Opinion: A Guide to Horror Movies, Recommendations for Beginners to Professionals

A small collection of horror movie DVDs stacked on top of each other. These are just a handful of the horror movies readers will find on this watchlist, including the author’s favorites: “The Crow” and “Silent Hill” (Photo illustration by Phoebe Holm).

In my eyes, horror movies are the best part of the Halloween season. Thus, I will use any excuse to talk about them. 

Horror is a diverse genre that can serve as an umbrella term for many types of movies, with a number of themes. It is filled with various sub-genres including thriller, supernatural, psychological, creature-features, folk-tales, found footage, science-fiction, gothic-fiction, slasher, comedy-horror, survival and much more. 

No matter your taste, however specific, there’s a horror movie for you.

The genre as a whole brings with it a lot of misconceptions, as many individuals believe that every film is filled with blood and gore. In reality, the story doesn’t need blood to be scary. For example, there are horror movies about well-known ghost stories and cryptid legends that use nothing of the sort. There are horror movies that build suspense and have deep, thought-out plots. But these less gorey films tend to get overshadowed by the violent ones. 

For those in need of a seamless integration into the horror genre – and for those who are looking to dig deeper within the genre and find a handful of niche, uncommon films – I have curated a list of movies just for you. 

Mind you, these are the ones that I believe are the most worth watching. If you find a series and want to watch all of its films, go ahead! 

Also, a forewarning: Some of these films may be a little alarming or shocking to some people. Some of them contain blood and gore, jumpscares, frightening character designs, flashing lights and other sensitive topics and imagery.

But don’t be intimidated; all of these choices are well-made films with a lot of passion behind them. 

There are three different lists below, organized by intensity. 

Beginner: 

The first collection of movies isn’t too terrifying – but they all serve as a good segue into the genre, without keeping you up at night.

For example, “The Others,” a story about a devoutly religious mother who moves her family to the countryside in the wake of WWII where her children suddenly begin to see ghosts, serves as a good film for beginners. It eases into the suspense and supernatural phenomena without throwing a ton of jumpscares their way. 

These films are what I first watched when my fascination for horror arose. They familiarized me with scary themes after being purposely sheltered from those sorts of movies for the first half of my life. They gave me an appreciation for special and practical effects. They revealed to me the horror movie stereotypes and rules of survival: To never have sex, never drink or do drugs,  avoid creepy, old houses and never say “I’ll be right back.” The movies introduced me to and helped me break down barriers that my fears had built up inside of me. 

  • “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” (1988) 
  • “The Others” (2001)
  • “The Village” (2004)
  • “Silver Bullet” (1985)
  • “Fright Night” (1985)
  • “The Faculty” (1998)
  • “Graveyard Shift” (1990)
  • “Nosferatu” (1922)
  • “Sleepy Hollow” (1999)
  • “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956)
  • “The Blob” (1958) or (1988)
  • “Dracula” (1931) 
  • “Wicker Man” (1973)
  • “The Invisible Man” (1933)
  • “Gingersnaps” (2000)
  • “Malevolent” (2018)
  • “Demonic” (2015)
  • “Oculus” (2013)
  • “Child’s Play” (1988)
  • “Child’s Play 2” (1990)
  • “Cujo” (1983)
  • “Desperation” (2006)
  • “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954)
  • “I See You” (2019)
  • “Gothika” (2003)
  • “Gremlins” (1984) 
  • “Trick r’ Treat” (2007)
  • “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006)
  • “The Sixth Sense” (1999)
  • “The Strangers” (2008)
  • “People Under the Stairs” (1991)
  • “Scream” (1996)
  • “Scream 4” (2011)
  • “The Crow” (1994)
  • “Dreamcatcher” (2003)
  • “Creepshow” (1982)
  • “Freddy Vs. Jason” (2003)
  • “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992) 

Intermediate:

Movies on this list can be considered a bit more intense and may be scarier to those who haven’t had much exposure to horror. 

For instance, “Evil Dead 2” takes suspense a step forward and elevates it. A group of teenagers have to fight horrifying demons in a secluded cabin in the woods after finding an audiotape that contains recordings of readings from the Book of the Dead, resulting in one of the teenagers becoming possessed by evil forces. 

