Horror Movies to Watch
Everyone has this list, whether it’s just in their heads or they actually have it written down on paper or on a blog somewhere. What is it exactly? It’s the list of scary movies that you think are the best. I’ve been meaning to type this article for a while, and the list actually started off small and then grew and grew until I had a lot of trouble narrowing it down.
Before anyone says anything, I want to make sure this is clear: this list, along with the synopses provided, is based solely on my opinion. No one got a vote and it’s not based on public opinion or the popularity of certain cult classics that the majority believes that everyone else should like. If there’s one thing you’ll notice, there’s an absence of quite a few popular movies with a lot of critical acclaim like: The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th. It’s not that I didn’t like them, it’s just they didn’t make my list. A few that I actually didn’t like and it isn’t a mistake that they’re not here are: The Grudge and I Spit on Your Grave. Poltergeist is one of those movies that I thought was just so cool and frightening when I was little, but when I saw it again a few months ago it didn’t have the same appeal. One of the biggest factors in me choosing the movies on my list was the timeless factor of their entertainment value. If it was a good movie in 1972, nothing should stop it from being a good movie in 2012 unless it just wasn’t that good of a movie to begin with. Then again, that’s just me.
Some very close calls that didn’t make this list are: Halloween, Cloverfield, The Last House on the Left (1970s version), 13 Ghosts, Let the Right One In, Cursed (not a very good movie, but it’s entertaining), and Thinner. Trust me, a LOT was left off but I think I chose right in the end. And I also gave my reasons for the movies that I’m sure a lot of people would be wondering why they’re on the list at all. Even if you don’t totally agree, at least you’ll understand why it’s there.
31. The Baby’s Room (subtitles)
The movie is in Spanish and I watched it on Netflix with subtitles. I know it’s been done before, but the concept felt fresh in this format. At first I thought it was just the standard haunting, but keep watching…it’s not.
30. Deep Blue Sea
I would’ve loved to have seen this movie in the theaters in 3D mainly because sharks freak me out. Especially these sharks. But it's the part right after Samuel L. Jackson gave his whole “we have to work together as a team” speech makes me laugh every single time. Maybe I shouldn’t have confessed that…
29. Practical Magic
I know you’re scratching your heads, but hear me out. This is chick lit “horror”. This is the movie for the guy who’s got a girlfriend that’s really not into the horror genre but she’s nagging you to watch something on Halloween. I guarantee you’ll both get what you want and, fellas, you won’t want to gouge your eyes out.
There’s a spooky factor to this film as well as an utterly charming one. They should hand out awards for perfecting casting because they did an absolutely wonderful job with the women and men they chose to bring this movie to life from the pages of Alice Hoffman’s novel onto the big screen. There are witches and there are ghosts, and in my eyes this film is a classic. And yes, I think it definitely has its place on my list.
28. The Killing Jar
I will always believe this is a bit of a rip off of the film, Feast, that won the Project Greenlight 3 contest sponsored by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and produced by the Maloofs (yes, I thought it was necessary to say all of that). The main differences were that in Feast there were aliens and chaos and in this one the threat was another human and a lot of the atmosphere held a weird eerie (almost chilling) calm. I like both films nearly equally, but only one could make the list, and this time the copycat was the winner.
I never saw this as a thriller, but as a straight up horror. There was a little bit of the gore factor, but mostly this was a total head trip as the guessing game played out. There’s a real feeling of claustrophobia as you watch and you can’t help but feel on edge like the characters. I first saw bits and pieces of it when it premiered on the Chiller channel, but saw it fully on Netflix about a year later. If anything, the next time you go to a diner at night and all the patrons are sitting about the same way they did in this film, it’d probably making you feel a bit uneasy about sliding into a booth and ordering a hot cup of coffee. Just sayin’…
27. The Night Flier
I didn’t read the book on which this film was based, but the film itself was creepy enough. Yes, it’s about vampires, but it’s the scary kind of vampires that aren’t really shown anymore. Even spookier, you don’t really see this vampire throughout the entire film (except at the very end), but hear about him and see the damage he left behind. Adam Feher is excellent in his role as the monumental jerk and Phoebe Cates plays the naïve good girl just as well. From beginning to end, this movie will not disappoint.
