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The 13 best slasher movies of all time

Slasher movies get some flak, but we love them from the gory and gruesome to the completely silly. Here's the pick of the bloody bunch.

The slasher genre is a difficult one to define. On paper, they’re simply films about violent killers stalking and murdering people – usually teenagers, to be fair – but there’s far more to them than splatter and gore. But what are the best slasher movies in history?

The best horror movies in this genre are morality plays for the most part, where the immoral are punished and the virtuous ‘final girls’ get to live. Some of the best movies in horror history fit into this blood-soaked genre, which has given us as much humor as it has darkness over the years. Horror fans know in their guts when they’re watching a good slasher, so here are the best and the bloodiest of the bunch.

What are the best slasher movies of all time?

  1. Ready Or Not
  2. High Tension
  3. You’re Next
  4. Happy Death Day
  5. Friday the 13th
  6. Tucker and Dale vs Evil
  7. Child’s Play
  8. Scream
  9. Opera
  10. A Nightmare on Elm Street
  11. Psycho
  12. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  13. Halloween

Best slasher movies - Ready Or Not

13. Ready Or Not (2019)

There aren’t many images in modern horror as instantly memorable as that of Samara Weaving in a blood-soaked wedding dress. That’s the defining image of Ready Or Not, in which Weaving’s character marries in to a very weird and very rich family, only to be forced into a deadly game of survival on her wedding night.

Weaving gives both barrels – sometimes literally – to every facet of her performance, rushing around the enormous house in a fight for her life against heavily-armed captors. And that’s before you get to the finale, which is one of the biggest swings a mainstream horror movie has taken in a long time. It’s perfect.

Best slasher movies - High Tension

12. High Tension (2003)

The New French Extremity movement of the noughties gave horror fans some of the best 2000s movies, and Alexandre Aja’s High Tension might well be the pick of the bunch. The premise is simple: two students head to one of their parents’ secluded farm to study. When they get there, a massive dude starts trying to kill them.

But that simple summary fails to do justice to the gritty, grubby genius that follows, culminating in a plot twist that turns the whole thing completely on its head. If you haven’t already seen High Tension, seek it out right now.

In the UK, it was released under the name Switchblade Romance, which is one of the greatest horror titles of all time. Absolute genius.

Best slasher movies - You're Next

11. You’re Next (2011)

Adam Wingard turned Sharni Vinson into a whole new generation of axe-wielding Final Girl in this home invasion slasher. There’s a devilish sense of humor to Wingard’s tale of a family reunion disrupted by a hail of crossbow bolts and a selection of assailants wearing terrifying animal masks. It definitely makes you feel better about your own tense family dinners.

The movie is a lean, mean triumph of improvized weaponry that, at times, comes across as Home Alone with fewer children and a lot more gore. Vinson’s Erin is at the center of it all, using her previously secret survival skills to keep as many people alive as she can. As far as Halloween viewings go, this one’s a doozy.

Best slasher movies - Happy Death Day

10. Happy Death Day (2017)

Purists may argue that comedy and horror, as a rule, don’t mix. To that, we say ‘nonsense, rules were made to be broken’. Happy Death Day breaks a fair few, including the rules of time.

The film follows Tree (Jessica Rothe), a college student who finds herself trapped in a time loop where every day, she’s attacked and murdered by a mysterious figure in a baby mask. To escape the loop and see tomorrow, Tree must solve the mystery of her own death before the killer strikes again.

Led by the wonderful Rothe, Happy Death Day manages to have its cake and eat it (let’s hope it’s not poisoned), blending creative kills with uproariously funny, if rather morbid, jokes. It’s a modern-day cult classic if you ask us, and treads the line perfectly between the best horror and the best comedy movies.

Best slasher movies: Friday the 13th

9. Friday the 13th (1980)

While the Friday the 13th movies went off the rails pretty quickly, the first is a surprisingly effective little horror. Its director was hoping to cash in on the popularity of John Carpenter’s Halloween; he just didn’t want to spend a lot of money to do it.

As a result, the first Friday the 13th, is a surprisingly stripped-back, down-to-earth affair that revels more in the mystery of who the killer might be than overt scares. While it’s slightly plodding and a touch amateurish compared to its contemporaries, the film deserves credit for kicking off one of the most popular slasher franchises in the history of Hollywood.

Funnily enough, it’s probably best enjoyed through contemporary eyes as those watching may be so desperate for a hint of Jason Voorhees, who overshadows the entire series, that they’re caught unaware when the true murderer is revealed.

Best slasher movies: Tucker and Dale vs Evil

8. Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)

You can’t always judge a book by its cover, and Tucker & Dale vs Evil proves you can’t judge a ‘hillbilly’ by the standards of horror films. Good-natured and gory, the film sees the titular Tucker and Dale, two well-meaning guys living in the middle of nowhere. Vapid college students arrive and assume they’re evil-hick serial killers.

Flipping the traditional narrative on its head, Tucker and Dale find themselves attacked by the teens, who believe they’re defending themselves from murderous hillbillys. It’s absolutely bonkers and has a lot of fun with its silly but clever premise, and we’d love to see that long-promised sequel.

