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The Omen Films Ranked

SInce 1976, when I sat down in the theater, the lights went down and Jerry Goldsmith's legendary music snuck up and scared the daylights out of me, THE OMEN FILM SERIES has been part of my fondest movie memories.

In '76, we hadn't seen a big budget horror film since "The Exorcist", with everything that followed that film being one low budget, lower intelligence ripoff of Friedkin's classic after another.

20th Century Fox put together quite a team. Director Richard Donner, a hot television director who had barely dabbled on the big screen at the time was somehow a perfect fit for the material. His next film after this was a little project called "Superman".

Gregory Peck and Lee Remick brought movie star class to the project and the writers devised some very wild on camera fates for our characters, creating a huge hit that grossed $61 million against a $3 million budget.

A legendary film series was born.

Alas, the films that followed were a very scattered lot. Some possessed the right stuff and thrilled, some failed to inspire.

With the latest chapter, THE FIRST OMEN, hitting big screens in April 2024, it's a hell of a time to rank the films in order and see where the new chapter falls.

As always, we found some alternative posters for the article from the most widely used artwork shown in our standalone reviews of each film on the site. We've also posted the original trailers for all five films here to take you back. The trailer narrator's voice for our top rated installment is a CLASSIC.

Let's start at the bottom with one of the most unnecessary remakes ever made.

5. The Omen (2006)

2006's remake of THE OMEN has a big budget, some big stars and much improved special effects over the original 1976 version.

So why does it fall so flat?

Liev Schreiber takes on the Gregory Peck role of Ambassador Robert Thorn, a fast rising star in the world of politics (the eternal sea....).

As the film opens, his wife Katherine (Julia Stiles, badly miscast) has given birth to a stillborn son and a mysterious priest offers to switch babies for Robert, creating a new life for a newborn whose mother died at the same time in childbirth.

Of course that switcheroo is loaded with problems as Thorn's been downgraded to raising The Antichrist.

As Damien grown older, bizarre deaths begin to surround him and the Thorn's world grows scarier and scarier.

In probably the film's most interesting story angle, photographs of those about to die show hints of how they will perish. It's an intriguing premise, well played here by David Thewlis as photographer Keith Jennings.

Pete Postlethwaite is very good as Father Brennan, the first figure to approach Thorn and tell him that Damien isn't what he seems.

His big death scene is the perfect example of what's wrong with this updated remake versus the seventies original.

Postlethwaite is a FAR superior actor to Patrick Troughton in the original. The special effects of his death are ten times as good as the original's simple effects. But this time, Father Brennan's meeting with Robert is under a dark bridge, with thunder booming and lightening flashing and Marco Beltrami's music (a pale contributor compared to Jerry Goldsmith's Academy Award winning score in the original) over communicating every emotion.

In the original, their conversation was on a perfectly sunny day in a beautiful park, which only became ominous after Thorn left and clouds rolled in immediately. Goldsmith's score exploded onto the screen when a bolt of lightning barely misses Father Brennan, until then it's just a howling wind and scary silence as the evil approaches.

In this update, everything is literal, nothing builds.

Thewlis is terrific, Mia Farrow brings serious menace as Mrs. Baylock, but its too little too late.

This version was written by David Seltzer, the SAME screenwriter as the original. Most scenes and much of the dialogue is identical to the first. The only changes are all to explain many of the mysteries of the original version, along with some dream sequences for Katherine as she becomes terrified that Damien is not her son.

Like the rest of this pointless remake, you wonder why (beyond hopes at the box office) they would bother remaking the same screenplay twice.

Why bother indeed.

This version only scares up a C.

4. The Final Omen

"How do you control people who no longer believe? You create something to fear."

Somewhere within Arkasha Stevenson's new film THE FIRST OMEN, there's a scary good film waiting to be birthed.

With plenty of gory body horror and hideous things hiding in the darkness right over there where you can't quite see them, it's not without scares.

In her first big screen film, Stevenson (FX's "Legion") captures the early 70's film look and feel that deftly calls back the 1976 original, as well as films of that era.

She's also assembled a very strong cast.

Nell Tiger Free (Servant) is Margaret, a young American woman arriving in Rome to become a nun. She's under the watchful eye of Cardinal Lawrence (Bill Nighy) and the intimidating Sister Silva (Sonia Braga).

Margaret spends her days at a girls orphanage, using her own history as an orphan to help the children. She's barely had time to check in when she notices strange things and odd behavior.

Since the orphanage also takes in pregnant women about to give birth, there's quite a focus on a stark, sterile room with WAY too many windows to watch a live birth. Margaret witnesses a birth fairly early in the film that nearly earned the film an NC-17 rating. It's creepy as hell and one of the most realistic body terror scenes I've seen since John Carpenter inflicted all KINDS of body horrors in "The Thing" and Ridley Scott had the Alien pop out of John Hurt.

