The 31 Best Horror Movies for Halloween

31. The Ring (2002)

The most effective horror movies are the ones that stick with you far past the first viewing. Try looking at a television screen filled with static the same way after watching this English-language remake of a popular Japanese film. The Ring follows a journalist trying to investigate the mysterious, sudden death of her sister. At the heart of the issue is a video tape said to kill anybody that watches it. The tape itself is eerily put together with imagery that’s abstract, bizarre, and down-right frightening. The movie’s main antagonist — a deceased child named Samara — is one of the most memorable movie ‘monsters’ of the last 25 years.

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30. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers follows a similar script of countless alien-invasion flicks. A race of lifeforms abandon their dying planet in search of a new land, and happen upon a clueless Earth. The aliens begin assimilating themselves to the world. After the aliens are discovered by a San Francisco scientist, various townspeople start behaving in a peculiar manner. It’s discovered that the aliens are replacing humans with exact replicas — except the alien-versions are devoid of any emotions. It’s left up to a star-studded cast (Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum) to stop the invasion — and thus restore balance on their planet.

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29. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

George A. Romero is the undisputed king of zombie movies. The spooky director’s Living Dead series has served as both a guide and a benchmark for the ever-changing genre. Romero’s work transcends over multiple decades. Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985) were exquisite films on their own. Each film fits for the respective time period. However, the original almost always wins out, and that’s no different with Romero. Night of the Living Dead is an iconic film that helped kick-start a craze that will never die.

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28. Scream (1996)

Moviegoers in the 90s weren’t so easily scared. After seeing nonstop VHS reruns of their parent’s scariest tales, it was tough for writers and directors to truly spook millennials. Since twisting heads and killer dolls weren’t doing the trick anymore, director Wes Craven decided to bring the horror back inside the household. Scream follows a group of self-aware teenagers that are being hunted by a masked killer referred to as Ghostface. The movies preys on all of the fears of an empty house, and almost single-handedly forced the nation to get caller ID on their phones. The movie is half-horror/half-satire, and tows the line as well as any movie of its time.

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27. Train to Busan (2016)

The first international film to make the list, Train to Busan is thrilling from start to finish, and does an excellent job of developing each character throughout its run time. For a fresh take on the zombie apocalypse, this is one zombie-lovers certainly won’t want to miss.

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26. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Modern horror fans needed their version of Scream, and they got it with the Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon horror comedy aptly titled The Cabin in the Woods. The movie follows a group of college students on a retreat to a remote cabin in the forest. Unbeknownst to them, two technicians are remote-controlling all of the events occurring in the cabin. They use several forms of manipulation — including swinging the cellar door open and releasing drugs in the air to make the group behave differently. Each cabin inhabitant is hand-picked as a horror-movie archetype, but each have a small tick that nudges them from the usual stereotype. Chris Hemsworth plays a collegiate quarterback that also happens to be a history nut, for example. The laughs and screams ensue in one of the most entertaining genre-defying films of the new millennium.

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25. REC (2007)

Found footage films have been done to death ever since The Blair Witch Project brought the genre to prominence in 1999. Although the cult classic made waves in the cinema-sphere ($60,000 budget made over $240 million in the box office), it was mostly filled with empty jump scares, an abstract ending, and a whole lot of nothing. The Spanish film REC took found-footage films and turned it on its head — placing the audience in an apartment building run amok. Co-directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza use unique angles and timing to create a chilling atmosphere in what feels like a inescapable nightmare.

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24. The Descent (2005)

From watching the trailer of Neil Marshall’s British horror The Descent, one would think it was a bit of a coming-of-age film following a group of women set out on an adventure in spelunking. After an hour of developing all six characters — each with their own reasons for embarking on the quest — the movie suddenly turns on its head. The women are ambushed by a group of vile creatures that being picking off the caravan one-by-one. Forced to settle their individual differences, the women must band together to escape the dark depths of a cave they never should have entered.

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23. A Quiet Place (2018)

2018 was an excellent year for horror. It was highlighted by The Office’s John Krasinski’s third foray in the directorial sphere with A Quiet Place. Krasinski stars in the film alongside his real-life wife, Emily Blunt. The pair attempt to traverse a post-apocalyptic world with their three children while not making any noise. In the year 2020, the world is inhabited by seemingly indestructible creatures that brutally attack anything that makes a sound. As one would think, living a normal life in a mute world is near impossible. The family has more than a number of close calls. Eventually, the family gathers enough information about their adversaries to fight back. A thrilling, roller coaster ride of a film ensues.

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22. Suspiria (1977)

This movie was disturbing to the point that the trailer had people walking out of theaters. Suspiria is a highly-artistic film that delves into the mostly unknown world of ballet academies. The striking visuals are not toned-down in the slightest — making this a movie not intended for the squeamish. Suspiria left such a vivid mark on people that a reboot was released in October starring Fifty Shades star Dakota Johnson.

