15 Best 90s Horror Movies You Should Watch

Scariest of all: 1991 was 30 years ago.

Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

There is quite simply no right way to choose just some of the best 90s horror movies among the many exceptional titles released across the decade. As anyone who loves the genre will tell you, the 90s were a little weird. Slasher films, supernatural horror, sci-fi hybrids, creature features, and just about every other type of horror film imaginable populated the period. No one trend dominated (although meta slashers came close with the release of Scream in 1996), as the decade wasn’t as bogged down in the slasher genre as it had once been.

The 90s were arguably one of the best decades for mainstream horror success, as well. Horror movies won Academy Awards, dominated the box office, and seemed to garner a greater degree of appreciation and even respect from audiences than ever before. This may not have been ideal for those who missed the grittiness of the 80s or even 70s, but it’s hard to argue with just how many different and truly good horror movies were released in this time.

Over the course of this look at some of the best 90s horror films, the sheer volume of remarkable titles becomes apparent. The period stands up to the fact that no matter which decade you decide on, you’re going to be immersed in great horror.


The Best 90s Horror Movies

1. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Bram Stoker's dracula
Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Watching one of film’s most powerful and influential filmmakers tackle the most ambitious production of Dracula in history is at least something to appreciate in of itself. Francis Ford Coppola went for broke on a version of Bram Stoker’s novel that was not only deeply connected to the source material, but to the entire history of Dracula himself as a great movie villain.

The result is one of the most lavish horror films out there, as Dracula received a massive budget for a genre film, combined with a considerable wave of pre-release hype. The presence of Coppola as the director, with an iconic performance by Gary Oldman as the Count, certainly helped with that.

However, the movie is also a fantastic realization of not only this book, but also of gothic horror itself. Rarely is so much attention capable of being lavished upon the cinematography, costumes, set design, music, editing, special effects, and even performances for a horror movie. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is massive in every way possible, and almost all of it works to perfection to create one of the best horror movies to ever come out of Hollywood.


2. Candyman (1992)

Candyman 1992
Candyman 1992

Director: Bernard Rose

Another 90s horror hit with an influence of gothic horror, Candyman takes an exceptional Clive Barker short story, adds a tone of manic bleakness, and gets exceptional performances out of Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd as the legendary Candyman.

Candyman was marketed as a slasher movie. To be sure, there are some highly memorable murder set pieces that work well with blood and lighting. While those moments are great, Candyman has a lot more to offer. Start with its racially charged story of a grad student whose research takes her to Chicago’s Near North Side. This film uses this foundation for clever commentary, but never strays too far from being one of the most elaborate ghost stories of the day.

Of course, as good as every single piece of this movie is, and as beautifully as director Bernard Rose creates a truly unique relationship between Madsen’s grad student and Candyman, we all know the true star is the man behind the title character. In Candyman, Tony Todd has created one of the greatest sympathetic horror villains of all time.


3. Cure (1997)

Cure 1997
Cure 1997

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

A different person confesses to each death in a series of murders with a distinctive, consistent pattern: All of them have an X carved against the throat. The investigating detective (a brilliant Kōji Yakusho) cannot uncover the thread which draws these murders. This in of itself drives considerable tension through this exceptionally creepy Japanese horror film from Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

The murders themselves are suitably grim, but Cure also brings nightmare imagery, one of the best-paced horror films of the 90s, and a ton of atmosphere. The mystery itself is established beautifully and simply, and it never strays very far from our minds.

Cure is today an early hallmark in the upcoming surge of Japanese horror movies. If it was just a straight murder mystery, it would still be one of the best movies of the 90s. The horror movie atmosphere and varying waves of strangeness serve to make a great thing even better.


4. Dead Alive (1992)


Director: Peter Jackson

Long before he created a gold-standard for epic filmmaking with The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson made some of the grossest and most deranged horror comedies to be found anywhere. Dead Alive (also known as Braindead) might be his strongest, or at least the most rounded in terms of plot, character, and pacing.

Still, while all the above is true, the best parts of Dead Alive are unquestionably those in which Jackson aspires to make the gooiest horror film in history. Liking this story of a local dope whose mother becomes a zombie after being bitten by a strange creature is easy. Tim Balme is perfect as the hapless, kindhearted Lionel, while Elizabeth Moody is a scene-stealer as his increasingly disgusting mom.

In fact, with a hilarious, unpredictable script and such a strong cast for that sort of thing (especially Diana Peñalver as the fearless, beautiful, and hilarious Paquita), Dead Alive was the first serious indication of what Jackson could do as a filmmaker.

But again, the zombie mayhem, especially in the stunning conclusion, is what really sells Dead Alive. Nothing is quite like it.


5. Event Horizon (1997)

Event Horizon
Event Horizon

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

For those who dismiss the supposed 1997 failure Event Horizon as a middling hybrid of The Exorcist and cosmic horror, there really isn’t a lot to say. The rest of us, however, have a lot to appreciate.

