Now that Spooky Season is upon us, we thought we would provide a quick guide through the ten best horror films to watch either on Halloween or throughout the month of October. We will be taking a look at some scary movies that have been a major influence or staple to the holiday and the film’s most people often want to watch during their Halloween celebration. Most of these picks will be the kind of scary movie that are just considered fun to watch, rather than others that might tackle more serious subjects . As much as we love iconic horror movies like The Exorcist, Silence of the Lambs and Get Out, they will not be included on this list.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)
Oddly enough this film was released in August rather than October and while it still did really well in theaters, we can’t help but imagine how much better it would have been if it was released around Halloween. Based on the popular children’s book of the same name, this film covers a lot of those scary stories we remember reading as a kid but brings them to life through a book within the film that is discovered. Imagine The Evil Dead but with kids and much less gore. However, what made this film so fun yet scary are the monsters come to life. Sure we have descriptions of them and vague pictures from the books, but this film manages to bring those creatures to life in a way we never thought possible. The studio was smart to bring on monster expert Guillermo Del Toro as a writer and producer for this film, so we can add his knowledge on how to craft a terrifying monster.
The Conjuring (2013)
Just when you thought director James Wan couldn’t already raise the bar with horror after making films like Saw and Insidious, he makes this unexpected gem. Based on a true story, we pick up in 1971 with Carolyn and Roger Perron as they move their family into a home in Rhode Island. However, once settled in they begin to experience strange phenomenon within the home and quickly call upon paranormal experts Ed and Lorraine Warren to investigate. The Warrens discover a satanic haunting that has taken ahold of the Perron family, forcing the Warrens to use all their skills and spiritual strength to combat this evil and save this family. This film was so polarizing and game changing at the time and with the new era of horror films that have ravaged theaters, this was the movie to once again raise the bar when it came to ghost movies. Making audiences uncomfortable to go home, that is when you know you have crafted a special piece of terror.
Considered to be one of the best Stephen King adaptations, the remake of It is the reason people are still afraid of clowns. As children continue to go missing in the town of Derry, seven kids ban together to try and locate all the missing children. What they end up discovering is a child eating clown named Pennywise, with the ability to shapeshift into their deepest fears and use that fear as the seasoning to his meal. While this film is completely terrifying it is also a bunch of fun, feeling as if you are walking through a haunted house and running into some of the creepiest monsters imaginable. Although we have a lot of love and respect for what Tim Curry did with Pennywise in the 1990 mini-series, Bill Skarsgård manages to make this dancing clown into his own unique version that is equally entertaining as he is terrifying.
Cabin in the Woods (2011)
From the moment you saw any promotions for this film, you were probably thinking “Great, another cabin movie about teenagers getting killed” and although you would be right the think that, this movie is so much more than that. The premise comes off cliché, five teenagers go to a remote cabin in the middle of the woods for a weekend of partying when they discover strange relics, curios and a book that awakens a killer zombie family. Simple, right? Well when a few of them manage to escape an onslaught, they discover that there is something much more sinister at hand and they might have fallen victim to a ritual. Seriously, that is all I could can really reveal about this movie. I understand you have already seen Friday the 13th and The Evil Dead. Believe me, this is far from any teen slasher horror flick you have ever seen before.
One of the greatest ghost films of our time, Poltergeist is a movie that has become so influential it is a film you will most likely see in one of your college film classes. Similar to how The Conjuring plays out, a suburban family move into a home and begin to discover strange happenings in their home. When something begins communicating with the youngest daughter through the television, they start to realize there is something paranormal happening in their home. Many people believe this film was made by Steven Spielberg and while he was a producer on the film, it was actually made by Tobe Hooper who directed the controversial Texas Chain Saw Massacre but still manages to capture that Spielberg feeling we get when we watch his films. That being said, this movie was one of those films you watched as a child and you still experience some sort of PTSD from your childhood. To this day, white noise on a TV gives me chills.
