I’m a girl that loves guts and gore and so it makes complete sense that I woke up this morning with an urge to share my favorite thriller horror movies. A lot of my friends ask me for recommendations because they know about my deep, dark obsession. So, I thought this post was NEEDED.
It’s long – I admit it, but this space houses all of my favorite thriller horror movies and titles. Here’s a scary movie list to work off of for the next few months. I say months to you, but we both know that if you hustle… you could have this list checked off in a week!
Anyway, here are my favorite of favorites. The cream of the crop! The ones that I like to watch over and over and over again. Did I mention these are all on repeat at an unusual rate?
Top Thriller Horror Movies You Have To Watch
This thriller horror movies list is written in no particular order. I didn’t want to list these from worst to best because then I would really have to think this through and justify every position and honestly, it’s just not that serious. Let’s just say that these scary movies are all my favorite. Period.
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1 – Deliver Us From Evil
As a veteran member of a South Bronx precinct, NYPD Sgt. Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) has seen more than his share of dark and horrifying events — so many that they have begun to poison his soul. Sarchie further finds his beliefs and understanding pushed to the limit when he and his partner investigate a particularly bizarre incident. He forms an alliance with a renegade priest (Edgar Ramirez), who tries to convince Sarchie that real evil — and demons — do exist.
Eric’s NY accent is like fingernails on a chalkboard to this native NYC girl. So, take that as my official warning. It’s awful. But, once we all move beyond that God-AWFUL SOUND, the movie is pretty incredible to watch because it’s actually based on real events. The actual cop the film was based on even wrote a book about everything that happened to him.
The entire concept intrigued me. An NYPD cop thought his worst moment of the day would be fighting crime and then he ended up battling demons. WHAT?
Whenever I come across stories that are based on reality, they suck me in HARD and the combination of NYC meets possession meets “blue-collar regular Joe” really works.
The story is all small moves. A cop on the job working a case. Things don’t add up. Things start to get a bit confusing. Lines start to cross. The unbelievable begins to happen and then – even if maybe you never thought things like THIS could happen in real life – you begin to question your beliefs. Why? Because if this JOE could have that kind of run on his clock, then anyone can. And he did. He really did.
Now, naturally, I understand the movie embellished a ton to make it “big screen ready”, but I still appreciated the foundation of the story. That makes this one film that I love to watch over and over again.
It’s scary because it could happen to any one of us. Any fireman, any nurse, any cop, any doorman on duty. Eric’s character wasn’t messing around with anything demonic, but he stumbled into a web he couldn’t escape until he faced it head-on.
2 – The Cured
After years of a zombie plague that ravaged Europe, humanity grapples with how to reintegrate the former zombies into society.
The Cured is smart. It is just so smart. I rarely watch a horror movie and think to myself, “we haven’t seen that before”! But when I watched Ellen Page as the lead of this post-zombie showdown, I thought to myself that the movie was refreshing.
Think about it – a world after it cleaned up the zombie apocalypse! What would that look like? How would we function? If we did actually come up with a cure, would we trust it? Very, very smart perspective on a side of the coin that never sees the light of day. And I loved it.
Is it particularly scary? Not really. It’s not traumatic. This isn’t a thriller horror movie that will force you to sleep with the lights on, but it’s a well-done movie that I think all horror fans should add to their must-see list. If ONLY to see this new perspective of zombie.
3 – It – Both The Original And The Remake
Seven young outcasts in Derry, Maine, are about to face their worst nightmare — an ancient, shape-shifting evil that emerges from the sewer every 27 years to prey on the town’s children. Banding together over the course of one horrifying summer, the friends must overcome their own personal fears to battle the murderous, bloodthirsty clown known as Pennywise.
I’m old. If you are young and reading this post, you will not appreciate Stephen King’s original It. And you know what? I’m not upset at you for it because it was made a long time ago and odds are the graphics and the quality of video won’t hold you like it did all of us when it was first made for TV.
But let me tell you something – there was NOTHING like the original IT and I would argue that there will probably never be anything like the original IT again. That mini-series murdered me. I slept with my mother forEVER.
I was horrified of Pennywise to the point of no return. I was a horror fanatic from a very early age. I had seen every Jason, Freddie, Hellraiser, whatever – you name it and I saw the movie. But Pennywise? Pennywise destroyed me. And I can’t quite say why?