26. House on Haunted Hill (1999)
I’ve seen both versions and this one surpasses its original; Sorry diehard fans of the Vincent Price classics, but it really does. I saw this update years ago and I still enjoy it now. It was done on a much bigger scale with a thicker plot and this time I say the gore was well placed. A lot of movies splash blood and body parts around for almost no reason, but in this film I think it served its purpose. If you have a choice between which one to watch, I’d definitely say go with the 1999 version.
Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland, and Oliver Platt. All star cast? Check. Now all we needed was a cool plot and a good script to work with. Double check. The sets were just as perfect as the casting. This film was about death and these characters’ pasts and how they all have something they’ve never dealt with that they’ve buried in their subconscious. That’s a good enough description without giving too much away, I think.
24. Dead End
This is the film that won out over Halloween to be on this list. A lot of people criticize this movie saying that it’s been done before and all its predecessors were better, but I disagree. I’ve seen the others that preceded this effort and this far outshines them. There were things going on the movie that were totally weird, some horrifying, and some that were just plain funny, but in the end everything wraps up and you completely understand all the strangeness. Bottom line? Ray Wise is brilliant and I love this movie. I needn’t say more.
23. I Know What You Did Last Summer
I’m glad this film was made during an era when writers and directors still cared about the quality of teen horror they were putting out to their fans. Not only that, but they still understood the importance of keeping with the spirit of the books in which their movies were based and also adding that little extra something to them that made the movies special in their own right.
This was made when teen slasher flicks were the new rage. Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar were “It” girls; Freddie Prinze Jr. was dominating films as one of the most popular male "teen" stars; and Ryan Phillippe was the consummate heartthrob. They had all that in this one film which basically made it not only an instant classic, but you knew they had to have a sequel.
The reason it’s on the list is also because the spin they put on the movie that was just as good as the spin in the book--only they were different. It’s obvious that most producers and writers no longer know how to bring the books to life all the while stringing their audience along with stupidity until they try to figure something out one day (I know it’s a TV show, but ahem…Pretty Little Liars ring any bells?). This movie had an engaging plot, a cool sequence of events leading up to a good ending and not just random icky blood shots. They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore…
22. The Prophecy
It freaked me out when I saw it when I was younger and it freaked me out when I saw not too long ago. Actually, Christopher Walken just freaks me out, period, so that could be it. Well written, well acted, well paced. Need I say more? I didn’t think so.
21. The Shining
Everybody remembers the line, “Heeeerrrre’s Johnny!” from this film and they won’t shut up about it, but what I remember is those two freaky looking little dead girls and that river of blood that came rushing out of those open doors. Illusion or not, that was a lot of freakin’ blood to not bring it up in this article. The scariest thing about this movie is slowly watching the main character become unhinged in a fit of cabin fever. In the snow. Waaaay out in the snow. Add a brilliant director and a great script and we’ve got our classic horror film from a book I’ve never read. And no, the aforementioned ‘never’ was not a typo.
Wait till dark, cut off all the lights, get comfortable, and press play. This is one of those one time deal movies like Stir of Echoes and The Sixth Sense, so enjoy the experience because once you see the ending and figure everything out, there’s no real point in seeing it again because that ultimate scare factor is going to be gone. And this movie actually did give me a scare.
