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Vincent Matthew Franco
With so many Halloween-themed and scary movies to choose from, here are the top 20 movies you should watch leading up to and on Halloween night. From modern flicks to true Halloween classics, this list has everything you need for your spooky season – in reverse order of scary awesomeness.
20: “X” (2022)
Mia Goth shines in her dual role in this movie and the cinematography is a work of art. What makes this latest edition worthy of our list is how the movie captures the essence of classic horror with modern touches. “X” is full of gory kills and slasher thrills, and if you find yourself wanting more, then there is the prequel, “Pearl,” also 2022.
19: “The Shining” (1980)
Way deep on the psychological side of horror, “The Shining” is the perfect movie to watch if you love that lingering feeling of uneasiness. The sight of watching writer and family man, Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson, decompose into an abusive alcoholic father is exactly what causes that uneasiness. Add on the haunts of the Overlook Hotel, and you’re in for a horror classic.
18: “Perfect Blue” (1997)
If you are looking for a more unique way to get spooked this Halloween weekend, look no further than “Perfect Blue.” This anime is a psychological thriller that induces an anxiety in its viewer that is almost ominous. Ex-teen pop star Mima is stalked amidst the shadows by a “super-fan” with a deranged face, who tries their hardest to keep her from leaving her pop-star life. From making up a fake persona of Mima online, watching her through her window, to killing those around her, the work of this stalker will give you serious trust issues.
17: “The Descent” (2005)
While this movie might be less known than the others on our list, it stands as one of the most chilling tales. A caving expedition goes wrong, leading to one of the most horrific movies I have ever seen. Combining claustrophobia, nyctophobia, or the fear of the dark, and humanoid man-hunting creatures, “The Descent” will have you cowering behind your blanket.
16: “Poltergeist” (1982)
The ultimate haunting, “Poltergeist” tells the story of a family’s dream home turning into their nightmare. While this movie has its scares, the mastery is in the acting and storytelling. You will find yourself caring about these characters, which makes their haunting even more close to home. Tobe Hooper directed a movie that could be considered family friendly, but do not let the PG rating fool you, this is a horror movie through and through.
15: “The Corpse Bride” (2005)
One of our personal favorites on this list and another one of Tim Burton’s works of art, this movie has everything you could want: catchy songs, a great storyline, an A-list cast, and the beauty of stop-motion animation. While it may not be scary, this movie is a Halloween classic.
14: “ The Black Phone” (2021)
A recent addition to the horror movie genre, “The Black Phone” was released this year and has already left its mark on viewers. What makes this movie so great is the villain, the Grabber, played by Ethan Hawke, who will leave your skin crawling with his chilling performance as the child kidnapper.
13: “Insidious” (2010)
It is important to note that this film has possibly one of the most famous jump scares out of the horror genre. This film wastes no time in establishing the fact that it is a horror movie, and it delivers scares that make it worthy of this unlucky number on our list. Director James Wan will leave you hiding under the covers at night and unable to sleep because of the dark corner in your bedroom.
12: “The Conjuring” (2013)
If you’re stuck on what to watch during your spooky season binge watching session, “The Conjuring” is the best place to start. The film compiles everything you need to hide behind your pillow as you watch Ed and Lorriane Warren, the film’s main protagonists, try and exercise a ghost out of a farmhouse. The first of three movies that also include three spin-offs, this is the perfect place to leap into a horror movie rabbit-hole.
11: Coraline (2009)
Do not let the stop-motion animation fool you, “Coraline” is a horror movie. The stop-motion animation is a work of art in this movie, as are the color schemes, but the entire storyline is one that has left its mark on Generation Z. Viewers will lose themselves in the “other world” so much that they might just find themselves looking at small doors in their houses differently after watching the film.
