31 Best Horror Movies of All Time
It’s finally October, which means you can start breaking out your favorite Halloween classics! It can be such a struggle to try and fit all your favorite movies in between school and Halloweekend parties, so we’ve broken down the greatest movies into a binge-watching guide for you. From October 1 through 31, you’ll be able to stay on schedule with the best nostalgia and horror that Halloween has to offer. Don’t forget to make sure you have a giant bowl of candy with you at all times, too!
1) Audition (1999)
Though we’ve embedded the Audition trailer above, we suggest you opt not to watch it; the film pays off even more tremendously when you know as little about it as possible. If you’ve never seen Takashi Miike’s superbly chilling tale of romance gone awry, there’s no better moment than early October — the start of the month-long buildup to Halloween — to celebrate this admirably measured tale of a single man’s “audition” for a romantic partner that goes spectacularly, legendarily off the rails.
2) Creep (2015)
This story of a videographer who answers an ad to film a dying man’s testimonial in his wilderness retreat could have fallen completely flat, but for a pitch-perfect performance by Mark Duplass (The League, The Mindy Project) as the titular Creep. Duplass balances jocularity with chilling intent, all while growing steadily more menacing, until a movie that first seemed like a typical first-person shaky-cam deal has become utterly nightmarish. This one will stick with you like few horror movies can.
3) I Saw the Devil (2010)
This film technically falls under the Korean revenge genre rather than the realm of pure horror, but there’s a reason it wound up on Shudder. Stunning in its level of intensity and its abundance of gore, and unparalleled in its utter commitment to unhinged nihilistic frenzy, I Saw the Devil pits an ingenious serial killer (Oldboy’s brilliant Choi Min-sik) against the grieving fiancé (Lee Byung-hun) of one of his victims — a secret agent who devotes every resource he has to exacting the perfect, terrifying vengeance. The result is spellbinding, almost physically exhausting viewing. In other words, it’s sublime horror.
4) They Look Like People (2015)
The sheer unpredictability and occasional full-on betrayal of the human mind is the villain at the heart of this movie. Though it was marketed mainly as a horror film, They Look Like People somehow manages to balance a story about the bonds and challenges of friendship against a taut and suspenseful tale of complete psychological breakdown. Utterly suspenseful and deeply scary, it’s perhaps the best film study in paranoia since Requiem for a Dream.
5) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
There’s something completely anarchistic and deranged about the horror in the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which seems so unmoored from sanity that a radio shrieking dire political warnings in the film’s opening moments is our only cue that this film’s famous villain, Leatherface, is a truly American nightmare. His family of cannibalistic psychopaths may have come to personify the redneck serial killer trope, but he remains the incarnation of our deepest fears and our darkest excesses. This is as scary as it gets.
6) Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Long before The Walking Dead or Guardians of the Galaxy, Michael Rooker made an astonishing film debut in this pitch-black portrait of a serial killer. Frequently comic and surprisingly sympathetic, Henry manages the feat of humanizing a terrifying sociopath as he toys with depravity and falls deeper through the cracks of Chicago’s underbelly. Considered too shocking for release until nearly four years after it was made, the film has since become a horror classic.
7) The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Jonathan Demme’s masterpiece of cat-and-mouse suspense is still just as powerful today as when it electrified audiences in 1991 and became the only horror movie to win the Best Picture Oscar. Not only are the performances of Anthony Hopkins (as Hannibal Lecter) and Ted Levine (as Buffalo Bill) each timelessly creepy, but the famous night-vision climax never gets less scary.
8) Suspiria (1977)
What could be better than a movie where the score intermittently shouts, “WITCH!” at you and the art direction is a giant blood-soaked collage of color? Dario Argento’s Giallo masterpiece about a ballet studio serving as a front for a coven of witches is a smorgasbord of fantastic horror set pieces and bloody deaths; it features more red than Argento’s movie Deep Red, and it boasts one of the best scores in horror film history, one of the best animal kills, and the most badass group of dancing sorceresses ever.
