15 of Our Favorite Horror Movies

We acknowledge the arbitrary nature of a roundup of this ilk. That said, we can vouch that the following films—classics still terrifying today, modern tales as horrifying as they are original, and foreign fare so spooky you’ll be glad you have those subtitles to focus on—leave permanent scars.


15. The Changeling (1980)

Horror movies don’t always function with a scream queen in the lead. In the case of Peter Medak’s bravura Changeling, George C. Scott (Patton, Dr. Strangelove) is in the driver’s seat. As John Russell, a composer who leaves New York City and moves into a haunted mansion in Seattle, he helps steer a terrifying entry to the top of the specter subgenre.


14. Hereditary (2018)

Filmmaker Ari Aster may claim that his traumatizing directorial debut is more “domestic melodrama” than supernatural nightmare, but hear this: Minutes into this deeply effective drama about a grieving family in crisis, and the hairs on the back of your neck won’t even bother standing up—they will turn and run in the opposite direction. And Toni Collette at the root of the family tree, bravo.


13. Saw (2004)

During a post-film screening Q&A back in 2010, James Wan self-deprecatingly likened his early-career cult feature Saw to a “student film.” But we beg to differ. There is nothing amateur about the twisted and gruesome sequence of events on display in the horror film that took the torture porn subgenre from low-hanging exploitation to masterful storytelling in the 2000s. About so much more than just the two men who awake to abduction hell, it also has one of the best surprise endings known to horror cinema.


12. The Thing (1982)

In 1982, Halloween horror maestro John Carpenter made one thing clear when he released The Thing: We are definitely never going to Antarctica, the shiver-inducing setting for his sci-fi horror film. The film’s shapeshifting alien, which assumes one’s likeness and then slaughters all human life in its path, has scarred us for life.


11. The Evil Dead (1981)

Now a cult classic you may rejoice in with friends every Halloween season, Sam Raimi’s shoestring production that launched a cult supernatural franchise is actually quite the shudder fest upon first viewing. Starring a cast of archetypes including the macho protagonist, the nubile sweetheart, and the cocky clown, the film charts a gory battle between this group of friends and the demonic Deadite zombies they’ve awakened while on a retreat to a remote cabin. (P.S. The remake by Fede Alvarez, a grisly reinterpretation, is no slouchy scare either.)


10. The Babadook (2014)

Aussie director Jennifer Kent forced even the staunchest horror buffs into huddled masses with the feature-length version of her dark fairytale short Monster. With practical effects and a chilling narrative, Kent taps into the one thing no one wants to admit: there’s a monster inside us all.


9. Night of the Living Dead (1967)

A staple for horror purists, George Romero’s zombie classic just gets weirder with time. Its premise is simple enough: outrun zombies. But make sure you bring your appetite—the walking undead in this black-and-white classic are dishing out the gore in gobs.


8. Audition (2001)

Don’t let the first two-thirds of Japanese master of horror Takashi Miike’s Audition fool you; the blood-curdling horror is coming. The film begins with a sort of regular joe’s Bachelor: A widower agrees to choose a potential wife from a lineup of women at a pseudo movie. As the narrative progresses, the audience—and our bachelor—are enlightened to just who the lucky lady really is.


7. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Anyone who grew up in the ‘80s while Wes Craven was unleashing installments of Freddy Krueger mayhem the way Willy Wonka’s Candy Man doles out sweet treats will understand why this nightmare lives not on Elm Street but in the back corners of our mind—forever burned into our psyche. In the franchise opener, we’re introduced to the sardonic villain, and the group of teenagers on his to-kill list.


6. A Quiet Place (2018)

The Office’s John Krasinski stars in and directs this muted creature feature, which also stars his real-life wife, Emily Blunt, in a commanding performance that peaks while silently giving birth in a bathtub. She can’t moan or groan because she, and what’s left of civilization, are being stalked by amaurotic monsters who hunt only by sound.


5. Alien (1979)

Ridley Scott masters nearly unbearable suspense in his excessively gory tale of a mysterious lifeform and the heroine named Ripley it battles on some random interstellar moon. If that doesn’t scare you to the point of crying and shaking in a corner, then the thought of the entire affair going down a gazillion miles from Earth where no one can hear a scream should.

Train To Busan

4. Train To Busan (2016)

The great thing about horror: Just when you think a subgenre’s dead, there’s always a brilliant new entry that zaps fresh, new life back into it. And that’s exactly what happened when South Korean director Sang-ho Yeon unleashed his zombie epic, Train to Busan, on audiences who only thought they’d had their fill of the undead. An unrelenting and action-packed pulse-raiser that focuses on a father and daughter who board a train just as the apocalypse begins, it takes more of the Danny Boyle-style approach to its virally infected, rather than, say, George A. Romero. Read: There are no slow staggers here; zombies be in full-on torque mode. And they don’t let up for nearly two hours. Look for the American remake coming soon.


3. Candyman (1992)

The ‘90s classic starring Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd, and based on “The Forbidden” short story by Clive Barker, has nothing to do with filling knapsacks with the confection of the chosen holiday and everything to do with summoning social discourse and themes of race, sex, and class. About a grad student researching the true story behind the myth of the Candyman, a Black man with a hook for a hand who appears when you say his name five times in the mirror, the slasher film has morphed from cult indie classic to essential sociopolitical viewing. But don’t be fooled: This flick is still hella scary. Now, if only September would get here. That’s when director Nia DaCosta’s remake, which boasts a Jordan Peele screenplay update, is due.


2. Get Out (2017)

Funnyman Jordan Peele goes where horror has rarely gone before: straight into American racism. Get Out pulls back the curtain on a “post-racial” U.S. to reveal the insidious nature that continues to fester. It’s scary AF.


1. The Shining (1980)

Not only does director Stanley Kubrick cripple the senses with effects and imagery (even if you haven’t seen the movie, you know the corridor of blood-gushing nightmares), but he also weaves a tale so rich in symbolism it’s still picked apart today, and so skewed in perception that by the time it’s over, you—like our dull boy—have gone completely mad.

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