A Beginner’s Guide to Horror: 11 Essential American Horror Movies to Watch
For the uninitiated, the vast and diverse world of horror can be daunting. Yet, it’s a genre that has proven time and again its ability to thrill, scare, and entertain in a myriad of ways. This list is crafted with the beginner in mind, presenting you with 11 essential American horror movies to watch. These films not only define the genre but also offer an excellent starting point for your horror journey.
In this guide, we’ve carefully curated a selection of 11 horror films that span across various eras. If you’re just dipping your toes into the vast ocean of the horror movie genre, we believe this lineup provides an excellent launching point.
Table of Contents
- ‘Psycho’ (1960, directed by Alfred Hitchcock)
- ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ (1974, directed by Tobe Hooper)
- ‘Halloween’ (1978, directed by John Carpenter)
- ‘The Shining’ (1980, directed by Stanley Kubrick)
- ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (1984, directed by Wes Craven)
- ‘Scream’ (1996, directed by Wes Craven)
- ‘The Blair Witch Project’ (1999, directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez)
- ‘Get Out’ (2017, directed by Jordan Peele)
- ‘A Quiet Place’ (2018, directed by John Krasinski)
- ‘The Exorcist’ (1973, directed by William Friedkin)
- ‘Child’s Play’ (1988, directed by Tom Holland)
(1960, directed by Alfred Hitchcock)
Psycho is an early masterpiece that redefined the horror genre. The plot centers around Marion Crane, a secretary who ends up at the secluded Bates Motel after stealing money from her employer.
The stand-out scene, undoubtedly, is the infamous shower scene that still sends shivers down the spine. The film stars Anthony Perkins in a career-defining role and Janet Leigh whose performance garnered her a Golden Globe.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
(1974, directed by Tobe Hooper)
In The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a group of friends fall victim to a family of cannibals while on a trip to visit an old homestead. The terrifying first appearance of Leatherface, chainsaw in hand, remains a standout scene.
While the cast didn’t feature any major stars at the time, Gunnar Hansen’s iconic performance as Leatherface left an indelible mark on the genre.
(1978, directed by John Carpenter)
John Carpenter’s Halloween introduced one of horror’s most enduring characters – Michael Myers. The film follows Myers as he stalks and kills on Halloween night. The opening long-take from Myers’ perspective is an unforgettable cinematic experience.
The film also launched the career of Jamie Lee Curtis, making her a defining “Scream Queen”.
(1980, directed by Stanley Kubrick)
The Shining, based on Stephen King’s novel, tells the story of Jack Torrance, a writer turned winter caretaker for the isolated Overlook Hotel. The memorable “Here’s Johnny!” scene is a chilling testament to Jack Nicholson’s impressive performance.
Shelley Duvall also delivers a heart-wrenching portrayal as his wife, Wendy.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
(1984, directed by Wes Craven)
In A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven created Freddy Krueger, a monstrous spirit who kills teens in their dreams. The horrifying death of Tina is a standout scene that showcases Krueger’s nightmare realm.
The film starred a young Johnny Depp in his first major film role, alongside the unforgettable Robert Englund as Krueger.
(1996, directed by Wes Craven)
Scream is a unique blend of horror and satire where a killer known as Ghostface begins murdering teenagers in the town of Woodsboro. The suspenseful opening sequence with Drew Barrymore set a new standard for horror film introductions.
The movie features a strong ensemble cast including Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette.
The Blair Witch Project
(1999, directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez)
The Blair Witch Project, a seminal found footage film, revolves around three film students who hike into the Maryland woods to film a documentary about a local legend, only to disappear.
The chilling final sequence in the basement perfectly encapsulates the film’s pervasive sense of dread. Despite a relatively unknown cast, Heather Donahue’s performance received critical acclaim.
(2017, directed by Jordan Peele)
In Get Out, a young African-American man visits his white girlfriend’s mysterious family estate, leading to a series of disturbing discoveries. The Sunken Place, a metaphorical representation of suppression, is a standout scene, embodying the film’s sharp social commentary.
The film boasts compelling performances from Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams.
A Quiet Place
(2018, directed by John Krasinski)
A Quiet Place is a modern horror classic that centers on a family struggling to survive in a world overrun by extraterrestrial creatures with hypersensitive hearing.