Watching it now for the first time – as a 30-year-old – I register that I wouldn’t be as scared. But as an 11-year-old seeing him with fresh eyes? He was the literal devil … and it was fantastic.
The new IT took me a bit of time to soften to – if I am being REALLY honest with you. The new IT wasn’t a favorite until the third time I watched it and yes, I’ve watched it more than three times. Too much cursing if you ask me.
The real reason why it took some time to get used to Bill Skarsgård is I was such a fan of Tim Curry. I was almost protesting Bill because of the affection I felt for Tim.
Once I let my guard down and embraced Bill, I saw him for what he was – incredible. Of course, I’ve enjoyed him in other horror projects – like Hemlock Grove (which I LOVED OMG) and Castle Rock (meh). Once shedding my wall, I saw that the new generation had a great IT to hold onto and I suppose so did I. I was luckier though… because I had two.
4 – Candyman
Skeptical graduate student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) befriends Anne-Marie McCoy (Vanessa Williams) while researching superstitions in a housing project on Chicago’s Near North Side. From Anne-Marie, Helen learns about the Candyman (Tony Todd), a knife-wielding figure of urban legend that some of her neighbors believe to be responsible for a recent murder. After a mysterious man matching the Candyman’s description begins stalking her, Helen comes to fear that the legend may be all too real.
You are wondering WHY ON EARTH Candyman made it onto my list, right? Well, it was the very first horror movie I went to see on my own without any adults. I was way too young to do it. We lied about our ages and it was glorious.
And now, as a parent, Candyman is fuel to my fire. The scene where the Candyman is hiding in the park bathroom is something I still use to scare my kids to this day.
When they run off too far from me while we are out and about I tell them that the Candyman will get them and that he is waiting for them in sheds and bathrooms. So, they better not leave me or else he will climb out of a mirror and take their souls and if you think I am joking, then you don’t know a damn thing about me.
That scene and that movie is literally a part of my parenting skill set. I have leveled up thanks to Candyman. My kids are in check because of Candyman and I cannot wait to show them this movie. If you haven’t seen this movie, save your money on parenting books and just rent it for $3.99. You are welcome.
5 – The Conjuring Series
In 1970, paranormal investigators and demonologists Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson) Warren are summoned to the home of Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger (Ron Livingston) Perron. The Perrons and their five daughters have recently moved into a secluded farmhouse, where a supernatural presence has made itself known. Though the manifestations are relatively benign at first, events soon escalate in horrifying fashion, especially after the Warrens discover the house’s macabre history.
If I had to name my number one favorite horror series, it’s the Conjuring because – again – it is based on real stories and I get a huge rise off of that. I also have an unusual obsession with Lorraine Warren and if you don’t know who she is then you have a lot of homework to do.
When I was in the theatre watching one and two of this series, I was literally hiding my face in my sweater. I don’t normally do that. My cousin and I were sitting next to one another and we were holding each other and whispering about how we were going to die of straight up heart attacks because the level of suspense and jump scares and trauma was out of control fantastic.
And I am the ultimate cynic. Every movie blows! Every movie was a waste. Every movie wasn’t worth the price of popcorn. But I did NOT say that for either Conjuring. I was very happy about going home to my husband on both nights because if I had to sleep home alone … I think I would have driven to my mother’s house!!!
6 – The Insidious Series
A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.
Another excellent series to watch – super creepy. Lots of jump scares with demon faces popping out of nowhere! They really get you. You hold your breath for the majority of these movies. Like after watching these films, we should all try out for Olympic swimming because SERIOUSLY! It is that scary.
And their jump scares are weird. They are unexpected and unusual which I like. The characters would be in the middle of tea and then all of a sudden a double-horned devil is sticking his tongue at you through somebody’s underarm and you will NOT BE READY FOR IT! I like it. A great thriller horror movie to add to your scary movie list for SURE.
7 – As Above, Was Below
Archaeologist Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) has devoted her whole life to finding one of history’s greatest treasures: Flamel’s Philosopher’s Stone. According to legend, the artifact can grant eternal life and turn any metal into gold. When she learns that the stone is hidden underground in the Catacombs of Paris, she assembles a crew to guide and document her historic mission. As they begin their descent, the team-members have no way of knowing that they are entering their own personal hell.
I won’t let my children watch this movie and I pretty much let them watch anything because I don’t care about scary things. I LOVE THEM. But this movie scares me so much that I don’t think they would be able to handle it. I literally have made the executive decision that their minds are too fragile for this one.
