13 Halloween Movies that Will Scare You Senseless

From slashers to seances, we've rounded up the best Halloween movies (with bonus video trailers) for a scary night in. Too scary? Try the best Halloween movies for kids.

By Damon Beres
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    House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

    On our Halloween movies list because: It's a shocking gorefest set on Halloween: Possibly stomach-turning, but definitely fit for mature audiences looking for a thrill to match the occasion.

    Critics say: "[Director Rob] Zombie, pillaging from every low-budget freak-out he can, proves that he at least has a lurid touch for shock theatrics. Blood spatters on the floor like a Jackson Pollock."—Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly


    Sleepy Hollow (1999)

    On our Halloween movies list because: There's hardly a better fit for a creepy night in than director Tim Burton, and his take on the Washington Irving short story is ghoulish, intriguing fun. 

    Critics say: "Gorgeous filmmaking that brims over with fun-house thrills and ravishing romance... Heads roll, bodies pile up, and the horseman—played in flashback by a megaweird Christopher Walken—rises from the dead."—Peter Travers, Rolling Stone


    Halloween (1978)

    On our Halloween movies list because: Halloween all but invented an entire subgenre of slasher horror movies, those that take place on All Hallows' Eve.

    Critics say: "There isn't another post-1970 release that comes close to it in terms of scaring the living hell out of a viewer."—James Berardinelli, Reelviews


    The Changeling (1980)

    On our Halloween movies list because: With a vengeful ghost, a haunted house, and the approval of Martin Scorsese, what more could you want?

    Critics say: "This is a scare movie with taste."—Roger Ebert


    The Amityville Horror (1979)

    On our Halloween movies list because: It's a little stupid, somewhat laughable, and full of overt freakout moments—perfect for some fun if you're not in the mood for the really dark stuff.

    Critics say: "[The house] causes members of the clergy to vomit whenever they visit the place, and has toilets that spew forth black goo. So much for the niceties."—Janet Maslin, The New York Times


    Pet Sematary (1989)

    On our Halloween movies list because: There just aren't enough movies about the walking dead that start with the horrid resurrection of a beloved family cat.

    Critics say: "As a basic, icky, unvarnished scare show Pet Sematary renders some of the creepiness effectively in Halloween-spookhouse fashion."—Common Sense Media


    Poltergeist (1982)

    On our Halloween movies list because: Unnervingly, this ghost story will leave you wary of your own television.

    Critics say: "This is a barnstorming ghost story... consistently redeemed by its creator's dazzling sense of craft."—TimeOut London


    Paranormal Activity (2007)

    On our Halloween movies list because: Something of a modern classic, this shocking feature plays on a culture saturated with reality television and near omnipresent surveillance.

    Critics say: "It comes by its screams honestly, earning them with incremental, at times agonizing gradations of old-fashioned, what's-that-noise-in-the-hallway suspense."—Dana Stevens, Slate


    Ju-On: The Grudge [呪怨] (2002)

    On our Halloween movies list because: It's a fun haunted house film with unnerving, creative imagery.

    Critics say: "When The Grudge... focuses on the scary stuff, there's no shortage of fun to be found. And there are several moments of quietly effectiveness creepiness."—Scott Weinberg, eFilmCritic.com


    Evil Dead (2013)

    On our Halloween movies list because: This new update to the 1981 original eschews some of the camp and piles on the gory scares, making it a decidedly creepier pick for the holiday.

    Critics say: "The gore is considerable (though often imaginative) and Alvarez's decision to forego CGI effects pays grisly dividends. That may not be a genuine tongue being slashed in half lengthwise (while still, it should be noted, in its owner's mouth) but damned if it doesn't look like one."—Christopher Orr, The Atlantic


    House [ハウス/Hausu] (1977)

    On our Halloween movies list because: Every Halloween night deserves a haunted house, and this delirious Japanese flick presents the weirdest, most entertaining example in memory.

    Critics say: "Movies are rarely, if ever, as whirringly rich and strange as House."—Steve Dollar, Paste


    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

    On our Halloween movies list because: More slaughterhouse than haunted house, this classic still chills.

    Critics say: "[A] sneaky equation of middle-class values with cannibalism and wholesale slaughter."—Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader


    Panic Room (2002)

    On our Halloween movies list because: This harrowing home invasion movie is a realistic nail-biter totally devoid of ghouls or the supernatural, making it a choice pick for those who know they'll be triple-checking their locks when the movie's done.

    Critics say: "It could be an especially grisly, profanity-laced entry in the Home Alone' series. And, it must be said, an exceptionally well-directed one."—A.O. Scott, The New York Times


    Too scary?

    Try the best Halloween movies for kids »


    Your Comments

    • hatchetpal

      House of 1000 Corpses is better than chainsaw massacre. Probally cause CM is 40 years old. All the old movies are more of a comedy now. Scared me when i was little, now i get a laugh out of them. Not a real good list to me, sorry i wouldn’t watch any of these for a scare.

    • Paul Mazzoni

      This list became worthless once I saw “House of 1000 Corpses.” It got worse when I saw “Pet Semetary.”

    • Mr. Disappointed

      Once again, the “article” confuses Scary with Gruesome. Scary is a ghost story; Gruesome is chopping people up into pieces and blood flowing everywhere. Murder and mutilation aren’t necessarily scary (and these days usually aren’t). Wondering if or when you’re goinig to encounter a ghost – that is scary.

    • Bat

      Poltergeist was not that scary, the Exorcist was scary, Poltergeist was easily watched with the lights off. I can see 15 minutes of Exorcist and stay up the whole night, scared. Anyone who can say “I’ve seen the Exorcist 167 times, and it keeps getting funnier every time I see it,” deserves an award.

    • JohnnyBoy

      Ain’t nobody got time for all these slideshows, ya seee?

      1. House of 1000 Corpses
      2. Sleepy Hollow
      3. Halloween
      4. The Changeling
      5. The Amityville Horror
      6. Pet Sematary
      7. Poltergeist
      8. Paranormal Activity
      9. Ju-On: The Grudge
      10. Evil Dead (2013)
      11. House [ハウス/Hausu]
      12. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
      13. Panic Room
      14. Hocus Pocus, link to kids movies
      15. Some ad crap

    • da Boss

      Gotta check out the Freddie movies, great around this time of year.

    • Kasia Sos

      How’s Panic Room a horror movie?

      • Tawd

        jodi foster acting is a horror if you ask me!

        • Lizard

          Jodie Foster did better in Silence of the Lambs, but I believe Kristen Stewart (little girl) is the real criminal. As for question above, psychological horror, preys on our fears.

    • Doug

      Loved this movie one of my favorites.

    • David

      House of a Thousand Corpses is stupid. It is like Texas Chainsaw Massacre only bigger and gorier and less artful.

      • Tyler Drainville

        Pretty much. It had a few memorable scenes, but like all Rob Zombie movies, I was left disappointed. I was so excited for Lords of Salem, and it too left me disappointed, though I do need to give that one another chance. It did end pretty stylishly.