Some scary films explore deep-seated psychological or societal issues. Others just serve to keep a viewer firmly planted behind their hand-shield. No matter what your preference is, this list of the best horror movies of all time has it.
This genre has evolved over the years, from David Cronenburg’s 1986 body horror masterpiece, The Fly, to a new wave of dramas like Midsommar and Hereditary. And of course, we’ll always have a special place in our hearts for Jason Voorhees.
But each type of scary movie serves the same purpose: to get us well acquainted with the edge of our seats. So, this is our official list of the best spooky films (in no particular order). Tell us your favorites, since we can only watch The Human Centipede so many times.
The 25 Best Horror Movies of All Time
1. Let the Right One In (2008)
Let the Right One In is a Swedish romantic horror film based on a novel. It’s scary enough for multiple versions, including a new limited series slated for 2022 release. If you didn’t know that “romantic horror” was a sub-genre, come over the next time we leave our dirty dishes in the sink.
The 2008 vampire movie is about the friendship of two school-aged children, one of whom may or may not be a vampire. It’s a moody masterpiece of suburban fright that gives a refreshing twist on the typical vampire romance story. And Stephanie Meyers thought she had that market cornered.
2. The Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)
There are plenty of reasons to be scared of walking home alone at night, and this vampire-pulpy-spaghetti western film presents quite a few. The gripping fear that you’re about to discover that your roommate ate your leftover pizza isn’t one of them.
Set in an Iranian ghost town, the black-and-white horror movie follows the journey of a man named Arash and “The Girl,” a vampire vigilante who is anything but scared to roam the streets alone at night. She must not have a roommate.
3. The Witch (2015)
Anya Taylor-Joy stars in this supernatural tale directed by Robert Eggers. The Witch will have you questioning everything you thought you knew about pre-American colonialists. For instance, the fashion was good. Their approach to everyone who already lived where they landed? Still very bad.
4. It Follows (2014)
The monster in this film is unique, horrifying, and…everywhere. It Follows features a supernatural sexually transmitted infection that terrorizes a group of suburban teenagers. And you thought your recent bout with antibiotics was bad enough.
Although the monster in this film gives its victims one of the slowest to chases to date, it’s somehow equally terrifying. A lazy villain? How relatable!
5. Into the Mouth of Madness (1994)
Into the Mouth of Madness was directed by horror/thriller/action legend John Carpenter and is derived from works by H. P. Lovecraft. That’s enough to get it on a spot of any top horror movie list, but we’ll continue.
The plot explores the disappearance of a successful horror author. An insurance investigator gets involved, and as he dives deeper into the case, the lines between reality and fiction begin to blur. What’s that? He just forgot his glasses? Case solved!
6. Audition (1999)
Horrifying, shocking, and thrilling, the Japanese flick Audition directed by Takashi Miike begins with a fake casting call for the role of a character’s new wife. The girl who gets the part soon turns on her lover in a Fatal Attraction-esque way.
Gruesome and disturbing, the movie is a suspense thriller that will have you Marie Kondo-ing your Hinge match list. If only there was a filter for “murderers.”
7. Ringu (1998)
In 2002, The Ring was a sleeper hit that grew into an aughts-era American classic. The plot surrounds the investigation of a VHS tape that seems to be cursing its viewers. For better or worse, the horror movie spurred two sequels. But the original film, Ringu, is even scarier.
Who’s going to write the 2022 version about cursed TikTok videos?
8. Paranormal Activity (2007)
A scary flick that utilizes found footage cinematography, Paranormal Activity exploded on the scene for its surveillance-style story of a mysterious spirit haunting one family’s house. Kind of like the ghost of Taco Bell past, which haunts our bathroom.
It’ll have you running back to check your porch cameras for ghosts. If you’re going to hang out there, you can pay rent, you know!
9. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Speaking of found footage horror, The Blair Witch Project is where the genre really took off. Thanks to an impressive marketing campaign that suggested the footage was real, it freaked audiences out long before it premiered. Even today, some people still believe the footage is real. And by “some people,” we definitely don’t mean us.
The film is a turn of the millennium mockumentary that goes down in the Horror Hall of Fame. It features the creative use of camera work, plenty of improv, and is one of the highest-grossing independent films of all time. Don’t believe us? Can you just go stand in that corner for a bit?
10. The Orphanage (2007)
Produced by supernatural monster-maker Guillermo del Toro, The Orphanage serves terror in the form of lonely, lost, and uncared-for children. It also features a horrifying-yet-simple child’s mask that may keep you up at night.
The horror movie — an homage to 1970s Spanish film — also has an incredibly spooky soundtrack. But they left off the Monster Mash!
11. The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009)
For those who can appreciate a disgusting Stuart Gordon or David Cronenberg-directed body horror, The Human Centipede is on a level of its own. This nauseating film is about a pair of women who get stranded at the rural home of a sadistic doctor hellbent on creating a functional “Siamese triplet.” Do yourself a favor and don’t Google that..
This is one of the few films on this list that will leave you equal parts nauseous, terrified, and constipated. Don’t forget the extra popcorn, candy, and prune juice!
