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21 Best slasher movies as per IMDb

Summer camps, innocent teenagers, masked killers, cutting objects, and gallons and gallons of blood. Slasher flicks are the ultimate thrill ride. Slashers have a menacing beauty that rests in their simplicity, as opposed to the twists and turns of so many contemporary slasher movies. And in that simplicity resides a genre that has endured for many years and will undoubtedly do so for many more.

In their nightmares, a slasher seeks vengeance on a group of young people. A serial killer in the body of a children’s toy wishes to escape. Slashers are just interested in one thing: killing. And we, as viewers, have another goal: to toss popcorn at the screen whenever our protagonists fail miserably. So join us as we survive some of the scariest slasher movies out there.

Here are the 21 best slasher movies of all time, starting with a classic:

1. Halloween (1978)

John Carpenter’s beloved classic about a masked lunatic stalking teen babysitters still stands head and shoulders above the legions of movies that ripped it off, thanks to likable characters, incredible music and other unique artistic flourishes, ingenious use of widescreen space, and a lack of cynicism. Halloween has grace and sincerity that the imitators did not even bother to replicate. Halloween received a four-star (his highest rating) review from Ebert, which became one of his most well-known. It also contributed significantly to the film’s steady and significant success. Halloween has been rated one of the most thrilling pictures ever made by the American Film Institute.

IMDb Rating: 7.7/10

Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony Moran

Directed by: John Carpenter

2. Black Christmas (1974)

Bob Clark’s much darker Christmas film (he previously directed the annual family-friendly hit A Christmas Story) is a very scary movie and nasty little thriller about a bunch of sorority sisters who are tormented and preyed upon by an unknown psycho-killer who is never arrested (not common in this subgenre). The film was a box-office hit in part because of its excellent tagline: “If this movie doesn’t make your skin crawl, it’s on too tight!” The obscene phone calls the girls receive were deemed too crude for theaters, so British censors modified the film slightly to get it approved for first-run release. Even by today’s standards, the ick factor is high with this one.

IMDb Rating: 7.1/10

Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder

Directed by: Bob Clark

3. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Tobe Hooper’s shoestring-budget freakout was a crucial influence on every slasher that followed, from Ridley Scott’s Alien to John Carpenter’s Halloween. It was an epochal genre event, an intense viewing experience to this day. Carpenter reportedly remarked that Texas Chain Saw was “riding at the very border of good taste.” Hooper, who went on to direct Poltergeist, assumed this gritty and horrific short film about a family of rural cannibals would be rated PG. Although the majority of the violence occurs offscreen, the MPAA gave it an X classification initially, and it went through multiple cuts before receiving an R. The infringing content was finally restored.

IMDb Rating: 7.4 /10

Starring: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger

Directed by: Tobe Hooper

​​​​​​​4. Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

Alice, Sweet Alice is one of the most intriguing proto-slashers, appearing after the restricted release of 1974’s Black Christmas but before Halloween firmly established slasher norms in the American mind. It’s a film that wears its influences on its sleeve, whether it’s the Psycho poster that appears in one scene or the many, many visual flourishes and motifs that seem to evoke Dario Argento and Mario Bava flicks, particularly Argento’s Deep Red. In reality, Alice, Sweet Alice is one of the most Giallo-Esque American slasher movies ever created, merging an apparent obsession/fetishization with Catholic religion into a murder mystery whodunit that doesn’t hold back on the arterial spray.

IMDb Rating: 6.4/10

Starring: Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula E. Sheppard

Directed by: Alfred Sole

5. Friday the 13th (1980) 

This is Halloween reheated (even filmmakers Sean S. Cunningham and Victor Miller admitted they were emulating that far better and more influential hit), but without the creativity and with a big helping of shady misogyny. Nonetheless, Friday (which, by today’s standards, seems quaint, if not a little dull) launched one of the longest-running and most profitable film franchises ever. Jason Vorhees, the series’ boogeyman, did not debut until the sequel. Tom Savini’s gore effects are unquestionably the best element of Friday the 13th.

IMDb Rating: 6.4/10

Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor

Directed by: Sean S. Cunningham

6. Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Technically better than Friday the 13th (the film that most influenced it), Robert Hiltzik’s tongue-in-cheek slasher sees a killer run amok at a youth camp—except, unlike Friday, there’s bizarre, dry absurdist humor in the spirit of John Waters, and it all culminates to a blood-chilling twist finale. The fact that the teen characters were performed by actual adolescents was one of the film’s most refreshing touches. Most slasher movies employ actors in their late twenties to early thirties in such roles, which is utilized to hilarious effect in the spoof film Scary Movies.

