As Halloween looms near, there’s no shortage of movies to quench your thirst for fright. There’s an endless variety of sub-genres with a bottomless well of villains from the supernatural to the everyday. But what if you want a horror movie that’s not only spine-chilling but filled with the warm feelings only nostalgia can bring? These 10 classic horror films are sure to check all the boxes.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
When it comes to horror villains, Freddy Krueger is hard to beat. From the burned skin to the striped sweater to the bladed glove, the A Nightmare on Elm Street villain’s look couldn’t be more recognizable.
An omnipotent killer in the dream realm, Freddy haunts nightmares in the film and just might haunt yours in real life as well. 1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you…
Poltergeist is probably the least scary film on this entire list, but it remains a classic of the horror genre. What it lacks in gore and jump scares, it makes up for in pure spectacle and iconic characters.
Not to mention, Poltergeist is considered a haunted film – the history of the movie is often considered more frightening than the movie itself. Watch the movie, then read up on your Poltergeist lore and decide for yourself!
Friday the 13th (1980)
Who knew a hockey mask could be so menacing? This one is tough to discuss without giving away too much of the story, but the original Friday the 13th is a slasher like no other. With the inception of Camp Crystal Lake, scary stories around the campfire at summer camp became that much more frightening.
The epitome of extraterrestrial horror, Alien (and its sequel, Aliens) is in a league of its own. With performance from Sigourney Weaver cementing her as an all-time great Scream Queen and the birth of the xenomorph, a villain every bit as horrifying as any masked murderer or deep sea demon, Alien is a deliciously hair-raising watch.
Halloween (1978): The Ultimate Classic Horror Franchise
Arguably the most iconic horror movie villain of all time, no list would be complete without Michael Myers. Then, of course, there’s Jamie Lee Curtis and her portrayal of arguably the most iconic Final Girl of all time, Laurie Strode.
Halloween is everything you could want in a movie on a crisp, stormy October night. After all, is it really Halloween without at least one watch of its namesake film?
If you finish the original and have a hankering for more Michael Myers and his butcher knife, there’s a whopping 12 more to go in the Halloween franchise. The only Michael-less movie is Halloween III, but the franchise’s brief foray into the idea of an anthology series is more than worth the watch.
The best part of any horror movie is its villain. In this case, though, it’s difficult to proclaim Carrie as an outright evil-doer (an argument could be made for the shark in Jaws as well).
Were the tormented teen’s supernatural and ultimately deadly methods…questionable? Sure. But watch Carrie and say that you aren’t rooting for the eponymous character at least a little bit during the prom scene – you can’t.
A first-rate monster movie and the catalyst for what remains a rampant fear of the deep and its inhabitants nearly 50 years later, Jaws is the perfect horror film for a summer scream fest. It shouldn’t be skipped in autumn, either, though!
As the weather cools and the sun-soaked days by the sea fall behind us, take a trip to Amity Island and watch as a massive shark with a taste for humans gives some of cinema’s best jump scares and draws one of the most memorable lines in movie history from Police Chief Martin Brody: We’re gonna need a bigger boat.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Before the intense gore of some of today’s more gutsy horror films, there was The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a movie banned from theaters across the country following its release thanks to its violent scenes.
Though the terrifying acts of Leatherface pale in comparison to the wall-to-wall carnage of modern horror, TCSM is one of the original slashers and a must-watch for spooky season.
The Exorcist (1973)
These days, demonic possession is an incredibly popular sub-genre of horror, filled with beloved film after film, franchise after franchise. But it all started with The Exorcist.
As it’s a movie from the early ’70s, the special effects are a little dated, but the convincing portrayal of evil is among the best Hollywood has to offer. There’s a reason The Exorcist is often heralded as the greatest horror film of all time. Just maybe skip this one if you’re a fan of pea soup.
Speaking of the greatest horror films of all time, this Alfred Hitchcock classic deserves a spot near the top of the list.
When it comes to the horror genre, there’s a clear split between the BP and AP eras (before and after Psycho). Monster movies like Wolf Man, Dracula, and Frankenstein gave way to an altogether more frightening concept – what if the horrifying villain was just…a man? No supernatural abilities, no claws, no alien abductors. Just a knife, a shower curtain, and the most iconic reveal of a skeleton of all time.
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