A lot of people claimed they were following the film’s storyline up until astral projection was mentioned. I don’t know if the concept itself went over their heads or if they just wanted to see a straight up ghost story and that’s it, but I thought it was a nice spin on the usual haunting fests that we see all the time. Have you ever had that feeling of being “dropped” onto your bed when you first wake up even though you know you weren’t sleepwalking or anything of the sort? Many different cultures and religions have their opinions and literature about that, but there’s one that says it’s your soul being put back into your body and that’s the feeling you get when you feel as if you’ve just fallen. My question is: Why do the people who are so ready to be entertained by ghost stories try to dismiss any other factor of the supernatural that may come to play within the plot of the film? The outrage that they feel when the film took a turn is baffling since it’s not taking a turn, it’s giving you their explanation of events.
All in all, I liked this movie a lot. I didn’t expect much and got a lot in return. I recommend it.
19. The Blair Witch Project
Years later and this movie still holds its appeal, namely because the characters they used don’t feel as if they’re playing characters, but they seem like they’re just regular people that ended up on the bad side of a situation. It’s the same concept they used in Paranormal Activity and I think that’s why that particular film was as popular as it was as well. A lot of people say it’s overrated and it was just a lot of arguing, but I want to know if they were actually paying attention to what was going on in the first place.
What started out as 3 people going on a little hike in some so-called haunted woods ended up with not only the entire plan unraveling with every step they took, but the debacle in which they found themselves tangled in at the end of the film. I thought the understated horror was the best part. It was the unseen thing, the monster, the hidden evil that seemed to be trying to chase them out of the woods at first and then calling to them like a siren in the end. Not only that, but the woods in across the field from my house remind me of the ones they got lost in. ‘Nuff said.
18. Paranormal Activity
I like movies that pretend the stuff really happened and use unknown actors and actresses to establish the fact. With that said, this movie is beyond creepy. I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about and just ended up watching it one Saturday night. Even though I thought that maybe the hype would be unfounded I took precautions--I wasn’t alone. I thought it was the typical haunting. Until the expert showed up. That’s when things started to get interesting. I’m not going to give anything else away from this movie, but the sequel pretty much rounded out the story even though the second installment was a lot less riveting than the first.
The first time I saw this I was at my next door neighbor’s birthday party when I was around 6 or 7 years old. It scared my neighbor’s father. He tried to play it off by offering to walk us home, but it was obvious. Flash forward about 20 years later and while it didn’t necessarily scare me like it did when I was little, it still has its classic creep factor. I love this movie. It’s for kids, but then again…it’s really not. It’s just a collection of short little tales played out on the big screen that big kids like myself still look back on every now again and enjoy. It deserves to be on this list for the simple fact that it still gives me goose bumps remembering the times when it actually used to scare me.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Kevin Bacon is being mentioned…again. But seriously, I think this was one of the best characters he’s ever portrayed on film. I know most actors of his caliber don’t really like to talk about the small roles in the horror films they acted in before their careers fully took off or when they were in a bit of a slump, but this movie is actually really good. He was so funny in this film and on top of that he was the handsome young cowboy type that you were rooting for to get the girl. This movie never gets old. Oh yeah, and then there are the underground people eating worms. Just thought I should mention that last part.
15. 30 Days of Night
I was surprised there hadn’t been a vampire movie based in Alaska before this, and if there is I’ve never heard about it. I also think this was one of the coolest vampire movies because these vampires were actually scary--with those huge black eyes, speaking that dead language, the predatory way they stalked the residents of this town and basically destroyed it--this is what a vampire film is supposed to be. With that said, a lot of people didn’t like this film and I get it, but at the same time, I think it exuded horror at its best. Not to mention the fact that Eben (played by Josh Hartnett) was just a badass for injecting himself with vampire blood. Like a popular men’s magazine said, he got his rock star moment, and that was it.
14. The Ring
We’ve seen the parodies done on the film and when I started watching it not too long ago I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting much. I’m glad I didn’t because I would’ve gotten any expectations that I had blown away. It was shot so beautifully, it gave everything a surreal quality; and I also liked the stillness and quiet way it was acted out. I think that gave the real horrifying moments all the more depth. I saw the sequel first and didn’t like it all, but this film definitely stands on its own.
