With Halloween rapidly approaching, it seemed like a good time to create a list of scary movies based on the favorites of my sounding board. As everyone finds different things scary, everyone has their own favorite horror genre, so I have divided the list into categories so you can easily find what movie or television show you should check out this Halloween. There is a pretty wide variety from the truly horrifying to movies made for children to television shows if you are more of an entire series binge-watcher kind of person. Whatever your tastes are, there is certainly something here to get you into the holiday spirit.
Qu’est-ce que c’est?
American Psycho (2000): Starring Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, the investment banker who spends his nights living out his psychotic fantasies.
The Bad Seed (1956): A single mother fears that her eight-year old daughter, Rhoda, is a cold-blooded killer.
The Devil’s Rejects (2005): A Rob Zombie film where family of murderers is being terrorized by the police force.
Halloween (1978 – 2009): The film series that is given credit for being the first slasher movie franchise. A man named Michael Myers stalks a teenage girl played by Jamie Lee Curtis and leaves a trail of dead bodies behind him.
The Killer Inside Me (2010): Casey Affleck stars as a young Deputy whose easy-going facade is slowly broken down to reveal his true nature.
Psycho (1960): The quintessential Hitchcock film about a hotel proprietor, his mother, and the young lady who needs a room.
Scream (1996 – 2011): My favorite horror film series, hands down. It focuses on a young woman named Sydney Prescott and the masked killer (Ghostface) that terrorizes her and her loved ones.
Seven (1995): A serial killer uses the Seven Deadly Sins as the stage for his crimes.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991): Deemed the greatest movie villain of all time, Dr. Hannibal Lector is in prison where he is approached by a young FBI agent to assist in a murder investigation.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003): Teens massacred with a chainsaw in Texas. Need any more info?
Carnival of Souls (1962): This is a movie that my dad made me watch as a kid and it still haunts me today. It is considered a cult classic and can usually be seen on classic movie channels this time of year. A young lady has a near death experience and strange things begin to occur.
The Frighteners (1996): Michael J. Fox stars in a film co-written and directed by Peter Jackson about a man who uses his ability to speak to the dead to con the living.
Ghostbusters (1984, 1989): A group of psychologists team up to hunt ghosts. Written by and starring some of the funniest guys in film and television history, this is a must for Halloween. More funny that scary, sure, but it certainly has its moments.
The Haunting (1999): Dr. David Marrow (played by Liam Neeson) leads a sleep study in a house with a haunted history. Also starring Catherine Zeta Jones, Lili Taylor and Owen Wilson.
The Others (2001): Nicole Kidman stars as a single mother who believes her home is haunted. The plot may seem pretty generic, but the film is not. It is well done and keeps you guessing until the end.
Poltergeist (1982 – 1988): The classic haunted house film series about a family whose house is haunted by ghosts. You may remember little Carol Anne sitting in front of a static-y TV saying, “They’re here.”
The Ring (2002): I remember it as being the scariest movie I had ever seen. You watch the video tape. Seven days later a creepy little girl crawls out of your TV and you die.
The Shining (1980): A Stanley Kubrick film based on a Stephen King novel starring Jack Nicholson. Add in an empty hotel full of ghosts including the infamous set of little twin girls and you have everything you could possibly need for one of the most important horror movies of all time.
The Sixth Sense (1999): M. Night Shyamalan wrote and directed this film about a little boy who can see dead people.
Thirteen Ghosts (2001): This is my favorite horror movie of all time. I cannot say for sure why: the super cool glass house, the interesting yet horrifying ghosts, the fantastic balance of humor, or maybe all I really need in a horror movie is Matthew Lillard.
A graveyard smash.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992): Not everyone knows that before the television series, there was a film version written by Joss Whedon and starring Kristy Swanson as Buffy, Donald Sutherland as her first watcher and Luke Perry as the love interest, Pike. There is also a slew of other big named stars in this film including Hilary Swank, Paul Reubens and David Arquette.
The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007): This one came as a suggestion to me and I am not totally sure why it is the sequel as opposed to the first film in the series or the original 1977 flick, but I am guessing it has something to do with the fact that Wes Craven is back on the writing team. Mutants are living in the desert where the National Guard has been training.
Night of the Living Dead (1968): One of the most important movies of the genre and considered the original Zombie movie. If you love zombies, you need to see where it all began.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975): The definition of a cult classic, this musical film has countless midnight showing where people dress up and throw things. If you have never experienced a full-on showing, it is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
Young Frankenstein (1974): The Mel Brooks classic comedy where Gene Wilder plays the grandson of the infamous Victor Von Frankenstein who inherits his castle and revisits his experiments on reanimation.
“You’re going to die up there.”
The Conjuring (2013): A family calls upon a husband and wife team of paranormal investigators (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) to get rid of the evil presence in their new home. It is based on a true story, which always makes things scarier…
The Exorcist (1973): A teenage girl is possessed. Not only is this THE movie when it comes to demonic possession, but it was the first ever horror movie to be nominated for Best Picture.
Evil Dead (1981): Teenagers rent a cabin in the woods and find a mysterious book. Then they read it… The first feature length collaboration between Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. Perfect balance of hilarity and horror.