I feel like this movie is so twisted and demonic. I think because the majority of the movie is filmed in the catacombs and in small spaces, It feels like I can’t breathe as I watch. I’ve only watched this movie three times. I love it. I really do, but it terrifies me. And I don’t say that lightly. I don’t like small spaces and this movie is one big small space except you are sharing it with the Devil.
8 – The Fourth Kind
Since the 1960s, a disproportionate number of the population in and around Nome, Alaska, have gone missing. Despite FBI investigations, the disappearances remain a mystery. Dr. Abigail Tyler (Milla Jovovich), a psychologist, may be on the verge of blowing the unsolved cases wide open when, during the course of treating her patients, she finds evidence of alien abductions.
I literally have the funniest story to tell you about this movie. It’s funny now because it’s over. While I was going through it – it wasn’t so funny. The Fourth Kind is based on actual events. Or so it says. There are a ton of blogs now that say the entire movie is a hoax – so who knows at this point? But stay with me.
When I rented The Fourth Kind, it was brand new for TV – so still fairly new in general. We paid for it which meant that it was right out of the theatres. I hadn’t heard much buzz about it. I just knew that I wanted to watch something and this movie had aliens and was supposed to be scary. Cool. I was sold.
The movie opened up and said that it was based on true stories and what we were about to see was all actual footage filmed. I literally read that and thought that it was true. That the footage we saw was real…because why would they write that if it wasn’t accurate?
My cousin and husband were watching with me, but none of us discussed what we thought about the opening PSA. We just ate our popcorn and silently watched the movie in the dark.
They watched the movie as if it was a movie – and had a good ride. I watched the movie as if everything I saw was real life footage and was literally pooping in my pants in the dark, silently crying, and reassessing everything that I thought I knew about life.
The movie ends. The lights go on. I look over at the two of them expecting to see them as freaked out as I am and they are both yawning and ready to call it a night. I lose my LID. Like – total FREAK OUT MODE DID YOU NOT JUST SEE WHAT I SAW OMG THEY ARE COMING FOR US!
They both thought I was insane. How could I possibly believe the opening credits? It was part of the movie. It wasn’t real. Of course, the footage was fake! We FOUGHT about it. I’m wrapping myself up in tinfoil. They’re ordering Chinese Food. We were not ok.
Finally, we did a Google search and it was confirmed that the movie wasn’t actually real life footage and I felt like a complete moron, but the movie has such a huge place in my heart because it scared the living daylights out of me for a few solid hours and even to this day I still kind of believe what I saw because I am a proud card holder of the tin foil hat club.
One more thing – I think Rotton Tomatoes eviscerated this movie. So, most people would not agree with me about this one. But please recognize where my head was as I was watching it. And honestly, I still get scared thinking about the last ten minutes.
9 – Train To Busan
A man (Gong Yoo), his estranged daughter and other passengers become trapped on a speeding train during a zombie outbreak in South Korea.
To be honest with you, I love this zombie movie so much. It might be my favorite zombie movie ever. And yes, there are subtitles … but so what? Get over it. If you knew how much International Horror I watched, your head would spin. I think 40% of the programming I watch is from overseas and not in English.
I consume media at such an incredible speed (since I work from home and just have the television on all day) that I HAVE to go International to get my horror fix. And you know what? Their movie takes are AWESOME! Every country has a different interpretation of evil and I just love it.
I actually did a video about why I loved Train to Busan. So, I’ll just drop that here. Also, I heard that they are remaking this movie in English and I am actually upset because the cast made this film.
10 – Final Destination
Alex Browning (Devon Sawa), is embarking on a trip to Paris. Alex experiences a premonition — he sees the plane explode moments after leaving the ground. Alex insists that everyone get off the plane and 7 people including Alex, are forced to disembark. All watch as the plane actually explodes in a fireball. He and the other survivors have briefly cheated death, but will not be able to evade their fate for very long. One by one, these fugitives from fate fall victim to the grim reaper.
Ok, everyone just calm down. I know – this movie is cheesy. Whatever. If you are a snob, go to a real movie review site or go and pick up the Times. I am not here for you. I loved Final Destination and you know what? I loved all 456 of them. The way the deaths just crept up on all the main characters – perfection. The girl is fighting with her boyfriend thinking she made it out of the equation and then – BAM – a freaking bus runs her over when you least expect it? I’m sorry. That is fun.