13. Child’s Play
Was this some kind of sick twisted revenge on the people that made those My Buddy and Kid Sister dolls? Because every time I walked passed them on the toy aisle after that I never saw them the same again. Deranged killer, Voodoo, and a neglected little boy round out the horror in this film. Who thinks of this stuff, anyway?! Whoever it is, I greatly appreciate it.
12. The Craft
Okay, it’s another chick flick horror, but this one actually meets the horror factor for everyone. I’ve always said this was the original Mean Girls, only with witchcraft. Fairuza Balk’s face holds a certain eerie quality all its own. I’ve never thought she was ugly, but she looks strange enough to give you hint that she was going to be the one to keep an eye on throughout the film. And she was. The horror creeps up on you inch by skin crawling inch and then erupts at its climax. Guys can enjoy this one as well; the only problem would be trying to get them to admit it.
11. Jeepers Creepers
The opening scene just makes you go, “WTF?!” and the rest of the movie goes along that same trek at an easy speed. Basically a brother and sister are driving on a state-long back road because after listening to their conversation, at least the way the little brother Darry told it, she was trying to clear her head after her breakup with her boyfriend. Trisha, the sister, never admitted this, but I’m pretty sure she got a lot more than she bargained for by the end of the night. The Creeper itself is a creature shrouded in mystery and that adds to the scariness we encounter on the screen. The only real problem I have with this film is the fact that Darry and Trisha treated the woman, Gizele, that was trying to help them from the beginning of their ordeal like garbage. No one believed Darry and the terrifying “Sistine Chapel” of weaved together bodies he’d seen in the basement of the old abandoned church, yet Gizele was trying to tell him something and all he and his sister would do was yell expletives at her as if she were intruding on their experience. That’s the one thing that’s always irked me about this movie. I’ve always wondered what would’ve happened, if circumstances would’ve been changed, had either of the siblings (or both of them) had half a brain to listen to her warnings. It’s a good movie, but the sequel was a lot better--having smarter characters and all, I guess that was a given.
10. From Dusk Till Dawn
I think the first time I watched this was in 2001. All I saw was that it was written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Robert Rodriguez and I was so in there. I popped into my VCR (leave me alone, I still have one…in addition to my DVD player so you can’t judge me) and I thought it was going to be some kind of action/psychological thriller and then somebody walked by and said, “Isn’t that the film about vampires?” I frowned and went, “No. Vampires? No!” Seriously, I didn’t read the description. I wish nobody had said anything because I truly would’ve been surprised when Salma Hayek turned into a blood sucking creature of the night a little less than halfway through. I think I’ve given away too much for anyone who’s never seen it, but trust me, this film packs a punch like few others can. It’s witty, funny, gruesome, and very well written. It’s classic Tarantino and classic Rodriguez when they could still manage to wow me--you can’t go wrong.
9. Jeepers Creepers 2
I like this movie. A LOT. Very few sequels exceed their predecessors, but it does happen and this is one of those times. Since the original film was low budget and I thought it was okay, I didn’t expect this one to be much better even though I’d heard good things about it. Sometimes it’s good to listen to the hype. These were little known actors used, but they did a really good job. And listen to the cast and director commentary--it’s almost better than the movie.
Since the generation before me had Jamie Lee Curtis as their “Scream Queen” is Neve Campbell the one for my Gen X’s? Even if she isn’t, let’s just say she is (I’ll write an article about that later…) and get to this little gem of a movie. This is the movie that revived the slasher films--and handed its crown over to the teens. Neve Campbell shines, Rose McGowan can do no wrong (on screen, anyway), Skeet Ulrich managed to pull off both creepy and sexy, Matthew Lillard made me laugh as always (his facial expressions are a comedy all their own), Jamie Kennedy was good fodder, David Arquette’s pedo mustache and goofy behavior took the edge off, and Courteney Cox was in a whole new role from what we’d seen her play on Friends. Kevin Williamson did a great job with this movie and I still it today. It seriously doesn’t get old and I’ve seen it too many times to count. It’s the thing any good slasher film is made of.
7. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Running zombies. I could stop right there, but it doesn’t do this film justice. I think the thing that I love the most about this movie is all the human emotion it manages to convey when it really could’ve fallen flat. It was indeed well written and you felt the desperation and loneliness in their situations the entire time. Running zombies…no wonder there wasn’t anybody left…
6. Halloween: 20 Years Later
This film could stand on its own; it doesn’t need any of the previous or subsequent films to let this one tell its story. The cast was terrific--all of them. I don’t think there was a wasted performance among the bunch, but I thought Jamie Lee Curtis was great in this movie. Michael Myers just stands on his own, as always. I wonder what a talk show he hosted would be like…hmm…
5. Tales from the Crypt (1972)
Please don’t get this film confused with the version that was made a year later. The one that was done the following year in 1973 was atrocious. I couldn’t even finish watching the other one till the end, and trust me, I tried. This one on this list is the one co-starring the legendary Joan Collins.
This film hosts a Crypt Keeper of a different sort. It’s the story of some people that are about to get their stories told--whether they like it or not. And the way it turns out, I think they would’ve preferred if they’d been kept private since none of them were painted in the best light. I saw this years ago and I thought it was cool and I saw it with my 10 year old niece a few months ago and I still thought it was cool--she thought it was friggin’ scary. So there you go--obvious classic and timeless.
4. Land of the Dead
Smart zombies. A lot of films have used this concept where the zombies, deep down, begin to recall some of their fundamental human characteristics/instincts, but a lot of them don’t translate all that well and it ends up looking a bit contrived (I realize it’s a zombie film, but you know what I mean). I think George A. Romero did a fantastic job with this movie. John Leguizamo was great, Asia Argento was charming, and Simon Baker was the guy I was rooting for from the beginning. I go back to this again and again and I never get tired of it.
3. Pet Sematary
This was the “original” zombie horror flick. At least that’s how I see it even though there were a number of zombie movies made before this was even written as a book and technically there were only a total of 5 zombies shown onscreen, 2 of them being animals. The thing is, it’s the story behind these zombies that makes this the Grandfather of All Zombie Films because it went beyond the usual cheap scare of just hair, makeup, wardrobe, and fake blood attachments. It’s not the unknown trying to break down your door in this movie, but it’s the call of evil and the way humans are susceptible to it. It’s the way the forbidden scares us and lures us all at the same time. The main character was warned over and over not to beyond the barrier, but he did it anyway and paid the price.
I can never, to this day, watch this movie completely alone in my house. It freaks the hell out of me. And it’s not that the main character (played by Dale Midkiff) was such a good actor, it was the story and the setting that made it all come together. The book is even better; it’s one of my all-time favorite horror novels. It’s the way the Wendigo is mentioned and the Indian burial ground that goes sour and the haunting story of “what could have happened” that even brought this story to life in the first place.
My mother made a sitting area for herself in her backyard in a patch of area about the size of a lot (in land measurements). In her area she arranged a couple chairs, a few rustic looking standing ornaments, and she also has a few trees and other plants arranged that makes certain that particular space is always shrouded in shade. At the edge of the land the entrance to the wooded area is always thick whether it’s with the bases of large trees clustered together in the winter or clumps of overlapping lush grass in the summer. I can’t set foot back there. Not only does it look spooky, but it totally reminds me of the path leading toward the Micmac burial ground even though it looks rather different. I always think someone, or something, is going to walk right out of that tangle of blades and vines and head towards her house, stumbling along its way. Or I guess it’s just my overactive imagination. Come to think of it, I don’t much like looking back there either--gives me the heebie jeebies. But I guess that’s what a good story does: it takes root and lives there and ends up leaking out into our real lives. (I’m pretty sure someone reading this last paragraph is either rolling their eyes or laughing, but I’m pretty sure we all have a story like this in one way or another. I hope.)
