Best classic Halloween movies to watch right now

Just in time for a spooktacular Halloween.

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Halloween is upon us and there’s no better time to cosy up with a terrifying movie on Netflix, Shudder or your streaming platform of choice.

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From Us to It, the Halloween films to Midsommar and classics like Psycho and Nosferatu, there’s an abundance of creepy offerings out there to scare and entertain.

We at RadioTimes.com have put together a list of recommendations for the best options, so read on for our list of scary movies for Halloween and where to watch them.

Psycho (1960)

In the shower scene from the film Psycho, Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh) screams in terror as Norman Bates tears open her shower curtain.

If we say “Psycho”, we’d be prepared to bet a lot of money your mind immediately played those staccato violins while the terrified face of Janet Leigh screaming from her shower filled your vision. There’s a reason Psycho is one of the greatest horror movies of all time – it’s fast-paced, tense and has one of the most haunting soundtracks ever composed.

Marion Crane (Leigh) is forced to run away from a bad mistake and she ends up at the Bates Motel, which is probably the worst place she could arrive at. The accommodation is owned by creepy Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a man with a taxidermy obsession and a deep, dark secret hidden in his mother’s bedroom. Full of terror, suspense, drama and an ending you will never see coming, Hitchcock’s finest horror is a must-watch this Halloween.

– Helen Daly, Assistant Editor

Where to watch: Shudder (sign up for a 7 day free trial)

It (2017)

IT 2_Day 86_10302018_29925.dng

If you’re down with scary-looking clowns, Andy Muschietti’s 2017 adaptation of Stephen King’s It is bound to give you the heebie-jeebies. Starring an unrecognisable Bill Skarsgârd as the shapeshifting monster, this blockbuster is a solid remake of a horror classic, full of jump-scares, gory gashes and creepy dancing on It’s part that will haunt you long after the film ends.

Set in 1988, It follows schoolboy Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) and his bullied friends Richie, Eddie, Stan, Mike, Ben and Beverly – branded The Losers’ Club – as they investigate sightings of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, a supernatural being who’s responsible for the deaths of several children in the area, including Bill’s six-year-old brother Georgie.

With stunning performances from the film’s young cast and edge-of-your-seat run-ins between the children and Pennywise, It is worth a watch if you’re a fan of Stranger Things, but you’re wanting something much, much scarier for Halloween.

– Lauren Morris, Writer-Researcher

Where to watch: Amazon Prime (rent from £3.49 or buy from £4.99)

Halloween

Jamie Lee Curtis stars in Halloween II (2) (1981)
SEAC

Psycho might arguably be the first true slasher flick, but it was John Carpenter’s Halloween that set the template for a wealth of copycats – Friday the 13th, Silent Night, Deadly Night et al – throughout the 1980s. A string of increasingly convoluted sequels, remakes and reboots have followed, leaving the series with three distinct timelines (or four, if you count Rob Zombie’s 2007 film and its 2009 follow-up), and while some of these spin-offs have their merits, there’s a brutal simplicity to the original Halloween which simply cannot be matched. The plot is simple – babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is stalked by a masked Michael Myers, while the killer’s psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) works to track him down – but Carpenter’s taut, unflinching direction, utterly chilling musical score and innovative use of POV shots – often putting the audience in Michael’s shoes – makes for a horror experience that’s as timeless as it is terrifying.

– Morgan Jeffery, Executive Editor

Where to watch:

Alien (1979)

Alien
BskyB pics, © 1979 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

“In Space, No-One Can Hear You Scream…”

Boasting one of the best poster taglines of all time, Ridley Scott’s original Alien movie meshed the worlds of sci-fi and horror together to create a truly chilling cat-and-mouse thriller set on a battered old spaceship. And when we say cat, we don’t mean Jonesy.

