Though we’ve just left the Halloween season in the dust, that doesn’t mean we have to give up any and all things spooky and scary! Horror, to me, is one of the most interesting film genres, though it doesn’t get near as much love as films that fit into boxes like romance and comedy. Many may think horror movies are corny, dumb, or just downright disturbing– and sometimes, they are! But despite these preconceptions, it’s still possible to find enjoyment in a scary movie every now and then. Below, I’ve compiled a list of my all-time favorite horror movies. Some are merely slivers of a larger series of films—others are standalones. That’s not to say the series as a whole isn’t good, but these films in particular are the best of their counterparts! Beware of spoilers in the descriptions of each movie!
- Paranormal Activity (2007)
- I have to say that I’ve never found these movies to be truly scary. They’ve startled me a couple of times, but I’ve never been clinging to my seat with my heart in my throat. I remember watching this film for the first time. The concept of telling a story through security cameras was groundbreaking, and to this day, I can’t think of another movie that accomplishes this style as well as Paranormal Activity did. It’s a great movie to watch curled up with friends in the winter weather!
- Scream (1996)
- Scream has become the pinnacle of 90’s horror– calling out dumb tropes, being self-aware of its own ridiculousness, and giving the horror genre a number of iconic scenes, Scream is commonly known as one of the most widely known slasher flick of all time.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
- While The Nightmare Before Christmas isn’t at all a traditional horror feature, it surely has a number of scary or spooky moments that could leave anyone with chills. Done in the style of claymation, the chilling setting and movement of the characters sets a tone that is sure to put a shiver down your spine. And, with Christmas fast approaching, it’s a perfectly appropriate film to watch by a fire with a cup of cocoa in hand!
- The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
- The Purge franchise tends to get a lot of flack—many say the kills are over the top, and the plots aren’t well crafted, but I want to give the series some credit. When the Purge came out, I was pretty dissatisfied. There were some good moments, but overall, I thought the movie wasn’t anything spectacular. However, when Purge: Anarchy came out, I was astounded how different the sequel felt to the original. To go from a fight in the house of a rich person to people defending themselves on the street gives the audience a neat view on how the premise of the Purge works. The Purge: Anarchy was the first movie I have seen which changes the entire premise of the series halfway through.
- The Thing (1981)
- This movie, while it isn’t at the top of the list, is one of my all-time favorites! The Thing is a film which is unafraid to develop layers in both character and plot. The concept of aliens is always a fun one to explore, and The Thing does so with vigor. There is so much we don’t know about space, and The Thing takes full advantage of that lack of knowledge. This movie tests the trust of everyone, relying on the build of paranoia in audiences rather than jump scares or gore. The entire premise of this movie is that an alien can transform into any living thing, so no one knows if a person is who they say. Setting up that suspense and never settling down makes this a great horror movie.
- Night of the Living Dead (1968)
- This movie is a jewel in the sand of horror movies. Night of the Living Dead was one of the first movies to establish the zombie theme in horror, and I think it’s the only one that has done it right since its original release. The film itself has a controversial history behind it, being that it was one of the first movies of to have a black lead protagonist. (Spoilers ahead!) This black lead also had one of the most controversial deaths in cinema, being shot at the end of the movie for seemingly no reason. Did the shooter believe Ben, the black character played by actor Duane Jones, think he was a zombie, or did he have quiet racist intentions? This question is never answered, which leads watchers to delve into some introspection after the credits start rolling.
- Halloween (1978)
- Being one of the titans of the horror genre, Halloween, similarly to Paranormal Activity, is considered a classic! This film was the first to establish the monster that is Michael Myers, making this antagonist a household names to both those who love and hate horror. I give major credit to John Carpenter for his tremendous work during this movie and the others of the series, as well as Jamie Lee Curtis for giving us in the audience such a chilling performance.
- Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982)
- So, I’m breaking the one rule I set up for myself, which is to not include more than one film from a single series, but for good reason! This movie has never felt like a true sequel to Halloween, in my opinion. What gives this movie an edge over the original Halloween is that the plot of this movie is gruesome, much more gruesome than the first two of the series. To sum up the plot, a man sells a few masks to some local children and on Halloween night, he attempts to use a stone from Stonehenge for a Celtic ritual which will melt the heads off all the kids wearing the masks. While to some the concept may sound ridiculous, to a kid who still finds joy in dressing up on Halloween, this is terrifying. I’ve been afraid of wearing masks for years, and watching this movie again still terrifies me. A great flick to watch if you’re already missing the Halloween season!
- A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
- It’s hard to describe to people why I love this movie, but I’m going to try. I think what puts this movie over the other Nightmare on Elm Streets is that this movie lets Freddy have fun, or as much fun a psychotic supernatural killer can have. I think a lot of his most memorable kills from the franchise come from this movie. You have a girl being electrocuted through a television, another being injected with poison filled syringes, and a kid being thrown off a building after being strung up like a puppet by his tendons. It sets itself apart from the others by playing loose with the rules of reality for Freddy, and I think that makes the film all the more entertaining. Freddy doesn’t have to make sense because in the world of Elm Street, it’s Freddy that makes the rules.
- Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter
- The Friday the 13th films were the first I ever watched as a kid. I remember being terrified yet amazed by the killer that is Jason Vorhees. He goes from being a killer living in Crystal Lake to an immortal being to killing in Manhattan to being sent off to space. This man/supernatural monster/psycho killer has seen it all! Now, while I do love the entire franchise, part 4 takes the place of my number one pick because of one character alone. Tommy Jarvis. (Spoilers ahead!) In the beginning of The Final Chapter, Tommy starts as an innocent nerd, but after witnessing all of the evil committed by Jason, he snaps and kills Jason himself. Yes, he kills Jason! The twist of having a seemingly defenseless nerd murder the famous antagonist is brilliant and shocking.
Was one of your favorite horror flicks not included on this list? Let us know! We at the Crux would love to hear your opinions on what you like to watch when you find yourself missing the Halloween season.
By Dane Shaull