For over a century, horror has brought our deepest and darkest fears to life, making our hearts pound in delight, terrified of any late-night phone calls, and jumping at the smallest sounds. We can all agree that getting scared to the point where you’re left screaming is just plain fun.
But let’s not get it twisted; it takes a lot for a movie to make someone truly shake with terror. There’s nothing more disappointing for horror fans than cheap jump scares and tired stories ruining your valuable spooky time.
So to make sure your movie nights are certifiably disturbing and goosebumps-inducing, we’ve curated a list of the best horror films for all your ghoulish and ghastly needs. Whether it is the gory slashers from the ‘80s or the mind-boggling psychological thrillers of the 2000s, we’ve made sure our top picks will leave everyone who dares to watch them cowering behind their seats. So if you’re ready, and aren’t too squeamish, here are our picks of the best horror movies you can watch right now.
What is the scariest horror movie of all time?
- The Shining
- The Thing
- The Ring
- Evil Dead 2
- The Babadook
- The Lighthouse
The Shining (1980)
Deeply psychological and intimidating, The Shining (loosely inspired by the Stephen King novel of the same name) is a bona fide classic. It’s a movie everyone has at least heard of, with many horror enthusiasts continuing to praise it as their all-time favourite, and for good reason.
The Shining takes the term ‘stir crazy’ to a whole new level, as Jack Torrance and his family end up stranded in the ominous Overlook Hotel with a supernatural force that slowly tears them apart. Directed by the visionary auteur Stanley Kubrick, its cinematography, script, and well of subtext have generated a mass of fan conspiracies over the years but cemented its place in history as one of the creepiest cinematic experiences you can have.
The Thing (1982)
When you talk about the standout horror classics, there are no ifs, buts, or maybes; John Carpenter’s The Thing has to be in the conversation. The ‘80s science fiction horror, with its paranoid atmosphere and gruesome practical effects, gives us a straight dose of gory nightmare fuel while making us eye our friends and even pets with suspicion.
Otherworldly: Here are the best alien movies of all time
Set in an Arctic base, a parasitic alien starts killing off the crew members while shapeshifting into their identities, making trusting even your closest friends an impossible task. The Thing boasts some of the best practical effects ever seen on the silver screen, which cemented its place in cinematic history as one of the most unforgettable body horrors of all time.
The feature debut of writer-director Ari Aster, Hereditary is centred around a family’s trauma and blurs the boundaries between psychological and supernatural horror.
We all know fear is subjective, and not everyone will be scared by the same thing, but with this film’s immense variety of twisted material and sinister subtext, it’s a safe bet to say that no matter who you are, you’re going to be left frightened while watching it. Aster’s script is steeped in dread and shows a family imploding in upon itself in one of the best displays of grief seen in modern horror today.
The Ring (1998)
Who doesn’t love some Japanese horror that’s guaranteed to keep you up at night? Hideo Nakata’s The Ring (better known as Ringu) is widely acclaimed for being an unnerving example of slow-burn terror done right and is the film we have to thank for popularising J-horror with international audiences.
Haven’t been put off telly forever? Plenty more TV here
At its core, the film is a mystery with a deadline, telling the tense story of a cursed videotape that will kill the viewer seven days after watching it. It’s an unsettlingly quiet movie, creepy throughout, and leaves you feeling emotionally scarred by the time you learn the truths behind its masterfully crafted story.
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
A true definition of a cult classic, Evil Dead II is one of the most “Groovy” intersections of horror and black comedy you can find. Ash Williams and his girlfriend just wanted a quiet getaway; however, unsurprisingly, choosing to vacation in an abandoned cabin in the woods wasn’t the best idea. From ancient scriptures, demonic forces, chainsaws, and deafening shotguns, Ash finds himself fighting to survive a nightmare.
You ‘avin’ a laugh? The best comedy movies of all time
Unlike the first Evil Dead film, which takes itself quite seriously, the sequel is more playful, with even the more gruesome horror elements played for laughs. If you are a fan of practical effects and are looking for some top tier self-aware cheesy acting, Evil Dead II delivers horror and comedy like no other.
The Babadook (2014)
Seasoned horror fans may consider themselves desensitised to a good old fright, able to predict the jump scares and creepy storylines. Whelp not anymore, the Australian horror movie, The Babadook, is the kind of film that will leave even veteran fans of the genre unsettled and shaking in their seats.
It’s about a single mother and her problem child, who one night find a mysterious and disturbing storybook called The Babadook. It’s uncanny, melancholy, and will make your heart race every time you open your closet door. The Babadook is a well written, brilliantly performed, and superbly directed psychological horror that’s rightfully earned its place on this list.
Ari Aster, straight off the back of his success with Hereditary, hits it out of the park again with more creepy cults and shocking scenes. Midsommar follows a couple on the rocks going to Sweden with their friends, expecting a lively mid-summer festival but instead ending up entangled with a violent pagan cult.
