Horror means something different to everyone. While some people will yawn at blood and dismembered bodies, subtle gore-free horror will leave them lying awake in bed for a fortnight. For others, a dismembered body or evil child leaves them deeply unsettled in ways they can’t explain, even though they know “it’s not real.” Whatever gets your heart rate up, we’re pretty sure you’ll find something on this list to suit the bill. So invite some friends over, order a pizza, and pop in a selection from our list of 25 Best Horror Films To Keep You Awake All Night (and no, we didn’t even include the 2016 US presidential election).
Obligatory Common Sense Disclaimer: All of these movies are intended for a mature audience. Do not watch them with your child or your grandmother; do not watch them at all if dirty words and dismembered body parts give you a case of the vapors.
Poltergeist (1982) is a classic for a reason. Nearly everyone is disturbed by it on some level. Something about disembodied faceless evil is just…unsettling.
The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014) combines the really creepy and unexpected elements of Alzheimers and witchcraft. It’s a new take on the classic possession trope.
Frenzy (1972) is one of Hitchcock’s later films, and it absolutely needs to be on your to watch list. It’s about a serial killer, but instead of the expected “who did it,” it takes a unique, very unsettling, typically Hitchcock-suspensfull approach.
Silent Hill (2006) is at it’s heart a sad story about a little girl dying. Then it gets creepy when the girl and her mom drive through a town where hell on earth is slowly taking over and eating the town alive. It’s also a rather solid entry into the video-game-to-movie genre.
The Nightmare (2015) is a documentary that explores sleep paralysis – a temporary nightly condition that leaves you unable to speak or move – and the things people have claimed to see while paralyzed. That’s really enough to go on; the whole premise is as terrifying as it sounds, and it really happens to thousands of people.
The Shining (1980) is the movie that solidified Jack Nicholson as that unsettling and creepy guy in Hollywood. Watching someone descend into madness and then hunt their family is something that sticks with you.
Stephen King’s “It” is a movie about a demon possessed clown that kills children. Yep. It’s as horrifying and weird as it sounds. It’s actually a mini series and not a film, but it still deserves it’s spot on the list.
The Cabin In The Woods (2012) is an all around fantastic film that also happens to be a horror movie that’s pretty darn disturbing on some levels. Apparently sacrifices must be made, or they will rise. Just go watch it. And if you need another reason, Joss Whedon (Buffy, Avengers, Firefly) co-wrote and produced the movie.
The Devil’s Backbone (2001) is a Guillermo del Toro film, which for many places it instantly on the “must watch” list. A boy who’s been orphaned during the Spanish civil war arrives at an orphanage to find, well, ghosts and secrets. Particularly horrifying and sad because war and orphans of war are not make believe.
The Babadook (2014) is one of those films where the trailer told us it was one thing, but it turned out to be about another. A widow and her young discover that monsters from a children’s book can come to life. It’s hard to give you more without giving away the plot.
Nosferatu (1922) is a German film that plays heavily into everyone’s fear of being watched and the instinctual fear we all have of pale creepy faces. Count Orlock, who is a vampire (or Nosferatu) takes a new interest in his real estate agent’s wife. It’s just not the face you want to see staring in your window at night. It’s black and white, a classic of the genre, and despite being nearly one hundred years old, will still give you chills.
28 Days Later (2002) is the movie that gave us all fears of a viral zombie outbreak. The first of the “fast moving” zombies, it starts with a man waking up in a London hospital to find the world gone mad. This basic theme would later be repeated several times over in following zombie films, but this is where it all started. It’ll make you slightly anxious every time you here “The CDC” on the radio for a bit.
The Descent (2005) is a great(ly traumatizing) horror flick for anyone who’s even mildly claustrophobic. Even if you aren’t, you might be after watching it. A group of women go spelunking in an unmapped cave system and end up becoming hunted while trapped in a cave with no hope of rescue.
Hellraiser (1987) is strange and frightening, even when judged among the other movies on this list. It shows what happens when your skinless undead boyfriend escapes a hell dimension and you have to kill people to bring him fully to life. That’s not the weirdest part…just have a cuddle buddy nearby when watching this one.
Night Of The Living Dead (1968) is George Romero’s masterpiece and the first modern zombie film. It was also one of the first films to use explicit gore. Don’t be fooled by it’s age and the fact that it’s in black and white. This one stays with you awhile.