9) The Shining (1980)
More has been said about Stanley Kubrick’s claustrophobic triumph than we could ever sum up here, so we’ll stick to pointing out how many incredibly weird elements this film manages to imbue with utter malevolence, from that creepy-as-fuck bear costume to Danny’s talking finger and the boy living in his mouth; from those terrifying twins to the ominous bartender and the ghost in the bathtub; from objects that move, shift, and vanish in the middle of scenes to the TV set that functions while unplugged; from corridors that are physically impossible to vanishing hedge mazes with Jack Torrance as the minotaur at the center. You can watch The Shining endlessly and come away deeply disturbed and confused and fascinated and shivering every time. It’s not just great horror; it’s the greatest.
10) Hour of the Wolf (1968)
Directed by Ingmar Bergman, Hour of the Wolf finds common ground with Bergman’s Persona (which is also available on Filmstruck) in that it’s also a study in doubles — in this case protagonist Johan Borg’s double life as he attempts to battle a host of possibly imaginary demons as well as a mental breakdown that may or may not have turned him into a real killer. Johan is played by Max von Sydow, a regular in Bergman’s films, and Sydow and his fellow Bergman vet Liv Ullmann are magnificent in this story of psychosexual repression exploding into madness. Hour of the Wolf is often forgotten in discussions of seminal horror films, but it’s horror at its finest — a raw look at a man consumed by self-loathing and fear.
11) The Host (2006)
The Host might just be the greatest monster movie ever made. At bare minimum, it’s the greatest entry in the “chemical spill causes a thing to come out of the water and terrorize a city” category. Though the film was marketed like a fun action-adventure movie in 2006, spurring it to become the then-highest-grossing Korean picture to date, it’s also excellent horror, perfectly blending suspense, scares, fantasy, sci-fi, and quiet trepidation. The monster is fascinating and fast, but it’s the tense, nearly silent moments you’ll remember the most.
12) The Babadook (2014)
He may be gay now, but the Babadook is still the most bone-chilling monster of the modern age. A slinking, screeching metaphor disguised as a children’s nightmare, he’s imbued with unholy scare powers thanks to the actors who embody the fractured family upon whom he preys. Noah Davis is mesmerizing as a troubled kid battling behavioral disorders and very real monsters. And as his beleaguered and exhausted mother, Essie Davis (a.k.a. Miss Fisher — yes, that Miss Fisher) turns in the messy, furious performance of a lifetime.
13) It Follows (2015)
Another metaphorical monster, the titular It of It Follows is a deeply disturbing, unkillable, shape-shifting entity that you can only escape by passing to someone else through sexual contact — and hoping it doesn’t kill them and return its attentions to you. If that concept isn’t jolting enough, the film’s treatment of it is a John Carpenter-esque study in slow, inexorable building tension and dread, backed by a killer soundtrack and a sumptuous ’80s aesthetic.
14) Green Room (2015)
Featuring a coterie of beloved indie outsiders like Imogen Poots and Alia Shawkat, as well as the now-late Anton Yelchin, Green Room packs a wallop of high-octane viciousness into the “teens versus rednecks” subgenre. A punk band travels into the Pacific Northwest wilderness to play a gig that turns out to be the start of a night of carnage and mayhem when they inadvertently witness a murder committed by neo-Nazi skinheads. Equal parts humanizing and violent, Green Room is fantastically visceral, seesawing relentlessly between tension and shock until its final moments.
15) The Thing (1982)
The power of The Thing lies in John Carpenter’s masterful ability to make the sweeping isolation of the Antarctic feel palpable through careful world building and a slow ratcheting up of tension. When the paranoia sets in among the crew of researchers who discover an alien shape-shifting being that could be posing as any one of them, you feel it in your bones.
16) Hellraiser (1987)
No one mixes the fantastical and the horrific like writer and director Clive Barker. Hellraisersends reality sliding off the rails into demented, gory abandon as hell itself bursts through the foundations of one unlucky house to claim its residents. The film’s chief villains — the Cenobites, with Pinhead as their leader — remain among horror’s all-time greatest. But equally fascinating is the transformation of femme fatale Julia (Clare Higgins) as she evolves from proper suburbanite housewife to a serial murderer clearly having the time of her life.