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21. It (2017)

Originally a Stephen King novel released in 1986, the story of It has seen two separate adaptations over the years. The first came in the form of a two-part miniseries that aired on ABC in 1990. While the 90s version has some classic moments and a superb performance by Tim Curry as ‘Pennywise the Clown’, it doesn’t quite stand the test of time for new audiences. However, the 2017 release more than lives up to the original. Following a group of lovable youngsters dubbed ‘The Losers Club’, It preys on a fear shared by many — clowns. After a successful run for the first chapter, It: Chapter Two will follow The Losers Club into adulthood.

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20. The Omen (1976)

The ‘scary kid’ trope is highly-prevalent in the horror market. Films such as The Grudge, The Orphanage, and Children of the Corn all used unassuming child actors to spook viewers. However, no movie executed this idea than Richard Donner’s The Omen. The success of the film hinges on it’s youngest star, Harvey Stephens. Stephens was just six years old by the time the movie released. The actor gives a monumental performance well beyond his years as Damien, a child that is perceived to be the son of the Devil.

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19. The Witch (2015)

Robert Eggers’ 2015 film The Witch is a model period piece for the modern era of horror movies. Taking place in 1600s New England, The Witch is about a family that has been separated from society and encounters dark forces in isolation. The quiet farm setting works well in this instance, as Eggers builds the anticipation towards an epic climax. Visually pleasing and perfectly creepy, The Witch is worth multiple viewings.

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18. Trick ‘R’ Treat (2007)

Trick ‘R’ Treat serves as a well-crafted tribute to Halloween and all of the past movies of the genre. It uses an anthology style of story-telling to set the stage. A series of interwoven tales taking place on the same Halloween night eventually clash together with a surprise, twist ending. It’s a perfect film for a night-in with a bowl of popcorn. It will provide endless chills as well as a few laughs like any great horror movie should.

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17. Nosferatu (1922)

A horror movie list isn’t complete without the classics. Nosferatu was one of the first movies to utilize one of the most recognizable horror movie monsters in history: The vampire. While modern films use jump scares, loud noises, and gore to scare its audience, Nosferatu relied on an eerie mood and creepy visuals to strike fear in viewers.

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16. Alien (1979)

A slasher movie set in space, Alien utilizes brilliant false climaxes and breathtaking visuals to create a claustrophobic and terrifying experience. The premise is fairly simple and wasn’t overly profound for the time. A group of travelers set out on a galactic voyage only to have their ship overrun by an extraterrestrial — except this alien doesn’t seem to care for Reese’s Pieces or bike rides. The crew is led by Sigourney Weaver, who spends the last act in a heroic battle with the creature. The isolated setting inside a spaceship only adds to the frightening feeling of the film.

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15. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

One of the first films to tackle the real-life issues of paranoia and anxiety, Rosemary’s Baby remains one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the genre. The acting is superb. Ruth Gordon received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and Mia Farrow was a breakout star. The screenplay is quite stellar. Director Roman Polanski’s brilliance lies in his ability to make normal, everyday activities and objects terrifying (such as a phone call or a cooking pot). While Polanski was already well-known in the genre for his 1965 psychological thriller Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby is his crown jewel.

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14. The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook tells the story of a widow that is attempting to raise her disturbed son after losing her husband in a gruesome car crash. While the film masquerades as a monster movie, The Babadook does an excellent job of discussing hard-hitting issues such as loss, depression, and insomnia. The viewer gets very few clean looks at the monster, making it all the more menacing. The suspense keeps you on the edge of your seat, and the movie tells a riveting story aside from the horror aspects.

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13. Carrie (1976)

Carrie brought frights to the schoolyard in a big way. The film’s main character, 16-year-old Carrie White, is a shy high school student that is dealing with bullies as well as her ever-changing body. She also happens to have telekinetic powers. The climax of the movie occurs on Prom Night when Carrie has simply had enough. The movie builds suspense towards one of the most satisfying and resolutions in horror film history.

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12. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

The 80s ushered in the age of slasher films. From Jason Vorhees to Leatherface, every studio attempted to stake its claim as having the most recognizable masked killer as its poster boy. A Nightmare on Elm Street took a slightly different route in that its main antagonist wasn’t masked, but rather had a face that was completely burnt. It allowed Freddy to have a personality, and the character has since become a bit hokey. However, the original film showed a Freddy Krueger that was still absolutely frightening. He had audiences dreading sleep for years after its release.

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11. Dracula (1931)

With the era of silent movies coming to a close, we had the birth of a new era of horror movies: The Universal Pictures era. During this period, all of the classic monsters that are known today make their mark in major motion pictures. The first installment in this cycle was Dracula. It holds all the ingredients of a proper horror story. The dark atmosphere and picture-perfect set design help carry the mood for this chilling installment. Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi stars as the most famous vampire ever. Since English was Lugosi’s second language, the tempo and rhythm he spoke with forever became the style in which Dracula talked.

