Every M. Night Shyamalan Movie Ranked From Worst To Best

Imagine you’re looking at an empty director’s chair and a voiceover says “Oh how the mighty have fallen.” Chances are good you’re going to be mentally plunking M. Night Shyamalan into that chair. As far as perceptions of career narratives go, Shyamalan’s has been a pretty clear downward spiral. I’d say it’s more a Wile E. Coyote plummet off a cliff in Arizona except plummets don’t give you enough time to make a movie every two years.

With the recent release of Split (and last year’s The Visit), Shyamalan seems to be turning the narrative around. So let’s take a look, shall we, at the career of M. Night Shyamalan so far and see just how good (and bad) things have gotten.

The ranking below is meant to be an objective look, informed by multiple sources, including but not limited to, Rotten Tomatoes freshness rating and IMDb user rating, which are listed.

An attached store (out of 100) is also included as a way to show just how far critical and public opinion deviates from one movie to the next. This score is a weighted average of all of the factors taken into account.

Any opinions, on the other hand, are biased as hell.

12. The Last Airbender (31/100)

Paramount Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 6% | IMDb Score: 4.2

This movie has become something of a standard-bearer for bad adaptations. Some see it as a faithless adaptation while others, less forgiving, see a white-washed slap in the face to fans of the animated series. By nearly all accounts, it’s even impossible to hate watch.

Buy on Amazon


11. The Happening (36/100)

20th Century Fox

Rotten Tomatoes: 18% | IMDb Score: 5.0

At the time, this was considered to be peak (or rather valley) Shyamalan, wrapping up with an utterly mockable twist. Rotten Tomatoes users actually show a lower freshness rating for The Happening (24%) than The Last Airbender (30%).

Buy on Amazon


10. After Earth (38/100)

Columbia Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 11% | IMDb Score: 4.9

As brutal as it seems, I remember being flabbergasted that anyone was still paying Shyamalan to make movies at this point. Not having tuned in since The Village, it was beyond my comprehension that the until-then untouchable Will Smith would be jumping in to co-pilot the director’s downward career. In terms of its score, it’s just a hair “better” than The Happening.

Watch on Netflix | Buy on Amazon


9. Lady in the Water  (45/100)

Warner Bros. Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 24% | IMDb Score: 5.6

I watched about a third of this one and got pulled away by who knows what else. I just realized now, umpteen years later that I never finished it. For many people, this was the give-up point, feeling like Shyamalan wouldn’t ever really pull it off again. For others, Lady in the Water was a serviceable modern fairy tale.

Buy on Amazon


8. Praying with Anger (49/100)*


IMDb Score: 5.2

*the only criteria available is the IMDb user score. Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t even have this title listed on Shyamalan’s profile or anywhere else.

Mostly shown at festivals, this movie, which also stars Shyamalan as the lead, looks at spirituality and Indo-American culture clash.


7. The Village (55/100)

Buena Vista Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 43% | IMDb Score: 6.5

I remember not being as outraged as others were about The Village. As a teen, I assumed that anything that didn’t appeal directly to me must be high art, so I think I mistook a bland reaction for appreciation. Even still, I find myself with no real problem with The Village‘s infamous twist.

Buy on Amazon


6. Wide Awake (56/100)

Miramax Films

Rotten Tomatoes: 39% | IMDb Score: 6.2

Oh hey, did you know that before The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan directed a movie about a boy in boarding school undergoing a crisis of faith, featuring Rosie O’Donnell as a baseball-loving nun? Well now you do. And, if these stats are anywhere near accurate, it’s slightly better than The Village.

Buy on Amazon


5. The Visit (60/100)

Universal Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 64% | IMDb Score: 6.2

The perception of time here is bizarre. When The Visit came out, it seemed like M. Night Shyamalan was coming back from some lengthy hiatus. The prodigal son had finally returned with a movie that wasn’t dreadful. The gap wasn’t that long at all, though. There was actually more time between The Last Airbender and After Earth than there was between the latter and The Visit. Maybe people were just mentally cropping out everything after The Village.

Buy on Amazon


4. Signs (68/100)

Buena Vista Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 74% | IMDb Score: 6.7

Signs was the end of the podium-level reputation of M. Night Shyamalan. Tense yet warm-hearted, this one was acknowledged more for its overall quality rather than the unexpectedness of its twist.

Watch on Netflix | Buy on Amazon


3. Unbreakable (69/100)

Buena Vista Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 68% | IMDb Score: 7.2

I cannot, for the life of me, think about this movie without the theme for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt bumping into my head.

It’s been over a decade since I’ve seen Unbreakable so I’m not exactly ready to defend this opinion but until proven otherwise, I’ll consider this my favourite Shyamalan movie.

Watch on Netflix | Buy on Amazon


2. Split (76/100)

Universal Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 76% | IMDb Score: 7.6

Critics and users are both eating up Split. The only criteria that didn’t put this at #2 was the Rotten Tomatoes critic rating, which put this (6.4) behind Signs‘ 6.8. I haven’t seen it yet so go do so and report back to me on what you think.


1. The Sixth Sense (81/100)

Buena Vista Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 85% | IMDb Score: 8.1

Was there any doubt about where this was going end up? #1 in every factor, this was the movie that truly launched Shyamalan’s (and Haley Joel Osment’s) career. It’s the go-to example for twist endings but it also holds up to repeated viewing, even if you already know what’s coming.

Watch on Netflix | Buy on Amazon


What about the overall narrative we (the collective we, not the NetFlakes we) have seemingly scripted for Shyamalan’s career? Is it actually the descent and resurrection we’ve been telling ourselves?


Oh wow, yeah, totally. In fact, when I posted this graph on Twitter with no name attached, it didn’t take long for someone to recognize the career path.


So what do you think? Does this pretty much jive with how you would rank these? Leave us a comment either here or on Facebook and Twitter to let us know where this is either an absolutely perfect ranking or completely out to lunch.



Dylan Clark-Moore is a podcast creator and blogger at NetFlakes. You can find him on Letterboxd and Twitter.

For more insights like this, subscribe to our podcastThe NetFlakes Podcast, available on Soundcloud, iTunes, or whichever podcast app you use.

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