17) Eraserhead (1977)
David Lynch’s surreal nightmare recasts the most familiar and celebrated aspects of American family life — parenthood, child rearing, sex, and more — as horrific, repulsive ordeals fraught with uncertainty. Protagonist Henry (Jack Nance) is reluctantly settling into life as a family man, caught in his own personal dystopia. But his subconscious repulsion at the prospect of fatherhood manifests itself through perverse, weird, frightening symbology — most notably in the deformed monster he fathers. Eraserhead is the epitome of a film that’s not for everyone, but if you can stomach it, it’s wonderful.
18) An American Werewolf in London (1981)
An American Werewolf in London had to pull double duty in 1981 as one of the first modern comedy horror movies and the first major werewolf movie in decades. Thankfully, writer-director John Landis (then fresh off Blues Brothers) didn’t skimp on the gore, and the film remains surprisingly scary even by today’s standards. The story of two backpacking buddies who are attacked by a wolf in England combines frequent hilarity and shocking acts of violence to create the perfect tale of a man trying to fight fate. It’s still arguably the best werewolf film ever made.
19) House of the Devil (2009)
Ti West’s superb 2009 film is a love song to the excruciating slow-burns of early ’80s horror, with a perfect ’80s aesthetic to match. The story of a girl who accepts a babysitting gig in a creepy house out of town — only to find out that there is no baby — House of the Devilexecutes a simple scenario with incredible skill, building tension upon tension until all hell breaks loose. If you’re a fan of ominous buildup and creeping dread, it doesn’t get better than this.
20) Baskin (2015)
Bloody and bleak, this surreal Turkish horror film sees a squad of policemen answering a summons to a remote area and stumbling upon a Black Mass in what appears to be hell itself. The concept is simple and sweet — think Hellraiser meets Last Shift — and the film succeeds beautifully in pulling off its vision of hell because of both the delicious gruesomeness of its effects and the compelling lure of its creepy villain, “the Father.” Oh, and because of its bucketload of frogs.
21) The Monster (2016)
The Strangers’ Bryan Bertino delivers a creepy, taut monster tale in this rain-drenched film. The Monster explores a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship, in which the mom (Zoe Kazan) is an addict struggling to put her life together while her exasperated young daughter (Ella Ballentine) parents her. Their mutual and combined strengths are tested when they encounter a terrifying creature that strands them in the middle of nowhere on the darkest night ever; equal parts tender and brutal, the sparse, effective tale gains its power and its scare factor from its engagement with its characters.
22) Under the Shadow (2016)
Set in Tehran at the height of the Iran-Iraq war, this story of a mother named Shideh who’s attempting to solo-parent her daughter amid the fighting is layered, nuanced, and full of lingering fears. Faced with dwindling career prospects after her attempt to resume school is denied, Shideh tries to keep her home together while her husband serves on the front. In the middle of escalating military aggressions that threaten her home, she comes to believe her daughter is possessed by a djinn — and that it wants her as well.
23) [REC] (2007)
Though the Spanish found-footage franchise [REC] would eventually meander into the arena of campy, splashy, fun satire — with its chief draw being a chainsaw-wielding bride in a blood-soaked wedding dress warding off the zombie apocalypse that had ruined her special day — the series started out at the complete opposite end of the zombie movie spectrum. The first film is one of the sleekest, eeriest takes on the genre in modern horror, in which residents of an apartment complex are quarantined by police after one of their neighbors apparently goes mad and then attacks early responders. Eventually, they realize they’ve been left to fend for themselves because they’re zombie outbreak ground zero. [REC] works because it’s minimalist and atmospheric, keeping its cards as close to its chest as possible until it’s time for a little throat ripping.
24) The Invitation (2015)
The genius of Karyn Kusama’s ever-so-slightly satirical Invitation is that you don’t know, at first, whether its hero (excellently played by Logan Marshall-Green) is correct in his growing paranoiac suspicion that his old friends have joined a cult, or whether their pretentious dinner parties are just inherently cult-like. Watching him piece together the clues while his friends assess his deteriorating mental state is engrossing and affecting, and when everything comes together for an explosive finale, it kind of feels like the only possible end to an evening in LA.
