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Must-See Horror Movies For Beginners

Everyone deserves a little spooky in their lives.

'High Tension' [Credit: EuropaCorp]

Over the years, people have called me a lot of things due to my love for the horror genre. I've been called crazy, sick, sadistic, or whacky for my love of all things gore, but I just can't help myself. I have my small circle of fellow horror fans, but the general consensus among true horror geeks is that the genre is still a bit underrated and often abused.

As I meet new people and discuss film with them, I find that not many fully understand the genre. They either don't like being scared or all they've seen are the horrible American remakes full of nothing but cheap plots, predictability, unnecessary nudity, and jump scares. Modern Hollywood has painted a bad picture for horror. For those who want to give horror a real shot, I am here to help!

The list below contains the horror movies that I have given several people as a guide into the genre, and I figured why not share it with everyone. This isn't a list that is full of B-movie horror movies you'll find in the streaming section on Netflix, and it's definitely not a list created by an intern at Buzzfeed.

It's also worth mentioning that not everything on this list is a stereotypical horror movie. In my opinion, any film that can place that fear and tension into a viewer has horror elements and has every right to be included. So don't be surprised if you see some "horror" movies meant for children, or something leaning more towards sci-fi.

Every once in a while you need that break to remind you that Halloween and horror are fun and none of it is real. There's no reason to be scared to death during a movie. I tell people who are terrified by horror films what my dad told me when I was little; find ways to laugh at the characters and remind yourself how they made what's on the screen a reality. Just remember: it's only a movie!

1. 'An American Werewolf in London' (1981)

An American Werewolf in London is a great creature movie and honestly my favorite werewolf movie. The effects alone are enough to make any viewer look and think, wow that must have taken some serious effort and it paid off. It follows two students as they backpack across England when a giant wolf attacks them. The survivor of the attack soon learns he has been cursed as a werewolf.

2. 'The Lost Boys' (1987)

The Lost Boys was released long before the romanticism of vampires (thanks a lot, Twilight). This is to remind you that vampires can be pretty brutal and they don't fall in love with humans. This vampire classic introduces you to two teenage brothers who move to a Northern California town where they are soon confronted by a local vampire gang led by Kiefer Sutherland.

3. 'Alien' (1979)

You've no doubt seen Alien memes online and references for the "chestburster," so now it's time to actually see where it came from. Hop along the Nostromo, a commercial space vessel responding to a distress call from an unknown, unexplored planet. After finding no survivors the crew finds they have been joined by an extraterrestrial host.

4. 'Poltergeist' (1982)

Forget about the 2015 remake of Poltergeist and stick to the classics. The basic plot of Poltergeist sounds more simple than it actually is, but the basics are a family is haunted by a bunch of seemingly harmless ghosts in their house. That is until they get pissed off and kidnap the couple's daughter. Don't let the PG rating fool you because it's pretty creepy to watch, especially if you're alone.

5. 'Hocus Pocus' (1993)

Remember when I said we'd have some fun? This Disney movie is currently in the midst of reboot rumors, but Hocus Pocus is easily one of my favorite Halloween movies of all time. The cast is fantastic and the story is not something you'd expect from a children's movie.

Three witch sisters (Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker) are summoned by a virginal teenager on Halloween night and return from the dead 300 years after their deaths. Despite being thrown into the modern world, the sisters push forward with their previously failed plan to suck the lives out of children and live forever.

6. 'Suspiria' (1977)

While on the subject of witches, here is a horror classic surrounding witchcraft and the supernatural. Suspiria follows a young dancer arrives at a high-end ballet academy to soon find out the secret operation behind the academy. This movie comes from iconic horror director, Dario Argento, and it considered one of the top pioneer films of the modern horror genre. It's easily one of my favorite witch movies.

7. 'The Last House on the Left' (1972)

This is one of many movies that is considered by many to be boring, but I appreciate The Last House on the Left. It's centered around a group of teenage girls who are kidnapped and terrorized by a group of convicts. After being raped and killed by the men, the group seeks refuge at a nearby residence only to discover the house is owned by one of the girl's parents.

While the 2009 remake wasn't completely horrible, but it amplified the gore factor and glorified the kills as shock value. If you want to watch both, I would suggest starting with the original before moving onto the remake.

8. 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' (1974)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is probably one of the more popular and iconic films on this list. Leatherface is one of the most recognizable horror villains and the fact that the movie was based off a true story scared the pants off people back in 1974.

A group of five friends visiting their grandfather's house are soon hunted by a maniac with a chainsaw who is part of a cannibalistic family. This was another one that received a remake in 2003 (and several after that), but similar to what I say about every one of these that has a remake... start with the original.

