Legendary Horror Director Wes Craven Dies At 76

wes craven

After spending several years as a college professor and a few more making X-rated films, Wes Craven made his feature directing debut with 1972’s The Last House on the Left. Inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s classy Swedish drama The Virgin Spring, this gritty revenge film generated enormous controversy—and box office. (Made for just $87,000, the film went on to earn $3.1 million.) 43 years to the day of that film’s release, Craven died on Sunday of brain cancer at the age of 76.

In his four-plus decades of filmmaking, Craven emerged as a crucial member of the American horror new wave—which also included filmmakers like John Carpenter (Halloween), Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead)—but his position in the mainstream proved to be the most enduring. He ultimately directed 21 feature films, launching three major franchises (The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream), all of which inspired sequels, remakes, spin-offs, and/or TV shows. In fact, at the time of his death, he was an executive producer on the Scream TV series that debuted just two months ago.

While nearly every film Craven directed was closely linked to horror, he always aspired to work outside the genre. Coming off the massive commercial success of Scream and Scream 2—easily his biggest successes, both films earned over $100 million in North America alone—he convinced Harvey Weinstein to give him the job directing 1999’s Music of the Heart, an unlikely stab at inspirational prestige drama that earned Meryl Streep her 12th Oscar nomination. Unfortunately for Craven, the filmed turn out to be a commercial disappointment, stifling any further dramatic aspirations.

In the wake of Craven’s death, he received Twitter tributes from many collaborators and colleagues, including:

Here’s a quick look back at six of his most enduring films: