39 Best Horror Movies Of All Time

Feature | teenage girls watching horror movie | Best Horror Movies of All Time
What’s Halloween without a marathon of the best horror movies of all time heating up the TV screen and giving you a bone-chilling good time? Read on for 39 of the scariest movies ever for your viewing pleasure.

In this article:

  1. Classic Horror Movies of the ’20s to the ’50s
  2. Top Horror Movies of the ’60s and ’70s
  3. The Best Horror Movies of the ’80s and ’90s
  4. The Creepiest Horror Movies of the 2000s – Present

Best Horror Movies of All Time for Halloween Bingeing

Classic Horror Movies of the ’20s to the ’50s

1. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Legendary film critic Roger Ebert singles this movie out as the first true horror film.  It is the story of a hypnotist, his somnambulist patient, and a sleepy town rocked by a series of murders. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari influenced American horror films afterward thanks to its use of the unreliable narrator and its twist ending.

2. Nosferatu (1922)

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Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979) 35. We've reached the mid 30's and we are now knee deep in some Nosferatu. But tonight, I'm going to take it easy and spend the night watching this nearly 40 year old vampire movie and working on my Halloween costume. I know that at least one of these is going to be good. 🧛🏻‍♂️ #NowWatching #Movie #Nosferatu #NosferatuMovie #WernerHerzog #Horror #Thriller #Suspense #Vampire #Vampires #VampireHorror #VampireLovers #MovieLovers #HorrorLovers #KlaisKinski #CountDracula #IsabelleAdjani #BrunoGanz #RolandTopor #Dracula #NosferatuTheVampyre #NosferatuPhantomDerNacht #NosferatuPhantomOfTheNight #VampireHorror #HorrorClassic #70sHorror #70s #CultClassic #Classic #Retro

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Although Dracula has always been the iconic vampire of legend, Nosferatu’s Count Orlok was the first one to ever grace the screen and establish several tropes like vampires burning when exposed to sunlight. The director and the scriptwriter behind Nosferatu acknowledge that Stoker’s Dracula was indeed the source material for their movie, but in the end, Nosferatu became the template for all vampire movies after it.

3. Freaks (1932)

Writer and director Tod Browning hired real-life sideshow entertainers in this suspenseful tale of love and betrayal in a traveling circus. Freaks lost MGM around $164,000 and Browning’s career came to a close due to the public’s poor reception, but history is good to this movie, and recent viewers rate it at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.

4. Frankenstein (1932)

Based on the novel by Mary Shelley about scientist Dr. Frankenstein who made a man out of body parts salvaged from corpses, this movie made a splash among moviegoers. Frankenstein netted $1.4 million in movie houses in 1932 which was a massive box office figure during its time.

5. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

People consider The Bride of Frankenstein one of the first instances where the sequel is much better than the first movie. This story follows the events of the first with Frankenstein’s Monster terrorizing the countryside in search of a companion.

6. The Wolf Man (1941)

What Nosferatu did for the vampire in film, the Wolf Man accomplished for the werewolf. The Wolfman launched how Hollywood would portray these supernatural creatures, and werewolves have been fascinating us ever since.

7. The Body Snatcher (1945)

Drawing inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story of the same name, The Body Snatcher is the story of a grave robber and the revenge that haunts him from beyond the grave. This film holds an 81% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

8. The Spiral Staircase (1946)

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Please check out my friend @qbine3 blog, FROM BENEATH THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN where he dissects classic films and Old Hollywood in general. Steve is a Hollywood insider with fascinating friends and stories! ⭐️ #Repost @qbine3 with @get_repost ・・・ Check out my latest “Movie of the Week,” THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE staring the luminous Dorothy McGuire, George Brent, Ethel Barrymore, Gordon Oliver and Rhonda Fleming. (Link in my bio!) #classiccinema #goldenera #thespiralstaircase #dorothymcguire #suspensethriller @theacademy @tcmfilmfest @cinematique #oldhollywood #classicfilm #tinseltown #hoorayforhollywood #goldenageofhollywood #vintagelife #vintagestyle #retro #tcm #hollywoodland #hollywoodhistory #hollywoodsign #hollywoodinsider #silverscreen

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One of the first home invasion movies, The Spiral Staircase weaves the tale of a serial killer who targets people with disabilities and a woman trapped in her own home with her predator. It holds an 86% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

9. Night of the Demon (1957)

An American scholar and skeptic Dr. John Holden arrives in England to investigate a Satanic cult led by Dr. Julian Karswell. It’s sufficient to say that Dr. Holden finds his belief in science destroyed after encountering the devil himself.

10. House on a Haunted Hill (1959)

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#ReleasedOnThisDay 58 years ago: "House on Haunted Hill" (1959), horror, where an eccentric millionaire offers ten thousand dollars to five people who agree to be locked in a large, spooky, rented house overnight with him and his wife. Starring Vincent Price and Carol Ohmart,  with Alan Marshal, Richard Long, Elisha Cook, Carolyn Craig and Julie Mitchum. Directed by William Castle ("The Mark of the Whistler", "The Gentleman from Nowhere", "Homicidal"). A remake starring Geoffrey Rush was released in 1999. #mooveeblog #thisdayincinema #filmfacts #film#movie #themovies #cinema #hollywood #thisdayinhistory #history #filmgeek #houseonahauntedhill #vincentprice #carolohmart #alanmarshal #richardlong #elishacook #carolyncraig #juliemitchum #williamcastle #horror #1959 #Feb17

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Legendary horror actor Vincent Price plays the role of millionaire Frederick Loren who invites five people to stay for a night in his haunted mansion with the promise of a $10,000 payday. The guests encountered all sorts of terrors after Loren locked the doors past midnight.

Top Horror Movies of the ’60s and ’70s

11. Psycho (1960)

Critically-acclaimed director Alfred Hitchcock filmed Psycho on a lower budget than his other films, but that didn’t stop the movie from becoming one of his masterpieces. Psycho tells the story of a secretary who ends up in an isolated motel after stealing her employer’s money, and her encounter with the motel’s mysterious manager, Norman Bates.

12. Carnival of Souls (1962)

The death of two friends after a drag race gone wrong prompts Mary Henry to get a new identity and lead a new life as a church organist in a faraway town. Despite turning over a new leaf, her friend’s ghosts stalk Mary and take her to a long-abandoned carnival.

13. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

George Romero put zombies in pop culture through Night of the Living Dead. This film follows a group of survivors trapped in a barricaded house who must fend off zombies until rescue comes, or they find a way to escape. Night of the Living Dead grossed $12 million, a hefty return for its $114,000 production budget, and cemented the walking dead as one of the most popular movie monsters today.

14. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

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“ROSEMARY’S BABY” (1968) A terryfing potrait of the sheer vulnerability and paranoia of pregnancy and the shifting society of the 1960s. • • • There’s something about 60s horror I found to be so scary. It has a distinctive flavor to it, that creepy factor, that none of their offprings in later years managed to capture. The 60s is a strange and often scary times, especially for America, with a huge ideological shift like the positive racial and feminist movements or the negative rise of various cults. This is where this movie comes in, as it takes all things said and use that as the true source of fear for the story. Making it a scary and striking commentary on the era itself. – The reason why the horror works so well in this movie doesn’t stop there. As we follow our titular character, Rosemary, we as the audience are never given any information outside of her knowledge. We see the story unfolds through her perspective, and as she became more disoriented and paranoid, so are we. This also builds the tension of the film very well, leaving us to always wonder whether or not something is true or just one of Rosemary’s delusions. Director Roman Polanski’s choice of never showing any real horror elements in the film, further enhanced the disorienting nature of the film, and adding a touch of realism to the film that made it a terrifyingly plausible story. – Complementing Polanski’s genius direction is Mia Farrow who gave an all out performance that I just couldn’t praise enough. Farrow’s desperate and vulnerable potrayal of pregnancy really pushes through, and her physical transformation is a devastating story on its own. • • • To put it simply, “Rosemary’s Baby” is a horror masterpiece, one that terrifies me more than I imagined it would. It’s devastating tale left me in chills minutes after credits role and it will undoubtedly forever change the way I see a woman’s pregnancy. Thank God, I won’t have to go through that experience. (INDO REVIEW IN THE COMMENTS)

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Rosemary’s Baby raises terror by notches by having the story revolve around a baby. The child’s mother, the titular Rosemary, fears a cult is after her child — a suspicion which becomes true as mysterious events unravel.

15. The Exorcist (1973)

Drawing direct inspiration from William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name, The Exorcist is the story of a child’s possession by the devil. The film’s nightmare-inducing scenes still eclipse all other Satanic-possession movies Hollywood churned out in its wake.

16. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre infused horror and the slasher genre in particular with its common tropes like murder with power tools, gore, and a brutish, near-unkillable villain. Director and creator Tobe Hooper made the movie for $140,000 and shot for several weeks straight to keep costs low. The movie grossed $30 million despite several countries banning the film because of the extreme violence on screen. America’s horror genre has nonetheless upped its game thanks to this movie, with several iconic slashers following in Leatherface’s footsteps.

17. Jaws (1975)

If there’s one reason to fear swimming in the ocean, Steven Spielberg manifested it in Jaws. The movie follows the trail of a Great White Shark terrorizing the beaches of a resort island town.