IMDb Rating: 6.2/10

Starring: Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields

Directed by: Robert Hiltzik

7. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

With this humorous, imaginative supernatural thriller about a charred, scarred dream demon with a bladed glove that preys on youngsters as they sleep, writer/director Wes Craven’s career reached a new high. Underneath the fantastically nasty and creepy imagery (this is polished, true surrealism, not gore for the sake of gore) comes unsettling thematic material about a younger generation being punished for the sins of their fathers, substantial and intriguing material that will never be out of date.

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund

Directed by: Wes Craven

8. Scream (1996)

Scream was released before social media and Reddit, and spoilers were quickly disseminated. It brutally killed off its biggest star in the first 10 minutes, a nod to Psycho and a warning to the audience: no one is safe. Be cautious. Perhaps Scream’s greatest achievement is that it is a very clever, humorous, even hilarious film, yet the comedy never overpowers the horror movie parts. This is a difficult balance to achieve. Too much sardonic and self-aware comedy is an issue that plagues many genre slasher movies nowadays, from The Predator to certain blockbuster superhero flicks. Scream achieves this balance, as well as nearly everything else.

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette

Directed by: Wes Craven

9. Final Destination (2000)

In James Wong’s popular thriller about classmates who are chased and knocked off by fate after eluding a terrible plane crash, death itself is the killer. Devon Sawa has an excellent, passionate lead performance in Final Destination (for which he received a Saturn Award), but the most astounding aspect of the picture is how the filmmakers transform a force that is never seen, ethereal, into something terrifying. If only The Happening could be described in the same way.

IMDb Rating: 6.7/10

Starring: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith

Directed by: James Wong

10. House of Wax (2005)

Jaume Collet-loose Serra’s reworking of a Vincent Price 3D landmark (the one where Paris Hilton strips down to red lace underwear and is killed with a pole to the forehead) is an underestimated pleasure, surprisingly artful, and simply fun.

IMDb Rating: 5.4/10

Starring: Chad Michael Murray, Paris Hilton, Elisha Cuthbert

Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra

11. Peeping Tom (1960)

Peeping Tom was released in 1960, the same year as Psycho, and has since been incessantly linked to it. Both have been claimed to be the first slasher movies. Whereas Psycho was a smash box-office hit, English auteur Michael Powell’s psychological drama about a serial killer who murders women while recording their scared death looks with a portable movie camera was a legendary flop. Though Powell’s technical mastery was unquestionable, and he was previously regarded as one of the nation’s finest filmmakers, Peeping Tom was panned by critics at the time for what was considered sadism and depravity; Powell’s career never recovered.

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

Starring: Karlheinz Böhm, Anna Massey, Moira Shearer

Directed by: Michael Powell

12. Psycho (1960)

Peeping Tom was released in 1960, the same year as Psycho, and has since been incessantly linked to it. Both have been claimed to be the first slasher movies. Whereas Psycho was a smash box-office hit, English auteur Michael Powell’s psychological drama about a serial killer who murders women while recording their scared death looks with a portable movie camera was a legendary flop. Though Powell’s technical mastery was unquestionable, and he was previously regarded as one of the nation’s finest filmmakers, Peeping Tom was panned by critics at the time for what was considered sadism and depravity; Powell’s career never recovered.

IMDb Rating: 8.5/10

Starring: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

13.  Alien (1979)

Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece is one of the most effective haunted house slasher movies ever made—except this time the house is a spacecraft. Most monster slasher movies lose their creepiness and dread as soon as we meet the monster. This cannot be true about Alien’s truly terrifying Xenomorph. Following the tragic dinner scene (perhaps the most infamous murder scene in horror movies history), we finally get to witness Xeno in all of its grandeur… And, as Newsweek film critic Jack Kroll put it in 1979, the creature “scares the peanuts right out of your M&M’s.” H.R. Giger’s ugly and sexualized creature design has been copied ever since.

IMDb Rating: 8.5/10

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt

Directed by: Ridley Scott

14. Child’s Play (1988)

Tom Holland’s Child’s Play is easily one of the best slashers ever made, as well as one of the most popular, commercial horror movies that strike the perfect balance between scary movies and amusement. Brad Dourif plays a serial killer who employs black magic to transform his deadly spirit into a baby doll. The toy decides to target a small kid and his mother.

