I want to share with you my favorite scary movies that you have to watch this Halloween. For someone who says that they’re too chicken for scary movies, I find that horror films top my favorites list all the time. I love scary movies that are more than just watching someone get murdered for the sake of it — a good horror film has creativity behind it, a good story, awesome practical effects or cinematography, score, lighting, et cetera.
I think the reason why I love certain scary movies so much is that it’s so easy to tell when the filmmaker is a genuine fan of the genre. People who love scary movies make the best ones — they stay true to the genre without resorting to cheap and easy tactics, they pay homage to the greats or pave their own way, and you can just see their love of the craft and the type of cinema play out on screen.
As far as the number of films goes, I definitely haven’t seen as many scary movies as other people. But, the ones that I have seen and love, I’ve watched over and over and over again. Like any other favorite movie, once I fall in love, I go back and rewatch as many times as possible to eat up any detail I might have missed in previous viewings.
BUT, that’s enough talk! It’s already the middle of October, so without further ado — in no particular order — here are 9 of my favorite horror movies you have to watch this Halloween season. Spoilers ahead, probably, so buyer beware!
1. The Thing (1982)
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding.”
I first saw The Thing about five or so years ago and instantly fell in love with John Carpenter. How can I even explain why I love it? Ahh, let’s see:
- The feeling of isolation is one of my biggest fears — especially when the characters are trapped with certain impending doom. That grim, depressing vibe really works for me in movies and is so much scarier than creepy effects and oozing gore and slime.
- BUUUT — the oozing gore and slime in this movie are incredible! The practical effects are insane. My husband and I went to see this in the theater a few months ago and I remember holding my cheeks because I was smiling so hard watching these creatures come alive on the big screen.
- Kurt Russell is a babe.
- I love snow, and I love the cold. I love ragtag crews, and I love a mystery guessing game of who the bad guy is.
- BEST SCENE: The blood testing scene, of course!
2. The VVitch (2015)
“Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”
I was terrified to watch The Witch after it came out. I’m fine with watching scary movies from the 80s, but the idea of trying out a new one — an A24 one!! — made me very anxious. But, I kept hearing how wonderful it was, and how much I’d love it, and Black Phillip was all over the internet, so I gathered my strength, rented it from Redbox, curled up on the couch to watch it on my laptop, finger on the pause button just in case. The moment I finished it, I started it over again from the beginning.
- I’m sure it’s no surprise, but I love the final girl trope. Thomasin is the ultimate — battling not only horrifying paranormal forces but also facing the crushing weight of being a teenage girl during Puritan times. An absolute queen.
- Robert Eggers, the filmmaker, is another ultimate — his attention to detail, his historical accuracy, and the exact care he took to make this a perfect film with no wasted shot, no wasted second is what sets this movie above and beyond. The dialogue is just as people talked in the 1600s, the houses are built just as they were in that era, the clothes, the props, everything. You can rewatch it a thousand times and still find new things to be impressed by.
- It is unsettling as fuck, but with an amazing payoff. People call this movie a slow burn, which is a completely fair assessment, but the end scene makes it all worthwhile.
- BEST SCENE: Aside from the finale, it has to go to the exorcism scene. That scene, in the upstairs bedroom with the whole family, is a moment where I definitely slapped that pause button to take a quick breather.
3. A Nightmare on Elm Street ( 1984)
“I’m your boyfriend now, Nancy.”
I first watched A Nightmare on Elm Street a few years back because of work. I was a marketer at Halloween costumes company and we were selling an incredibly expensive replica Freddy mask. I figured that if I wanted to promote the thing right, I better watch the movies. When I was little, Freddy was in the big four of completely terrifying movie characters, along with Michael Meyers, Jason Voorhees, and Leatherface. I had no idea how much I’d love sweet Freddy Krueger.
- The rest of the films get a little kooky with Freddy’s creativity and dialogue — the first one, though, he’s legit scary. No gimmicks, no silly punchlines, just a creepy pedophile showing up in your dreams to torture and murder you. Not to say that I don’t like future Freddy characterization, but Wes Craven hits it on the head in this first one.