Best slasher movies: Child's Play

7. Child’s Play (1988)

As someone who’s terrified of possessed dolls, I avoided Child’s Play like the plague growing up, which was a mistake on my part. Because, like the Hellraiser movies, the Child’s Play films, initially at least, aren’t as self-serious and scary as I presumed they’d be.

It’s quite creepy in places, but, aptly considering the title, there’s a childish energy to the film courtesy of director Tom Holland (not the one from the Spider-Man movies) which means it’s more exciting than out and out scary. Also, it takes a certain level of skill to convince an audience that the diminutive doll Chucky is a threat to anyone, so points for that Holland.

Best slasher movies: Scream

6. Scream (1996)

Wes Craven dabbled with self-parody in New Nightmare, but with Scream, he took meta-commentary to the next level. Smart, scary, and shockingly violent, Scream is a modern-day masterpiece that skewers (quite literally) the tropes and cliches that had come to define the genre.

It’s no surprise that Scream has since gone on to spawn a mammoth franchise because it has Craven’s special sauce at its heart: reinvention. Every Scream movie is completely different, which has given remarkable staying power to the series. And we have this first one to thank for all of that.

Check out our Scream 6 review to see what we thought of the most recent addition to this all-time classic slasher series.

Best slasher movies: Opera

5. Opera (1987)

Choosing just one Dario Argento film for this list was hard, but outside of Suspiria this is probably his best movie, or at least it’s our favorite.

As you’d probably guess from the title, Opera’s more theatrical than a version of The Magic Flute directed by Baz Lurhman, but it never crosses the line into outright campiness. Instead, Argento elegantly knits murder and mystery together, splattering bright red blood all over the walls as his needles click.

Best slasher movies: A Nightmare on Elm Street

4. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Scream may be clever, but it’s nowhere near as scary as A Nightmare on Elm Street. The series fell into the pit of self-parody after Craven left, which diminished the series in the eyes of some but the first Nightmare is genuinely brilliant. The story is tight and imaginative, the kills creative, and the cast likable.

Ultimately, though, A Nightmare on Elm Street succeeds because of the killer at its center: Freddy Krueger. While Freddy’s probably best remembered as a wise-cracking ghoul like the Cryptkeeper, in this film he’s an out-and-out monster who only seems to find joy in killing. The character’s arguably part of a great slasher triumvirate, which also includes Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees.

Best slasher movies: Psycho

3. Psycho (1960)

We labored about putting Psycho on this list. It’s more of a proto-slasher, to be honest, but it helped to establish the foundation of the entire genre so we couldn’t ignore it. It’s also an absolute masterwork from a true horror pioneer in Alfred Hitchcock, so we decided to get over ourselves and give it some slasher audiences.

At the time it was released, the film was truly transgressive, with Hitchcock pushing filmmaking boundaries in new and disturbing ways. Even now, contemporary audiences often find themselves blindsided by the conclusion of the film’s bloody first act.

The movie is a real showcase for Hitchcock’s genius, telling a slasher tale without upsetting the sensors too much. And it turns out that the most challenging Psycho shot didn’t even involve gore.

Best slasher movies: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

2. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Speaking of transgressive films, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, in all its bone-chilling glory, may be the best horror movie ever made. Like Psycho, it helped to lay the bones of the nascent slasher genre, so while some may baulk at its inclusion on this list, we weren’t going to ignore it.

Few films have made my blood run cold like Chain Saw; it’s truly horrifying, and director Tobe Hooper knew it. That’s why there’s so little gore compared to other movies on this list. The film doesn’t need to cover you in viscera to frighten you; the simple bonk of a hammer is all it needs to turn your legs to jelly.

Stephen King put it better than anyone could when he described it as having “the authentic quality of nightmare”. And it’s very rare that we disagree with King when it comes to horror.

Best slasher movies: Halloween (1978)

1. Halloween (1978)

While there were arguably slashers before John Carpenter’s Halloween, it was this murderous masterpiece that figured out the perfect balance of ingredients needed to catapult the genre into the mainstream.

Brutal, terrifying, and relentless, Halloween is without a doubt my favorite horror movie to explore the banality of everyday evil. There’s no hidden farmhouse full of cannibals, no weird nightmare demons, and there’s not even an immortal zombie hockey player. No, Haddonfield could be anywhere (it’s certainly not in Illinois, judging by those palm trees), and so could Michael Myers.

Also known as The Shape, Michael is deliberately nondescript. With his featureless mask and unassuming frame, Michael and the malice that courses through his veins could be anyone; he could be anywhere, even in your home right now.

We love to rewatch the Halloween movies in order every year and later movies try to explain Michael, missing the point Carpenter was making. Evil isn’t special, it’s everywhere, and that’s a pretty horrifying thought to end this list on.

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If you’re looking for something spooky to watch and you’ve exhausted the new movies at the cinema, we have a list of the best Netflix horror movies or if you prefer something a bit more digestible, check out our list of the best horror series to stream.

On a weirder note, find out why the best Christmas movie is getting a slasher makeover and read our David Gordon Green interview about Halloween Kills.