25) Man From Nowhere (2010)
Another film that’s technically a revenge film, Man From Nowhere is basically The Professional meets John Wick on speed, with a lot more blood and violence. A tale of a loner with a dark past who goes all in to rescue a little girl after her gang-related kidnapping, Man From Nowhere was a huge box office smash in Korea and has gained a huge following internationally. Its success is largely due to its relentless fight scenes and the magnetism of Won Bin as the ex-secret agent whose backstory is slowly revealed as he plunges deeper into his rescue mission.
26) Repulsion (1965)
It’s taken a while for Roman Polanski’s portrait of sexual repression and psychological breakdown to be recognized as a horror classic. This is probably because its Freudian overtones, surreal sexual symbolism, and Catherine Deneuve’s staggering beauty — not to mention the child rape charges in Polanski’s past — overshadow its deeply disturbing portrait of a woman clearly falling further into psychosis while everyone around her paints her as a lovely innocent in need of nurturing. Impressively, despite the film’s agonizingly slow depiction this deterioration, it still delivers one of the rawest jump scares in horror history, with an ending that leaves everything in tatters.
27) Cure (1997)
Before he made his mark internationally with Pulse (which is also currently available on Shudder), another narrative of viral horror, director Kiyoshi Kurosawa turned in this utterly fascinating story of a serial killer who carries out his crimes through a cult-like power of suggestion. When a detective realizes that the group of murderers the mastermind has assembled are all totally clueless about what they’ve done, he sets out to find the reason — and ends up on a subliminal cat-and-mouse hunt for the truth. Cure is magnetic, weird, and seductive, a case study in humanity’s inner darkness being ritually, methodically unleashed.
28) Haute Tension (2003)
A key entry into the early 2000s’ New French Extremity wave of horror, Alexandre Aja’s twisty little thriller still holds its own even though its influence can be seen in hundreds of films that have come after it. Cécile De France is superlative as a girl who’s horror-struck when a tranquil weekend at her friend’s rural family home is interrupted by an intruder who proceeds to murder the friend’s entire family and take both girls hostage. Part home invasion, part Wolf Creek, Haute Tension is finely crafted and intelligent, with plenty of jump scares, clever secrets, and, well, enough high tension to satisfy even a repeat viewer.
29) Train to Busan (2016)
This zombie movie is probably more of an action film than a horror film — think World War Zmeets Snowpiercer and you’ve got the basic “zombie outbreak on a train” concept. What keeps the film fresh is its emphasis on character development and on the rapidly evolving bond between a previously distant father and his disillusioned daughter. You’ll probably cry, and just when you think the movie is over, you’ll probably wind up crying again. And we haven’t even mentioned the absolutely wonderful way that director Yeon Sang-ho literally piles on the zombies — at times building a physical cascade of gory flesh eaters. If you’re a zombie fan, Train to Busan is a must-watch. But if you just like stories of human survival and communities banding together to help each other out in a crisis, there are also a host of heartwarming moments in this film to make it worth your while.
30) A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
Abysmally and almost unrecognizably remade in the US as The Uninvited in 2009, this 2003 Korean drama is a tour de force of psychological horror and unreliable narration. As two teen sisters battle the classic evil stepmother, reality starts to splinter, and what may or may not be an infestation of paranormal activity begins to tear the family apart. Intentionally disjointed and told through a series of warped surreal sequences that will leave you questioning everything, A Tale of Two Sisters feels a bit like David Lynch is telling you a ghost story — with fantastic results.
31) Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
If you dare to watch this list in order from start to finish, you’ll end up taking in Rosemary’s Baby on Halloween — and nothing is more Halloween-y than a coven of witches and a casual pact with the devil. Roman Polanski’s most well-known work is incredibly strident in its theme of sexual consent and its declaration of a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body, a painful irony given that its director was obviously unable to absorb the lessons of his own film. But that irony only makes Rosemary’s Baby feel angrier, louder, and ultimately more terrifying today.