The 15 Best Movies To Watch This Halloween
Spooky season is upon us, and that means horror movies galore! We recently put out a list of our favorite horror franchises that you must watch this Halloween season, but if you don’t have the time (or the stomach) to sit through multiple film series, then why not check out these top Halloween-themed horrors. Some are scary, some are funny, but all have some sort of tie to October 31st.
So grab your popcorn and settle in with our list of the 15 best movies to watch this Halloween season.
1. Halloween (1978)
The original John Carpenter classic, Halloween is the biggest “no brainer” on this list. The film follows the teenage Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, Scream Queens) as she evades and escapes from the terrifying Michael Meyers (Nick Castle, Escape from New York), a mental patient who escapes on Halloween night to kill again.
Many of our favorite horror tropes began with Halloween, including the “final girl,” and the film’s influence over the genre could not be overstated. Carpenter’s chilling score and intense direction are the perfect combination that will make chills run down your spine as you follow Meyers’ murderous spree through Haddonfield, Illinois.
Halloween is by far one of the greatest horror classics and served as a launching pad for the slasher film that has been so beloved since.
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
If you think you’re safe while you’re asleep, A Nightmare on Elm Street proves that you couldn’t be further from the truth. The film centers around the nightmarish Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) as he terrorizes the nightmares of some sexually promiscuous teenagers, including Johnny Depp in his film debut.
Writer/director Wes Craven (The Hills Have Eyes) may be most well-known for his work on this film (and the rest of the franchise), which cemented him in the slasher genre. What makes this one unique is Freddy’s humorous charm and imaginative ways of killing his victims, proving that when all you have are nightmares, your imagination is your only limit.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a horror classic that blends the slasher genre with the supernatural and created one of the most iconic horror characters in cinema history. So whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.
3. Scream (1996)
Another Wes Craven slasher, Scream is his answer to the oversaturation of bad horror sequels that have strayed too far from the original. Between the heavy satirization of films like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Craven’s own A Nightmare on Elm Street, and the character’s own knowledge of the horror genre, this one was way ahead of its time.
What makes Scream so great is its heavy leaning into the classic slasher cliches that made the genre famous, while also challenging stereotypes and forcing Sidney (Neve Campbell, House of Cards), Dewey (David Arquette, Never Been Kissed), Gale (Courtney Cox, Cougar Town), and the rest of the hip cast to try and survive another day. Also, Matthew Lillard (Scooby-Doo) and Skeet Ulrich (Jericho) are phenomenal.
Scream may be a parody, but it’s also a true horror that features some really scary stuff, though the Ghostface costume is not one of them.
4. Friday the 13th (1980)
Another horror classic, Friday the 13th follows a group of teenagers (they always do) who are slowly killed by an unknown slasher who stalks them up at Camp Crystal Lake. The film was actually the first independent slasher to seek distribution by a US-based studio and instantly became a horror classic.
While many may initially be looking for the hockey mask-wearing Jason Voorhees, true Friday the 13th fans will know better than to expect all of that from the original. But don’t let the lack of hockey masks deter you, this film is one of the best and is the beginning of a series of four direct sequels that tell the sequential story of Camp Crystal Lake. That said, we wouldn’t recommend going much further than Part IV.
Friday the 13th is not only one of the scariest slashers out there, but one of the most surprising, with an ending that you’ll never see coming.
5. The Omen (1976)
Before midnight slashers took over, the late Richard Donner’s masterpiece The Omen was among horror’s best. The film tells the story of the young Damien Thorn (Harvey Spencer Stephens) as his parents, played by Gregory Peck (To Kill A Mockingbird) and Lee Remick (A Face in the Crowd), learn that he is the Antichrist.
Director Richard Donner (Superman) may not have done much within the horror genre other than direct an episode of The Twilight Zone (Nightmare on 30,000 Feet), but he certainly put his stamp on the genre here. Between the freak accidents, Satanist plot, religious imagery, and Damien himself, this film is a lot to handle, even for horror fans.
The Omen consistently proves itself to be just as terrifying today as it was in the 1970s.
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6. Hocus Pocus (1993)
If you don’t watch Hocus Pocus, you’ll be out of the loop on a lot of Halloween lingo. This cult classic follows the three Sanderson Sisters, played by Bette Midler (The Rose), Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex in the City), and Kathy Najimy (Rat Race), after they are accidentally resurrected by an unsuspecting teenage boy (Omri Katz, Dallas).
If you’ve ever been to a Halloween party, you’ve no doubt seen someone arrive as one of the witchy Sanderson Sisters. A safe-for-children Halloween feature, Hocus Pocus definitely has more laughs than deaths, or anything bloody for that matter, which makes sense given that it’s a Walt Disney Picture. That also explains the musical numbers.
Hocus Pocus is a laugh-out-loud Halloween comedy that might be nice to lighten the mood after binging a few slashers.
7. Child’s Play (1988)
This cult classic directed by Tom Holland (no, not the one who plays Spider-Man), Child’s Play is the story of serial killer Charles Lee Ray, aka Chucky (Brad Dourif, The Lord of the Rings), who transfers his consciousness into a child’s doll. That doll is given to a young boy named Andy (Alex Vincent, Chucky), who quickly discovers Chucky isn’t like his other toys.
The infamous Chucky doll has continued to terrorize audiences since the late 80s, cementing the “killer doll” trope into the collective consciousness of our pop culture. Child’s Play proves to be the perfect blend of psychological horror with a little bit of campiness. While further installments might turn into horror-comedies, the original is closer to a classic horror.