9. 'Night of the Living Dead' (1968)

This is pretty much where zombies began and they are as creepy in Night of the Living Dead as they can be now. Watch it. Enough said.

10. 'The Shining' (1980)

Here's Johnny! The Shining is one of the more popular horror films on this list but that doesn't mean it's not good. After you see a man go nuts trying to cure his writer's block, you'll think twice about secluding yourself anywhere again. This is one of many great adaptations from the mind of Stephen King. It was his first #1 bestseller for a reason. REDRUM!

11. 'Rear Window' (1954)

Rear Window got a pseudo remake starring Shia LaBeouf in 2007 called Disturbia, but the original starring James Stewart holds up to this day. Stewart plays a photographer who is confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg. He begins spying on his neighbors to pass the time and ends up witnessing a murder. Alfred Hitchcock did what he did best and amped up the tension and suspense to make the viewer genuinely stressed.

12. 'Psycho' (1960)

Psycho is Hitchcock's most popular release and probably one of the most highly acclaimed films of the genre. The story follows a young woman on the lam who decides to rent a room for the night at the Bates Motel. There she encounters Norman Bates, a man interested in taxidermy and involved in a difficult relationship with his mother. The twist alone at the end of the movie is enough to send your head reeling if you haven't somehow had it spoiled for you.

Psycho got a remake in 1998 starring Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche and it's unfortunately considered to be one of the worst remakes ever. The disturbing story of Norman Bates and his mother was also the basis for the phenomenal A&E series, Bates Motel.

13. 'The Sixth Sense' (1999)

Back when M. Night Shyamalan was a promising director, he delivered one of the best twist endings with The Sixth Sense. A child psychiatrist (Bruce Willis) is assigned to a young boy who reveals he can see dead people who don't know they're dead. The plot alone was scary enough for the late 90s, but the subtle details that you notice after you survive the twist make you appreciate the hell out of the movie. Just stop with this one because Shyamalan hasn't had the best filmography since.

14. '28 Days Later' (2002)

This was one of the first to peg zombies as being infected by something more than just a bite or scratch on the arm, and the plot is more than people just running for their lives. The 2007 sequel, 28 Weeks Later, was just as good.

15. 'Carrie' (1976)

Another story from the mind of Stephen King, Carrie is another classic horror film. The story follows a teenage girl named Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) who discovers she has telekinetic powers and eventually takes her revenge by terrorizing the student body at prom.

Carrie is in my top favorites and it deals with many underlying themes including religion, abuse, and bullying. It is also another classic that received a remake in 2013 starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore, but it wasn't that great. Stick with the original and maybe even the 1999 sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2.

16. 'American Psycho' (2000)

American Psycho is one of those horror movies that is sometimes so ridiculous it's funny. However, the fact that you're laughing is also quite terrifying. Christian Bale brought the character Patrick Bateman to life in a way that only Bale could do. Bateman, a wealthy hot-shot on Wall Street, leads a double life as a neurotic psychopath obsessed with his hatred for everything human. The film also stars fellow Oscar-winners such as Jared Leto and Reese Witherspoon.

17. 'Beetlejuice' (1988)

You didn't think I would make this list without including Tim Burton, would you? Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin are Barbara and Adam, a married couple who die suddenly in a car accident and are trapped in their house as ghosts. A family soon moves in and it becomes their mission to haunt them out of the house. That is until a freelance, bio-exorcist shows up and crashes the party.

Beetlejuice has been a favorite movie of mine since I was a kid and it's great for just about any age group. The characters are solid, the cast is great, and it contains one of Danny Elfman's best film scores. Just don't say his name three times!

18. '[REC]' (2007)

The excuse "I don't want to read subtitles during my movie" isn't good enough. In recent years, I have found that a majority of foreign horror movies are superior to what America is producing and [REC] is a prime example. The Spanish story brought us into a quarantined apartment building where an unknown virus beings to unleash itself among the tenants and emergency workers locked inside. This is one that sparked an American remake, Quarantine (which honestly isn't bad), but given the choice I would choose to watch [REC].

19. 'The Blair Witch Project' (1999)

The Blair Witch Project is easily one of the most popular horror films of the modern genre and it essentially gave birth to the found footage subgenre. I personally don't find it super re-watchable, but it's always fun to watch it with people who have never seen it.

The story introduces you to three college students who disappear in the woods of Maryland while attempting to make a documentary film about the Blair Witch legend. The filmmakers were smart with this one because for quite a while people believed the film was real, so they did something right. The 2016 follow-up, Blair Witch, wasn't that bad, either.

