Give Netflix and chill an old-school turn and watch the best classic horror movies with your girl instead!
The Scariest Classic Horror Movies Of All Time
1. Halloween (1978)
Often referred to as the “Father Of Slasher Movies,” Halloween has left its mark on popular culture as one of the greatest classic horror movies of all time.
Directed by John Carpenter and starring Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis in her debut film, Halloween received high praises for breathing life into horror movies during a time when they were scarce.
It tells the story of a serial killer named Michael Myers who stalks and kills teenagers on Halloween night. Authorities previously admitted Myers to a sanitarium for killing his older sister when he was only a child. Fifteen years later, he escapes and returns to Haddonfield, Illinois, the fictional town where he committed his first murder. Now, he is intent on starting another killing spree as his psychiatrist, Samuel Loomis, chases him.
Halloween was such a success that it spawned a seven-movie film franchise focusing on Michael Myers. It also inspired novels, video games, and even a comic book series. In 2006, the Library of Congress selected the movie for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
This movie is, undoubtedly, one of the best classic horror movies. It had teenagers at the time checking the back seats of their cars. A lot of people had goosebumps at the thought of even losing their keys. Its fresh elements at the time of its release are the cliches of today’s horror movies.
2. Friday The 13th (1980)
If Halloween was the “Father of Slasher Movies,” Friday the 13th is the mother, brother, and son rolled into one. That's why it takes the 2nd spot on our list of the top classic horror movies you should watch.
The 1980 film gives birth to the iconic hockey goalie mask-wearing, machete-wielding serial killer Jason Voorhees. Ironically, Jason is not even the antagonist in this film. He only makes an appearance in a dream sequence and a backstory but is otherwise absent from the movie.
The movie, directed and produced by Sean S. Cunningham, tells the story of six camp counselors trying to revive an old summer camp. As the night progresses, a mysterious killer in the camp murders each of the counselors (one of whom is a young Kevin Bacon). The survivors only become aware that they are in danger when almost no one is left.
The movie was such a success that it had kids at the time afraid to attend summer camp. This particular type of film became the template of numerous slasher films that followed -- one that tells the story of a mysterious murderer killing off a group of young and unsupervised people.
Like its predecessor, Halloween, Friday The 13th also has numerous sequels, crossover films, and novels. Jason Voorhees’ iconic status in pop culture has become so strong that he has even been featured in another pop culture game, Mortal Kombat.
3. Scream (1996)
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I know what you might be thinking: “Not another slasher film!” Well, gents, Scream is not just another slasher film. It gives us yet another iconic mask we have all come to fear: The Scream painting-inspired Ghostface.
The genius of the movie compared to other classic horror movies is the way it was able to combine black comedy, mystery, and the slasher genre. It was satirical of the cliches of horror movies such as Friday the 13th and Halloween as it featured characters who were aware of those horror films.
This way of storytelling is what made the movie an icon in the 90s. At a time when people were starting to get tired of the typical stalker slasher movie, Scream puts an original spin on it.
The plot of the movie is the characters’ awareness that they are in a horror film. The more that they know about those films, the more chances they have of surviving. An example of this is when one of the girls rejects her boyfriend’s advances. Another character points out that this was good as virgins are never victims in horror movies. The murderer usually kills off the bad boys and girls first — a satirical commentary on horny college kids.
Overall, Scream was a smart and terrifying movie and a refreshing take on an otherwise saturated genre. Cheers to Director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson for coming up with a genius of a movie that outlines the genre’s conventions and uses them in the most clever way.
4. The Evil Dead (1981)
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The Evil Dead is a low-budget supernatural horror film written and directed by Spiderman’s Sam Raimi. It goes on until today to show that we should not easily shrug our shoulders at low-budget films.
The movie tells the story of a group of friends vacationing in an isolated cabin in the woods. In that cabin, the group later finds an audiotape that releases evil spirits. Now, Ash Williams, the movie’s protagonist, must fight off his friends and his sister as they are consumed by the demon one by one.
Horror and supernatural fiction author Stephen King gave the movie a very good review. The Evil Dead has since developed a reputation as one of the biggest cult classics. It also paved the way for sequels, comic book, a television series, and a very successful bunch of video games. Actor Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams would, later on, become another pop culture icon. Empire selected his character as the 24th greatest movie character of all time.
