Halloween is a time of candy, costumes, and carving pumpkins, but for people of every persuasion, it’s also the perfect time to take in a good scary movie. For the enterprising film fanatic in search of suggestions to complement their holiday, this is a list of recommendations that fit the bill.
Each title is sorted alphabetically, ranked by the MPAA rating from PG to Unrated, and the links lead to an in-depth review of the film with posters and trailers. Additional recommendations can be found in The top 10 zombie movies of all time.
Beetlejuice – PG – 1988 – d. Tim Burton – Supernatural Comedy
– A recently deceased couple hire an eccentric bio-exorcist to rid their home of its new occupants. Highly original creepy fun.
The ‘Burbs – PG – 1989 – d. Joe Dante – Comedy Thriller
– Tom Hanks stars as a concerned suburbanite wary of his creepy neighbors. Family-friendly, accessibly goofy fun.
Ghostbusters – PG – 1984 – d. Ivan Reitman – Supernatural Comedy
– Three parapsychologists in New York start a business to rid the city of ghosts. Funny, scary, and invigorating masterpiece with universal appeal.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – PG – 1978 – d. Philip Kaufman – Sci-fi Horror
– Organisms from space begin replacing humans on Earth. Well written with an unsettling tone.
Apollo 18 – PG-13 – 2011 – Gonzalo López-Gallego – Sci-fi Horror
– A covert moon mission uncovers hidden secrets. Interesting plot largely free of true suspense.
Arachnophobia – PG-13 – 1990 – d. Frank Marshall – Comedy Horror
– A new species of deadly spiders descend on a small town. Gross, family-friendly fun.
Battle: Los Angeles – PG-13 – 2011 – d. Jonathan Liebesman – Sci-fi Action
– The army must try to stop an invasion of extra-terrestrials in LA. Well plotted with great action.
Cloverfield – PG-13 – 2009 – d. Matt Reeves – Sci-fi Horror
– A giant, indestructible monster begins destroying New York. Creative, unsettling entertainment.
Fire in the Sky – PG-13 – 1993 – d. Robert Lieberman – Sci-fi Thriller
– Based on an allegedly true alien abduction. Smart, procedural plot with unsettling shocks.
Ghost – PG-13 – 1990 – d. Jerry Zucker – Fantasy Thriller
– A deceased man struggles to protect his girlfriend. Multi-genre masterpiece with a great script.
Insidious – PG-13 – 2010 – d. James Wan – Supernatural Horror
– A family contends with a possible haunting in a new house. Well executed, insubstantial scares.
The Monster Squad – PG-13 – 1987 – d. Fred Dekker – Comedy Horror
– A group of pre-teens wage war against monsters. Occasionally creepy, undeniably fun.
Troll Hunter – PG-13 – 2010 – d. André Øvredal – Fantasy Horror
– A documentary film crew follows a man who rids the world of trolls. Formulaic but interesting.
Alien – R – 1979 – d. Ridley Scott – Sci-fi Horror
– Humans discover an alien species on a distant planet. Ridiculously creative horror masterpiece.
Army of Darkness – R – 1992 – d. Sam Raimi – Comedy Horror
– A man fights the medieval denizens of the underworld. Undeniably fun macho action romp.
Black Death – R – 2010 – d. Christopher Smith – Supernatural Horror
– A legion investigates a town unaffected by the Plague. Well plotted, unsettling dark age epic.
The Blair Witch Project – R – 1999 – d. D. Myrick & E. Sanchez – Supernatural Horror
– Student documentarians are hunted in the woods. Deceptively creepy, realisitic masterpiece.
The Blob – R – 1988 – d. Chuck Russell – Sci-fi Horror
– A viscous substance from space begins consuming people. Deeply unsettling, gory B-movie.
The Brood – R – 1979 – d. David Cronenberg – Sci-fi Horror
– A father investigates murders committed by children. Deeply unsettling high concept thriller.
Burke & Hare – R – 2010 – d. John Landis – Comedy Horror
– Two enterprising grave-robbers turn murderous. Occasionally creepy but ironically fun.
Creepshow – R – 1982 – d. George A. Romero – Pulp Horror
– An anthology of five shorts written by Stephen King. Deeply unsettling, high-tempo B-movie.
Dead & Buried – R – 1981 – d. Gary Sherman – Supernatural Horror
– A small town sheriff finds tourists turning up dead. Flawless atmosphere with unsettling shocks.
The Dead Zone – R – 1983 – d. David Cronenberg – Supernatural Drama
– A man with foresight reluctantly helps those around him. Well conceived and original drama.
