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The best Halloween movies of all time

If you’re looking to get scared—really scared—on the spookiest night of the year, you can’t do better than these movies

Halloween (1978)
Halloween (1978)
By Joshua Rothkopf and Time Out contributors |
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We watch the best Halloween movies year-round—that's how crazy we are for horror films, from old-school classics like Night of the Living Dead and Rosemary's Baby, to the latest in cutting-edge fear (we're living through a new golden age, one that's only now picking up steam with Get Out and Hereditary). Come October 31, we welcome you to the party. This is the nightmare fuel you're going to load up on, and no amount of candy will sweeten the deal. Limiting our list to an ice-cold 33 titles wasn't easy; ranking them was even harder. But the effort was worth it: You won't find any Screams or Chuckys here. If pure trauma—all treats, no tricks—is what you want, you've come to the right dark doorstep.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Halloween in NYC

Best Halloween movies

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834.fi.villains.10texaschainsawjpg.jpg
Movies, Horror

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Let this be the year—if you haven’t already done so—to finally work up the courage to see Tobe Hooper’s criminally underrated classic, a top-rank satire of American class warfare (survival of the hungriest), teenage misadventure in the backwoods and one of the darkest masterpieces of the ’70s. Though shrouded in a gruesome reputation generated by that title, Texas isn’t particularly gory. It is, however, the scariest movie ever made.

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Suspiria (1977)
Movies, Fantasy

Suspiria (1977)

Dario Argento’s best and most popular film isn’t much, plotwise—an American naïf (Jessica Harper) discovers that her European ballet school is a front for a witches’ coven—but the director’s masterful use of color and deafening music more than compensate. This is the place to start with Italy’s brand of delirious, lurid horror, but we’re guessing it won’t be the place you finish. See it before you watch Luca Guadagnino's remake, which is absorbing in its own way (but not as scary).

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3
Poltergeist (1982)
Movies, Horror

Poltergeist (1982)

Ghost stories got a high-tech makeover in this punishing suburban smash, now seen as a secret critique of American materialism: Your TV set will eat you. (It’s all the more surprising that it was “ghost-directed” by family-friendly producer Steven Spielberg.) Production values were lavish, including some early blue-screen work and stunning lighting, but a possessed toy clown remains the unforgettable scare.

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The Thing (1982)
Movies, Horror

The Thing (1982)

It’s time to realize that John Carpenter eventually outdid Halloween: The 1951 version of The Thing is generally considered superior, but we prefer Carpenter’s brilliantly paranoid remake, which is both more faithful to its source (the John W. Campbell yarn “Who Goes There?”) and less clumsily expository. It also features the grossest special effects ever committed to film, courtesy of genius Rob Bottin.

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5
Movies, Horror

Hereditary

This high? Yes, this high. Ari Aster's feature debut is nothing short of a new horror classic, raw and aching, with a sad sense of domestic unraveling at its core. Toni Collette's harrowing performance as a mom out of her depths is brilliant work regardless of what genre it comes in.

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Get Out
Movies, Horror

Get Out

A zeitgeisty sensation, an Oscar winner and (most importantly) a timely culture changer that brought us all to the "sunken place," Jordan Peele's enormously confident directorial debut did more for the reputation of horror—as a vessel for sociopolitical commentary—than any movie since Night of the Living Dead.

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Alien
Movies, Fantasy

Alien (1979)

People remember the film’s look: motes of dust hanging in the air, Jerry Goldsmith’s shivery orchestral score, an atmosphere thick with dread. But Ridley Scott’s chest-bursting horror landmark has a lot more going for it under the hood. It’s a sexually radical sci-fi film that turns men into pregnant hosts—and a woman, Sigourney Weaver, into the most iconic hero in genre filmmaking.

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The 100 best horror films, horror movies, freaks
Movies, Horror

Freaks (1932)

Still unnerving nearly 85 years on, this carnival-set revenge drama—peopled by real-life circus acts who may have been exploited—remains a true test of resolve. It’s also an undeniable horror masterpiece made by a director, Tod Browning, who was on top of the world after his Dracula smashed the box office. It’s as risky a movie as Hollywood ever hatched, one that destroyed Browning’s career.

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shining.JPG
Movies, Horror

The Shining (1980)

From a certain perspective, all of Stanley Kubrick’s movies are horror films: 2001’s terrifying cosmic loneliness, Dr. Strangelove’s cheery annihilation, the death duels from Barry Lyndon. Which is all a way of saying that when the director finally got around to making a proper thriller, he paradoxically produced the ultimate comic satire on the American family. With blood in elevators.

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Scariest London Scenes 28 Days Later
Movies, Horror

28 Days Later (2002)

Proof that digital video and zombie apocalypses go together like moldy peaches and rancid cream (we mean that as a compliment), Danny Boyle’s epic portrait of a post-traumatic stress disordered Britain is near perfect. Here’s where all those fast-running zombies come from—the flip side to Trainspotting’s euphoric running. But there’s also real poetry in the movie’s empty London.

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