Child’s Play is actually anything but, and you probably shouldn’t watch this one with your kids, but definitely check it out this Halloween!
8. Candyman (1992)
Before you check out the recent sequel of the same name, make sure to watch the original Candyman. Based on Clive Barker’s (Hellraiser) short story, this one follows a Chicago grad student (Virginia Madsen, Swamp Thing) as she researches American folklore, eventually coming across the legend of “the Candyman.”
Horror legend Tony Todd (Final Destination) stars as the terrifying Candyman, whose presence will send chills down your spine. While the 2021 sequel is getting rave reviews, the original Candyman is electric, with gothic supernatural thrills that will make you crawl under the covers and might turn you off from bees forever.
And be careful not to say his name five times when in front of a mirror.
9. The Exorcist (1973)
Number one on our scariest horror movie list, The Exorcist is the original demon possession movie. If The Omen is more your speed than the slasher flicks, this one is the film for you. The movie follows two Catholic priests (Jason Miller and Max von Sydow) as they attempt to cast a demon out of a 12-year-old girl (Linda Blair).
The Exorcist does some of the scariest demon stuff on screen, with the demon Pazuzu, who possesses the young Reagan MacNeil, doing everything from head-turning to projectile vomiting and more. The film was written by William Peter Blatty who based the screenplay off his original novel (he even went on to direct the third film in the series, which he based off his novel’s sequel Legion).
The Exorcist might make your skin crawl, but that’s why it’s the perfect film for you to watch this Halloween season (just keep a Bible close by if things go south).
10. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
If horror-comedies are your thing and you love some good Scream-like satire, The Cabin in the Woods is the horror flick for you! It follows a group of college friends out into a remote forest cabin who quickly fall into the plot of a horror movie as technicians manipulate their every move.
If that sounds a bit nuts, that’s only half of it. As we follow this group of young adults that includes Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers), we’re also dealing with Richard Jenkins (Step Brothers) and Bradley Whitford (Get Out) as they create a series of unfortunate events for our heroes. The film was helmed by Drew Goddard (Angel) and Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) who wanted to revitalize the slasher genre.
The Cabin in the Woods is an excellent horror-comedy that manages to be the best of both genres while still throwing in a few unexpected surprises.
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11. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
Here’s one that even the littlest of kids can watch. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is an American classic that still manages to touch many hearts today. A fun Peanuts special where the gang celebrates Halloween as Linus awaits the arrival of the Great Pumpkin itself!
What more can we say about this 25 minute classic other than it’s wonderful and you should watch it. There are plenty of memorable moments in this special, including Snoopy’s battle with the Red Baron and Lucy’s witch costume, which is clearly the “opposite” of how she really is. It’s absolutely one of the best Peanuts specials out there, if not the best of the bunch!
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown may be a bit old school, but it’s a Halloween classic that, like the Great Pumpkin, only comes once a year!
12. The Guest (2014)
If you want a thriller that’ll really make your skin crawl, look no further than The Guest. It follows a mysterious US soldier named David (Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey) who visits the Peterson family, claiming to be the best friend of their deceased son, only for a series of suspicious deaths to occur, making David the primary suspect.
You may think The Guest has nothing to do with Halloween, but it’s not only set during Halloween but includes a climax centered around a high school Halloween dance. David’s complex relationship with the Peterson kids and the incredible ending sequence at the Halloween dance will leave you stunned.
The Guest is a terrifying thriller that might make you more cautious about who you let into your house.
13. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
In an age where mass hysteria and fear of ritualistic satanic cults coexist, The Blair Witch Project thrives. Written, directed, and edited by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, this film revolutionized the horror genre through found-footage, following three friends who travel into the woods in search of a folk tale.
Originally promoted as “real found-footage,” The Blair Witch Project still terrifies audiences with its spooky use of sound, inconsistent visuals, and an unseen antagonist that manages to haunt not only our heroes but those who watch as well. It’s a truly revolutionary horror film that predated even the uber-successful Paranormal Activity franchise, becoming one of the most successful independent films of our time.
The Blair Witch Project is one of those films that proves that sometimes less is actually more. Check this one out if you haven’t seen it yet!
14. Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out is among the best of the past decade. It follows a young black man named Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, Black Panther) as he visits his white girlfriend’s family, where shocking secrets are revealed. Peele’s haunting work on this film is what launched him into the Hollywood spotlight, and it’s no wonder why.
This one is crazy, and while it admittedly has no direct connection to October 31st, Get Out is still one of the most mind-bending horror flicks in recent years, dealing with real-life issues of racism while also completely messing with your head… We can’t give too much away on this one, but make sure you check it out!
Get Out is one of those that will make you crazy while watching it, and make you run away when the credits roll.
15. Terrifier (2017)
Stephen King doesn’t have a monopoly on killer clowns. The Damien Leone (All Hallow’s Eve) slasher Terrifier is an aptly named horror about a killer clown named Art (David Howard Thorton, All Hallow’s Eve) who hunts three women on Halloween. It’s one of the most disturbing slashers in recent memory, so be warned.
Art the Clown may not have debuted in this film (check out the Halloween anthology film All Hallow’s Eve for more), but Terrifier gives the killer more time to shine (or at least paint himself with blood) as he brutally attacks and murders his victims. Some lose their eyes, some lose their heads, and some… well, let’s just say that Art’s weapon of choice may be a cat o’ nine tails and it is truly frightening.
Terrifier is the perfect Halloween flick to put on if you don’t ever want to sleep again or have no (healthy) fear of clowns.
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