No, the true predator onboard is the titular alien creature, memorably bursting from John Hurt’s chest before stalking and hunting down the crew of the Nostromo one by one. Luckily, one of the greatest film heroines in history – Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley – stands between the creature and the rest of the human race…

A mix of good and bad sequels and some truly dire spin-offs (Alien vs Predator: Requiem, anyone?) has slightly diminished the impact of the franchise, but the original Alien movie is still an all-time classic. Just don’t watch that chestburster scene before you tuck into your own dinner.

– Huw Fullerton, Sci-Fi and Fantasy Editor

Where to watch: Amazon Prime (rent from £3.49 or buy from £4.99)

Midsommar (2019)

Midsommar

Ari Aster had already firmly marked himself out as a horror director to watch with his debut feature Hereditary in 2018, and he only enhanced that reputation with this terrific second film.

Taking clear inspiration from folk horror staples such as The Wicker Man, the film is nonetheless very much it’s own thing – an exhilarating cinematic experience with memorable moments aplenty, but also a moving and cathartic exploration of grief.

The film centres on Dani Ardor, who is grieving the death of her sister and parents when she takes up the offer to travel with her boyfriend and his friends to a remote Swedish community for the traditional Midsommar festival, where she quickly realises everything is not as it seems.

In a cinema landscape where nearly all horror films are marked by dark shadows, the film is refreshing in that the action also all unfolds in the broad daylight – proving that not all scares need to come at night!

– Patrick Cremona, Writer-Researcher

Where to watch: Amazon Prime (sign up to Amazon Prime for a 30 day free trial)

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

shaun of the dead

Halloween can prove a minefield for the horror film averse. Everyone else will be clamouring for slasher-flick marathons, and there’s only so many times you can compromise with a rerun of the creepy but mercifully bloodless Hitchcock gothic, Rebecca.

Enter Shaun of the Dead, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. A zombie film might not sound like a go-to watch for the more easily spooked viewer, but this ground-breaking ‘horror comedy’ feels more like a sitcom (albeit one with a few flesh eaters lurching about the streets of London).

Pegg plays Shaun, a slacker-Romeo who is going through a painful break-up and decides to drown his sorrows with his best mate (Frost), only to wake up, hungover, during a full-blown zombie apocalypse.

The thoroughly British humour is typified by Billy Nighy’s scene-stealing turn as Shaun’s father, whose reaction to getting bitten by a zombie is to proclaim: “I ran it under a cold tap”.

– Flora Carr, Drama Writer

Where to watch: Amazon Prime (sign up to Amazon Prime for a 30 day free trial)

Suspiria (1977)

Suspiria Argento
SEAC

Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino recently remade this unforgettable 1977 giallo into a new movie starring Tilda Swinton, but the original remains the superior film: a gory and gorgeously colourful horror with an incredibly creepy atmosphere and a tremendously memorable score.

The film follows Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper), a young American ballet dancer who arrives at a prestigious German dance school and begins to suspect that supernatural forces are present at the academy.

Against the backdrop of increasingly strange occurrences, Suzy slowly begins to unravel the mystery of the school, leading to an impeccably shot showdown with the leader of a sinister witch’s coven.

It’s one of several Dario Argento films currently available with an Amazon Prime Video subscription – among the others on offer, Deep Red (Profondo Rosso), Phenomena and Opera are also well worth a watch for newcomers to the Italian maestro

– Patrick Cremona, Writer-Researcher

Where to watch: Amazon Prime (sign up to Amazon Prime for a 30 day free trial)

Nosferatu (1922)

Nosferatu (1922)
United Archives / Getty Images

The greatest fan film ever made, 1922’s Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror was the first screen adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (a film released the previous year, Dracula’s Death, had featured the Count but was not directly based on Stoker’s novel) but was produced without permission, with names being changed from the original text in a flimsy attempt to avoid copyright issues – most notably, Max Schreck’s vampire is not the suave Count Dracula that would become standard but rather the memorably grotesque Count Orlok. This effort failed and a court ruling ordered all copies of Nosferatu to be destroyed – a few prints thankfully survived, though, preserving what is now considered to be a classic of silent German Expressionist horror, with director FW Murnau’s use of shadows and unsettling imagery still holding the power to unnerve almost 100 years on from the film’s original release.