18. Suspiria (1977)

This movie about witches and devil-worship put Dario Argento and Italian horror on the map. Argento’s gory flourishes and visual style has made Suspiria a cult classic and a familiar name in other horror movie lists.

19. Halloween (1978)

The producers for Halloween tapped John Carpenter to make a film that combined young girls and horror the same way The Exorcist did, and what they got is Michael Myers. John Carpenter started so many of the tropes for slasher movies in Halloween that critics believe the film inspired the next wave of horror movies that came out in the ’80s.

20. Alien (1979)

Alien had turned Ridley Scott into a household name and popularized its Xenomorphs into iconic monsters which transcended movie screens and translated into comics and video games as well. The film takes place in the Nostromo, a cramped space tug plying on its usual route when its crew responds to a distress call, only to bring on a deadly creature aboard the ship.

The Best Horror Movies of the ’80s and ’90s

21. The Shining (1980)

In The Shining, Stanley Kubrick delivers one of the most widely acknowledged best horror movies of all time. The story revolves around the Torrance family and their stay in the haunted Overlook Hotel one decisive winter. As the narrative progresses, we see Jack Nicholson’s character, Jack Torrance, spiral into insanity as the various supernatural forces goad him into madness.

22. The Evil Dead (1981)

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The Evil Dead is a 1981 horror movie written and directed by Sam Raimi. It tells the story of a group of 5 young people who are spending the weekend in the woods in a cabin that become possessed by spirits. The Evil Dead is a classic horror, the goriest movie of its time. Well filmed, good sound effects, sfx and HEAPS of gore add up to a true horror classic. I didn't see anything funny in the movie that some people see, but rather found it unsettling. Easily one of the best horrors ever made. 9/10. #theevildead #theevildeadmovie #1981 #classic #classichorror #samraimi #cultclassic #vhs #vhsmovies #cultmovie #horror #horrorfamily #scary #classicmovie #movie #movies #film #films #dvd #dvds #bluray #cinema #bookofthedead #necronomicon #brucecampbell

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Before directing the first Spiderman movies in the 2000s, Sam Raimi earned his stripes for creating and helming the production of The Evil Dead. Now considered by its fans to be a cult classic, the film revolves around five vacationing teens who unwittingly release evil spirits bound in a book called the Necronomicon. Viewers loved The Evil Dead for its combination of gore, over-the-top special effects for its time, and its tongue-in-cheek comedy.

23. Poltergeist (1982)

Tobe Hooper, director of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, scores another hit in Poltergeist. Steven Spielberg originally held the director’s seat but chose to collaborate with Hooper instead, creating this film detailing the struggles of a suburban family against evil spirits out to take their daughter.

24. The Thing (1982)

John Carpenter notched another achievement in horror after directing The Thing. This movie revolves around the story of an American research team in Antarctica who discover an alien life form that is able to assimilate and copy other beings. This monster’s ability, coupled with the icy wasteland, emphasized the suspense and psychological horror of the movie. Fans celebrate The Thing as one of the best science fiction movies, and scariest horror movies of all time up there with Alien.

25. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street gave many kids sleepless nights for fear of Freddy Kruger visiting them in their sleep. Kruger’s trademark bladed gloves, red and black striped shirt, burnt face, and hat has become the stuff of horror legend and aided in the films gross of $25 million domestically.

26. Braindead (1992)

Before Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson delved into horror movies with Braindead being one of his works. Terror ensues after an infected Sumatran rat-monkey bites a middle aged-woman from the suburbs and turns her into a zombie. Her son locks her in their basement, but she escapes and bites her neighbors who then turn into ravenous undead like her.

27. Scream (1996)

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The longer swedish #VHS version of #Scream released 1997. I remember buying this so called #directorscut version not only for more blood and gore, but also for about 20 minutes of #bonusmaterial after the movie. Some #behindthescenes and a #scream2preview. I did not buy many movies on VHS, but I guess that bonus material were rare on them. Since they have written an 18 years age limit on the cover, despite 15 years being the highest certificate in Sweden, the VHS is probably based on an uk release. I bought the movie on the classic local #videoshop Overlook some time before the theater release of the sequel. #screammovie #screamone #scream1 #wescraven #kevinwilliamson #filmsamling #vhsfilm #vhsmovie

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Dawson’s Creek writer Kevin Williamson and master of the macabre Wes Craven combine their powers to deliver a slasher flick with winks and callbacks to various horror tropes. Scream effectively renewed interest in horror movies in the mid-90s after viewers became fatigued with the genre due to the abundance of direct-to-video B movies and the number of horror sequels out there.

