Narrowing down any movie genre to a list of your top flicks is a near impossible task, but choosing the most terrifying flicks to celebrate Halloween is truly bone-chillingly difficult. There are simply too many from which to pick. Slasher? Supernatural? Zombie? It was a brutal assignment. Here, in no particular order, are the top favorite Halloween flicks and TV shows from some of the News-Miner newsroom staff.
“Alien” (Ridley Scott, 1979) — It’s horror, it’s sci-fi, it’s action, it’s everything you want for an all-time fave movie. It also launched careers for several of its stars and has kept a legion of fans arguing for years whether “Alien III” is canon or nah. (It is.)
“The Thing,” (John Carpenter, 1982) — Deep in Antarctica, a team of scientists face an alien creature that can mimic organisms perfectly. It’s creepy, it’s gory and it’s cemented in horror/sci-fi movie fandom as a top flick. Reviews were not kind when it premiered in 1982 but today it’s gained cult status for fans. You’ll never look at flamethrowers or huskies the same way again.
“The Ring” (Gore Verbinski, 2002) — Based on the 1998 Japanese horror movie “Ringu,” Verbinski’s version is a solid remake and a great movie. For months after seeing it for the first time, I’d call a good buddy of mine and whisper “Seven days” into the phone and hang up — it had that kind of impact. Also, it stars Naomi Watts, who’s just about perfect in anything.
“Dawn of the Dead” (Zack Snyder, 2004) — A remake of George Romero’s 1978 classic by the same name, Snyder’s version redefined the modern zombie genre. They’re fast! They’re gory! And yep, they’re zombies, so they’re still hungry. It also helped launch Snyder’s directing career. It’s fun, bloody and one to watch — a lot.
“Scream” (Wes Craven, 1996) — The original “Scream” redefined the slasher genre. It’s smart, witty and self-aware, and kicked off a franchise that’s still going strong as “Scream 5” hits theaters in January. Better believe I’m going to be there for that. Do I like scary movies? You know it, Ghostface.
“Noroi” (Koji Shiraishi, 2005) — Documentary filmmakers investigate claims of paranormal events that all connect to a small village with a dark past. Subtlety reigns in this movie with much of the horror being “blink and you’ll miss it.” It’s a creative story where every turn mounts on dread until the finale.
“Eraserhead” (David Lynch, 1977) — A man meets his girlfriend’s parents and learns that he is somehow the father of a disfigured baby. What follows is a nightmarish take on parenthood and marriage where every scene is discomforting and surreal.
“The House on Haunted Hill” (William Castle, 1959) — Five people are offered $10,000 to stay one night in a haunted house. Despite its comedically outdated effects and acting, there’s a certain Halloweeny charm to its simplicity.
“Orphan” (Jaume Collet-Serra, 2009) — A couple adopts a 9-year-old child and gradually begins to realize that there’s something not right about her after violent accidents keep happening around her. The reveal of what’s going on with the kid is certain to make people uncomfortable.
“The Blair Witch Project” (Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, 1999) — The classic that launched the “found footage” genre into massive popularity. Three film students go to a small town to investigate a local legend in the surrounding woods and are never seen again. It feels real because it is “real” in a sense. Actors were dumped in the woods with no script and only GPS coordinates to guide them, resulting in real hunger and anger.
“Jennifer’s Body” (Karyn Kusama, 2009) — When Needy’s best friend is taken over by a demon after a violent night, she becomes desperate to stop the killings and save her little town. This comedy horror movie explores friendship and relationships, and will make anyone laugh and cringe at the same time.
“The Haunting of Hill House” (Mike Flanagan, 2018) — A family of five is fractured after a terrifying stay at Hill House, and are haunted years after they thought they escaped. This mini-series is truly unpredictable and creepy with twists that will chill you to the bone. My eyes were glued to the screen each time I watched it.
“Edward Scissorhands” (Tim Burton, 1990) — A scientist creates a humanoid creature but dies before he finishes assembling him, leaving the young man, Edward, with a freakish appearance. Edward struggles to fit in with the community around him, but all he craves is to be loved. Although this movie is not scary, it fits into Halloween well with its Frankenstein theme. I love how humorous and light-hearted this film is. It pushes you to accept your weirdness and express yourself, just as Halloween does.
“Coraline” (Henry Selick, 2009) — A young girl is thrown into a parallel world that appears to be a perfect version of her current life, but she quickly realizes how impossible that truly is. This is the creepiest family horror movie I have ever seen, and I still shudder when I see buttons being sewn onto anything. The stop-motion animation is incredible, and I love how fantastical and scary this movie is.
“Spirited Away” (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) — After her parents are transformed into pigs, a young girl works hard to discover how to free herself and her parents from the supernatural prison. This movie terrified me as a child, but I have fallen in love with it as an adult. The characters are all unique and beautifully animated, and the story is unpredictable and magical.
“Hocus Pocus” (Kenny Ortega, 1993) — A Halloween classic for all ages, “Hocus Pocus” is a light comedy fantasy film that features a trio of witches who are inadvertently resurrected on Halloween night in Salem, MA. This is my favorite Halloween movie because I grew up watching it every year with my older sister. The plot is entertaining and the characters are goofy and over the top.