– Morgan Jeffery, Executive Editor

Where to watch: MUBI on Amazon Prime (sign up to Mubi for a 7 day free trial)

Scream (1996)

Drew Barrymore stars in Scream (1996)
SEAC

Legendary director Wes Craven resurrected the ailing slasher genre with this inventive hit. Scream immediately hooks you in with what might be one of the most terrifying opening stings ever put to screen, featuring a heartbreaking performance from Drew Barrymore and the unforgettable first appearance of Ghostface.

The focus then shifts to a group of high schoolers led by Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott, who are left reeling from the revelation that a killer is lurking in their sleepy town. The tone lightens just a little as Craven begins playing with the tropes of a sub-genre he helped create, with some amusing meta-commentary delivered by Jamie Kennedy as movie buff Randy Meeks.

Such is the brilliance of Scream; it delivers big on scares, but what really sets it apart is its smartly written characters and a dark sense of humour that should put a smile on any horror fan’s face. Without a doubt, one of the greatest slashers ever made.

– David Craig, Writer-Researcher

Where to watch:

  • Scream (1996) Amazon Prime (rent from £3.49 or buy from £3.99)
  • Scream 2 Amazon Prime (rent from £3.49 or buy from £4.99)
  • Scream 3 Amazon Prime (rent from £2.49 or buy from £3.99)
  • Scream 4 Amazon Prime (rent from £3.49 or buy from £6.99)

Get Out (2017)

Get Out
Universal Pictures

If you’re looking for some food for thought with your serving of horror, Jordan Peele’s Academy Award-winning film Get Out is a perfect Halloween pick. While paying homage to scary classics like The Shining, Peele’s directorial debut looks at the genre through a satirical lens, simultaneously exploring social critiques and giving thrill-seeking audiences a good fright.

Starring Black Panther’s Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out follows photographer Chris (Kaluuya), who travels to rural Upstate New York with his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her middle-class family. However, when Chris notices the odd behaviours of Rose’s parents and their strange neighbours, the trip takes a horrific turn.

A gripping thriller with racial commentary woven throughout, Get Out’s infusion of classic horror tropes with dark humour and thought-provoking imagery makes it one of the best films of 2017.

– Lauren Morris, Writer-Researcher

Where to watch: Amazon Prime (rent from £0.99 or buy from £3.99)

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Pictorial Parade/Getty Images

1968 saw the advent of the contemporary zombie movie with the release of George A Romero’s independent horror Night of the Living Dead.

Shot on a tight budget and going on to earn more than 250 times what it cost to produce, the film is a masterpiece in creeping tension, with occasional bursts of shocking gore, as it follows seven people trapped in a farmhouse and besieged by cannibalistic corpses. But like all of Romero’s best works, there’s more to Night of the Living Dead than what’s on the surface – it’s also a searing piece of social commentary, tackling themes of racism as the film’s Black hero Ben (Duane Jones) is mistreated by bigots who consider him as much a threat as the walking dead.

The film’s ending is perhaps its masterstroke – no spoilers, but it’s a twist rife with ambiguity, one which pays off the film’s underlying themes in shocking fashion.

– Morgan Jeffery, Executive Editor

Where to watch: Amazon Prime (sign up to Amazon Prime for a 30 day free trial)

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Anchor Bay Entertainment

Ten years on from Night of the Living Dead came George A Romero’s follow-up and arguably his finest work, Dawn of the Dead. Though themes of social commentary were absolutely present in Night, Dawn is much a critique of American society in the 1970s – and in particular the rise of mass consumerism – as it is a horror film, with a gang of four – SWAT officers Roger (Scott Reiniger) and Peter (Ken Foree), plus husband and wife Stephen (David Emge) and Fran (Gaylen Ross) – taking refuge from the spreading zombie plague in a suburban shopping mall (then still something of a novelty in the US).

