Cinema Treats: The Best Halloween Movies
Updated: Oct 12, 2019
October is a beautiful month not only because of the changing leaves and cooler weather, but because ghouls, ghosts and gore is abound, monsters lurk under our beds, slashers slash, and darkness and demons are all the rage. That’s why Halloween is my favorite holiday. Of course, I’m talking about movies. Halloween brings out the most exciting genre of cinema. This is a list of some of the best movies to watch for the Halloween mood. This is not an exhaustive list due to the many great horror movies in the world but rather some of my favorites and others to induce nightmares. Happy Halloween, folks.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Before there was horror, there was German Expressionism. This revolutionary film is considered to be the first horror film and there’s no doubt its influence is still ubiquitous today. To neglect this film because it is silent is to truly miss a chilling, surreal experience. If anything, it should be celebrated because this masterpiece still surpasses so many other horror films and it came out in 1920. It was over before we knew it. Luckily, not every aspiring filmmaker threw up their arms in frustration after watching this, knowing they couldn’t make something this good and instead, many were inspired by it. Thankfully, I can go on with this list because there are more great horror films because of Dr. Caligari. It’s on Amazon Prime Video right now. So go watch it. Right now.
Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror (1922)
My first run-in with Nosferatu, bizarrely, was through Spongebob and the Hash-Slinging-Slasher episode. Which is, honestly, a decent episode for Halloween as well. Little did I know at the time that Nosferatu was a horror silent-film masterpiece from the silent-era master and German director F.W. Murnau. Another haunting piece of German Expressionism, Nosferatu (based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula) is a grand technical achievement with eerie and gothic devices that are just as influential on the horror genre. Also on Amazon Prime Video right now. Finish Dr. Caligari first.
Eyes Without a Face (1959)
Tragic, sickening, disturbing and wonderful. Just as thrilling to watch today as it was in 1960.
Not only is it a horror masterpiece. It’s Hitchcock’s essential masterpiece in a filmography full of them. Hitchcock made horror cool.
De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel brings teen angst and high school prom to the screen in a gruesome grandeur of red. Blood has never looked more glorious...
The Shining (1980)
...Except for maybe in The Shining when it’s flowing through a hallway like a river. Stanley Kubrick kept horror cool.
Don’t Look Now (1973)
Nicolas Roeg turns Venice into a nightmare getaway rather than a romantic one. This suspenseful film is a jarring watch. Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland are at the top of their game as an intensely grief-stricken married couple trying to get through the horror of losing a child. It also features one of the most intimate, raw sex scenes ever put on celluloid. Beautiful imagery mixed with haunting imagery, what more could you ask for?
Donnie Darko (2001)
I love this movie with a passion. Jake Gyllenhaal has given tremendous performances since, but this one still stands as one of his best. Turns out we’re always dressed up for Halloween, wearing our funny man-suits. Whatever you expect on a first-time viewing, it’ll be something else entirely.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
One of my first horror movie memories is watching one of the remakes of Tobe Hooper’s classic. Though I didn’t realize it as a kid, the original is the only one worth watching.
Bone Tomahawk (2015)
One of the strangest movies you’ll ever watch and probably the most horrifying western you’ll ever watch. Perfect for Halloween.
28 Days Later (2003)
Zombies run. What a concept.
Zombieland (2009) and Zombieland: Double Tap (In theaters October 18th)
The best of the zom-com. Hopefully the sequel is just as good.
The Wicker Man (1973)
Subtle and ingenious, The Wicker Man is a cult classic. Haven’t seen the Nicolas Cage remake, don’t really want to.
The Exorcist (1973)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Don’t fall asleep.
One of the best horror films of the 21st Century. A wonderful ode to the magic of movies and yeah, it’s scary.
It’s scare-level hasn’t aged well and Spielberg’s magical touch doesn’t really mesh with Tobe Hooper’s dark sensibilities, but it’s still such a fun watch.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Yeah I’ve never actually seen it. Just putting it on here to remind myself to change that ASAP.
Wish we could go back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Frankenstein is unnervingly beautiful.
It Follows (2015)
There are a lot of horror movies, mainly slashers, that basically tell you to not have sex. This one really doubles down on that in that it’s the plot of the film. You have sex, you die. It’s a riveting watch too.
The Strangers (2008)
“Because you were home.” That line hits hard every damn time.
Subverting horror while being horrifying.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Edgar Wright’s zom-com is hilarious and clever.
Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986)
Some good old fashioned space-horror and basically the only good space-horror.
The Babadook (2014)
Exhausting in the most horrific way, you’ll want to crawl into bed, sleep and never have kids.