While not terribly successful upon release, this film about a spaceship that becomes assaulted by a monstrous presence has become a genuine cult favorite. There may not be a lot of depth to Event Horizon, which features a strong ensemble cast that includes Sam Neal, Kathleen Quinlan, and Laurence Fishburne, but there’s enough plot here to keep things at least interesting.

What probably matters more than that is how this film depicts the true terrifying potential of the vastness of the unknown. On that particular front, Event Horizon delivers something that is supremely exciting and sometimes actually scary.


6. The Exorcist III (1990)

The Exorcist 3
The Exorcist 3

Director: William Peter Blatty

Whether you watch the original theatrical release or opt for the recent director’s cut, The Exorcist III delivers one of the best horror movie experiences of its decade, as well as being one of the greatest horror sequels. The Exorcist III draws from Lt. Kinderman, who we met in the original Exorcist, investigating a series of murders with a sinister connection to a serial killer long thought dead.

What does this have to do with the 1973 Exorcist? Well, your mileage on that front will vary, although this movie is often very much a part of what at least Blatty had in mind for this universe. The tacked-on exorcism at the end isn’t for everyone, but this is still one of the weirdest and darkest commercial horror films to be released in the 90s.

When the movie isn’t steeped in surreal, disconcerting atmosphere, it draws from heavyweight performances by George C. Scott, Jason Miller, and perhaps the scariest work Brad Dourif has ever put on the screen.


7. In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

Director: John Carpenter

“Do you read Sutter Cane?” is a question frequently asked in John Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy-capping In the Mouth of Madness with varying degrees of madness and menace.

By the end of the movie, as you can gather from just watching a trailer, it doesn’t really matter if there’s anyone left to not read Sutter Cane.

In what is probably the last truly great John Carpenter movie, a special investigator (Sam Neill, and few are better are going crazy than he is) is hired to find a missing horror writer named Sutter Cane. Unfortunately, Cane is quite eager to be found, as he has just finished his final masterpiece. Everything about this movie embraces the crazed potential of a story in which a book can reshape reality itself.

With monstrous Lovecraftian cosmic nightmare fuel at every turn, In the Mouth of Madness is messy, glorious chaos.


8. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

Jacob's Ladder
Jacob’s Ladder

Director: Adrian Lyne

One distinctive consistency among many of the best 90s horror movies is weirdness. In the same decade, particularly in the same half of the decade, it was seemingly easy to get your bizarre horror premise off the ground. In the first half of the 90s, the 80s trends were fading, and studios were willing to bankroll seemingly anything.

Barring that, you could at least go to town on visuals that could bring to life the off-kilter nightmares that seem to follow most of us around. There’s a vividness and creative tone to films like the fundamentally frightening Jacob’s Ladder that for several reasons doesn’t exist anymore.

That is not the only defining element to this story of a man who is plagued by hallucinations, which may or may not have deeper implications, but its deep roots in the unpredictable is perhaps the best part.

Regardless of how you may interpret the ending to one of the strangest mainstream horror films of all time, the journey to and from hell as depicted here is wholly its own.


9. Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Night of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead

Director: Tom Savini

While not as drawn out or desolate as the indisputable 1968 classic, makeup legend Tom Savini still directed an astonishing remake entirely on his own terms. The story of a group of people trying to survive the beginning of a zombie apocalypse is kept intact.

However, rather than go beat-for-beat on Romero’s atmosphere, tone, and social commentary, Savini chooses unique spins on established characters, a much more intensive assault from the undead, and the kind of gore FX we would expect from him. Night of the Living Dead 1990 finds ways to be original and engaging without either moving too far away from Romero’s work or borrowing from it so heavily that we may as well not bother.

Those creative touches, as well as standout performances by Tony Todd and Patricia Tallman, won’t work for everyone. However, keep an open mind about remakes and you should have a lot of fun with this 90s gem.


10. Ravenous (1999)

Ravenous (1999)
Ravenous (1999)

Director: Antonia Bird

Ravenous is a good reminder that the marriage between the western genre and horror can be a beautiful thing indeed. This story of cannibalism in the 1840s might just be the most underrated entry on this list.

With a heavy and very morbid sense of humor about its subject matter, Ravenous is the sort of film that defies your expectations again and again. It gets considerable mileage from setting loose its cast, including Robert Carlyle, Guy Pearce, and Sheila Tousey, in a story that doesn’t hold back on the violence. However, what makes that even better is how far it takes the lengths of desperate men.

As anyone who has been watching horror for a long time will tell you, desperation can be used in a variety of ways in the genre. With this film from Antonia Bird, desperation can be equal parts hilarious and horrific — Ravenous never loses its momentum with either.


11. The Reflecting Skin (1990)

The Reflecting Skin (1990)
The Reflecting Skin (1990)

Director: Philip Ridley

A seemingly harmless prank perpetrated by children in 1950s rural Idaho is just the beginning for the exhausted, seemingly damned inhabitants of the small town in which The Reflecting Skin is set. Whether or not the victim of the prank is in fact a vampire exacting revenge on these children is just one of the many mysteries that defines this film.