The zombies are no longer just the enemy, Dawn of the Dead tells us – they’re us, a mindless mob blindly driven by a desire to consume above all else. The end result is a film that’s sharp, horrific, funny and bleak in equal measure.

– Morgan Jeffery, Executive Editor

Where to watch: Order DVD from Amazon

Day of the Dead (1985)

Day of the Dead (1985)
Shout Factory!

The final film in George A Romero’s original zombie trilogy, Day of the Dead is generally considered a weaker effort than its predecessors Night and Dawn (review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes has it at an 81 per cent approval rating, compared to its predecessors’ 90+ scores) – but in its own way, this 1985 film is every bit as powerful, entertaining and influential as what came before.

Exploring a central theme of science vs. military might – as personified by lead character Dr. Sarah Bowman’s (Lori Crdille) clash with the unhinged Captain Rhodes (Joseph Pilato) – Day sees Romero continue to push the series in new and fascinating directions with the introduction of “Bub” (Sherman Howard), a ‘friendly’ member of the undead horde taught to mimic human behaviour, introducing the concept of the semi-rehabilitated zombie which would later be explored in everything from Shaun of the Dead (2004) to the BBC TV series In the Flesh (2013).

Not only that, but who doesn’t have time for a film where a character having his guts torn out instructs his zombie attackers to “CHOKE ON ‘EM!!”?

– Morgan Jeffery, Executive Editor

Where to watch: Order DVD from Amazon

A Quiet Place (2017)

A Quiet Place
Paramount Pictures

John Krasinski’s directorial debut takes the high-stakes tension of sneaking back into your house after an illicit night out, every tiny noise spelling your possible doom, into a truly pulse-pounding thriller. You’ll never look at a creaky stair in quite the same way again.

Set in a near-future version of present-day Earth, we’re dropped into a world where blind but hearing-sensitive aliens have wiped out most of human society. Those that are left survive by living in complete silence, with the slightest word or too-loud footstep drawing in a wave of the fast-moving monsters.

Part of the fun in the film is seeing the arduous methods the lead characters take to avoid detection – soft board game pieces, steamed food under floorboards, long sanded paths that they walk on barefoot – but of course, it’s also not too long before all the preparations go out of the window and a more traditional monster mash-up ensues.

– Huw Fullerton, Sci-Fi and Fantasy Editor

Where to watch: Netflix

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Rosemary's Baby
SEAC

Horror cinema doesn’t get much more iconic than Roman Polanski’s 1968 adaptation of Ira Levin’s novel of the same name – an unsettling and chilling film which expertly builds tension to almost impossibly nightmarish levels.

Mia Farrow gives one of the all time great performances as the titular Rosemary, who moves into an opulent new home in New York’s Upper West Side along with her husband Guy, played by John Cassavetes.

When Guy becomes close with the pair’s slightly unusual neighbours, Rosemary begins to suspect something sinister is going on. These suspicions are only enhanced when she falls pregnant – with Rosemary believing herself to be carrying the child of Satan himself – but her attempts to stop a supposed coven only send her deeper into trouble.

This is a film almost entirely without gore, with the scares coming purely from more psychological elements, but more than 50 years after it’s release it stands up as one of the spookiest horrors ever made.

– Patrick Cremona, Writer-Researcher

Where to watch: Amazon Prime (rent from £3.49 or buy from £3.99)

Us (2019)

Us
YouTube

Weird, wonderful and extremely spooky are just some of the words that come to mind when thinking of Jordan Peele’s Us.

Initially set in two timelines – 1986 and the modern day –  the American horror film tells the story of a family of four headed by Black Panther stars Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke. The Wilsons are put in a compromising position during a trip to Santa Cruz and must fight for their lives when they’re attacked by their menacing doppelgängers.

Similar to Peele’s debut film Get Out starring Daniel Kaluuya, Us is as much a social metaphor for America today as it is a gripping, scary movie. With a shocking twist at the end you’ll never see coming, Us is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat!

– Grace Henry, Entertainment and Factual Editor

Where to watch: Amazon Prime (buy for £4.99)

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If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.