10: “Hellraiser” (1987)
What is not to love about this metaphysical horror movie that follows a group of sadistic cenobites who are bound to an enigmatic box. Only in “Hellraiser” you will watch a man spawn back to life slowly from a pile of puss and somebody get their flesh completely riddled by hooks. It is not surprising that almost 30 years later they brought back this franchise for another run with the new Hulu movie “Hellraiser.”
9: “Jeepers Creepers” (2001)
A movie series that should have ended with the first one, this first “Jeeper Creepers” always deserves a spot on any horror movie list. Perfectly embodying the epitome of a horror movie monster, while only giving a small amount of screen time, letting his absence between scenes build up suspense for the viewers.
8: “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974)
Right off the back it is important to point out that choosing between “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” one and two is like choosing our favorite child. That being said, we do not have children, but what we do have is 84 minutes of our day to watch the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Between Sally Hardesty’s character, Pamela, getting hung up on a meathook like a Christmas ornament and the unpleasant looking Grandpa Sawyer, this classic’s reputation easily holds up to this day. If you know, then you know, and if you do not, rent the movie and shut the lights so you can find out.
7: “The Exorcist” (1973)
This horror movie is hailed one of the scariest of all time, and if this list were based on scare-factor, it would be No. 1. What makes this movie so terrifying is the gradual build up to the exorcism of a demonic entity possessing an innocent girl, add onto the fact that it was loosely based on real events and you are left with one of the most terrifying depictions of a possession. This movie is the mother of the possession genre in horror and remains a timeless classic that will leave you looking over your shoulder while watching it.
6: “Scream” (1996)
Besides “Clue” (1985), Wes Craven’s “Scream” (1996) might possibly be the best whodunit movie to ever be made, at least in the horror category. Paying homage to cult-classic horror movies, like “The Shining,” “Nightmare on Elm Street,” and “Friday the 13th.” This slasher film was not afraid to dissect a typical horror movie plot, all the while a classic horror movie plot took place, nearly breaking the fourth wall in every scene. The opening scene alone was the perfect overture for the rest of the film, letting its audience know that this was not going to be just another teen flick.
5: “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)
Possibly the greatest holiday classic, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is a movie that must be watched on both Halloween and Christmas. In our personal opinion, this was Tim Burton’s greatest work, though that is not to disrespect any of his other films. This movie will have you singing along to beloved songs and will leave the warmest feeling in your heart, no matter which holiday you watch it on.
The better of a two part series, “Sinister,” starring Ethan Hawke, is the perfect blend of the thriller, mystery and found footage horror sub-genres. This movie was a breath of fresh-air for horror movies at the time, with new ideas while keeping some traditional ones alive, without overdoing them. The found footage scenes are horrifying enough to stay burned into the back of your eyelids, keeping you up at night as you try to fall asleep.
3: “Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)
Here is a movie that will cause nightmares for weeks after watching it. You will not be able to escape Freddy Kruger since he lives in your nightmares. Wes Craven’s classic still has a hold on watchers to this day with six sequels and reboots to prove it. Robert Englund stole the show as the disfigured night-time killer, a role that remains one of the most iconic in the horror movie genre.
2: “Monster House” (2006)
This is a movie that the entire family can enjoy, but it definitely belongs to Gen Z. We grew up with this movie, following three children as they battle a possessed house and take us on probably the most exciting adventure of a Halloween-themed movie. “Monster House” will forever stand the test of time and still get laughs out of adults, teenagers and children alike.
1: “Halloween” (1978)
The No. 1 spot rightfully goes to “Halloween.” The film not only rebirthed the slasher genre, but gave us one of the most terrifying villains of all time; Michael Myers. With John Carpenter serving as both the director and composer, this masterpiece gave us one of the most chilling movie scores and Jamie Lee Curtis in her breakout role, who carried the “scream queen” torch. “Halloween” is the perfect movie to end your Halloween night, as long as you’re not a babysitter.
Liliana Castañeda, Anabel Martinez, Abelina Nuñez, Robyn Jones contributed to this report.
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Vincent Matthew Franco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.