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10. 28 Days Later (2002)

George A. Romero set the ground work for the zombie genre. With that said, other directors have taken that formula and created brilliant works of art as a result. Danny Boyle reached the pinnacle of undead excellence with the post-apocalyptic horror 28 Days Later. Gone are the days of the plodding, slow-footed zombies of your grandfather’s era. 28 Days Later introduces a new breed of flesh eaters that can sprint, climb fences, and think (to a certain extent). The movie completely changed the way filmmakers look at the genre. It’s arguably the greatest zombie film ever made.

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9. Jaws (1975)

Jaws single-handedly made an entire generation afraid of going into the ocean. The movie itself has a simple premise. A group of adventurers, scientists and thrill seekers embark on a dire quest to capture a killer shark. The movie preys on its audience’s fear of the unknown. The shark is barely shown, but its presence is felt throughout with a strong soundtrack and intense build-up. For its suspense and timely use of jump scares, Jaws stands the test of time.

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8. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence of the Lambs remains the only ‘Best Picture’ winner to be categorized as a horror film. That’s all you need to know about the merits of this film. It’s an absolute masterwork of story-telling and suspense building led by its two star actors. The dynamic between Clarice (Jodie Foster) and Hannibal (Anthony Hopkins) truly carries the film. A movie that spawned endless quotable lines, The Silence of the Lambs is an all-time classic that must be cherished as such.

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7. Psycho (1960)

Psycho was revolutionary for its time because it dealt with real-life scares and the horrors within the human mind rather than relying on fictional monsters to attract audiences. From the very start, the movie wastes no time shocking viewers by suddenly killing off the main character. There was a script that all movies stuck to before Psycho was released. Director Alfred Hitchcock completely threw that script out of the window. He dared to be different, and created an ever-lasting masterpiece as a result.

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6. The Conjuring (2013)

The Conjuring is the most frightening ghost story put to film. Regardless of genre, The Conjuring is a fantastic film from the brilliant mind of James Wan. It’s spawned a handful of sequels that haven’t been able to hold up to the original. The jump scares are so wonderfully done that you’ll be on the edge of your seat for the entire 112 minute run-time.

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5. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Throwing it all the way back to the silent film era, the German classic The Cabinet of the Dr. Caligari set the standard during the earliest time of the genre. The cabinet itself holds a sleepwalking murder machine that is controlled by a mad scientist by the name of Caligari. The theme of a doctor controlling a monster to do their bidding would be later used in several films including Frankenstein and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. The film uses distorted angles and oddly constructed settings to create a dream-like feel.

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4. The Shining (1980)

Stephen King, Stanley Kubrick, and Jack Nicholson formed a super-team of artistic icons to create the quintessential haunted house movie of all-time. The beginning of The Shining is spent setting the stage for a wild ride. Once the movie starts gaining steam, it never lets up. The imagery left a lasting impact on the films’ viewers, as they truly get inside the mind of a man going insane. Nicholson in one of his many iconic roles is worth the price of admission.

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3. Get Out (2017)

Known for his work in comedy, Jordan Peele shocked the world by putting together a horror film that holds a near perfect 99 percent mark on the the review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. Get Out is both thought-provoking and terrifying. The film owes its success to both directorial excellence as well as the collective brilliance of its cast. The best type of movies — horror included — forces the viewer to think about the film hours, or even days, after the initial viewing. Get Out still has people discussing its plot a full year after its release. The impact it had on the genre will be everlasting.

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2. The Exorcist (1973)

The audiences of 1973 weren’t conditioned the same way as audiences today. Thus, when The Exorcist hit theaters, movie-goers were shocked by the risks this film took towards becoming an all-time classic. In a genre that is often not taken all that seriously, The Exorcist is generally considered to be a great movie regardless of genre. Regan McNeil gives the performance of a lifetime as the vomit-inducing Linda Blair. This movie is absolutely terrifying to this day. If you’ve seen it before, then you’ll never be able to get the face of poor, possessed Linda’s face out of your head.

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1. Halloween (1978)

It would be egregious to end this list any other way. Halloween has had a near immeasurable impact on the genre of horror movies. Everything about this movie — from the soundtrack, to Michael Myers’ signature menacing walk, and even the quaint neighborhood backdrop — is so masterfully done that sometimes you forget you’re watching a movie. Jamie Lee Curtis stars as babysitter-turned-badass Laurie Strode. She’s one of the very first female lead protagonists in a horror film. Curtis is excellent in the role, and set the standard for ‘scream queens’ for years to come. It’s an absolute treat to watch, and will remain a staple in the genre for the rest of time.

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