Demon Knight – R – 1995 – d. Ernest Dickerson – Pulp Horror
– Two spiritual enemies wage a battle in a church-turned-hotel. Immensely satisfying B-movie.
The Descent – R – 2005 – d. Neil Marshall – Horror
– Six women trapped cave diving find they may not be alone. Endlessly horrifying masterpiece.
District 9 – R – 2009 – d. Neill Blomkamp – Sci-fi Thriller
– Indigent aliens on Earth are forced to relocate. Boundlessly original and intelligent masterpiece.
Dog Soldiers – R – 2002 – d. Neil Marshall – Action Horror
– A training exercise ends with soldiers fending off werewolves. High-tempo gory fun.
Eden Lake – R – 2008 – d. James Watkins – Survival Horror
– A couple on holiday crosses a group of teenagers. Deeply affecting terror on a relevant story.
Evil Dead II – R – 1987 – d. Sam Raimi – Horror Comedy
– A man wards off resurrected demons in a secluded cabin. Occasionally scary high-concept fun.
The Fly – R – 1986 – d. David Cronenberg – Sci-fi Horror
– A scientist accidentally merges himself with an insect. Impacting, well scripted gory masterpiece.
Frailty – R – 2001 – d. Bill Paxton – Supernatural Thriller
– A father believes he must kill demons hidden in humans. Ingeniously executed bloodless horror.
Fright Night – R – 2011 – d. Craig Gillespie – Horror Comedy
– A teenager discovers that his next door neighbor is a vampire. Viscerally satisfying, creepy fun.
The Frighteners – R – 1996 – d. Peter Jackson – Horror Comedy
– A medium encounters a ghost that murders people. Lightly campy, original and creepy fun.
The House of the Devil – R – 2009 – d. Ti West – Supernatural Horror
– A teen house sits the home of an unsavory family. High tension thrills with visceral execution.
Jacob’s Ladder – R – 1990 – d. Adrian Lyne – Supernatural Horror
– A man is suddenly plagued by visions of demons. Depressingly terrifying horror masterpiece.
The Mist – R – 2007 – d. Frank Darabont – Supernatural Horror
– Fog befalls a New England town, bringing creatures with it. Hugely terrifying, endless shocks.
Paranormal Activity – R – 2007 – d. Oren Peli – Supernatural Horror
– A couple document strange goings-on in their house. Well executed, satisfyingly broad thrills.
Red State – R – 2011 – d. Kevin Smith – Action Horror
– A cult engages the FBI at their compound. Uneven but well written with occasional shocks.
Scanners – R – 1986 – d. David Cronenberg – Sci-fi Horror
– New abilities allow some people to kill with thoughts. Deft, gory execution with muddled focus.
Shivers (They Came From Within) – R – 1976 – d. David Cronenberg – Sci-fi Horror
– A medical advance turns parasitic in a posh apartment building. Intelligent and gory thrills.
Splice – R – 2009 – d. Vincenzo Natali – Sci-fi Horror
– Two geneticists create a highly intelligent organism. Interesting concept with uneven execution.
Sunshine – R – 2007 – d. Danny Boyle – Sci-fi Thriller
– Astronauts attempt to re-ignite our dying Sun. Brilliantly plotted thrills, some unsettling shocks.
Take Shelter – R – 2011 – d. Jeff Nichols – Supernatural Thriller
– Apocalyptic visions begin complicating a man’s life. Original, tightly plotted masterpiece.
They Live – R – 1988 – d. John Carpenter – Sci-fi Action
– A man finds out the world is full of covert aliens. B-movie with exceptionally great execution.
The Thing – R – 1982 – d. John Carpenter – Sci-fi Horror
– An alien that imitates its prey is discovered in Antarctica. An unsettling mystery masterpiece.
The Ward – R – 2010 – d. John Carpenter – Supernatural Horror
– Psych ward patients fight an unseen foe. Insubstantial plot, extremely well executed thrills.
We Need to Talk About Kevin – R – 2011 – Lynne Ramsay – Psychological Thriller
– A mother watches the growth of her psychopathic son. Inescapably relevant with tense thrills.
Antichrist – UR – 2009 – d. Lars von Trier – Psychological Horror
– A couple in seclusion find enemies in each other. Scarringly graphic with unwavering grimness.
The Vanishing – UR – 1988 – d. George Sluizer – Psychological Thriller
– A man searches for his missing lover. Brilliant masterpiece with an earth-shattering climax.
Videodrome – UR – 1982 – d. David Cronenberg – Sci-fi Horror
– A sleazy TV exec pursues a pirated snuff program with unsettling and weird results. Masterpiece of social criticism with pulpy execution.
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