Entertainment
47 voters

The Best Movies About Nightmares

Updated July 26, 2019 597 votes 47 voters 2.1k views32 items

List RulesNightmares must play an important role in the plot of the film.

When thinking about the best nightmare movies, the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise certainly comes to mind but this list proves there are other great movies that feature bad dreams. Famous nightmares in movies can make even the most cynical film viewer forget they’re watching a movie and jolt them out of their seat. Nightmares are the mind’s way of disturbing itself when it’s at its most vulnerable; which makes them perfect fodder for film. They have fueled top horror films long before Freddy Kruger donned the glove and have given filmmakers a chance to fully explore beyond the ordinary confines of everyday life.

Nightmares can drive the characters’ motives, actions, and relationships for better or worse within the plot like Dreamscape and The Cell where most of the movie takes place in dreams. An artistic tool to be sure; nightmares in cinema are a blank canvas that can tell you a lot about the psyche of the characters, and even more about yourself!

Is this list of best films about nightmares the stuff dreams are made of? Feel free to vote up the nightmare movies that make it difficult to sleep at night! You can always remind yourself, it was all just a dream.

 

  • 1
    Johnny Depp, Robert Englund
    34
    3

    Released1984

    Directed byWes Craven

    A Nightmare on Elm Street is a 1984 American supernatural slasher horror film written and directed by Wes Craven, and the first film of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. The film stars Heather...  more
  • 2
    Patricia Arquette, Laurence Fishburne
    27
    4

    Released1987

    Directed byChuck Russell

    A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is a 1987 American slasher fantasy film and the third film in the Nightmare on Elm Street series. The film was directed by Chuck Russell, written by...  more
  • 3
    Tim Curry, Seth Green
    27
    5

    Released1990

    Directed byTommy Lee Wallace

    It (ABC, 1990) is a psychological horror drama miniseries based on Stephen King's novel of the same name. The story revolves around an inter-dimensional predatory life-form, which has the ability to...  more
  • 4
    Evangeline Lilly, Kelly Rowland
    25
    5

    Released2003

    Directed byRonny Yu

    Freddy vs. Jason is a 2003 American slasher action fantasy film directed by Ronny Yu. The film is a crossover between the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street franchises. It is the eleventh...  more
  • 5
    Paul Reubens, Catherine O'Hara
    22
    5

    Released1993

    Directed byHenry Selick

    Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D is a 2006 3D version of the 1993 film of the same title directed by Henry Selick and written by Caroline Thompson....  more
  • 6
    Wes Craven, Robert Englund
    24
    7

    Released1994

    Directed byWes Craven

    Wes Craven's New Nightmare is a 1994 American slasher metafilm written and directed by original Nightmare on Elm Street creator Wes Craven. Although it is the seventh film in the franchise, it is not...  more
  • 7

    Released1985

    Directed byJack Sholder

    A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge is a 1985 American slasher horror film and the second film in the Nightmare on Elm Street film series. The film was directed by Jack Sholder and stars...  more
  • 8
    19
    4

    Released1988

    Directed byRenny Harlin

    A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master is a 1988 American slasher fantasy film and the fourth film in the Nightmare on Elm Street series. The film was directed by Renny Harlin, stars Robert...  more
  • 9
    Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall
    19
    5

    Released1980

    Directed byStanley Kubrick

    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, Danny...  more
  • 10
    Danielle Harris, Donald Pleasence
    20
    8

    Released1988

    Directed byDwight H. Little

    Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is a 1988 horror film directed by Dwight H. Little and written by Alan B. McElroy. It is the fourth installment of the Halloween film series and focuses on...  more
  • 11
    Stephen King, Fred Gwynne
    17
    8

    Released1989

    Directed byMary Lambert

    Pet Sematary is a 1989 American horror film adaptation of Stephen King's novel of the same name. Directed by Mary Lambert and written by King. Andrew Hubatsek was cast for Zelda's role. Author King...  more
  • 12
    Alice Cooper, Donald Pleasence
    12
    5

    Released1987

    Directed byJohn Carpenter

    Prince of Darkness is a 1987 American supernatural horror film directed, written and scored by John Carpenter. The film is the second installment in what Carpenter calls his "Apocalypse Trilogy",...  more
  • 13
    Angus Scrimm, A. Michael Baldwin
    7
    0

    Released1979

    Directed byDon Coscarelli

    Phantasm is a 1979 American horror film directed, written, photographed, co-produced, and edited by Don Coscarelli. It introduces the Tall Man. He is opposed by a young boy, Mike, who tries to...  more
  • 14
    Essie Davis, Daniel Henshall
    7
    3

    Released2014

    Directed byJennifer Kent

    The Babadook is a 2014 Australian psychological horror film, written and directed by Jennifer Kent, in which a woman and her son are tormented by a "boogie-man" type monster. The film stars Essie...  more
  • 15
    Naomi Watts, Billy Ray Cyrus
    6
    2

    Released2001

    Directed byDavid Lynch

    Mulholland Drive is a 2001 American neo-noir mystery film written and directed by David Lynch and starring Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, and Justin Theroux. It tells the story of an aspiring actress...  more
  • 16
    Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne
    5
    2

    Released2018

    Directed byAri Aster

    Hereditary is a 2018 American horror film directed by Ari Aster. As an overwhelming terror takes over their household, the Graham family's peaceful existence is ripped apart, forcing their mother...  more
  • 17
    Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck
    8
    7

    Released1945

    Directed byAlfred Hitchcock

    Spellbound is a 1945 American psychological mystery thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It tells the story of the new head of a mental asylum who turns out not to be what he claims. The film...  more
  • 18
    Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson
    8
    7

    Released1957

    Directed byIngmar Bergman

    Wild Strawberries is a 1957 Swedish film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman about an old man recalling his past. The original Swedish title is Smultronstället, which literally means "The wild...  more
  • 19
    Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams
    5
    5

    Released2010

    Directed byMartin Scorsese

    Shutter Island is a 2010 American psychological thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese. The film is based on Dennis Lehane's 2003 novel of the same name. Production started in March 2008. Leonardo...  more
  • 20
    Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn
    15
    20

    Released2000

    Directed byTarsem Singh

    The Cell is a 2000 sci-fi horror film directed by Tarsem Singh. An F.B.I. Agent persuades a social worker, who is adept with a new experimental technology, to enter the mind of a comatose serial...  more
  • 21
    Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey
    2
    2

    Released2010

    Directed byJames Wan

    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 in the...  more
  • 22
    James Brolin, Margot Kidder
    7
    10

    Released1979

    Directed byStuart Rosenberg

    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 Amityville...  more
  • 23
    Chris Hemsworth, Sigourney Weaver
    7
    10

    Released2012

    Directed byDrew Goddard

    The Cabin in the Woods is a 2012 American horror comedy film directed by Drew Goddard in his directorial debut. Five college kids (Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse...  more
  • 24
    Annabelle Wallis, Jake Abel
    0
    0

    Released2021

    Directed byJames Wan

    Malignant is a 2021 American horror film directed by James Wan. Paralyzed by fear from shocking visions, a woman's torment worsens as she discovers her waking dreams are terrifying realities....  more
  • 25
    Dennis Quaid, Christopher Plummer
    9
    15

    Released1984

    Directed byJoseph Ruben

    Dreamscape is a 1984 science fiction horror film directed by Joseph Ruben and written by David Loughery, with Chuck Russell and Ruben co-writing....  more