For a long time, horror was considered one of the most disrespected genres. The overuse of tropes and cliches, as well as the gore and violence, gave these movies a bad reputation, sending them straight to the lowbrow category.
Despite the rocky relationship with critics, the genre is still an inseparable part of pop culture. We can even say that with each generation comes an iconic horror franchise. The 1980s witnessed the success of Friday The 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, which reflected the obsession with morality and mortality at the time. The archly satirical ’90s inspired the head-spinning meta Scream films, while the Saw series was launched in the horrific, violent 2000s.
As of 2015, the 2010s were already home to numerous candidates for a decade-defining horror series. We saw Paranormal Activity – one of the pioneers in the found-footage trend – and the burgeoning, devil-child realm of the Sinister. Let’s not forget the rising independent horror industry with notable examples like It Follows, The Babadook, and The Devil Inside: Connect The Cuts movie, which depicts some of the darkest tales ever filmed.
However, the horror franchise that might emerge as the current era’s representation is a bit of an underdog. Unlike its rivals, there isn’t any actual death in the series, because death is only the beginning of a new chapter. The franchise goes out of its way to depict the trepidation of the hereafter. And it is, above all, a tale about family.
Meet all the Insidious movies in order.
An Introduction To The Franchise
Just in case you are not familiar with the series, Insidious is, at the most basic level, case files of demonologists. Parts of the story were inspired by the documentation of real-life paranormal investigators Ed & Lorraine Warren, which appeared in the 2013 blockbuster The Conjuring.
In fact, there are many similarities between these two movies. Both of them take up the theme of possession and exorcism. Most importantly, James Wan, the director of Insidious, is also the one behind The Conjuring’s first two movies. For this reason, some internet users speculate that they might be connected in some ways.
So, if you come to Insidious because you think it is a part of The Conjuring’s universe, let me clear your confusion: Insidious is not related to The Conjuring in any way, nor the characters. There is no crossover between the two series, and up until now, they don’t have any plan to merge them. Furthermore, Insidious is owned by Sony Pictures, whereas The Conjuring is held by Warner Bros Pictures/New Line Cinema.
There are many similarities between Insidious and The Conjuring – Source: Los Angeles Times
The Insidious saga consists of four movies, with the first one (Insidious: Chapter 1) being released in 2010 and the latest (Insidious: The Last Key) in 2018. Members of subreddit r/horror all agreed that if it is your first time diving in, you should watch it in release order like everyone else. That way, you can fully enjoy all four without any spoilers, and it is just exciting when the next chapter has some nods to the previous one. After going through all movies, rewatch them later in chronological order to understand the prequel backstories.
Insidious Movies In Order: By Release Date
Here is the order of the films as they were released in theaters:
- 1. Insidious: Chapter 1 (April 1, 2011)
- 2. Insidious: Chapter 2 (September 3, 2013)
- 3. Insidious: Chapter 3 (June 5, 2015)
- 4. Insidious: The Last Key (January 8, 2018)
Insidious Movies In Order: Tracing The Story
Have you ever seen Insidious movies? – Source: 20Minutes
We get to the fun part: Insidious movies in chronological order. Tracing the correct timeline is quite troublesome since the four installments of Insidious jump back-and-forth between two different time periods. Although it is still debatable, most fans of this horror franchise suggest the following order:
- 1. Insidious: Chapter 3
- 2. Insidious: The Last Key
- 3. Insidious: Chapter 1
- 4. Insidious: Chapter 2
Now, let me open up a door to the spirit world and guide you through each movie. Don’t get scared, just follow my words!
Insidious: Chapter 3 Official Trailer
Chronologically wise, this is the beginning of Insidious’ story.
Taking place at some point before the first movie, Chapter 3 surrounds Quinn Brenner (Stephanie Scott), an adolescent who attempts to contact her deceased mother through occult means. Her efforts to reach out to the otherworld backfire, and instead of her mother, Quinn attracts a malicious entity hellbent on dragging her down into The Further – the place where damned souls remain forever. Desperate to save his daughter, Quinn’s father (Dermot Mulroney) seeks help from a psychic named Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye).
