are stranded on an island that’s slowly killing them all one by one. Featuring some of Shyamalan’s most experimental blocking and cinematography, the fact that he was able to get away with as much of the body horror elements that the film contains in a major studio picture is a testament to Shyamalan’s skill as a genre practitioner. It is a beautiful, life-affirming horror film.

Follow us on MSN to see more of our exclusive entertainment content.


2. Signs (2003)

Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures.

Mel Gibson gives an Oscar-worthy performance in this sci-fi-horror film about a former Episcopal priest who discovers signs of alien activity in his corn fields. This extremely compelling slice of classical genre filmmaking delivers the goods in the way you want from a film like this.

3. The Sixth Sense (1999)

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

The one that started it all. Nothing will be said here that hasn’t been said before. It is as good as everyone says and ranks among the greatest horror films ever. Enough said.

4. Lady in the Water (2006)

Photo Credit: Legendary Pictures.

Shyamalan’s most underrated film, this fairy tale, follows a landlord of an apartment complex who must protect a water nymph from a mysterious, wolf-like creature who threatens her safe passage back to her world. The only American film shot by Hong Kong cinematographer Christopher Doyle, this movie’s bad rep is, ultimately, undeserved.

Follow us on MSN to see more of our exclusive entertainment content.

5. Unbreakable (2000)

Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures.

Bruce Willis stars in Shyamalan’s follow-up to his groundbreaking The Sixth Sense, chronicling David Dunn (Willis) as he realizes that he has superpowers after surviving a train crash without injury. Coming to the attention of a disabled comic book store owner, Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), David must come to terms with his newfound powers. Structured like a horror film, the film feels like a reaction to a superhero genre that wouldn’t gain popularity for another decade. Essential viewing. 

6. Knock at the Cabin (2023)

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

Shyamalan’s most recent film at the time of this writing, this adaptation of Paul G. Tremblay’s horror novel The Cabin at the End of the World, follows a family on vacation in a secluded cabin that is threatened when a cult invades their retreat with a deadly question. Tense, brilliant, and often horrific, this thriller will have you thinking long after the credits roll.

7. Glass (2019)

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

The final film in the Unbreakable trilogy is a deconstruction of the superhero films that were smashing box-office records at the time of this film’s release. Seeing the characters of Split and Unbreakable reunited in a mental institution, the film works to actively break down the myth of the modern superhero, much to the dismay of fans who wanted a straight-ahead action movie. Misunderstood and worthy of reevaluation.

Follow us on MSN to see more of our exclusive entertainment content.

8. The Village (2004)

Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures.

Shyamalan’s response to the attacks that took place on September 11th, the film follows a group of settlers in a small village who must fend off creatures who live in the woods around it. However, many expressed disappointment over the film’s twist ending—which will not be spoiled here—though the film has undoubtedly improved with age. The film’s themes of isolationism and the gorgeous cinematography by veteran DP Roger Deakins make it essential viewing for any fan of Shyamalan’s work. 

9. Split (2016)

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

Shyamalan took a victory lap with this low-budget thriller after finding critical and commercial success with the previous year’s The Visit. With a screenplay written before his breakout hit, The Sixth Sense, the film follows a group of women who get kidnapped by a man with dissociative identity disorder. A taut Hitchcockian thriller, the film’s twist reveals it to be set in the same universe as Unbreakable. This thriller is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.

10. The Visit (2015)

Photo Credit: Blinding Edge Pictures.

Shyamalan’s return to indie-level thrillers after the catastrophe of After Earth is not the triumph that some hail it as. However, it is an appropriately small-scale return to form for a director desperately needing a hit. The film, which follows the strange events that occur after two teenagers go on vacation with their estranged grandparents, is shot in a mockumentary style, giving it a punchy immediacy that makes the horrors that unfold on-screen all the more frightening. It’s a fun time at the movies!

11. The Happening (2008)

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

Widely panned upon its original release as a ridiculously acted farce of a horror film, the film is more successful when viewed through the lens of a science fiction film in the vein of atomic-age shockers of the 1950s. Mark Wahlberg and Zoey Deschanel are woefully miscast. The film’s engaging premise and beautiful cinematography, courtesy of long-time Shyamalan DP Tak Fujimoto, keep the film an energetic romp from beginning to end. The Happening reclamation begins now!

Follow us on MSN to see more of our exclusive entertainment content.

12. Wide Awake (1998)

Photo Credit: Miramax Films.

Shyamalan’s first film for a major studio, this feel-good coming-of-age comedy centers on a young boy’s search for religious absolution after reeling from his grandfather’s death. Lacking the genre aesthetics of his later work, this early effort is still of interest in how it establishes Shyamalan’s preoccupation with man’s search for meaning in the universe and the questions about religion that would make their way into his later work. It’s a breezy watch for Shyamalan fans.

13. Praying with Anger (1992)

Photo Credit: Crescent Moon.

Following the simple story of an Indian American’s return to his home after studying abroad, only to experience a cultural clash that rattles his faith. Shyamalan’s first feature, directed while he was in film school, is an interesting curio, though not essential to understanding his filmography. This one’s for Shyamalan completionists only.

14. Last Airbender (2010)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

A failure of adaptation, Shyamalan’s attempt to translate Book One of the popular Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series is riddled with, admittedly, impeccable action. The film suffers from the worst tics of Shyamalan’s screenwriting, with characters taking whole scenes to spout off large chunks of exposition that could be communicated through the well-staged fight scenes. It’s not as bad as its reputation makes it out to be, but that isn’t to say that the film’s any good. Proceed with caution.

Follow us on MSN to see more of our exclusive entertainment content.

15. After Earth (2013)

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Night’s first collaboration with Will Smith—a hired gun job done as a favor for a friend—is also the worst film he ever made. Following a father-son duo that finds themselves stranded on an Earth they never made, the film feels airless, with the for-hire nature of the project weighing on Shyamalan’s interest in the project. A deeply misguided vanity project by a man whose personal life was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Best left avoided.

10 Thrilling Movies Where the Villain Underestimates Their Opponent

Home Alone (1990)
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

In many movies, the bad guys start battles they can’t win. They go into the scenario with confidence and bravado but are humbled because they don’t realize who they are dealing with.

10 Thrilling Movies Where the Villain Underestimates Their Opponent

20 Timeless Black and White Films That We Absolutely Love

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

So we’re sharing our top black-and-white films with you today! From the contained drama of 12 Angry Men to the eerie Nosferatu and the heart-achy Casablanca, we’re rounding up 20 of the myriad old films that have made it to the status of legends; whether they’re can’t-miss classics or films with a niche cult following, they’re all excellent in some way.

20 Timeless Black and White Films That We Absolutely Love

Similar Posts