- The technical aspects of the film are incredibly fun for me to watch, too — the very first kill, poor Tina in the bedroom, is a moment where you can see how passionate Wes Craven is about the film. Reading about how the pulled it off is so fun, as is the bathtub scene and Glen’s death.
- Nancy is a bad bitch who really did pave the way for all the girls who take charge in horror movies that came after. Love that girl, drinking down pot after pot of coffee, exclaiming that – oh god – she looks twenty.
- BEST SCENE: Tina in the hallway. The most genuinely scary part of the whole movie, in my opinion.
4. Alien (1979)
“I can’t lie to you about your chances, but… you have my sympathies.”
Isolation, impending doom, something otherworldly (literally) threatening not just the lives of the characters, but their grip of what they thought reality was all along. Final girls, ragtag crews, impressive practical effects. Yeeep, checks off all the things I dig about scary movies. Alien is maybe my favorite movie of all time, so while I recommend a watch throughout the year, watching it once or twice during October won’t hurt at all.
- Every single second is perfect. Every word, every shot, every little detail about it is perfect. Down to the “right”s of the crew.
- I love how dingy the set is. It’s a blue-collar ship; it’s futuristic, but it’s not sparkling. Then, when they land on the planet — that’s when my stomach always drops. Giger’s designs are so incredibly unsettling, and you see enough to know that what you’re seeing isn’t quite right, but you can’t make it out clear enough to fully register what you’re looking at.
- Ripley… clearly a queen. Jones, pretty solid, too.
- BEST SCENE: How to even pick?! I love when Dallas is in the ventilation shafts, but my favorite scene might be when Ash has his major meltdown. Yipes!!
5. The Fly (1986)
“I’m saying I – I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over… and the insect is awake.”
It’s, like, so gross. Like, so, so sad, but so, so gross. It’s an amazing modern (1980s…) version of the campy monster B-movies from the 50s, except Cronenberg is in charge, so we’re all fucked. Equal parts extreme body horror and the ultimate tragedy of losing your own humanity, it also has a nude Jeff Goldblum, so it might all equal out?
- If you’re squeamish, you shouldn’t watch it. It’s a lot of body parts falling off, and skin bubbling and rotting, and puke, and, aaahhh, arms being broke in half or maybe melted off completely. It’s intense, but if you’re into that type of thing, it’s fun. It isn’t gross-out for gross-out sake, but, actually, I don’t know, it might be.
- The movie doesn’t waste time and that’s what I love about shorter films like this — it starts and it is IN IT. No screwin’ around. And when it’s done, it’s over. Why add anything extra?
- Jeff Goldblum is the only person that could play this part — I feel like I gag every time, but I’ve cried every viewing, too. He’s perfect, as always.
- BEST SCENE: I mean, the whole donut part is pretty great, but I really do love the birth scene. It’s so classic B-movie, and the way that the larva slaps against poor Geena Davis’ leg in the OR gives me the absolute WILLIES every TIME, even when I’m writing this now, oh my God.
6. Misery (1990)
“Eat it till ya choke, you sick, twisted fuck!”
I always forget how much I really do love this movie until I see it another time, and I feel like it might be sacrilegious to not include any Stephen King on here. Misery, as so many of my favorite movies seem to include, has isolation and a feeling of being trapped, and… snow! I never feel like I’m too scared of this movie, but as I watch it, I always notice shoulders start rising and rising until they’re pinned up against my ears due to how tense the film actually makes me. Beautiful.
- Kathy Bates as Annie is maybe so scary because she seems like a real person. Imagine Annie on Reddit… or Twitter… or 4chan. That’s not good.
- Like I said, it’s not THEEE scariest movie of all time, so might be a good palette cleanser in a sea of more intense viewings. Stephen King does paint an amazing scene, though, and James Caan as Paul is great.
- BEST SCENE: I mean, it’s the hobbling scene, right?? It’s gotta be.