Another iconic film by the legendary Wes Craven, that made us love scary movies and probably rethink what kind of people we hang out with. Scream follows Sidney Prescott and her friends as they start to experience strange phone calls asking them what their favorite scary movies are and various trivia behind the films. They quickly discover a serial killer in a white faced mask and a large black robe is stalking them and seeking to take their lives. Although this story comes off cliché, it is still one of the most popular horror films of this generation. Spawning multiple sequels and even its own television series by MTV, Scream has become a staple of the horror genre and one many young adults will often flock too when it comes to picking out a fun Halloween flick. If you still aren’t convinced how relevant this film is, there is currently a fifth movie in production that is set to bring back Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott and scheduled for a 2022 release date.
The Shining (1980)
As if Stanley Kubrick wasn’t already respected enough after his films 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, comes another masterpiece in the form of terror. Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy and their son Danny move into the Overlook Hotel after Jack takes a job as an off-season caretaker to look after the building. As the Torrance’s begin to make themselves comfortable at the hotel, strange things begin to happen to their son Danny, he starts experiencing unusual visions of people who are not really there, and unlocking a secret ability has called “The Shining”. Meanwhile, Jack is experiencing writers block and as he begins to lose his mind, he slowly becomes more and more susceptible to the evil spirits lurking in the building, forcing him to lose his mind and become violent. This film has been one of the most recognized horror films, spawning even a 2019 sequel Doctor Sleep. While many claim this film doesn’t accurately follow Stephen King’s novel, it is still difficult not to appreciate this piece of cinema for what it is.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Having already made his mark on the horror genre after The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, this is the film that solidified him as a master or terror and created an icon that would scare teenagers for years. A clawed killer named Freddy Kruger begins to terrorize the youth that live on Elm Street. With the ability enter their dreams as they sleep, if Freddy manages to kill one of them in their dreams, they die in the real world. Now Nancy Thompson and her friends must try to stay awake, before Freddy successfully sinks his claws into them. Most horror films that have become part of pop culture all hold an important thing in common, they make you fear something in the real world. Robert Englund as Freddy Kruger managed to do that for that generation, terrifying teenagers to fall asleep in the fear they might run into Freddy himself. This is the film that created nightmares for youth, just hope you never have a dream about Freddy Kruger.
Trick r’ Treat (2007)
Probably one of the most overlooked films on this list, since this film was a straight to DVD movie but has since picked up a following and a must=watch during Halloween. Trick r’ Treat is an anthology film with five separate stories all taking place on Halloween. A family discovers what happens when they blow out a jack o’ lantern before midnight, a principle lives a double life as a serial killer, a virgin believes to have met the right guy for her, a group of teens pull a prank that ends up going too far and a lonely hermit is met by an unlikely trick or treater. This film has everything that makes Spooky Season so much fun, if you haven’t seen or even heard of this film then you are missing out on one of the definitive Halloween movies. While Easter has the Easter Bunny, Valentine’s Day has Cupid and Christmas has Santa Clause… Halloween has Sam.
Saving the best for last, the original Halloween film that has to be seen every Hallows Eve. In 1963, police receive a call about the murder of Judith Myers by her six year old brother Michael. Institutionalized for 15 years, Michael manages to break out on Halloween night and fulfill is craving of taking another life. Michael’s psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis is on the hunt for Michael as he enters Haddonfield to try and stop him from his murderous killing spree. Aside from the mass killings in this film, everything about the aesthetic and feel of this movie screams Halloween. Director John Carpenter does everything he possibly can to create a spooky atmosphere to this film, from the easily recognizable score to the first-person point of view from Michaels mask. It is no wonder Carpenter managed to turn $325,000 into $47,000,000, not to mention the parade of sequels that came with it.
Those are our top picks for the scariest movies to watch for Halloween. If you are interested in checking out more of our other Halloween related content, check out 10 DC Cartoons to Watch for Halloween and 10 Essential Songs for Your Halloween Playlist.