28. Ringu (1998)

Asian horror movies gained a foothold into American pop culture thanks to Ringu. It tells the story of a vengeful ghost named Sadako who comes and kills people unlucky enough to watch her cursed tape. The movie spawned several sequels in Japan and an American version.

29. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project earned its stripes to be on this list thanks to its novel use of documentary/handheld camera style to tell the tale of a group of young adults lost in the cursed woods of the Blair Witch. This movie made good use of the idiosyncrasies of the cameras at that time and used graininess and poor image quality at low-light levels to create a tense atmosphere all throughout the film.

List of Horror Films of the 2000s – Present

30. Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)

In the heels of Ringu comes Ju-On, the story of which unfolds through a curse spawned by a family in the hands of the father. Anyone who enters the house imbibes the curse and they themselves die horrible deaths and in turn cycle the curse onto people who enter their homes. People love Ju-On for its memorable jump scares.

31. The Descent (2005)

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🎥 The Descent (2005) Grade : A- When six friends go on a cave adventure, and the their leader decided to make an impromptu detour (more of a change of destination) — things are destined to get interesting. This film brings us to the discomfort of being stuck in a cave, searching for the possible exit/s — claustrophobia, anxiety, and all the stupidity one can (really) make in and around it — and the Lara Croft-ish (gruesome) monster ass-kicking final act is a great twist that gives a whole new layer of horror. I also love the ending, whichever one you choose, it's all good. Spoiler — there's a sequel. The Descent is a good horror/suspense/monster film, with a good mix of acting and visuals. How they make use of the supposedly dark cave to give us a great mix of colors and focus by frame is really an awesome work. And it did get my heart pounding at some point — worthy of an 8/10 stars (A-) rating. • ★★★★★★★★☆☆ #MagandaBaForMe — MAGANDA #MagandaBaMovie #MovieReview #MovieReviews #FilmReview #FilmReviews #HorrorMovie #HorrorMovies #HorrorFilm #HorrorFilms #Horror #Suspense #TheDescent #TheDescentMovie #cgmreviews

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Neil Marshall made his mark in recent history after directing episodes of Game of Thrones and Lost in Space, but before these, he made Dog Soldiers and The Descent. The movie begins when a group of women cave spelunkers explores an unknown cave and come face-to-face with subterranean flesh-eating creatures.

32. [REC] (2007)

Like The Blair Witch Project, [REC] uses a handheld camera to tell the story of survivors fending off zombies from the inside of a locked down apartment building. It is considered one of the best in the found footage horror film genre.

33. Let the Right One In (2008)

This award-winning movie centers on the story of a vampire child and a bullied kid who go on a murder spree targeting the protagonists’ bullies. The film achieved a 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and spawned an American version called Let Me In.

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34. Cabin in the Woods (2011)

Joss Whedon has already polished his horror chops through Buffy the Vampire Slayer before helming Cabin in the Woods and it shows in the slick narrative, tongue-in-cheek humor, and witty callbacks to various horror tropes across the decades. When you think it’s just another story of teens encountering cabin fever in a remote forest, think again and watch it for yourself. You won’t regret it.

35. The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook didn’t gain popularity in its home turf of Australia, but instead found critical-acclaim in the Sundance Film Festival, earning itself distribution rights in the US. It highlights the struggles of a single mother and her child against a Bogeyman-like supernatural creature called the Babadook, which resides in their home.

36. The Witch (2015)

Robert Eggers’ The Witch delivers slow-burning terror in this period flick about an exiled Puritan family who encounters supernatural forces in the woods from across their home. It starts with the death of their youngest and the family’s fortunes go downhill from there in harrowing fashion.

37. Get Out (2017)

Jordan Peele of the comedy duo Key & Peele, intended to make a horror movie with African-Americans focused as its audience. He combined racial satire with horror and gave us Get Out. The movie is a fresh take on horror and was hugely popular among critics and viewers alike, garnering it a 99% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

38. A Quiet Place (2018)

John Krasinski, who plays Jim in The Office and Jack Ryan in Jack Ryan, showed that there is no end to his talent after penning and directing A Quiet Place Its story is set in a world that has been invaded by man-eating aliens who hunt their prey by sound.

39. Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary puts its cold dead finger inside your gut and the feeling never leaves you long after the film credits have rolled by. Toni Collette plays a mother who strives to protect her family from a supernatural evil that has long haunted her family line.

Horror films serve an important function according to Dr. Steven Schlozman who details this in his TED Talk on the cinematic genre:

These films are some of the best horror films of all time and truly deserve your attention. We hope you found our list of horror films helpful and discovered the perfect movie(s) for your next horror movie night. Remember to microwave the popcorn ahead and invite your fear-prone friends over for some great reactions.

What’s your favorite horror movie? Tell us what makes it a must-watch in the comments section below! 

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