12. Misery (1990)
Few things in life are as entertaining as Kathy Bates playing a manic super fan. Scratch that – few things in life are as entertaining as Kathy Bates. Period.
Adapted from a novel by Stephen King, Misery features James Caan as a famed author stranded after a wreck at Bates’ rural cabin. What follows is one of the best capture-and-torture horror plots in film history that will have you rethinking your follower count. We love all thirty-two of you.
13. Possessor (2020)
Written and directed by David Cronenberg’s son Brandon, Possessor tells the story of an assassin who possesses people’s bodies in order to kill. And, who feels her own reality start to slip away. Wow, we really can’t imagine why that might be.
The story blends elements of psychological terror, gory violence, and science fiction. The film is a critique on increasing surveillance and our relationships with our jobs. Before you ask, yes we’re skipping that next Zoom call.
14. The Shining (1980)
This Stanley Kubrick horror film is infinitely quotable and equally spooky. Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, a “family man” and aspiring novelist who accepts a job as caretaker of a hotel in the snowy off-season. Only to have it slowly plunge him into madness.
This movie became even more relatable in 2020. But at least we weren’t followed around by creepy twin girls or haunted by a bartender ghost. Yes, we’ll take another Negroni, thank you.
15. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a legendarily gory horror movie that featuring one of the most iconic monster murderers to grace the screen. Leatherface is said to be inspired by serial murderer Ed Gein. And, also us after we forget sunscreen on the beach. At least we remembered the chainsaw!
16. Halloween (1978)
Not all great horror movies are scary enough to keep you up at night. But the films of the Halloween franchise are fright night favorites for a reason. The film’s monster is the slow-moving but supernaturally strong and impossible to kill Michael Myers.
For your next scary movie marathon, start by watching the 1978 original, starring scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis. Spoiler alert: she returns for quite a few of the sequels, making us wonder if she, too, is impossible to kill.
17. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
This psychological horror stars Mia Farrow as a pregnant woman who believes her neighbors are part of a Satanic cult. New York City’s “Bramford Building” is another character in the film, as the haunted backdrop to her “delusions.” Did you know buildings can hold SAG cards now?
18. Candyman (1992)
Candyman is a supernatural horror film about a graduate student researching urban legends. The movie takes place in Chicago, where a housing project turns into a grim playground for a notorious serial killer.
Featuring a legendary performance by Tony Todd (who also stars in the Jordan Peele remake) the film implores its viewers to consider the blurred lines between urban tales and truth. See if you can muster up the courage to say Candyman repeatedly in the mirror after watching this. We’ll only do it if you promise us a Reese’s.
19. The Exorcist (1973)
There’s perhaps no other scary scene as regularly spoofed as the vomiting scene from The Exorcist. And not just in frat basements.
Between the spewing bile, screeching voice, and the creepy backward crawl-walk of the demonically possessed character, this film pushed boundaries and provided a great Halloween costume for anyone with food poisoning.
20. The Evil Dead (1981)
When Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Robert Tapert set out to make a fun, low-budget flick, they had no idea they would go down in horror history for The Evil Dead. Not to be confused with the pleasant dead: Casper.
The film, and its comedic sequel, follows a group of college students vacationing in a remote cabin and disturbed by a demon. The film uses humor and gory camp in a way that’s now commonplace in both comedy horror films and MET galas.
21. Hereditary (2018)
Ari Aster’s 2018 horror drama Hereditary explores family trauma in a deep and moving way. In this film, Toni Collette plays a daughter grappling with the grief of losing her somewhat detached mother.
As the plot progresses, it will definitely make you grateful for whatever drama is going on in your family group chat. It can’t be as bad as being cursed to Hell by a potential demonic cult. Probably.
22. Us (2019)
Jordan Peele’s 2017 directorial debut Get Out was a master of psychological horror. His second feature, Us, released two years later, is an all-out horror-thriller classic.
Based on two couples taken over by doppelgangers while on vacation in California, the film is complex and spooky. Plus, it features a haunting version of the catchy Luniz song “I Got 5 On It.”
23. Psycho (1960)
No list of the best horror films of all time would be complete without at least one Alfred Hitchcock film. And, the 1960 classic Psycho is one of his best.
It’s been more than 60 years since Psycho graced the silver screen, but Hitchcock’s expert directorial style still holds water today. Now that our fear of showers has returned, we need to work on getting over our fear of deodorant, stat.
24. Suspiria (1977)
The use of color and music secures this moody Dario Argento classic a spot on the list. In the film, a new dancer enters a strange rural ballet school and she is haunted by brutal murders and a supernatural evil.
The 1970s Italian film also features some of the best screams in all of cinema thanks to actress Jessica Harper. The 2018 American remake is also worth the watch, if you dare. You should dare. Then truth! Then dare again.
25. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The Silence of the Lambs is about a very nice man who helps a young FBI trainee hunt a serial killer. Except the very nice man is actually Hannibal Lecter, a cannibalistic serial killer brilliantly played by Anthony Hopkins. Hello, trust issues, our old friend.
Based on the novel by the same title, the thriller won five Academy Awards and is still the only horror film to win Best Picture. And you can’t argue that Buffalo Bill isn’t the most entertaining of all serial killer villains. The dancing! The hair! The hose!
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