These movies are a good ride. Lots of laughs and jumps and suspense. Whoever filmed them did a great job.
11 – The Witch
In 1630 New England, panic and despair envelops a farmer, his wife and their children when youngest son Samuel suddenly vanishes. The family blames Thomasin, the oldest daughter who was watching the boy at the time of his disappearance. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, twin siblings Mercy and Jonas suspect Thomasin of witchcraft, testing the clan’s faith, loyalty and love to one another.
This movie is weird because I usually don’t like to watch suspense thrillers. You know, the really slow ones that just drag you through and through for two hours and make you want to pull your eyelashes out. I hate those movies with all of my might and The Witch sort of feels like that at times. It’s like… are they crazy? Or is this demonic? Just tell us already, MY GOD!
But I suppose that’s the fun of the movie once it’s all over. I find myself continuing to think about it – long after I’ve finished watching it. It’s staying with me which means that I found it to be pretty powerful. See if you feel the same way. Just remember, 95% of the movie you are sort of waiting for something to happen.
12 – The Exorcist
One of the most profitable horror movies ever made, this tale of an exorcism is based loosely on actual events. When young Regan (Linda Blair) starts acting odd — levitating, speaking in tongues — her worried mother (Ellen Burstyn) seeks medical help, only to hit a dead end. A local priest (Jason Miller), however, thinks the girl may be seized by the devil. The priest makes a request to perform an exorcism, and the church sends in an expert (Max von Sydow) to help with the difficult job
I feel like this is so cliche and I hate to be one of those people, but this movie scared me. I can remember what I was wearing, where I was sitting, how hot I was because the air conditioning wasn’t working and my friend’s house only had a fan on that day. I can remember every little bit of every little detail that surrounded the moment when I saw that poor little girl shove that you know what up her you know where. It bruised my soul.
I was so young. I don’t even think I kissed a boy yet and then I saw that psychotic-ness and I cannot tell you how absolutely upside down it left me. Horror movies are supposed to make you feel uncomfortable. They are supposed to make you afraid. They are supposed to take you out of your comfort zone and make you question just about everything …. and this movie did that and then some.
I won’t let my children watch this and that’s saying a lot… again.
Notable Mentions – Or I Am Too Tired To Keep Writing But I Still Want To Include These Thriller Horror Movies:
- The Rite – A great look at possession and the heavy price of faith. It was also the first movie I ever saw that showed an exorcism happening in small chunks. A priest would work on a girl just for a few minutes a day. He said it took months/years to cure someone of a demon and it wasn’t over-glorified as we usually see in movies. I liked how different that was. Made it feel more real than breaking windows and dead birds.
- World War Z – I loved this movie because it was filmed in Malta AND it was one of the first takes on zombies being super fast with a hive mind. I’m always up for different perspectives. The kids and I also constantly make fun of the zombie with the chattering teeth. Look out for him in the lab.
- Shaun Of The Dead – Literally one of my favorite movies. A hilarious take on the apocalypse. I will watch that duo in anything.
- 28 Days Later – This actually might be the real first movie where zombies were fast? Don’t quote me on that, but I loved the intro. Animal activists trying to do good – end up destroying the world. Woops.
- 30 Days of Night – The main reason why I will never visit anywhere that doesn’t have sun for a very long period of time. Because I never thought about this before and now that I know vampires could have full reign in Alaska for like 6 months, that area is scratched off of my possible places to visit. LOVED the angle.
Vera Sweeney Reviews YouTube Channel
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This is my passion project and everything I talk about is something that I literally LOVE. I say this all the time – the movies are my only hobby. I adore everything about the process. I am lucky enough to sometimes get invited to behind-the-scenes events and red carpet functions. But in the end, I just need a tub of popcorn and a great script.
Movies take us away. They allow us to become someone else – even for just a minute. They allow us to cry when we aren’t strong enough to cry on our own. They get our hearts pumping when we are too lazy to go to the gym. They give us a glimpse into our future and help us understand the past. Oh, and sometimes they just take us on incredible fantastical rides! Yes, fantastical is a word today. So, yeah, I love to talk about them!
I AM EXHAUSTED OMG. I hope I gave you some ideas to think about. Do you have any that you’d like to share? You can always catch me on Instagram as well if you’d like to chat.