Graveyard Shift

The Best Intelligent Horror Movies  

Ranker Film
631.4k votes 23.5k voters 237k views 106 items

List Rules Vote up the best intelligent horror movies.

If you think horror movies are nothing more than gore, gratuitous violence, slashers slashing, and supernatural creatures wreaking havoc, think again; intelligent horror movies demonstrate that smart horror exists - and is really good to boot. The best intelligent horror films operate at multiple levels, weaving social commentary into plot lines that are equal parts thought-provoking and terrifying. 

From Jordan Peele's Get Out and its thematic interpretation of modern American racism to John Krasinski's A Quiet Place and its "silence experiment," there's no shortage of films that prove horror is actually smart. But what are the smartest of the intelligent horror genre? Are some supposedly intelligent horror films just not so?

list ordered by
1
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J.P. Blank added Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Chris Isaak
The Silence of the Lambs is a 1991 American thriller film that blends elements of the crime and horror genres. Directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, and Scott ...more
2
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Max von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair
The Exorcist is a 1973 American supernatural horror film directed by William Friedkin, adapted by William Peter Blatty from his 1971 novel of the same name. The book, inspired by the 1949 ...more
3
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Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Joey King
The Conjuring is a 2013 American supernatural horror film directed by James Wan and the first installment in the Conjuring series. Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) are ...more
4
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David Lamotte added Jamie Lee Curtis, Kyle Richards, Donald Pleasence
Halloween is a 1978 American independent slasher horror film directed and scored by John Carpenter, co-written with producer Debra Hill, and starring Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis in her ...more
5
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Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers
The Shining is a 1980 British-American psychological horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, co-written with novelist Diane Johnson, and starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, ...more
6
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David Lamotte added John Travolta, Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie
Carrie is a 1976 American supernatural horror film based on Stephen King's first major 1974 novel of the same name. The film was directed by Brian De Palma and written by Lawrence D. Cohen. The ...more
7
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Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Patrick Wilson
Insidious is a 2011 American supernatural horror film directed by James Wan, written by Leigh Whannell, and starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Barbara Hershey. It is the first installment ...more
8
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Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård, Jeremy Ray Taylor
It (also known as It: Chapter One) is a 2017 American supernatural horror film directed by Andy Muschietti, based on the 1986 novel by Stephen King. In the summer of 1989, a group of bullied ...more
9
The Amityville Horror is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Intelligent Horror Movies
Wade Moosewah added James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger
The Amityville Horror is a 1979 American supernatural horror film, directed by Stuart Rosenberg, based on Jay Anson's bestselling 1977 novel of the same name. It is the first film in the ...more
10
The Ring is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Intelligent Horror Movies
Naomi Watts, Pauley Perrette, Brian Cox
The Ring is a 2002 American psychological horror film directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Naomi Watts. It is a remake of the 1998 Japanese horror film Ring, which was based on the novel Ring ...more
11
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Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Shawnee Smith
Saw is a 2004 horror film written by Leigh Whannell and directed by James Wan, in Wan's directorial debut. In the film, Adam (Whannell) and Lawrence (Cary Elwes) awaken chained in a large ...more
12
The Conjuring 2: The Enfield P... is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Intelligent Horror Movies
Greg Kootstra added Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O'Connor
The Conjuring 2 is a 2016 American supernatural horror film, directed by James Wan. It is the sequel to 2013's The Conjuring and the third installment in The Conjuring series. Ed and Lorraine ...more
13
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Bruce Willis, Mischa Barton, Haley Joel Osment
The Sixth Sense is a 1999 American supernatural thriller film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The film tells the story of Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a troubled, isolated boy who ...more
14
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Ali Larter, Seann William Scott, Devon Sawa
Final Destination is a 2000 American horror film directed by James Wong. It is the first installment of the Final Destination series. The screenplay was written by James Wong, Glen Morgan, and ...more
15
Scream is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Intelligent Horror Movies
Nicole McMenamin added Drew Barrymore, Rose McGowan, Courteney Cox
Scream is a 1996 American slasher film written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven. The film stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Drew Barrymore, and David Arquette. Released on ...more
16
Alien is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Intelligent Horror Movies
Greg Kootstra added Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Ian Holm
Alien is a 1979 science-fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto. ...more
17
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Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Randy McDowell
Paranormal Activity is a 2007 American supernatural horror film written, co-produced, photographed, edited, and directed by Oren Peli. The film centers on a young couple, Katie and Micah, who ...more
18
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Greg Kootstra added Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner
The Omen is a 1976 British/American supernatural horror film directed by Richard Donner. The film stars Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Spencer Stephens, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick ...more
19
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Chris Hemsworth, Sigourney Weaver, Amy Acker
The Cabin in the Woods is a 2012 American horror comedy film directed by Drew Goddard in his directorial debut, produced by Joss Whedon, and written by Whedon and Goddard. The film stars Kristen ...more
20
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David Lamotte added Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Fred Thompson
Sinister is a 2012 supernatural horror film directed by Scott Derrickson and written by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. It stars Ethan Hawke as fictional true writer Ellison Oswalt who ...more
21
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David Lamotte added Tom Savini, Ken Foree, James A. Baffico
This film is a 1978 Italian-American horror drama film written and directed by George A. Romero. It was the second film made in Romero's series, but contains no characters or settings from them, ...more
22
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David Lamotte added Cillian Murphy, Christopher Eccleston, Naomie Harris
28 Days Later is a 2002 British post-apocalyptic horror film directed by Danny Boyle. The screenplay was written by Alex Garland. The film stars Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, ...more
23
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David Lamotte added Vincent Price, Richard Long, Elisha Cook
House on Haunted Hill is a 1959 American horror film. It was directed by William Castle, written by Robb White and stars Vincent Price as eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren. He and his fourth ...more
24
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Lena Headey, Ethan Hawke, Adelaide Kane
The Purge is a 2013 American social science fiction action horror film written and directed by James DeMonaco. It stars Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane and Max Burkholder. It is the ...more
25
Psycho is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Intelligent Horror Movies
Greg Kootstra added Alfred Hitchcock, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins
Psycho is a 1960 American horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The film centers on an encounter between a secretary, Marion Crane, who ends up at a secluded motel after taking money from ...more