What are the best horror movies of all time? For over a century, horror films have 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 are the best horror movies of all time?
- It: Chapter One
- Eyes Without a Face
- Bride of Frankenstein
- Night of the Living Dead
- Rosemary’s Baby
- Cabin in the Woods
- It Follows
- The Descent
- The Fly
- Dawn of the Dead
- Get Out
- The Shining
- The Thing
- The Ring
- Evil Dead 2
- The Babadook
- The Lighthouse
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
- The Exorcist
It: Chapter One (2017)
A movie which came with the pressure of not only adapting an epic Stephen King novel, but also of remaking a cult ‘90s TV movie, the first part of Pennywise the Clown’s rebirth sure had a lot to live up to. Luckily, director Andy Muschietti and his team delivered, and then some.
A brilliant young cast, including the likes of Stranger Things alum Finn Wolfhard, take on the terrifying threat of Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgård) after a spate of missing children cases in the small town of Derry. Pennywise is sinister, sadistic, and has an insatiable hunger for small humans.
This is a modern remake that ticks all the boxes; It Chapter One has some truly wild jump scares, a relentless sense of foreboding, and a little bit of comic relief, too. It’s just a shame Chapter Two couldn’t finish the job effectively.
Eyes Without a Face (1960)
The 1960 French movie, Eyes without a Face is gothic horror to the extreme, and is guaranteed to give you nightmares about faceless figures haunting your homes and hallways. Directed by Georges Franju, the flick acts as a twisted fairy-tale obsessed with the concept of beauty and entrapment.
We watch a plastic surgeon continually lure victims into his home and then proceed to use his skills to steal their faces for his disfigured daughter against their will. Sounds pretty horrific, right? Well, that’s because it is, and after witnessing it, you will fully understand how understatedly disturbed that concept truly reaches.
Between madness, eerie poetic cinematography and a minimalistic white mask that you can’t forget, Eyes Without a Face will leave you shaking in your boots.
Adapted from Stephen King’s first novel, Brian Da Palma ditches the book’s epistolary style to instead focus on the eponymous Carrie (Sissy Spacek), a shy and bullied high school girl who discovers she has incredible telekinetic powers.
This is no superhero origin story, though. It’s an exploration of teen cruelty that ultimately ends in a bloody explosion of violence as Carrie turns her newfound abilities on her vicious tormentors.
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The glorious sets and effects work imbue the classic Universal Monster movies with a timelessness that’s typified in the grimly romantic Bride of Frankenstein. Boris Karloff returns as the Monster, still terrorised by villagers at every turn. He tracks down Dr Pretorius, and conspires with him to push Dr Freankenstein into making a female creature so the two can mate.
An even greater abomination of God rises from the experiment, the cold, shrieking Bride. Elsa Lanchester’s thousand-yard stare makes Karloff’s besotted performance even more saddening, if such a thing is possible. A second fiery ending doubles down on the tragedy, and Lanchester’s double-casting as a narrating Mary Shelley shows director James Whale’s understanding of the base story.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
When it comes to the undead, nobody did it quite like George A. Romero. The legendary filmmaker is not only the king of the zombie movie, he practically wrote the textbook on the sub-genre, and it all started with his 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead.
It’s incredible to look back and see what was achieved all those decades ago, without the use of visual effects and fancy filmmaking techniques; just a tense story and disturbing visuals. This movie is proof that sometimes, less is more.
This misty vampire movie draws from Sheridan Le Fanu’s gothic fiction, one of the key inspirations for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. There’s less bloodsucking in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s ethereal production, where a wandering cultist discovers demonic creatures preying on a small town, kept by an evil doctor in a nearby castle.
Shadows spring to life and dark premonitions take hold in the dreamlike narrative, held together by elegant edits. A widespread shot of a man holding a scythe is but one of many striking images, made all the more memorable by the experimental audio features. Haunting.
Move aside, David Cronenberg, there is a new master of body horror in town! French filmmaker Julia Ducournau burst onto the scene in 2016 with her grisly, cannibalistic coming-of-age directorial debut, and hasn’t looked back since. She even won the top prize at Cannes Film Festival in 2021 for her latest film, Titane.
Raw is an incredible sensory overload, with gloriously gory visuals, a blistering musical score, and a great story at the heart of it all. It might not be scary, but the horror genre is a broad spectrum, so if you’re looking for unsettling and shocking content, Raw is the movie for you.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Sometimes horror delivers you with a gut-punch of tension, and leaves you suspicious of everyone you meet. This is the case of Rosemary’s Baby, which follows the story of a young pregnant woman whose new neighbours start eyeing her up, and grooming her for their ritual to birth the son of Satan.
Directed by Roman Polanski, Rosemary’s Baby falls into one of the most exciting time periods of horror – when women’s rights were at the forefront of the public’s mind. Although it was released pre-Roe v. Wade, Rosemary’s Baby, is a chilling look at the horrors and psychological turmoil of pregnancy, showing us a frightening depiction of becoming trapped by what society deems as a gift (even if it is literally the son of the devil), and losing control of your maternal body in the process.