Jennifer’s Body (2009): Megan Fox stars as a teenage succubus and Amanda Seyfried as her best friend who has to stop her from killing the boys from school. Written by Diablo Cody (Juno)
Paranormal Activity (2007 – Present): The first in a long series of films. There have been 5 released in 7 years and the 6th will come out in 2015. Credited with putting an end to the Saw franchise because of its box office success.
They’ll put a spell on you
The Craft (1996): High school girls practice witchcraft to get what they want. Which is all well and good until they inevitably start turning against one another.
Practical Magic (1998): Two sister witches try to break the family curse where every man they fall in love with will die a horrible death. Starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock.
The Skeleton Key (2005): Kate Hudson stars in this movie about about a nurse who begins working in an old New Orleans plantation and discovers a long disturbing history of hoodoo practice in the house.
Witches of Eastwick (1987): Three single women (Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Cher) finding the dating scene difficult in the small coastal town of Eastwick, meet an enchanting man (Jack Nicholson) who seems to have a special hold on them.
“Do not read the Latin!”
Cabin in the Woods (2012): This film does not really fit into a specific category. If you are afraid of anything, this will pretty much cover it. It is still pretty new in the grand scheme of horror movies, but it is a fantastic one.
Because sometimes two hours is not enough.
American Horror Story (2011 – Current): Currently on the 4th incarnation, this series explores a different horror genre each season. A haunted house, an old-school insane asylum, a modern witch coven, and this year a traveling freak show. The show does not follow a linear plot, instead each season is a totally independent plot. Everyone has a different favorite season, so no one can agree on which is the best. So see it for yourself and decide.
The Bates Motel (2013 – Current): The serialized prequel to the movie Psycho. The show begins when Norma and Norman Bates move to a small town where Norma opens a motel. I find it particularly fascinating how they are developing Norman’s character and watching him head down the path to what we all know is coming.
Being Human (2008 – 2013): A BBC series about a Vampire, a Werewolf, and a Ghost who live together and try to live their lives like humans. They fight all different forms of evil over the course of the series. There is also an American version, but I highly recommend the original.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2003): One of the greatest television shows of all time with a devoted cult following. Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) who “alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer.”
Hannibal (2013 – Current): The series by Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies) about Dr. Hannibal Lector and the young criminal profiler Will Graham. The plot of the show loosely follows that of the first book in the series, Red Dragon.
Hemlock Grove (2013 – Current): A Netflix series that begins with the death of a teenage girl and the search for her killer, which uncovers the fact that everyone in Hemlock Grove is hiding some sort of monstrous secret.
The Killing (2011 – 2014): A teenage girl is murdered and the first two seasons of the show cover the case of who killed Rosie Larson. This is one of the shows that in recent entertainment news has been repeatedly cancelled and revived because of the fan outcry and was eventually picked up by Netflix for the fourth and final season.
Penny Dreadful (2014 – Current): Drawing from some of the most popular gothic characters in literature, this series depicts one man’s search for his daughter, Mina Harker (sound familiar?) who is believed to have been kidnapped by vampires. He enlists the help of his daughter’s childhood friend, Dr. Frankenstein, and an American gunslinger (played by Josh Harnett).
Twin Peaks (1990 – 1992, 2016 – ?): Yet another series where a teenage girl is found dead and it launches an investigation which becomes the entire foundation of the show, but this one is iconic. Created by David Lynch, this show is quirky and totally creepy. The series is so beloved that is has been renewed to air a second run almost 25 years after its initial cancellation.
The Walking Dead (2010 – Current): It seems like this show is everyone’s favorite these days. A post-Zombie Apocalypse world where a team of humans fight for their lives.
Bippity Boppity BOO!
The Addams Family (1991, 1993): The first film deals with America’s most eccentric family as they are reunited with their long lost Uncle Fester. The second has Uncle Fester back with the family and having become recently married. The second is also the one where the Addam’s children go to summer camp! My favorite. Rated PG-13
Beetlejuice (1988): A recently deceased couple enlists the help of Beetlejuice to “exercise” the family who has moved into their home. Rated PG
Casper (1995): A single father and his daughter move into a large haunted house to help the ghosts move on to the next life. The daughter befriends the youngest ghost, Casper. Rated PG
Double Double Toil and Trouble (1993): A Mary-Kate and Ashley classic movie about twin sisters (obviously) who are trying to save their family home from an evil witch.
Edward Scissorhands (1990): An inventor creates a man in his lab, but dies before he can give him real hands. The young creation is left with scissors for hands. PG-13
Ernest Scared Stupid (1991): Ernest gets himself into a mess on Halloween when he releases an evil troll from the grave. Rated PG
Goosebumps (1995 – 1998): The television series based on the series of books by R. L. Stein. Each episode tells a different creepy story that will likely remind you of your own childhood.
Hocus Pocus (1993): The number one suggested movie for Halloween. It is the movie of the season year after year. Three witch sisters rise from the dead after three centuries in Salem. Rated PG
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): Is it a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie? Who cares. It is a holiday movie that can withstand the entirety of the season. Rated PG
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971): Ok, maybe not a horror film, per se, but I can certainly attest to its scary moments. The Boat Ride, anyone? Plus, it’s all about candy, which is definitely Halloween-centric. Rated G