31 Movies For Horror Newcomers

31 Movies For Horror Newcomers

Let’s say you’ve considered watching a horror movie before but didn’t know where to start. Let’s say the month of October has you horror curious. Let’s say I’ve compiled a list to guide you through several decades of nightmares.

Last week, I published a list of 31 movies for hardcore horror fans. It’s all part of Shocktober, an annual tradition with my wife, wherein we try to watch as many horror films as possible before November rolls around. Since we’ve seen basically everything, we have to dig deeper and deeper each year.

But one of the questions I always hear from folks it: “Hey, how do I get started with horror?” While there are certainly plenty of lists, I feel too many are crushed under the weight of the all-time classics, ignoring how many good movies have been released even in the past few years.

This list tries to present is a broad overview of the genre, from the old to the new, from the humorous to the satirical, from the horrifying to the gory. Only one, Martyrs, has an asterisk next to it, and that’s because Martyrs is a fucked up movie. It’s really good, too — especially the ending — but it’s not for the faint of heart. Everything else, while scary, is stuff you’d expect from a horror movie.

There are some notable films excluded from this list — there were only 31 spots! — which I’m sure people will start tormenting me about in the comments. (Where’s Halloween? Didn’t It Follows just come out?) This isn’t a “best horror movies ever!!” list, but it certainly reflects some of my all-time favourites.

31 Movies For Horror Newcomers

Also! The first episode of my weekly horror podcast, Til Death Do Us Part, launched last week. I’m recording it with my wife. For October, we’ll be discussing a selection of Shocktober 2015’s films every Thursday. You can subscribe iTunes (if you like it, please leave a review!) or stream it over here.

Now, the list, which includes a trailer link for every movie:

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street

2. Friday the 13th

3. The Babadook

4. It Follows

5. The Exorcist

31 Movies For Horror Newcomers

6. Scream

7. Night of the Living Dead

8. Cabin in the Woods

9. Paranormal Activity

10. The Blair Witch Project

31 Movies For Horror Newcomers

11. The Thing

12. You’re Next

13. Hellraiser

14. Alien

15. Evil Dead 2

31 Movies For Horror Newcomers

16. The Conjuring

17. The Fly

18. American Werewolf in London

19. Texas Chainsaw Massacre

20. Suspiria

31 Movies For Horror Newcomers

21. Poltergeist

22. Let The Right One In

23. The Descent

24. Nightbreed

25. Re-Animator

31 Movies For Horror Newcomers

26. Drag Me to Hell

27. [rec]

28. Them

29. Martyrs (Warning: This movie is hardcore.)

30. The Entity

31. Trick ‘r Treat


Illustration by Jim Cooke


  • Watched “It Follows” the other day. Very average I thought. Wife gets pretty scared with horror flicks and even she thought it was pretty bad. Not just not scary but not very well done imo.

    • I think my expectations were too high for this because it did nothing me at all. No suspense, ridiculous premise (even for a horror movie). I don’t get all the fuss.

    • I thought the same. I wanted to like it and I am forgiving with horror as I love it but this one just felt flat.

    • I liked It Follows, thought the idea of a unrelenting slow moving monster frightening. It had a couple of plot holes and the ending was a bit meh.

    • My girlfriend is a horror fangirl and didn’t enjoy it. Neither did I, but I did like the idea of an STD based horror flick. That was a great idea!

  • Martyrs is definitely hardcore.
    Not a movie I’d recommend to too many people, but I’ll say this for it, it is memorable.

      • Without giving too much away it starts off as one genre home invasion and then switches to another torture porn about a third of the way through the film.

        It can be hard to watch at times, but I did enjoy the ending. And not something I’ll forget any time soon.

  • Pretty awesome list. I’d probably omit Martyrs as a recommendation for horror newcomers. Tough choice between Evil Dead 2 and The Evil Dead.

    • I’d go Evil Dead 2. Not only does it give you the gist of 1 in the first few minutes, the humor adds so much, and really creates the Ash we all know and love!

    • Evil Dead 2. 1 is fantastic, but it was an experiment. It doesn’t fit with the rest and the tree scene is honestly really out of place. Even Raimi regrets putting it in.
      2 is basically a slicker, better looking, more coherent remake that really sets the standard for the universe. Watching 1 is like playing System Shock. It’s a fascinating look at the blueprint for what would eventually become the industry high bar.

  • I clicked ready to get antsy because you’re right in my sweet spot, but actually, that’s not a bad list. Bravo good sir! Super happy not to see any Saw on here.

    And yes, work your way up to Marytrs. Not for the casuals. You’ve been warned multiple times.

    My other cautionary note is if you watch The Thing, make sure it’s Carpenter’s, not the most recent version.

    • The first Saw movie was excellent. So much done with such a simple premise. The detective side story wasn’t strictly necessary, but it was a really solid movie.

      Unfortunately, it spawned some utterly terrible sequels and allowed a whole lot of pointless, shitty torture-porn movies to follow. I’m looking in your direction, Hostel. Goddamn that movie was a fucking piece of shit.

  • For the most part a very spot on list. No one will ever agree on the best, but this covers most bases. Only ones I really disagree with are It Follows and Cabin In The Woods.

  • I don’t know about Cabin in the Woods, for newcomers – the references would pretty much be lost on them. For a meta slot more intro-friendly, maybe New Nightmare.

    P.S: Candyman.

  • Despite not being a fan of horror movies in the least… The Thing is possibly one of my favourite films of all time. (The Carpenter one. The original, prequel and comics don’t have the same charm or effort. The game was a pretty good attempt though.)

    I couldn’t say why without massively spoiling it… But it’s not a ‘horror horror’ film. It’s about paranoia and a cast of characters that act incredibly pragmatically and intelligently despite being in a horror film, because if they don’t… Something terrible will happen. And the ending is simply a masterpiece.

    Oh, and that sound track and title card. Unf.

    • Yes, yes, and yes.

      Carpenter’s The Thing is still one of the best suspense movies ever made. Sure, there are some amazing practical creature effects that still hold up to this day, but that’s just delicious icing on the already delicious cake.

    • I was wondering where this was, it’s a very good horror film and I don’t even like horror films.

  • Awesome list, though the first two Child’s Play movies will forever sit at/near the top of my favourites.

    Trick ‘r Treat is fantastic! One of this centuries best in my opinion.

    Also Martyrs was awesome! Also Inside.

  • I’m not much of a horror person but my favorites would be The Thing, The Fly and Warlock.

  • Would add the reboot Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm st’s to the list. Definitely a pair of good reboots

  • Not a horror fan, actually clarify that – not a gore fan. But I’ve actually seen a fair chunk of those films – my faves being The Exorcist (just disturbing in every way and has that 70s golden age vibe) and Scream.

    Bit disappointed Halloween didn’t make the list – that film virtually kicked off the the whole unstoppable psychotic genre

    Also what about Final Destination? It’s probably been diluted with endless sequels but the first one is high concept done right IMO

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