A Quiet Place (2018)
Truly original and frightening. John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are fantastic.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Amazing how well this film still lives up, not that it ever had a chance of not living up. Harrowing, thrilling, horrifying, thought-provoking and so many other ways to describe this masterclass of cinema. Jonathon Demme and his close-ups are missed.
It’s not your typical horror film. Until it is and then it isn’t again. A horror film masked as a suburban family drama, Ari Aster’s debut is unsettling in many different ways right up until that jaw-dropping ending.
Get Out (2017)
When we found out that Jordan Peele, on top of being hilarious, is also a horror visionary and genius.
Paranormal Activity (2009)
Before the sequels tainted its legacy, Paranormal Activity was something to behold.
The Witch (2015)
Robbert Eggers’ debut film is a terrifying atmospheric period piece about the consequences of overly-earnest belief, sometimes the Devil can win and it’s not pretty. Watch this in anticipation for his sophomore feature The Lighthouse starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe coming to theaters October 18th.
This Netflix Stephen King adaptation is one of the best on the streaming service and a creepy slow-burn drama.
Some Halloween fun for the whole family. Tim Burton’s classic never gets old.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
I wish I could go back and see The Sixth Sense for the first time again.
The Ritual (2017)
This scared the wits out of me. Usually when the lurking force in a horror film is finally seen, the scares sort of dwindle, but in the The Ritual when the monster is finally seen, you still want to turn away because it’s horrifying to look at.
The Conjuring (2013)
James Wan’s film kicked-off its own little horror universe but none of them match the dread and spine-chilling of The Conjuring.
The Invitation (2015)
Focusing on character and emotion before the blood spills and the jaw-drops, Karyn Kusama’s film is a brilliantly chilling, slow-burn dinner party.
Green Room (2015)
No monster, no supernatural entities. Just bloodthirsty, neo-Nazi skinheads. It’s a bloodbath and it’s so damn fun to watch.
Gerald’s Game (2017)
Another Netflix Stephen King Adaptation, Mike Flanagan knows how to make a gripping horror film. His next film, Doctor Sleep, an adaptation of King’s sequel to The Shining hits theaters November 8th.
Mike Flanagan’s debut horror film has many flaws, but its still an excitingly fresh take on a masked killer pursuing a young woman.
The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix TV Show 2018)
While I’m still on Mike Flanagan, his Netflix series adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s classic novel is a profound and very scary look at trauma and grief, with an extremely moving and cathartic ending. Hill House isn’t just one the best shows of the decade, it’s one of the best of the century and maybe ever. Watch the show and then read this article from Vulture’s Lindsey Romain because she says it better: https://www.vulture.com/2018/10/the-haunting-of-hill-house-netflix-ending-meaning.html
Train to Busan
Yeon Sang-ho’s zombie thriller is one of those rare films that is extremely entertaining and thoughtful at the same time.
The Orphanage (2007)
A classic haunted house horror film, one of the best of the 2000s.
The Fly (1986)
Cronenberg, he’s a mad genius.
The Host (2007)
South Korea’s master filmmaker Bong Joon Ho’s monster movie is smashing fun that actually has a lot to say.
It Comes at Night (2017)
While ultimately unsatisfying, it’s tense as hell.
The Birds (1963)
Only Hitchcock could make birds terrifying.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Guillermo Del Toro’s horror/fantasy fable is a genuine, beautiful force for love.
Evil Dead (1981)
Sam Raimi’s seminal, low-budget horror film is pure blood, pure terror, and pure evil. There’s not much like it and never will be.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Drew Goddard’s film is a wild ride, and on first watch, an unexpected and self-aware satire on horror films. Keep an eye on Chris Hemsworth (Thor in the Marvel films) and you’ll get a good laugh.
The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter’s film was a failure when it came out, now it’s a sci-fi/horror masterpiece. The effects still hold up and it’s way better than the remake.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
A revelatory, found-footage horror film. Terrifying in both its imagination and realism.
Halloween (1978) and (2018)
Obviously. My favorite horror film and, to me, the best slasher film ever made. John Carpenter changed the game with Michael Myers and then David Gordon Green kept it going with 2018’s flawed, but entertaining same-name sequel, disregarding all the other sequels and reboots. There is nothing like hearing that piano score, knowing Michael Myers looms onscreen and the Halloween season is here. I’ve seen the movie so much, you would think I’d be desensitized to the scares but nope, when Laurie Strode looks out the window and sees that mask hiding behind the hanging laundry in that suburban town, dread and fear still linger in my gut. Michael Myers will probably never be put to rest as long as there is money to be made from him and I’m okay with that, but nothing will ever match the first time he scared us.