2. Trick ’r Treat
I’m surprised how much I ended up liking this movie. It’s basically a little collage of events that takes place on one night in a weird little town called Quiet Valley where a lot of strange things are about to happen to some rather strange…“people”. I saw this movie for the first about a year ago and I fell in love with it right away. It’s not that it’s so unbelievably well written or anything, most people would probably say it’s just “average” (maybe even below), but I love the way each story carried its own weight in the film and had its own engaging elements. Plus, Anna Paquin is in it dressed as Little Red Riding Hood. How adorable! Oh wait…maybe not so much.
1. Final Destination 2
You don’t need to see the first one to enjoy the second installment in this franchise. In fact, don’t even bother with the ones that come after this because not only do the titles that follow this film pale in comparison, the last 3 movies are downright atrocious. Except maybe the last 4 minutes of the 5th Final Destination--but I don’t think those last handful of minutes made up for the idiocy that I had to sit through for over an hour just to get to that part.
Back to the second film.
After this film they stopped caring about the logistics of the story line and instead seemed to focus mainly on how gory they could make the death scenes. I’m not saying this one didn’t have its moments of blood splatter and grossness, but it was the ironic timeline it followed and the circumstances that made this film worth watching over and over again. The other films seemed to have writers that just wanted to make the death scenes weird, and in the 5th one it was like some moron picked up a pen and went, “Let me see…hm…what are people’s biggest fears? I know! Kill them in a tanning bed! Kill them with Lasik eye surgery!” They didn’t seem to understand where the franchise’s motivation stemmed from and they completely lost the plot. However, this film (the 2nd) had a real symmetry to the deaths that never let you see what was coming around the corner, how the character was going to meet their end. It left your mouth hanging open in shock and the foreshadowing was always appropriately cryptic. And even though you don’t have to see the first one to appreciate this one, for the ones of us who did watch the original film its mentioned enough so that you get the drift and also pays a nice homage to the one that started it all. Not only that, but they brought back a major player from the 1st Final Destination: Clear (played by Ali Larter).
How did this movie beat out all the others? How did this sequel beat out all the zombies and vampires and ghosts and ghouls and serial killers and become number one? Aside from the great outline, it’s people’s morbid fascination with trying to cheat death and the lengths a number of human beings will go to so they wouldn’t die. Yes, this was a movie, but I could imagine any number of people going beyond the lengths these characters went just so they wouldn’t die. And that’s what horror is all about. It’s about fear, it’s about death, it’s about all our lives that are surrounded by it and yet we go on and carry on with grocery shopping and bill paying. Horror wouldn’t exist without our fears and this movie plays on the epitome of them: how do you stop (or control) the inevitable? The thing is, you can’t. But there’ll always be someone in Hollywood to play around that concept.
Movie Whisperer from Moreton Bay, Queensland on July 26, 2017:
Love Final Destination and agree with your conclusions on why its the best however I loved the original just as much and I would insist someone watch it if I were introducing someone to the franchise. Surprinsingly, I havent seen Trick r Treat. Must watch it I guess. I could never rank a list do well done in that respect.
Stickmonkey on October 27, 2013:
Not all are my fav's,but the world of horror needs us all.
Grim Master from Below the Earth on August 17, 2012:
October is my month for a horror fest! I'd also recommend the original John Carpenter movie The Thing, and The Fog. Oh, and REC. Can't go wrong with a great found footage film.
Hazzabanana8 from Southern Realms of England on August 17, 2012:
The last 45minutes of Paranormal Activity is possibly the scariest thing I've ever seen.
Der Meister on August 17, 2012:
Sweet list with lots of good recommendations.
"If it was a good movie in 1972, nothing should stop it from being a good movie in 2012 unless it just wasn’t that good of a movie to begin with."