In the weeks leading up to Halloween, there’s always the need to break out the horror movies to get in the holiday spirit. While some choices like Hocus Pocus or Halloween are must-watch options, there are plenty of other films in the genre to check out. In fact, horror movies have seen a bit of a renaissance as of late. The past decade has brought a surprising amount of must-see films, some of which have earned high praise from horror fans and mainstream audiences alike.
Whether you’re a fan of the horror genre or a seasonal horror movie watcher, here's a brief overview of the 25 top-rated horror movies of all time, according to Rotten Tomatoes. We begin with some from the past few years and go in reverse chronological order all the way back to the 1920s. So if you’re tired of Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street marathons each October, why not check out something on this list?
1. Get Out (2017)
Image: Universal Pictures/IMDb
Chris Washington and his girlfriend, Rose Armitage, are spending a weekend with her parents at their family estate. Over time, things begin to become more and more uncomfortable for Chris (and the audience watching him). Everything comes to a head when he decides he needs to get out. Get Out was huge hit among all movies in 2017 and even nabbed an Oscar for Jordan Peele in his directoral debut.
2. The Witch (2015)
A period movie following a 17th century family being overtaken by a mysterious power. If you're looking for a slow burning tension, you're not going to want to miss this one.
3. It Follows (2015)
Image: Northern Lights Films/IMDb
Nobody quite knows what "It" is because it takes many forms. They don't know where it will turn up, but it's always coming for you no matter where you are. The only thing they do know is once they get infected by the curse, they need to transfer it to someone else.
4. The Babadook (2014)
Image: Screen Australia/Causeway Films/IMDb
Surely, a character from a spooky children's book can't be that scary, right? Well, maybe after reading about the Babadook, you'll think differently and want to sleep with the lights on.
5. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Much like how Wes Craven brought a new meta twist to horror movies in the 90s with A New Nightmare and Scream, The Cabin in the Woods sets up something similar. While the film starts out as a typical scenario with a group of teens on a weekend romp at a cabin when erie things start to happen. However, the audience quickly learns that these instances aren't as coincidental as they may seem.
6. Let the Right One In (2008)
Image: Magnolia Pictures/IMDb
How do you handle things when you fall in love with someone who turns out to be a blood-thirsty vampire? You go along with it and exact revenge on your bullies.
7. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Image: Wild Bunch/IMDb
Pan's Labyrinth is a little more fantasy than it is horror, but that doesn't mean it won't give you nightmares. Guillermo del Toro has made a living out of the fantastic characters and worlds he's created, and deservedly takes a high spot on this list. The movie takes place during World War II and follows a young girl, Ofelia, who is taken to a magical world. There, she must complete three tasks to prove herself a princess and see her father again.
8. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
While it's a rarity to see a horror film with multiple Oscar nominations, The Silence of the Lambs actually took home five such awards in 1991 including the highest honor of Best Picture. The movie features Jodie Foster as FBI agent Clarice Starling, who enlists the help of incarcerated killer Hannibal Lector to help her catch another killer on the loose.
9. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)
As far as zombie movies go, The Evil Dead is top tier. Unlike zombie movies before it, this film introduced a little humor to the genre as evidenced by the over-the-top carnage during the fight scenes. Evil Dead II stars Bruce Cambell as Ash, the lone survivor from the first movie as he hides out in a cabin with a group of strangers to escape from zombies...until, of course, it's time to fight back.
10. Aliens (1986)
Image: 20th Century Fox/IMDb
The sequel to Ridley Scott's critically-acclaimed Alien takes place 57 years later with Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) awaking from hypersleep to help fight against aliens who have destroyed a space colony on the moon LV-426.
11. Don't Look Now (1973)
Image: DLN Ventures/IMDb
After moving to Venice following the death of their daughter, things only start to get worse for John and Laura Baxter. After an odd run-in with a pair of elderly sisters bearing a psychic message, John starts receiving visions of his own, including what looks to be his own funeral.
12. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Ruth Gordon won the Oscar for best supporting actress and Rosemary's Baby was also nominated for best screenplay. The film begins with a miracle pregnancy for the title character, Rosemary Woodhouse, and her husband. However, Rosemary's paranoia drives her to be cut off from those around her as increasingly strange things occur.
13. NIght of the Living Dead (1968)
Image: Image Ten/IMDb
Night of the Living Dead is the quintessential zombie movie. Directed by George Romero, the movie features a group of individuals who have barricaded themselves in a barn to escape the zombie apocalypse. Unfortunately, instead of finding safety, they've more or less trapped themselves.
14. Repulsion (1965)
Image: Compton Films/IMDb
A woman who is repulsed by sexuality, especially her roommate sister and her married lover, shuts herself off from the world and is driven to madness by her own delusions.
15. The Birds (1963)
Image: Alfred Hitchcock Productions/IMDb
This list would not be complete with a film from noted horror director Alfred Hitchcock. (He shows up more than once on this list, by the way, and rightfully so.) Much like how Jaws made everyone scared to go in the water, The Birds made everyone scared to even be outside. It's amazing how scary an ordinary animal can become.
16. Eyes Without a Face (1962)
Image: Champs Elysees Productions/IMDb
Dr. Genessier's daughter, Christine, lives her life with facial disfigurement from a car accident. Feeling guilty for causing the accident in the first place, he vows to get her a new face by kidnapping girls and attempting facial transplants.
17. The Innocents (1961)
Image: 20th Century Fox/IMDb
After being hired to care for two orphaned children, Miss Giddens becomes convinced something is wrong at their uncle's estate. She begins seeing mysterious figures and the children's behavior seems off. Upon learning of the recent deaths of the former governess and valet at the property, she suspects that the children have become posessed.
18. Psycho (1960)
Another Alfred Hitchcock classic, Psycho follows Marian Crane and her disturbing stay at the Bates Motel. Many look to this film as an influence in "twist endings" in movies.
19. Godzilla (1954)
Just your run-of-the-mill movie about a giant lizard monster emerging from the sea near a nuclear testing facility and destroying a city. Ok, the original Godzilla (Gojira) is a little more than that taking into consideration how many sequels and remakes have been released.
20. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Much like the title suggests, the sequel to 1931's Frankenstein (also on this list) sees the monster get a bride. Ah, true love!
21. King Kong (1933)
Another love story of sorts, as King Kong falls in love with actress Ann Darrow, who is abducted while filming a movie on location at Skull Island. After being captured by the crew, King Kong is brought to the city to be an attraction for the public. Unfortunately for the city, the ape has other plans.
22. Freaks (1932)
Cleopatra, a trapeze artist, takes interest in Hans, a performer in a circus sideshow. She plans to marry him to get his inheritance while having an affair with another different performer, Hercules. Once the truth comes out, her plan quickly falls apart and she finds herself in a troublesome situation.
23. Frankenstein (1931)
Remember, Frankenstein refers to Dr. Henry Frankentein, the star of this film whose obsession to bring the dead back to life unleashes a monster of his creation.
24. Nosferatu (1922)
Image: Jofa Atelier Berlin-Johannisthal/IMDb
Vampire movies have evolved over the years, but Nosferatu is the quintessential OG vampire. This silent film is still a staple among horror junkies and one of the most copied and remade properties in all of horror.
25. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Image: Delca-Bioscop AG/IMDb
The mysterious plot of this movie centers on Dr. Caligari and Cesare, a somnabulist who's being used to commit murders. Spoilers, of course, but the movie is almost 100 years old, so you've had plenty of opportunity to see it. We still highly recommend it.
So how many of the highest rated horror films have you seen? If you're interested in the genre at all and have only seen 10 or fewer, it's time to start watching. It might be cool to watch all of these in chronological order and try to point out the influences these movies have had on others. If you do watch any or see any, let us know which are your favorites. If you're looking to get in the Halloween spirit, need some costume inspiration, or just want to chill with some friends and get scared, this list will have something that's to your liking.