Halloween is, without a doubt, one of the strangest holidays we celebrate in America (along with November 14 – National Pickle Day, of course). And with its ancient traditions steeped in death, the afterlife, and troublesome ghosts, Halloween has spawned a lot of horror films over the years. Even those without Halloween themes suddenly come front and center around this time of year, when it seems everyone wants to be scared. In that spirit, here are 13 of the best horror movies of all time.
The 13 Best Horror Movies of All Time
Spoiler alert: this is not the only movie on this list based on a Stephen King book. The master of the thriller has given us a lot of reasons to be scared over the years, not the least of which is this classic scary movie about a bullied girl with dangerous telekinetic abilities.
2. Night of the Living Dead
This ground-breaking feature from George Romero gave us a whole new way to think about zombies, if we were thinking about them at all before that. It has not only spawned a lot of sequels, but an entire genre.
3. Children of the Corn
Watch this movie alone late at night, then try and pretend you aren’t having a hard time being in the same room as your neighbor’s blonde 6-year-old the next day. Another of the many Stephen King books that have been turned into incredibly unsettling horror movies.
Another that has stood the test of time, the Halloween franchise is going back to its roots in 2018, bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis for the latest installment. Michael Myers remains one of horror’s enduring villains, both scaring movie-goers and confusing fans of Wayne’s World.
5. A Nightmare on Elm Street
There is no question Freddy Krueger has become one of the most iconic film serial killers, with his hideous appearance, terrifying blade fingers and, maybe most terrifying of all, that awful jazz hat. How much sleep has been lost to the fact that Freddy can get to us while we’re seemingly safe in our own beds?
A brilliant combination of satire, comedy, and horror, Scream manages to cleverly make fun of all the old horror standards while still using those same clichés to scare the wits out of us. Brilliant, funny, and still scary, this film is one of the best horror comedies around.
7. The Exorcist
Loved just as much by critics and the Academy Awards as it was by audiences, that vintage priest-demon confrontation will live on in infamy, and no one will ever forget the clear evil of that head-spinning trick.
Besides just scaring the bejesus out of us, this famous Alfred Hitchcock thriller also provided iconic pop culture references like the “Reet! Reet! Reet!” music and being afraid to use shower curtains. Psycho was nominated for four Oscars and has been copied endlessly ever since.
Christine is another Stephen King special. As if we weren’t already scared of enough things, now we have to worry about our cars being possessed, too?
This Steven Spielberg classic, which featured horrifying clowns, was able to make everyone fear their TV, all while maintaining a PG-13 rating. Did we mention the clowns?
11. Rosemary’s Baby
Rosemary’s Baby is an acclaimed horror classic, which chronicles a pregnant woman who suspects that an evil cult wants to take her baby for use in their rituals. If you can’t trust your family, even the baby, what is left?
12. The Blair Witch Project
A ground-breaking cinematic gem, this movie showed that bare bones film-making and intense first-person perspectives can be as frightening as any extravagant onslaught of special effects. And if you don’t scare easy, you’ll at least be grossed out by all the snotty noses. They get gradually worse throughout the film.
13. The Shining
Starring Jack Nicholson in maybe his best role (sorry, Easy Rider), this Stanley Kubrick film is also based on a Stephen King book. Given all that, it’s not surprising The Shining is a masterpiece of cinematic creepiness. Seemingly every scene has its own memorable moment (redrum, anyone?), which is why it is still the standard by which all horror films are judged.
Alright, that wraps up our list of the 13 best horror movies of all time. As with most lists, we have a feeling you may or may not agree with all of these. What horror films did we miss? What movies should not be on here? Let us know in the comments below!
Think you know your horror movies? See if you can pick them out based on just their taglines.