As this decidedly bizarre horror film from director Philip Ridley shows us, there are in fact several confusing, unreal moments that make up the structure of another underrated 90s horror movie. The film may indeed be at times too abstract for some tastes. At times very much a story about the horrors of being a child, or just the horrors we exchange simply for being alive, The Reflecting Skin should be treated as a cumulative experience.

Offering memorable performances by Lindsey Duncan, Jeremy Cooper, and a pre-Aragorn Viggo Mortensen, The Reflecting Skin moves at a troubling pace. It never lets us get comfortable, it never gives us a moment of psychological or spiritual peace.


12. Ringu (1998)


Director: Hideo Nakata

Horror has been part of Japanese storytelling for centuries. Not surprisingly, the country has been turning out excellent horror movies since they began making films — Ringu is but one tremendous example of this fact. Simultaneously, it is also the film largely responsible for launching a massive wave of interest in horror movies and manga from Japan. Ringu would also spawn a remake, which in of itself spawned a wave of remakes of specifically Japanese horror films.

What perhaps makes Ringu even more appealing, beyond its potent jump scares and unflinching attention to overwhelming dread in the DNA of its atmosphere, is that it is also a very simple story. There isn’t really much more to this premise than a haunted video tape, a horrible secret, and the screams of vengeance that compel the dead to scorch the earth itself.

Ringu makes the most of its strong premise. Straightforward special effects and an attention to lighting and tension are supported by wonderful performances by Nanako Matsushima, Rikiya Ōtaka, and Hiroyuki Sanada. Ringu holds up with the best examples of the decade.


13. Scream (1996)

Scream 1996

Director: Wes Craven

By the start of the 1990s, slasher films were in decline. Come 1996, audiences weren’t quite prepared for the post-modern slasher that was Scream. Wes Craven’s clever combination of meta horror and comedy from a screenplay by Kevin Williamson proved to be a formula that would revive large-scale interest in slasher movies.

A masked killer is plaguing a small California town, and the main target Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is forced to contend with the mystery, as well as her own tragic past.

In the quarter-century-and-climbing period that has passed since its release, Scream continues to hold up for millions. It may have spawned entirely too many self-aware slashers and referential horror movies, as well as sequels of varying quality, but the original Scream is still a sincere and very likable movie with the perfect degree of mean streak.

Scream has just the right mix of self-deprecating humor and compulsory tension. It also takes a far more loving approach to its characters, with notable performances by Matthew Lillard, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette, than what many expected from a slasher movie at this point.


14. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Silence of the Lambs
Silence of the Lambs

Director: Jonathan Demme

The best horror movies of the 1990s can also claim the only Best Picture winner among them. The Silence of the Lambs was a critical darling, a commercial success, and a juggernaut at the Oscars for acting and other top honors. This is a difficult pedigree to live up to for any movie, but The Silence of the Lambs is still a stellar example of a big budget horror movie done exceedingly well.

It is still considered a masterclass of tension, with career-high performances by Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling, Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill, and Anthony Hopkins as the charming, frightening, and utterly psychotic Dr. Hannibal Lecter. It is still applauded for its unique camera work, interesting soundtrack, and a script that at the time imagined the police procedural as something quite different from most of what people had seen up to that time.

It could be said that this story of an FBI trainee teaming up with a cannibal psychiatrist to hunt down a serial killer with an affinity for women’s skin doesn’t really lean into any big horror tropes. Silence of the Lambs is fairly different in tone and execution than most of the films on this list.

At the same time, it still uses psychology, pacing, set decoration, and performances to a degree that certainly still qualifies it as a horror movie. A film that more than lives up to what it promises.


15. Tremors (1990)


Director: Ron Underwood

Of all the horror movies to spawn a sequel or franchise in the 90s, Tremors might be the most shocking example of them all. That isn’t a knock on this film, or its many sequels. Nonetheless, a creature feature western featuring eccentric characters, memorable giant worm monsters, and a perfect juggling act of suspense and comedy has proven to be enduringly popular among its fans.

It’s hard to argue with the sheer fun of this film, which has led to no less than 6 sequels, 1 prequel, a 2003 TV series, and a failed pilot.

Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward as two likable nitwits in the middle of nowhere in Nevada drive the start of the original Tremors. Michael Grossman as series favorite Burt Gummer, Reba McEntire, Finn Carter, and Victor Wong are among the other reasons why this movie gets away with being so effortlessly charming.

It soon becomes apparent that while these giant worm monsters, known as graboids, are a lot of fun, Tremors is at its best when these memorable characters are just trying to deal with them. Tremors makes the most of its various gifts, and the result is a 90s horror movie that you can honestly watch with your whole family.

That isn’t necessarily important to a good horror movie, but it’s fascinating that Tremors carries this distinction and doesn’t lose a step at being tense or thrilling.

READ NEXT: 15 Underrated Horror Movies You Should Watch

Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.