The nerve-wracking bathtub childbirth scene underlines the film’s unique premise and brilliant execution. Directed by John Krasinski, who also stars alongside real-life spouse Emily Blunt, the film exemplifies innovative horror storytelling.
(1973, directed by William Friedkin)
The Exorcist, often hailed as the scariest movie of all time, follows the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl and the two priests who attempt to exorcise the demon. The infamous head-spinning scene still stands as one of the most disturbing and memorable moments in horror history.
Featuring compelling performances by Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, and Linda Blair, The Exorcist is an absolute must-see for anyone new to the horror genre.
(1988, directed by Tom Holland)
Commonly known as “Chucky”, Child’s Play presents a unique twist on the horror genre with a killer doll at its center. When a serial killer’s soul is transferred into a ‘Good Guy’ doll, young Andy receives the most terrifying gift of his life.
The scene where Chucky reveals his true nature to Andy’s mother is a standout moment. The film stars Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, and the voice talent of Brad Dourif as Chucky.
From Psycho‘s unforgettable shower scene to the innovative silence of A Quiet Place, these 10 essential American horror movies offer a rich exploration of the genre’s possibilities. Each film presents its own unique spin on what it means to scare, thrill, and captivate, ensuring a varied and interesting initiation into the world of horror.
Remember, fear is a journey, and these films are just the beginning. There’s a vast universe of terror waiting for you to discover. Happy viewing!
Spirit Halloween Unveils ‘Horror Babies’ Including Ghostface, Pennywise, and More
Spirit Halloween is unveiling the goods a bit earlier than usual this year. For example, these little horror babies that give us infantile versions of Ghostface, Leatherface, Pennywise and Sam from Trick r’ Treat. We were already excited when they announced all-new Killer Klowns From Outer Space items, but these horror babies are making sure that they bring the goods even earlier.
The breakdown of Spirt Halloween Horror Babies goes like this:
- Trick’ r Treat Sam Horror Baby: Equipped with his signature lollipop, this Sam baby will never get fussy – as long as his new family follows the rules of Halloween.
- Scream Ghost Face Horror Baby: Perfect for classic slasher fans, this sweet Ghost Face baby comes equipped with a prop bloody knife for a baby so cute he’s to die for.
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre Leatherface Horror Baby: Featuring his signature mallets, fans will need to be careful to pacify this Leatherface baby if they want to avoid getting whacked.
- IT Pennywise Horror Baby: Straight from the sewers of Derry, this Pennywise baby is sure to give any guests a sweet scare.
Horror Babies are looking fantastic and bring that very cool bit of nostalgia with them. From Ghostface to Pennywise the lineup is looking fantastic.
Each of these hauntingly adorable Horror Baby is available for purchase for $49.99 on SpiritHalloween.com, now while supplies last.
‘Talk to Me’ A24 Trailer is Chilling Us to the Bone With New Approach to Possession
The very chilling, Talk to Me reinvents the possession genre by turning the entire genre on its ear and dropping the beat on the terror. Each moment spent in the trailer is very intense and full of atmosphere.
There is a bit of Breakfast Club combined with this intensely moody possession thriller.
The synopsis for Talk to Me goes like this
When a group of friends discover how to conjure spirits using an embalmed hand, they become hooked on the new thrill, until one of them goes too far and unleashes terrifying supernatural forces.
The film stars Sophie Wilde, Miranda Otto, Alexandra Jensen, Joe Bird, Otis Dhanji, Zoe Terakes, and Chris Alosio.
Talk to Me arrives July 28, 2023.
Nicolas Cage Plays a Very Wicked Devil in ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ Trailer
Joel Kinnaman plays alongside the very wicked Nicolas Cage! Why so wicked you ask? Well cause this time around he is playing none other than the devil himself and he is bringing all of his wicked charm and red hair with it. That’s right, the first trailer for the very off the wall Sympathy for the Devil is here.
Okay, is he really the devil? Well, you are going to have to watch to find out. But, it doesn’t change the fact that this whole thing looks like its a blast out of hell and a ton of fun.
The synopsis for Sympathy for the Devil goes like this:
After being forced to drive a mysterious passenger (Nicolas Cage) at gunpoint, a man (Joel Kinnaman) finds himself in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse where it becomes clear that not everything is as it seems.
Sympathy for the Devil arrives July 28, 2023!