At first, Elise is reluctant to help. The psychic has a traumatic supernatural past of her own: Not long after her husband committed suicide, she tried to communicate with his ghost to get some form of closure. Just like Quinn, her attempt opened the gate for an unwelcomed character: A nasty old woman in black who swore to kill Elise after she severed her connection to a child called Josh Lambert.
Lucky for Quinn, Elise changes her mind after realizing that the girl’s life is threatened. This is when she meets Tucker and Specs, a duo of online pranksters who had a website where they faked exorcism. Quinn’s father hired them as a last resort to save his daughter. Two technicians assist the courageous psychic as she returns to the Further and fight for Quinn’s soul. Insidious: Chapter 3 marked the forming of the exorcism trio that we will follow throughout the series.
If you are a fan of Lin Shaye, you will be glad to know that the movie gives her plenty of room to shine. Psychic Elise Rainer has always been the most compelling character in the first two movies, but ‘Chapter 3’ digs even deeper into Elise’s personality depth and backstory. That allows Shaye to flex her acting muscles and show an unusual amount of emotions for a horror movie heroine. From sadness and vulnerability to strength and resiliency, this seasoned actress just nailed it all.
Lin Shaye excels as psychic Elise Rainer – Source: Entertainment Weekly
A horror movie’s mission is to scare the hell out of the audience, and ‘Insidious: Chapter 3’ has done a good job with its serious jump scares. Director Leigh Whannell knows how to shock and terrify his viewers by using silence so well in contrast. He also plays with some creative camera angles and movements, taking the fear to the next level.
Still, it is a shame that the plot is not up to the level of other movies. Like Reddit user ‘paul_haakonsen’ wrote, the storyline is pretty straightforward and predictable. If you are into the horror genre, you probably have seen numerous movies with a similar plot. Still, fans of this franchise will have so much fun linking events in previous movies with ones in Chapter 3.
Insidious: The Last Key Official Trailer – Insidious movies in order
As Elise, Tucker, and Specs continue their ghost-hunting business, the next installment picks up just where Chapter 3 left off. The story unfolds when a man who has been haunted by demons reaches out to Elise for help.
When the three begin their investigation, the case turns out to be more complicated than they think: The victim lives in Elise’s childhood home, and the threat he faces is a vengeful creature she set free when she was just a kid.
Well, ‘The Last Key’ has a great start. After showing the audience how solid, relatable, and interesting Elise is in Chapter 3, it is a smart move to keep expanding her story. In fact, the entire movie hinges upon Elise’s past. We discover her tumultuous background and how it impacts her in the present. This adds an unexpected but welcome sense of poignancy and character depth to the horror proceedings.
I don’t have to compliment Lin Shaye anymore: She is still the MVP with her ghoulishly gusto-filled performance. Another star in The Last Key is Bruce Davison, who plays Elise’s estranged brother Christian. It is nice to see the Willard star here, and his performance makes Christian one of the most memorable supporting roles in the franchise.
Bruce Davison as Christian – Source: LRMonline
Regrettably, director Adam Robitel makes a huge mistake of overusing jumpscares. Since they appear too frequently, some scares are predictable, more ridiculous than creepy. Because of that, ‘The Last Key’ lacks tension and suspense toward the end.
A tacky and anti-climactic ending capped off the movie. There is not much new here. ‘Chapter 3’ lacks creativity but at least does well with the horror elements, ‘The Last Key’ falls short.
Insidious: Chapter 1 Trailer – Insidious movies in order
Though being the first movie in the series, Insidious (or Insidious: Chapter 1) is the third part of the story. The event happens a few years after The Last Key. It surrounds the Lambert family when Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) move into a spooky house with their kids, Dalton, Cali, and Foster. Soon after, their eldest son Dalton falls into an unexplainable coma.
After months in the hospital, the Lamberts bring Dalton home. That’s when they start to experience attacks from an unworldly force. Assuming the house is haunted, they flee to another residence, only to discover that the problem is not the house.