Margaret faints. Surely she was just imagining that, right?

At night, Margaret lives with another young woman about to take her vows, Luz (Maria Caballero). While Margaret seems scared of her own shadow and very sheltered, Luz is devoted to making the most of her final days of a free life. It's the first of a few interesting story turns that pay off.

Ralph Ineson (The Creator) is very good as Father Brennan, an outsider priest who is convinced that the birth of the antichrist is impending. Ineson is terrific as a man terrified of what he believes and anxious to have someone else believe him. He conjures up serious David Warner as photographer Keith Jennings vibes. That's high praise for any Omen fan.

Omen fans remember well what happened to Father Brennan, played by Patrick Troughton in the original film after he met with Ambassador Thorn in the park. That knowledge also gives extra suspense to the film's very first scene in which Brennan meets with Father Harris (the ALWAYS great Charles Dance from "Alien 3" and "Game of Thrones" in a far too brief appearance.) I'd be looking up too if I was Father Brennan.

There are enjoyable connections to the original film that make you think about Gregory Peck and Warner seeking the truth about Damien in all those dark corners of Rome. It's the dark corners here that Stevenson and her creative team get right.

I loved when Anton Alexander came into the story as Father Spiletto. Any Omen fan remembers that name all too well from Peck & Warner's relentless quest.

There were also moments here that reminded me of Dario Argento's 1977 "Suspiria" and Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" and one major plot twist that I suspected about a half hour before it happened, but it's still impactful.

Mark Korven's horror score is effective and I loved that it's fairly restrained except for key moments. "Vow Ceremony" feels as authentic to "I'm taking my vows in Rome in an ancient cathedral" as possible, before it slowly slips into very ominous territory.

Jerry Goldsmith's famous theme "Ave Santini" is saved for the conclusion, or at least what should have been the conclusion before a final five minutes that seems like some tacked on, half-hearted effort to set up a sequel to the prequel.

I think when we all saw Gareth Edwards' brilliant "Star Wars" prequel, "Rogue One" we were stunned by how well its final moments became the first moments of George' Lucas's original film.

There's a superb opportunity here to do the same thing, with the final scene melding into those opening moments at 6am on June 6th in Rome when Gregory Peck's ambassador Thorn took possession of a baby not his own.

Alas, its here where Stevenson and her two writing partners stumble hardest.

Cut the last five minutes and add a few more scares and you'd have a modern classic worthy of the 50 year legacy of this series. Alas, we end up here with some great performances and a few solid gross out moments that only scare up a C+.

3. The Final Conflict

In 1981, the original "OMEN" trilogy wrapped up with THE FINAL CONFLICT. Much less successful at the box office than the previous two films, its still an interesting and satisfying wrap up for fans of the series.

Long before his American breakout in "Jurassic Park", Sam Neill stars as Damien, now grown up and running Thorn Industries after murdering off his Father and Uncle in the earlier films.

Damien is fully aware of his legacy as the Antichrist and has surrounded himself with an allegiance of those pledged to the dark side.

Our glimpses into Damien's wealth and power are nicely balanced with a group of priests sworn to kill Damien before he comes to power.

Father DeCarlo (Rosanno Brazzi of "South Pacific" fame) and his brothers meet with astronomers who are observing a modern day convergence of stars, a modern-day Star of Bethlehem if you will, as the second coming approaches and Jesus is born again.

It's a bit confusing that Christ appears to be coming back as a newborn, it serves the story well, but leads to confusion in the film's final moments, which are nonetheless powerful thanks to a mashup of Jerry Goldsmith music, scripture quotes and some good photography.

The other clever story arc finds Damien knowing the Christ child has been born again and wanting to kill every newborn male child born that day.

With direct impact on some of his closest allies and a spin on the Passover stories, it drives some nice suspense.

Of course viewers always came to the Omen films for some shocking, gruesome deaths, with each film trying to up the ante on the last on creative ways for Damien and his crew (human or animal) to drive people to their end.

There are some very gruesome examples here, including a dialogue-free , public suicide by an Ambassador, but other than that opening salvo in the "Faces of Death" sweepstakes, the creativity falls off rather sharply from past films.

This is the most adult and hardest R of the trilogy, with some strong sexuality thrown in.

Neill is very good as Damien, oozing arrogance and control. Lisa Harrow matches him as a TV reporter wrestling with a growing affection for Damien while growing uneasy with his feeling toward her son. Don Gordon is very good as Damien's right-hand minion and Mason Adams makes a strong impression as the American president.