These movies – as I like to say – desensitized me to a lot of otherwise disturbing things. They allowed me to explore more frightening themes, and appreciate the storylines and effects of slasher films. They grew my love of practical effects and for mind-boggling psychothrillers, which made me rethink shadows in the dark and what could be potentially lurking around in the night. They nurtured my fascination with supernatural forces and other cryptid legends and heightened my love for the genre. 

  • “The Thing” (1982)
  • “The Mist” (2007)
  • “IT” (1990) or (2017)
  • “Carrie” (1976)
  • “Suspiria” (1977) or (2018) 
  • “American Psycho” (2000)
  • “Alien” (1979) 
  • “A Nightmare On Elm Street” (1984)
  • “A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” (1987)
  • “Train to Busan” (2016)
  • “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) 
  • “Return of the Living Dead” (1985) 
  • “Eden Lake” (2008)
  • “Misery” (1990)
  • “The Evil Dead” (1981)
  • “Evil Dead 2” (1987)
  • “The Conjuring” (2013)
  • “Jeepers Creepers” (2001)
  • “The Ring” (2002)
  • “Seven” (1995) 
  • “Silent Hill” (2006)
  • “Silent Hill: Revelation” (2012)
  • “Thir13en Ghosts” (2001)
  • “The VVitch” (2015)
  • “You’re Next” (2011)
  • “1408” (2007)
  • “The Babadook” (2014) 
  • “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968)
  • “The Exorcist” (1973)
  • “The Fly” (1986)
  • “District 9” (2009) 
  • “The Grudge” (2004) 
  • “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” (2005)
  • “Brightburn” (2019)
  • “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” (2016)
  • “An American Werewolf in London” (1981)

Professional:

The third list is for those feeling adventurous – these films are bound to leave you uncomfortable at the end. Some bombard you will jumpscare after jumpscare, leaving you on the defense. Unsure of what the next scene holds. Some were so twisted, they left me questioning if people were capable of doing the things they did in these films. The antagonists of the films shook me to my core in both character design and the acts they committed. These didn’t come into my repertoire until much later and are not for the faint of heart. 

For example, “The Taking of Deborah Logan” is a found-footage horror movie about a thesis student who documents the daily life of a woman, Deborah Logan, who is struggling with late-onset Alzheimer’s. However, it is apparent that instead, something sinister has taken control of her. It feels realistic as if the events actually occurred in reality. It keeps you perpetually alarmed and has specific horrifying scenes with some intense imagery. These films bring a lot of new ideas and concepts to horror and consist of a lot of different elements that attempt to scare its audience. The depths of horror are never fully apparent, the only way you know you’ve gone too deep is to take the plunge. But sometimes you will find a deeper love for something that way. 

  • “Grave Encounters” (2011)
  • “Hell House LLC.” (2015)
  • “The Taking of Deborah Logan” (2014)
  • “Ganjiam: Haunted Asylum” (2018)
  • “Hellraiser” (1992)
  • “Creep” (2014)
  • “Creep 2”  (2017)
  • “Green Room” (2015)
  • “Session 9” (2001) 
  • “Piggy” (2022)
  • “Audition” (1999)
  • “As Above, So Below” (2014)
  • “I Saw the Devil” (2010)
  • “Evil Dead” (2013) 
  • “Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
  • “Cloverfield” (2008)
  • “10 Cloverfield Lane” (2016)
  • “28 Days Later” (2002)
  • “The Descent” (2005)
  • “Sleepaway Camp” (1983)
  • “Hereditary” (2018)
  • “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974)
  • “[REC]” (2007) 
  • “The Host” (2006) 
  • “The House That Jack Built” (2018)
About Phoebe Holm 19 Articles
Phoebe Holm is a junior from Boyne City, Michigan and a psychology major at Albion College. She is interested in understanding the human mind, writing about things that make her passionate and creating art. You can always find her listening to music and watching movies. Contact Phoebe via email at PJH12@albion.edu

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