20. 'Ghostbusters' (1984)

Here's another fun "spooky" movie to calm your nerves. Ghostbusters is easily more comedy than horror, but it deals with ghosts so it's a worthy addition to any horror marathon. It will hit your funny bone with Dan Aykroyd, Rick Moranis, Harold Ramis, and Bill Murray as they play scientists specializing in the occult. After losing their jobs they set up shop as a quirky team of ghost hunters where they seek to obtain and eliminate spirits, ghosts, and poltergeists for money.

21. 'Jurassic Park' (1993)

You simply can't deny the horror elements that exist in Jurassic Park. Michael Crichton's story about dinosaurs are resurrected extinction by genetic mutation and cloning was brought to the big screen by Steven Spielberg and it made quite a few people scream back in the day. Aside from the fear brought on by the dinosaurs themselves, the tension and struggle for survival by the humans on the island is enough to stress you out.

Jurassic Park is one of the best movies of the 90s and I have always seen it as a horror-thriller, to an extent. The sequels subjective and many fans of the franchise liked Jurassic World, but we'll let you be the judge.

22. 'Donnie Darko' (2001)

Donnie Darko is one that many consider to be more science-fiction, but it does have elements that can give you the serious creeps if you've never seen it before. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Donnie, a troubled high school student who is motivated to commit crimes after a giant bunny rabbit reveals himself.

The premise sounds dumber than the movie actually is, so don't let the whole bunny rabbit thing throw you off. Frank the Bunny is a pretty creepy character and delving into Donnie's psyche and intelligence is a mystery in itself. This is one to recommend to anyone, not just people curious about horror/sci-fi.

23. 'Saw' (2004)

Saw broke onto the scene with this 2004 independent release and it morphed into a 7-part franchise that is one of the most successful movie franchises in film history. James Wan made his Hollywood debut telling the story of two men locked in a bathroom by a mysterious serial killer named Jigsaw. The players of the game are pinned against each other to see which would kill the other to "win" and survive.

You learned the bigger picture regarding Jigsaw as the franchise went on, and got the rare occurrence of actually meeting the killer face to face. It is an integral part of the extensive plot and if you actually pay attention, there are a lot of fun little details that are connected throughout all seven movies.

As a whole, the best Saw films are the first three. Saw IV and Saw V were disappointments, while Saw VI was the best since III and is enjoyable enough on its own. Saw 3D: The Final Chapter was an insult to the fans and the franchise (sorry not sorry). I try and pretend the seventh installment doesn't even exist, but we all need to put that aside since the franchise returned with Jigsaw in 2017.

24. 'Friday the 13th' (1980)

I'm not a huge Jason Voorhees fan, but I can appreciate the value of Friday the 13th. This was another franchise that had a ridiculous amount of sequels (12 total), as well as a mid-2000's reboot that was pretty bad. However, the story of a summer camp being stalked and murdered by a masked entity caught the attention of audiences and turned Jason into a horror icon. It's not my favorite, but Friday The 13th is a must-see for any horror enthusiast.

25. 'Halloween' (1978)

This classic from John Carpenter set the pace for horror, launched careers, and spawned several sequels and remakes, but it's still one of the best. Halloween follows a masked killer, Michael Myers, as he returns to his childhood home of Haddonfield, IL with a vengeance. Finding out Myers had spent the past 15-years locked in a mental hospital as a result of brutally murdering his sister at the age of 6 seriously amps up the creep factor.

Halloween went on to spawn a total of 10 subsequent films, with an 11th on the way in 2018. Rob Zombie completely rebooted the story in 2007, which yielded a 2009 sequel. A lot of people hated Zombie's take on the film, but I honestly like it. I wasn't a fan of the sequel, but as far as remakes go it's one of the better ones out there.

26. 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' (1984)

This franchise birthed Freddy Krueger, the iconic villain that haunts your dreams and kills you in your sleep. A Nightmare on Elm Street is yet another multi-film franchise (with a bad 2000s remake included), but Robert Englund brought Freddy to life like none other. The first installment follows a group of teenagers as they are stalked and hunted by Krueger in their dreams. I personally find the Elm Street movies more enjoyable than Friday the 13th, so I'll always recommend Freddy over Jason.

27. 'The Exorcist' (1973)

You've no doubt heard about The Exorcist, but if you're one of the few who have never seen it you're in for a treat. This movie scared a lot of people and is complete with tales of people fainting, crying, and walking out of the theaters. Some friends I had back in middle and high school had parents who told us stories about how the movie put the fear of the Devil in them. The basis is centered around a mother who seeks the help of a priest questioning his faith after her daughter is gradually possessed by a demon. I apologize in advance if you're Catholic.

28. 'Evil Dead' (1981)

The 1981 cult classic starring Bruce Campbell finds us in the woods with five friends out for a weekend in a secluded cabin. After discovering an abandoned tape recorder and a mysterious book, the group unknowingly release a demonic entity onto the woods and the cabin.