“The Invisible Man” (Leigh Whannell, 2020) — A modern adaptation of H.G. Wells’ 1897 book, the film follows the life of a woman who recently left her crazed abusive boyfriend. After staging his own death, the man uses his scientific knowledge to become invisible and stalk and terrorize his ex-girlfriend.” The Invisible Man” is a solid and suspenseful thriller that left me questioning the motives of each character.
“What We Do in the Shadows” (Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, 2014) — The comedy follows four vampires sharing an apartment, trying to visit nightclubs and befriending computer geeks. This is my favorite vampire movie: it faces the idea of the undead with the horrors of everyday life — like messy bloodsucking roommates or the 8,000-year-old man trying to catch some sleep in the basement.
“Viy” (Konstantin Yershov; Georgi Kropachyov, 1967) — The first Soviet horror, “Viy” is based on the Russian classics of the same name. I grew up reading the mystical story, and it might have been the first truly terrifying piece of literature: a night chapel empty but for the witch’s body in the middle; three nights of praying and battling the demons; and the sacred circle you cannot leave until the rooster crows.
“Pan’s Labyrinth” (Guillermo del Toro, 2006) — This movie might be a fantasy, but it is more chilling than most horrors. The magical realism story intertwines the real world with a mythical world; social commentary with fairytale characters and aesthetics. A young Ofelia descends into the abandoned underground overgrown labyrinth, but is the magical world of the Pan more terrifying than the reality of the Francoist dictatorship?
“Casper” (Brad Silbering, 1995) — This may seem a little out of left field for some, but in my house Casper was a yearly tradition. A kids film that wasn’t afraid to talk about death, had killer music (no pun intended), and the always outstanding Christina Ricci? That and a load of nostalgia is all I need.
“Beetlejuice” (Tim Burton, 1988) — Before he was the best Batman ever (fight me), Michael Keaton was one of the most iconic horror-comedy characters of all time. Funny, spooky, weird, and just the right amount of Harry Belafonte music make for a classic time.
“Dracula” (Francis Ford Coppola, 1992) — A true horror film, the movie stayed closer to the source material than most adaptations of the novel. Gary Oldman playing a role he was born for, a haunting atmosphere, and Keanu Reeves trying to do a British accent to lighten the mood add up for an October classic.
“Get Out” (Jordan Peele, 2017) — If a movie can make me laugh, think, feel scared, cheer, and bump along to the soundtrack in less than two hours, it has accomplished its goal. Might be too political for some, but for me it was an instant classic.
“Scooby Doo on Zombie Island” (Kazumi Fukushima, 1998) — Started out of left field, end out of left field. A Scooby Doo with real monsters, real horrors, and Third Eye Blind really doing the Scooby Doo theme. Set in my home state of Louisiana with the classic “Rog!? Where!?” line my dad still uses to this day, I will take this movie every time.
“Young Frankenstein” (Mel Brooks, 1974) — Possibly the pinnacle of Mel Brooks’ collection of comedy, this satirical reimagining of Mary Shelley’s classic novel never looses a laugh. Following the grandson of the infamous scientist who travels back to Transylvania to prove his difference from his “insane” grandfather, he stumbles upon the process to reanimated a dead monster. Combining word-play and wit with silly, low-caliber humor creates a family friendly film that brings laughs to kids and adults and modernizes a classic horror story.
“Nosferatu” (F.W. Murnau, 1922) — This German silent film was the first vampire movie ever made, using music to set a spooky mood. Vampire Count Orlok expresses interest in a new real-estate purchase along with his neighbor’s wife while striking fear into the heart of the locals at the mer mention of his name. A little silly with his oversized ears and bat-like face, Count Orlok may not seem frightening to our modern tastes, but the film itself uses some of the first “effects” to strike fear into audience’s hearts with negative, backwards imaging.
“Ernest Scared Stupid” (John R. Cherry III, 1991) — Local idiot, Ernest P. Worrell accidentally unleashes a troll, out to transform children into wooden dolls, upon an unsuspecting town. As the town reject, he discovers the solution in the same silly manner that got everyone into trouble in the first place. This borderline slapstick comedy is a great family halloween classic with 90s style.
“Nightmare Before Christmas” (Henry Selick, 1993) — Jack Skellington, king of Halloween Town, discovers Christmas, but after attempting to adopt this new holiday of joy, he realizes his true nature is to frighten the world with the spirit of Halloween. Many people view this classic as a Christmas movie; however, Jack’s return to Halloween in the end, and the disturbing yet funny, disruption of classic Christmas tropes places the true essence of this film squarely in the spooky time of the year for Halloween.
“Psycho” (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) — Hitchcock, the master of suspense, influenced the trajectory of film with the horrifying tale of Norman Bates and his mother. There are too many classic scenes within “Psycho” to choose one truly terrifying moment, which is why this movie may be the most off-putting is Hitchcock’s canon.
There are countless movies not included on this short list that are great for watching to get into the Halloween spirit. These are simply some recommendations of our favorite films to watch this time of year.