Dalton’s grandmother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) acknowledges their predicament and contacts Elise, who freed Josh from an evil spirit called the “Bride In Black” many years ago. Following the call, Elise and her sidekicks pay a visit to the Lamberts. It is later revealed that to get Dalton back, Josh must travel to the land of the dead, the Further.
For most franchises, the first movie is often the best. You can say the same about Insidious. Chapter 1 takes a fascinating twist on the typical haunted family, immediately sets it apart from other horror movies while maintaining the typical genre elements.
The movie also gets creative by combining a traditional sci-fi element with horror to create unique world-building and scare effects. It results in a one-of-a-kind realm with a distinctive color palette. Vibrant reds, muted blues dominate the Further, and swirling, low-hanging white fog, making it both aesthetically stunning and engrossing at the same time. The villains are terrific and deeply disturbing, and the film’s climax is one of the most intense I’ve ever seen.
Insidious demon full body – Source: WeHeartIt
Additionally, unlike the typical characters in horror movies, the Lamberts are lovable and easy to root for. They are well-developed and intelligent enough to actually leave the house when they sense something paranormal. Although it doesn’t help them escape the ghostly presence, it makes Insidious a movie like no other. That’s how James Wan, the director of Chapter 1, defies the conventions of this genre.
Overall, Insidious: Chapter 1 is truly an exercise in suspense without depending on gore or boring horror cliches. Just as user gavin6942 wrote, the movie takes the haunting subgenre of horror and completely turns its head…for the better!
Insidious: Chapter 2 Official Trailer – Insidious movies in order
Chapter 2 takes up right after its predecessor. While rescuing his son, Josh is held captive by the Bride In Black. The demon possesses Josh’s body while his soul gets stuck in The Further. She isn’t doing a good job of hiding her identity, though. Realizing what’s going on, Josh’s mother, together with Tucker, Specs, Elise’s ghost, and a psychic named Carl, set out to find more about the demon’s origin.
What’s so intriguing about Insidious: Chapter 2 is that it follows up where the first movie left off. Instead of ignoring Chapter 1’s final revelation and resetting the story, director James Wan wants to give the audience a re-trod of familiar ground and story beats.
Hence, Chapter 2 reveals the consequence of Josh’s possession while unfolding the root of his ties to The Further. With more screen time for supporting characters like Elise, Josh’s mother Lorraine, and the rest of the Lambert family, the audience has a deeper understanding of the traumas they have to live with.
The scares aren’t as original and unnerving as they were in the first film, but the eerie world of the Further still provides a fascinating setting. The story does take a sharp turn when Josh gets possessed and proceeds to hunt down his family like Jack Torrance, combining human horrors with the paranormal. For those curious about what happened to the Lambert family following the first movie’s shocking conclusion, Insidious: Chapter 2 provides a satisfactory answer.
To Take The Fear To The Next Level…
So you are planning to watch Insidious for the next sleepover? Kudos to you, but don’t waste this iconic series on a plain binge-watching session. Every horror film needs a drinking game, and getting a bit tipsy will help you take the fear to the next level!
Just pick your favorite Insidious movie, grab your beer, and take a sip when:
- Something supernatural happens
- Someone mentions “The Further”
- A demon/spirit passes by
- Someone enters or leaves The Further
And don’t forget to finish your drink when:
- Someone dies
This simple drinking game will knock your friends’ socks off and make them want to get together again and again. Still, do note that this game is only for 18 years old and above (or 21+ if you are American). If horror movies are not your friends’ favorite, you can get some emotional blast with the Grey’s Anatomy drinking game!
And Into The Further…
That’s it, all the Insidious movies in order for you! The series is directors James Wan and Leigh Wannel’s manifesto that a horror franchise can successfully thrive without typical gore and violence. It paves the way for successors like It Follows and Get Out to redefine the genre and set the new high bar for what horror movies are capable of today.
The fifth installment is expected to arrive in theaters in 2022. That means you have plenty of time to go through the four movies and familiarize yourself with the enigmatic world of Insidious. Don’t forget that all of them are available on Amazon Prime Video!