This franchise is rare in the sense that all three original Evil Dead movies are excellent. Evil Dead II was a pseudo remake of itself and had the same premise, but it was amplified and served as a direct lead into Army of Darkness, a medieval themed version of what the Book of the Dead unleashes. It also has a direct connection with the successful Starz television series, Ash vs. Evil Dead. Although the 2013 remake isn't a bad film on its own, I felt it was pretty disappointing as a remake.

29. 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' (1993)

Ignore the fact that Jack Skellington has been idolized by high schoolers for two decades. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a cinematic diamond and it's easily Tim Burton's best vision to date. The stop-motion feature follows Halloween Town's pumpkin king, Jack Skellington, as he discovers the Christmas holiday. Soon he inspires the other ghoulish residents of his home holiday to take over Christmas, but the lack of understanding by the residents and Jack himself leave Christmas a scary disaster.

This is another that I have loved for years and even though it's technically a Disney movie, don't let that sway you away from it. It's another fun Halloween movie for all ages to love.

30. 'The Conjuring' (2013)

James Wan got me believing in the horror genre again with The Conjuring. The film follows paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga & Patrick Wilson) as they investigate a haunted entity terrorizing a family in a Rhode Island farmhouse. This is another "based on a true story" tale, but Wan didn't make it hokey or full jump scares. He used anticipation and basic human nature to scare you and it was genius. You can even spot the real Lorraine Warren in one of the scenes, as she worked directly with Wan and agreed to a cameo.

We are also getting more and more installments of the Warren case files. So far we've received The Conjuring 2, Annabelle, and Annabelle Creation and we have The Nun and The Crooked Man still on the way. So far, they've all been pretty impressive, so The Conjuring franchise isn't one to ignore.

31. 'Zombieland' (2008)

Zombieland wasn't the first time horror and comedy were paired together, but it is definitely one of the most successful. This 2008 zombie comedy features a group of four trying to navigate their way to California where there's supposedly a zombie-free zone.

For those who are still getting used to the horror genre (or altogether new to zombie movies), Zombieland is the perfect way to kick things off. There are classic horror elements, but they're executed in a lighthearted and fun way. Plus, how can you continue to live without Columbus' set of rules?

32. 'The Cabin in the Woods' (2012)

The Cabin in the Woods is another horror film similar to Zombieland in the sense that it relies on both horror and comedy. The plot follows a group of friends as they venture off to a deserted cabin, but are confronted with strange "haunted" trinkets that kickstart a game that is much bigger than any of them.

This movie was a nice surprise in the sense that it acted as somewhat of a satire of the horror genre in general. There was humor involved and it was basically a horror movie making fun of horror movies. If nothing else, it's worth checking out just for the abundance of horror creatures that are featured.

33. 'High Tension' (2003)

Once again, get over your aversion to subtitles and prepare to watch High Tension. This 2003 French horror film follows a pair of friends as they visit a family farm house and are surprised by an insane, murderous truck driver.

Also known as Haute Tension, the film was somewhat groundbreaking as the portrayal of Marie by Cécile de France was one of the first mainstream LGBT characters in the horror genre. The movie really amped up the gore factor and is often classified in the "torture porn" genre that emerged in the mid-2000s. With that said, the psychological aspect of the plot is really amazing and it's one film I always recommend to anyone looking for a great horror movie.

Do yourselves a favor and don't read spoilers because I can guarantee you won't guess the twist at the end.

34. 'Child's Play' (1988)

How can you properly be introduced to the horror genre without watching the original Chucky movie? Child's Play introduces you to the iconic horror villain by telling the story of a mother giving her son a possessed doll for his birthday.

Child's Play is an absolute classic and, as you can guess, it's pretty tame by today's standards as it was in the late-80s. It has admittedly gotten more comical and cheesy as the franchise has gone on, but it did return to its creepier roots with Curse of Chucky in 2013. If you don't mind some creepy doll action, I would definitely start at the beginning with the 1988 original and work your way from there.

35. 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' (1975)

While The Rocky Horror Picture Show might not be considered textbook horror, you might want to remember that quite a few movies in this article aren't considered textbook horror. With that said, Rocky Horror has enough horror elements to be a worthy addition to the genre. Besides, who doesn't love Tim Curry?

Rocky Horror tells the story of a young couple as they encounter an unconventional scientist (and transsexual) named Frank-N-Furter. Within the film are several twists and turns that are guaranteed to thrill you, chill you, and fulfill you and I can guarantee you'll walk away from this movie with a few songs stuck in your head. If you've never sat down and watched the whole movie in its entirety, you're seriously missing out on some horror fun.

Happy movie watching, everyone! If there is anything you think I missed or don't agree with what I put in here, let me know!

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