Mia Farrow is utterly brilliant as the leading role, and from the flick’s writing, creepy lullaby score and eerie atmosphere, it proves to be a timeless piece of scary cinema.
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Funny, scary, and delightfully meta, The Cabin in the Woods is a horror movie made for people who love the silly cliches and trappings of the spookiest genre. The film follows a group of college students who take a trip to the titular cabin in the woods and find themselves attacked by undead revenants – so far, so horror movie.
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What separates Cabin in the Woods from your average blood-splattered slasher is the clever reveal that the scares are actually being deliberately manufactured. A delight from start to finish Cabin in the Woods begins as a love letter to all your favourite silly horror tropes and ends with a gory massacre. Sounds ideal.
It Follows (2014)
Like any good horror movie, It Follows was conceived from the recurring nightmares its creator experienced as a child. This unique story of sexually transmitted stalkers is one of the most original and anxiety-inducing horrors of recent years, and is so impressive in its creativity.
Incredible shot composition and use of negative space will leave you scanning the screen for where the next scare will come from. A wicked score and immaculate production design heighten the sense of dread. And, with an ambiguous ending, all kinds of disturbing questions will live on in your mind long after the credits roll.
The Descent (2005)
A claustrophobe’s worst nightmare, The Descent, follows a group of spelunkers who – after being led to an unmapped cave system – find themselves trapped underground in a pitch-black labyrinth of caverns and tunnels. Oh, and there are cannibalistic monsters after them as well.
The Descent is a harrowing but engrossing watch that plays on everyone’s instinctive fear of being trapped in the dark. The film gets grisly before the main characters go underground and only ramps up from there. We’d be remiss not to mention its gut-punch of a twist ending that’ll leave even the most courageous of film fans reeling.
The Fly (1986)
Sometimes the remake blows its original source material out of the water, and that is the case for David Cronenberg’s The Fly. A remake of Kurt Neumann’s 1958 film of the same name, The Fly, amps up the horror from the ‘50s mystery script, giving us a stark and alarming look at the degeneration of a human being – which is guaranteed to haunt your dreams.
Loosely based on George Langelaan’s short story, the film follows the eccentric scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), who ends up turning himself into a fly-human hybrid when one of his experiments goes terribly wrong.
Here we get a master class in body horror, and practical effects as Seth watches his very being melt and transform into a horrific set of limbs before his eyes.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
George A Romero’s outsized sequel to Night of the Living Dead starts with a city apartment block under siege from the undead and police alike, and only gets bleaker from there. A small group manages to hole up in a shopping mall while the world burns, but find that all shelter is temporary.
Considerably larger than its predecessor, Dawn of the Dead is just as much of a character drama. Such is key to Romero’s brand of terror: the mundanity that awaits us at the end of the world. Crude yet majestic effects and light-footed music make for a masterpiece that’s of its time yet solemnly ageless.
Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele certainly made his mark on the horror movie scene with his directorial debut. Get Out is a thrilling, chilling portrayal of the racial tensions between an African American (Daniel Kaluuya) and his white girlfriend’s family, who ultimately look to exploit him and auction him off to the highest bidder.
Get Out features one of the best plot twists in movie history, and is one of the sharpest, most incisive horror movies of the modern era. Peele combines genuine scares with uncomfortable humour, to prove that he is more than capable of making the jump from comedy to horror.
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 Hellbound Heart, the film has a perfect horror plot, full of murder, lust, and even features a group of trans-dimensional sadomasochistic (known as Cenobites) who take torture scenes to a whole new level, all led by the iconic Pinhead.
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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.
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 movie, 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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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. 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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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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 Peele 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 film, Us, is filled with everything horror fans latch onto and love.
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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.
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.
The Texas chain saw massacre (1974)
An iconic slasher, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is not only terrifying but introduced the world to one of the most famous figures in the horror community, the cannibal Leatherface. Directed by Tobe Hooper, the film was famously banned in several countries due to its extreme violence, and to this day, still stands as a stomach-turning gorefest that’ll leave those brave enough to watch it shaking and sleepless for days.
The story follows a group of unsuspecting victims who, after picking up a hitchhiker, get tangled up in a bloody struggle for survival once their van breaks down. As the young folks venture into a creepy farmhouse in search of gas, they encounter deadly cannibals who have a particular taste for head cheese. A true horror gem, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a sure-fire way to make you scream.
The Exorcist (1973)
We couldn’t leave out one of the most acclaimed films on our list of the top scary picks of cinema, now, could we? The Exorcist is widely known as ‘the horror movie to watch’ even if you aren’t a fan of the genre, because yes, it is just that good.
Directed by William Friedkin, the flick follows the story of a 12-year-old girl who gets possessed by a mysterious entity (spoiler alert, it’s a demon). The Exorcist is expertly written to craft feelings of pure anxiety and terror as we see the actors fully embrace their supernatural roles in a scarily believable performance.
On top of being just plain terrifying in its atmosphere and tone, The Exorcist was also the first horror movie ever to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, making it a trailblazer for the genre. So yeah, watch it, and then rewatch it again.
And there you have it! The best horror movies of all time. If you are still after thrills and chills here is our list of the best thriller movies.
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