Director: Robin Hardy
Screenwriter: Anthony Shaffer
Let's start with an exercise: Forget that Nicolas Cage's remake of The Wicker Man exists. It's out of your mind? Great—now we can acknowledge director Robin Hardy's original 1973 horror classic without any lingering sourness.
On its way to one of the best gut-punch endings of all time, The Wicker Man follows the never-been-laid, morally upright Scottish police officer Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) as he searches for a missing girl on the remote island known as Summerisle, where the inhabitants are always perky and the dread is palpable to everyone but poor Howie.
The lawman thinks that the missing schoolgirl is about to be offered up as a virgin sacrifice on May Day, when the residents of Summerisle participate in a pagan ritual to bring on a fresh harvest. Little does he know, unfortunately, that he's the sacrifice—the girl was just the bait to make him visit Summerisle.
By the time Howie wakes up and smells the burning wicker, it's far too late—the island's creepy citizens encircle the massive Wicker Man in which Howie is trapped as it burns him alive. His his killers hold his hands and chant happy-go-lucky folk songs. And, no, Woodward doesn't mention anything about the bees. —MB