Bottom line: Don’t reject Child’s Play because of its ostensibly silly subject matter. From the methodical, Hitchcock-inspired first kill to the fantastic, no-holds-barred climax, this is a ghoulishly wonderful time at the slasher movies.

IMDb Rating: 6.6/10

Starring: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent

Directed by: Tom Holland

15. Candyman (1992)

Bernard Rose’s spooky thriller, arguably the second finest cinematic Clive Barker adaptation (Hellraiser being the top banana), stars Virginia Madsen as a researcher who discovers that a folk tradition about an undead demon with a hook for a hand (Tony Todd) is all too real.

Before directing his slasher movies, Rose served as an assistant to Jim Henson. He’s an innovative director, and Candyman’s makeup is unusually rich: fanciful yet firmly based in tactile reality, clever and also extremely nasty. Don’t Look Now cinematographer Anthony B. Richmond provides clean, steady camerawork, while Philip Glass’ composition is now considered a classic soundtrack.

IMDb Rating: 5.9/10

Starring: Virginia Madsen, Xander Berkeley, Tony Todd

Directed by: Bernard Rose

16. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare was inspired and ahead of its time, and it was maybe the first “meta” horror movie before meta was even a thing. This is technically the seventh installment in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, but it exists in a vacuum. The sneaky thriller is a film within a film, with most of the previous Nightmare films’ cast and crew, as well as other major personalities in the mid-1990s entertainment business, playing themselves. Heather Langenkamp improves on her performance from the first film in almost every way here, presenting herself as a mother of a small son and reconsidering her devotion to a genre filled with slaughter and terror.

IMDb Rating: 6.4/10

Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Jf Davis

Directed by: Wes Craven

17. It Follows (2014)

A chilling, downright oppressive aura of foreboding pervades David Robert Mitchell’s supernatural thriller about a shapeshifting killer passed down like a curse. Mitchell knocks you off balance in subtle ways from the start: this picture is set in no discernable period, or even season, and many features in the production design and character actions simply don’t make sense. This is similar to how Stanley Kubrick made us apprehensive throughout The Shining.

IMDb Rating: 6.8/10

Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi

Directed by: David Robert Mitchell

18. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Freddy has arrived in prime time. The events of Freddy’s Revenge are ignored in Chuck Russell’s threequel, which reintroduces Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy, the overseer of the titular dream team, who have banded together to stop the boogeyman in the dream realm. This is many Freddy fans’ favorite Nightmare, as it was a box-office triumph that led to a succession of lucrative sequels.

IMDb Rating: 6.6/10

Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Craig Wasson

Directed by: Chuck Russell

19. X (2022)

X is a resounding accomplishment for Ti West, his most powerful film to date and solidifying his status as a modern genre master. West’s invigorating, meticulously artful ’70s-set slasher centers on a group of ragtag young Americans (the cast includes Brittany Snow, Mia Goth, Kid Cudi, Jenna Ortega, and Martin Henderson, all of whom are terrific) filming a porno in the middle of nowhere when a vengeful presence lashes out.

IMDb Rating: 6.6/10

Starring: Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Brittany Snow

Directed by: Ti West

20. American Psycho (2000) 

This darkly satiric adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ 1991 novel was in development hell for nearly a decade and is more incisive and disturbing than creepy or chilling. Christian Bale wanted to play narcissistic Wall Street homicidal maniac Patrick Bateman, but Lionsgate preferred Leonardo DiCaprio.

At one point, David Cronenberg, Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese, and Danny Boyle were all in the running to direct, but Mary Harron was the best choice. She milked the material for as much black comedy as she could, and she insisted on Bale, who is ideal in the starring character.

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

Starring: Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas

Directed by: Mary Harron

21. Freaky (2020)

Christopher Landon’s most assured picture to date is an immediate genre classic, a vicious teen comedy worthy of Heathers’ comparisons and a snappy slasher worthy of Carpenter and Craven praise. The film stars Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton as a juvenile misfit who exchanges bodies with a serial killer. It’s a shame that most people won’t be able to see Freaky with a filled cinema; even if you watch from home, you’ll most likely shout and guffaw nonstop. Landon makes the most of the idea, twisting stereotypes with insane glee and creating characters we care about.

IMDb Rating: 6.3/10

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Celeste O’Connor

Directed by: Christopher Landon

The best slasher movies are as concept-driven as any horror movie. And almost all require you to go within and ask yourself: where do you draw the line between observing a horrendous event… and finally looking away?

Also read: 20 best horror movies on Hulu available right now

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