A fox hunt sequence is a real highlight, with excellent photography by Phil Meheux (007's Casino Royale and Goldeneye) and Goldsmith's full orchestra score in great sync.

In the end, I think audiences were disappointed in the ending, which, after three films seems rather abrupt and anti-climactic.

It's as if the storytellers suddenly ran out of creative gas after a long and successful drive.

That being said, it still a decent film and a very respectable close to one of the best horror film series of the modern era.

The Final Conflict gets a B-.

2. Damien: Omen II

After the HUGE box office success of The Omen in 1976, it was inevitable we would see the sequel. Thankfully for us, the studio and the filmmakers threw some serious money and acting talent at DAMIEN OMEN II and created an exciting and suspenseful next chapter.

Damien is now 13 years old and living with his Uncle Richard (William Holden) and Richard's wife Ann (Lee Grant).

Damien is close to Richard and Ann's son, Mark, and the two attend the same military academy.

Damien is unaware of his powers, but is beginning to inspire fear in others, including his Aunt Marion (the superb Sylvia Sydney) who becomes the first in the film to suffer one of those patented "Omen death scenes".

The first film brought us a hanging, an impalement, a beheading and Lee Remick's long race against that fish tank to a wooden floor. The sequel doesn't disappoint in the mysterious fatality department, leveraging everything from semi-trucks to elevators as lethal weapons.

The writers honor the first film and don't dumb down the story or the prophecy of the original, while bringing in a whole new cast of folks that are there to protect the budding antichrist.

Special kudos to the clever and spooky storyline with our archeologist Bugenhagen (Leo McKern) uncovering an ancient wall with paintings of the antichrist at every age of his life. McKern delivers real horror in the opening sequence around the image. It turns out to be pretty damning evidence for Damien at great cost to those around him.

Great photography by Bill Butler (Jaws), music by Jerry Goldsmith building off his Oscar winning score for the original and direction by Don Taylor (Escape from the Planet of the Apes).

Fun scares and nice suspense abound, with occasional bouts of bloody terror, doused in that cherry red fake blood that its hard to believe we ever found scary!

A classy sequel to an all-time horror classic, DAMIEN gets a 666, oh, I mean a B+.

and, as so often is the case, the best of the series is still the groundbreaking original.

1. The Omen (1976)

An all-time favorite, 1976’s THE OMEN mixes a great story with an all-star cast, top production values, some fun & gory moments and a classic horror movie score to scare up great fun.

Gregory Peck and Lee Remick star as US Ambassador Robert Thorn and his wife Katherine. As the film opens, Remick is in a Rome hospital having just given birth. The baby did not survive but Father Spiletto proposes that they switch the child with a newborn whose mother was lost giving birth at the same time, 6:00am on June 6th. (666 oooooooohhhh….)

As young Damien grows, people around him begin to die in spectacular fashion. This being the 70’s there are some spectacular and gross effects, but they are not the blood and guts gore of the 80’s, providing more jolts and movie fun than stomach churning horror. One scene in which a character falls from the second story, landing face down on a wooden floor is especially well done. As these are all mechanical & camera tricks (pre CGI), it makes the slaying scenes all the more incredible.

David Warner is great as a photographer covering Thorn that captures some strange shadows and omens on film that portend the death that soon awaits key folks around the boy.

Soon, Peck and Warner are on the trail of discovering more about the night of Damien’s birth. Their scenes in the Italian cemetery and hotel afterward are some of the film’s best moments. Director Richard Donner (Superman, Lethal Weapon, The Goonies) knows how to make a fast moving, fun film and this is one his finest. There is just enough menace to be suspenseful and scary. Donner brings great performances out of his actors. I can’t imaging this film would be half as good without Peck at it’s center. He is a big time movie star and excellent as Thorn. Billie Whitelaw is strange and scary as Damien’s nanny Mrs. Blaylock. She’s hell on wheels and creepy in every scene.

The spectacular deaths depicted for key characters drove a lot of chatter and interest in the film and they hold up pretty well nearly 40 years later. Anytime you can stage a beheading, an impalement, a hanging and assorted other mayhem and create a mainstream blockbuster, you’ve done something right. Donner, Peck and the cast do that one better and have put together a horror classic.

Jerry Goldsmith won a well-deserved Oscar for his imposing, scary music score that many of us mocked mercilessly to scare our siblings in the seventies. The music is constant in key scenes, sometime quiet, often powerful, but always creepy.

If you haven’t seen THE OMEN in awhile, check it out. It’s a HELL of a lot of suspenseful fun and a horror tale very well told. It gets a 666….oops, I mean an A+. One of my all-time faves, with a solid spot in my Top 100.

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