7. Evil Dead 2 (1987)
“Your lover is dead and now she burns in Hell!”
Ohhhhh, Evil Dead 2, how do I even begin? This was my favorite scary movie for a long, long time. (Maybe it got bumped by The Thing? The Witch? Why even bother ranking?) Sam Raimi loves a scary movie and he loves a practical effect, and that’s why I love this film so dearly. Raimi’s style is so stand out, and his personal tastes woven through the movie make it so unique to other video nasties of the day. It’s a gross-out, scary movie, but with such a perfect personality. His sense of humor works so well for so many moviegoers, obviously including myself.
- Ash is the best, hands down. I have opinions on Army of Darkness Ash, as well as in Ash vs. The Evil Dead, but in this film — just the absolute best guy.
- It’s funny, but… it’s scary! (Dumb review, haha.) But really — I always think of it as a funny, slapsticky, over the top type of movie, but when I’m watching it, I always get creeped out at certain parts. Those deadites are brutal, dude.
- I dressed as Ash for Halloween one year, complete with a wearable chainsaw arm. Pretty proud of that look.
- Have you seen Drag Me To Hell? That’s an honorable mention pick for this list — if you love Raimi’s vibe, you have to check it out.
- BEST SCENE: Hard to pick, but I might have to go with the creation of the chainsaw arm.
8. Halloween (1978)
“Sheriff, death has come to your little town.”
Big news: I watched Halloween for the very first time literally this last weekend. It’s been a movie that I’ve been too nervous to watch for years, but as much as I love The Thing, I knew I had to give it a chance. After putting my trust in John Carpenter, I’m so happy I finally pulled the trigger. It sets the standard for so many teen slasher films, but the movie itself is so beautifully crafted. Carpenter’s score is amazing, but the filmmaking details, the layout of the shots, the pacing, everything — it’s artistic, and I watched the whole thing with a huge grin on my face.
- Jamie Lee is a final girl, for sure, but I wish that she could have had the killing (??) blow, not the cop who was hanging out outside the house. She did good, though.
- I really bet that the parents of the kids being babysat were at a wild 70s Halloween party. I want that movie, too.
- Michael is scary, but after all the buildup, not exactly as I was expecting. The POV cam is so incredibly chilling, though, especially when he’s following the little kid home after school. I can’t wait to watch this over and over again, though, to grasp every detail I can.
- BEST SCENE: Oh, it’s gotta be the moment when Laurie is leaning up against the door crying, thinking that he’s out for the count, and in the darkness behind her, you slowly start to see the white of his mask appear.
9. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
“There’s a girl in the garden.”
As with many high schoolers, I went through a major zombie phase. I swore by Romero, was kind of bored by Fulci, and when Shaun of the Dead came out a few years after the prime of my zombie movie period, I completely fell in love. All the callouts to the classics, the care they took to follow the rules, to joke about the movie genre, but to still take it seriously — it all worked perfectly for me. I watched it and watched it and watched it — now, in 2018, it still stands up as a great movie.
- “Get fucked, four-eyes” is a phrase said in my household about, I’d say, a few times a month still.
- It’s incredibly funny, but it’s another one that still holds up as a true genre film, even though you laugh throughout. There are some genuinely creepy moments, though, and some jump scares that work just right.
- BEST SCENE: I’m a sucker for the morning when it all starts, and Shaun is walking through his neighborhood to the corner shop, completely oblivious to the undead aftermath around him.
- Slither – for when you’re in the mood for something funny, light, but gross
- Get Out – for when you wanna watch a legit great movie, but also want to feel tense and nervous the whole time
- The Shining – for when you want more snow movies after you watch The Thing
- Pan’s Labyrinth – for when you don’t want a straight-up horror movie, but something with creepy imagery
- Cabin Fever – for when you want to never shave your legs again and also when you want paaancaaaaakes
- District 9 – for when you wanna watch a sci-fi movie, but also wanna see some nasty body horror
- The Craft – for when you want inspo to start a 90s-inspired coven
What’s your favorite scary movie? What do you think I should check out?