The Evil Dead launched the careers of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, who later collaborated on several films. Raimi’s most iconic work next to The Evil Dead is the Spiderman Trilogy, so not that big a deal. Campbell also had cameos in all three films (the announcer in the 1st movie, the gatekeeper in the 2nd, and the waiter in the 3rd).
Overall, The Evil Dead was a successful movie that captivated and scared its audiences. Its status today proves that low-budget does not necessarily mean low-quality. It created what fans of the cult film call a masterpiece of horror.
5. Night of The Living Dead (1968)
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Night Of The Living Dead is one of the best classic horror movies as it ushered in a new sub-genre of horror altogether.
Directed by George A. Romero, the movie tells the story of a group of people trapped in a rural farmhouse in a living dead-infested Pennsylvania. While this may not seem out of the ordinary today, it was something completely new back then.
The low-budget film grossed $12 million in the US alone as it earned over 250 times its budget worldwide. The Library of Congress also selected the movie for preservation in the National Film Registry.
The movie was a terrifying spectacle to behold at the time. Its gore was shocking and left audiences speechless. The movie’s appeal was in its hopeless and claustrophobic atmosphere that left an impact on the breathless viewers.
6. Blair Witch Project (1999)
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This 1999 supernatural horror film has cemented its spot among top classic horror movies for having popularized the “found footage” type of story-telling of some of the best horror movies today.
It tells the story of three students who went hiking in the Black Hills in Maryland. The students supposedly set out on a hike in ’94 to film a documentary about a local legend called the Blair Witch. The group disappeared and the movie was the “recovered footage” from their project.
It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 1999. The marketing strategy of the movie listed the actors as “missing” or “deceased.” This began to garner the attention of audiences. Later on, it was released in North America and eventually, the rest of the world.
The $60,000-budget movie earned a whopping $250 million worldwide. Its storytelling technique was later on adopted by similarly successful films like Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield.
7. The Ring (1998)
Nope, we are not talking about the 2002 American remake of this film. The original The Ring is the one that truly belongs on the list of the best classic horror movies. As we all know, Japanese horror movies go over the top with the scares. In fact, this movie will probably traumatize you from ever watching another one of them.
Directed by Hideo Nakata, this 1998 Japanese supernatural horror film is an adaptation of the Koji Suzuki novel Ring. It tells the story of a reporter investigating a supposedly cursed videotape that kills whoever plays it in the next 7 days.
The Ring’s poster alone is enough to scare the life out of its viewers. This is a movie that has made its mark in popular culture for the sheer horror of the main antagonist, Sadako Yamamura.
If you are truly looking for a movie that will have your lady wrapping her arms around you, this is the one to watch. It was enough to scare us from even turning our televisions on, especially at the time of its showing. It will leave you seeing the horrifying face of Sadako whenever you close your eyes.
8. Jaws (1975)
You know you are doing something right when you have successfully scared generations from swimming in the sea.
Jaws makes it on our list of the greatest classic horror movies, as it is also considered one of the greatest films ever made. It stood as the highest grossing film of all time, which only Star Wars toppled upon its release.
Based on the novel Jaws of Peter Benchley, it features the hunt for the giant man-eating great white shark. The shark attacks swimmers in the fictional resort town Amity Island. Police chief Martin Brody must now hunt the shark, along with a few others who join him to help.
Jaws and Star Wars established the business model of modern Hollywood. It featured stories centered mainly on action and adventure with simple high-concept premises. In 2001, the Library of Congress also selected this film for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for its cultural and historical significance.
9. The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
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The Silence of The Lambs is one for the books. It featured a star-studded cast headlined by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster.
It tells the story of a young FBI trainee looking to apprehend the serial killer known as “Buffalo Bill.” The killer skins the corpses of his female victims. In her pursuit, she must seek the advice of the genius and cannibalistic psychiatrist-turned-serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
The movie was a critical success and became the fifth highest grossing film of 1991 worldwide. It was the third film to bag awards in all of the top five categories of the Oscars. It won Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress. The Silence of the Lambs was the first and is still the only, horror film to win Best Picture. Next to Exorcist and Jaws, it is also the third horror film to even be nominated in the same category.
To top it off, numerous sites and publications ranked the film among the top 50 films of all time. Critics and directors also regularly cite The Silence of The Lambs for the impression it left on filmmaking.
The US Library of Congress also selected the movie to be preserved in the National Film Registry for its significance in the industry.
10. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
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You know a horror movie will be good if the likes of Wes Craven wrote and directed it.
A Nightmare On Elm Street tells the story of four teenagers who are killed in their dreams causing their death in reality as well. The killer, a burnt man with a glove of Wolverine-like blades, would later become yet another popular culture icon: Freddy Krueger.
The movie was a box-office hit, with critics giving it great reviews. Viewers consider it as one of the best classic horror movies of all time. It also spawned several movies that followed it, a television series, and even a crossover movie with yet another pop culture icon, Jason Voorhees, in Freddy vs. Jason.
A Nightmare On Elm Street confused its viewers between what was real and what was part of a dream. It had teens and adults alike scared of even closing their eyes long before Insidious came out. It was short and intense, yet it left a lasting mark on the slasher horror film genre.
11. Psycho (1960)
If you have never seen this movie, then you owe it to yourself to do so this Halloween. Psycho has, without a doubt, earned a spot in our list of the greatest classic horror movies of all time.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by Joseph Stefano, and starring Anthony Perkins, another icon is brought to life: Norman Bates. It tells the story of a secretary who steals $40,000 from her employer’s client and checks in to Bates Motel. Here, Norman Bates, the owner of the motel who is also interested in taxidermy, greets her. From then on, the creepiness ensues.
Experts consider Psycho as one of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest movies. It is also cemented in the National Film Registry, as the Library of Congress also selected the movie for preservation for its cultural and historical significance. Critics rank it not just among the greatest classic horror movies, but also among the greatest movies of all time.
Psycho leaves viewers with a chilling horror in their minds as its climactic twists and turns produce what is perhaps one of the scariest horror movies of all time.
12. The Shining (1980)
You can never go wrong with Stephen King. He has created some of the most notable figures in film history. From the twins in The Shining to Pennywise in It, Stephen King is an established genius in this field.
The Shining tells the story of Jack Torrence (played by Jack Nicholson), a recovering alcoholic and an aspiring writer. He becomes the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in Colorado along with his wife, Wendy, and son, Danny. Danny, who possesses the psychic ability called “the shining,” sees the horrific past of the hotel. As a snowstorm strands them, Jack’s sanity slowly starts to deteriorate as supernatural and paranormal forces plague them.
This movie gave birth to numerous iconic pop culture characters and scenes. From Jack Nicholson’s deranged face saying “Where’s Johnny?” to a huge wave of blood rushing out of an elevator, all these are familiar to almost every man alive today.
It has made its mark in the modern day film industry as critics regard it as one of the scariest films ever made. Watching Jack Nicholson’s slow descent into madness was more than enough to captivate its audiences and keep them glued to their seats as they covered their eyes.
13. The Exorcist (1973)
Do we even have to talk about this movie? Linda Blair? Head-turning? Floating 3 feet off the bed? With that freaky devil-possessed face?
The Exorcist has rightfully earned its spot in our list of the greatest and scariest classic horror movies of all time. In fact, it is one of the highest grossing films in history and is the first ever horror film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It earned a whopping $441.3 million on a mere $12 million budget.
Widely marketed as being based on actual events, we see a young Linda Blair playing the role of Regan. As the movie progresses, she begins levitating, speaking in different languages, and turning into one of the scariest figures in the history of the film industry. Her mother then seeks medical help, which only leads to a dead end. Later on, the church sends an expert to help them with the job of exorcising the literal hell out her. This seems to prompt her transformation into an even scarier figure which gave its viewers nightmares for days.
What makes it even scarier are the happenings behind the scenes and surrounding the movie's production. Stories claim six people involved in the movie supposedly died during and after the shooting. Another story tells us that the set burned down, but the room where the exorcism was done was left unaffected by the fire.
If you have not seen this movie, then you simply have to. The fact that it is still regarded as the most iconic horror film of all time says enough about it. If you have not seen this movie yet, then be man enough to go and watch it right freakin’ now.
So you want to test exactly just how manly you really are, huh? WatchMojo.com gives us their list of the top 10 movies you should not watch alone:
There you have it: the top classic horror movies you should watch before you turn 30. If you are looking for awesome date ideas, then try spending a night in watching these instead. If you cannot watch them, then do you really deserve to even turn 30? Get up, take a good shower, get your girl on board, and make sure you do not start shrieking like a 5-year-old.
Did we miss any other top classic horror movies you may have on your list? Share them with us in the comments section below!