Need cheering up? Check our list of the best movies ever
The film is a candid look at emotions, with an overarching theme of healing through trauma, albeit in a pretty messed up way. It’s a layered story that feels incredibly unique, and you may even go so far as calling it a morbid yet relatively positive horror film. Not many other movies can make you squirm, torture its characters, and show stomach-turning deaths while simultaneously making you feel strangely optimistic by the time the credits start to roll.
No one can deny John Carpenter’s Halloween is one of the most influential and well-known horror flicks of all time. Set in a normal-looking American neighbourhood, serial killer Michael Myers (newly escaped from an asylum) returns home and begins to turn the once quiet streets into his personal hunting ground.
In typical slasher fashion, it’s an unapologetic love letter to murder, with sexually active teenagers being the first to go. The premise is simple, focusing on paranoia and the terror felt when being stalked. Its emphasis on basic human instincts, paired with the iconic eerie soundtrack (composed and performed by Carpenter himself), makes Halloween go down in history as THE must-watch slasher.
The Lighthouse (2019)
This psychological horror is a tense, entertaining tale of two men trapped together on the coast. Set during the late 19th century, a young man takes a contract job, working for a lighthouse keeper for a month on an isolated island near New England. His days are full of physically taxing work, while dark hallucinations consume his nights.
The movie’s portrayal of the breakdown of sanity and striking black and white imagery is impossible to look away from or forget. With Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe also giving powerful performances, The Lighthouse is unquestionably a modern standout that will leave you entranced by its chilling storytelling.
Directed by Takashi Miike, Audition will leave you shocked, nauseous, and have you throwing your expectations about horror and gender out the window. Tonally few other films feel as well structured or thought out, as the horror is skillfully seeded throughout before hitting you at the end like a tonne of bricks.
Telling the story of a widower who lets his friend set up a fake movie audition in order to scout a potential wife, the film follows his relationship with the ‘perfect woman’ that increasingly becomes more strained due to a dark past. Quiet scenes have never felt so unnerving, and violent depictions of torture never as terrifying as they do here.
Visually it doesn’t get better than Suspiria. The Italian cult classic is one of the most stylish and gory supernatural horrors ever. It’s a spooky slasher story about a ballet dancer who enrols as a student at a prestigious German academy. After arriving, she soon realises her new school seems to be a front for sinister forces and witchcraft.
Suspiria is packed with imagery that feels special, with each grisly murder getting under your skin. After watching it, you’ll be left an emotionally confused mess as the film does a superb job at scaring you senseless while also leaving you in awe at its strangely beautiful cinematography.
Jordan Peel has established himself as one of the names to watch in modern horror, giving us some of the best-written stories of recent times, full of powerful social commentary. His passion for the genre is obvious, and his latest film, Us, is filled with everything horror fans latch onto and love.
You want bloody deaths? No problem. How about a creepy Twilight Zone-esque plot? Well, say no more. Following the story of a family who meets their murderous duplicates, viewers watch as the tight-knit unit confronts themselves and fight to survive. Us is about America, the darker side of human nature, mirror images, and takes the time to make us care about the characters before hitting us hard with violent action.
The film that shocked the world with a twist ending that went down in cinematic history, no best of horror list is complete without Alfred Hitchcock’s anxiety-inducing masterpiece Psycho. The film opens on a rainy night with a woman on the run who checks into the Bates Motel.
Life on the run is fun, right? The best action movies of all time
There she meets Norman Bates, a young, traumatised man under his mother’s thumb. Here we have something you don’t often see, a charming killer, seemingly harmless, and all the more terrifying as a result. As Norman’s damaged psyche slowly exposes itself, and Hitchcock continually subverts audience expectations, you can’t help but feel a sense of growing nervousness and dread while watching Psycho.
If you haven’t noticed already, we here at The Digital Fix love practical effects, so it was a no brainer to add Clive Barker’s gory, supernatural classic Hellraiser to our list. Based on Barker’s 1968 novel, the film has a perfect horror plot, full of murder, lust, and even features a group of trans dimensional sadomasochists who take torture scenes to a whole new level. (shout out to Pinhead)
Larry and his wife Julia move into a new house, but they aren’t alone. After some blood accidentally seeps into the floorboards, Larry’s brother Frank’s skinless and gooey corpse is revived. Affairs, graphic deaths, mysterious puzzle boxes, and Silent Hill-esque monsters dominate this movie. Hellraiser stands as a top-notch spooky flick that aims to scare by making you feel constantly repulsed at its brilliantly brutal practical effects. Few other films can leave you feeling as gloriously sick to your stomach as well as this movie can.
SpongeBob’s Patrick Star is getting his own show starting July
Continue the conversation over on The Digital Fix Forum