The 21 Best '90s Horror Movies, Ranked
There are all sorts of reasons we miss the '90s, but the fact that that decade was home to some of the finest horror movies ever made is certainly high on our list. From "The Sixth Sense" to "Scream," it truly was a terrifying decade. In that spirit, we've ranked the very best horror flicks from the '90s.
21. 'Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth' (1992)
The '90s marked the point where the "Hellraiser" franchise transitioned from horror luminary to fodder for cheap, direct-to-video schlock. But at least we got one more worthwhile follow-up to the original early in the decade. "Hellraiser III" caps off the trilogy nicely and gives fans a closer glimpse of the man who became Pinhead.
20. 'Event Horizon' (1997)
Not since "Alien" has the prospect of being trapped on a claustrophobic spaceship seemed so terrifying. Sure, "Event Horizon" is a bit cheesy in places, and the premise sadly comes close to realizing its full potential, but the gore and production design are worth revisiting -- for horror junkies only.
19. 'In the Mouth of Madness' (1994)
John Carpenter's films practically defined the '80s. Sadly, his '90s work didn't measure up to that standard, but we have to at least respect the effort that went into this flawed but worthwhile horror film. Few directors have even attempted to bring the work of H.P. Lovecraft to life on the big screen, so it is a minor success he sort of pulled off that aspect.
18. 'The Exorcist III' (1990)
No "Exorcist" sequel ever stood a chance of living up to the original. But at least "The Exorcist III" makes a strong effort. And as it started life as an adaptation of the novel "Legion" rather than a sequel, it's best appreciated as its own, unique beast. It also features one of the best jump scares ever.
17. 'The Ring' (1998)
This is the film that spawned a massive horror franchise and made American audiences sit up and take notice of the great work being done in Japan. In terms of overall scares, "The Ring" feels a bit dated and pedestrian in hindsight, but there's no denying the its premise's appeal or the impact this nightmare fuel has had on the genre.
16. 'Ravenous' (1999)
We love a horror film with a sense of humor. That's why this underrated gem stands the test of time. Its account of a Gold Rush-era Army camp torn apart by a cannibalistic madman is gripping enough on its own, but the fact that "Ravenous" is punctuated by so many silly moments -- and also has so much to say about man's carnivorous appetites -- truly makes it something special. It's a shame this one was so badly overlooked at the time.
15. 'Cronos' (1993)
We bet most directors wish they could deliver a film this confident and visually distinctive in their first outing. Guillermo Del Toro showcased his distinctive vision right out of the gate, crafting a complex film that's as much dark fantasy as it is horror.
14. 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' (1992)
For all the "Dracula" movies Hollywood has given us, few can be said to be truly faithful to the original novel. That's one of the reasons Francis Ford Coppola's lavish adaptation stands out. While it suffers from a handful of wooden performances (that's what happens when you cast Keanu Reeves as a British dude), the film truly captures the terror and tragedy of this iconic horror villain.
13. 'Candyman' (1992)
You couldn't throw a rock in the '90s without hitting the blood-soaked antagonist of a popular slasher franchise. What made "Candyman" stand out, however, was its effort to cast its antagonist as a sympathetic, even tragic figure. It's a slasher movie with a brain, which is something you don't see often.
12. 'Wes Craven's New Nightmare' (1994)
The best two entries in the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series are the ones directed by Wes Craven. This sequel rose above the pack for two reasons. First, it offers a more terrifying view of the often comical villain Freddy Krueger. Second, it shook up the series' formula in a big way, by breaking the fourth wall and having Freddy invade the real world set of one of his movies. Consider this a prototype for 1996's "Scream."
11. 'The Kingdom' (1994)
We're glad that this Danish horror miniseries was released as a movie in the US, because it certainly deserves to make the list of great '90s horror films. Creator/co-director Lars von Trier really shows off his unique voice with this one, which is equal parts medical drama and haunted hospital movie.
10. 'Army of Darkness' (1992)
While "Evil Dead 2" was as much a remake of the original as a sequel, "Army of Darkness" succeeded in pushing the franchise in a very different direction. It's not quite as effective as a straight-up horror film, but it really perfected the series' sly sense of humor and ability to blend darkness and camp.
9. 'Braindead/Dead Alive' (1992)
Who would have ever thought that the man behind this gore-soaked, campy horror flick would one day go one to craft one of the most epic and beloved fantasy trilogies ever filmed? Though it's only because of "The Lord of the Rings" that this early effort from director Peter Jackson has gotten the attention it deserves. In true "Evil Dead" fashion, "Brandead" blends violence and camp humor in one mesmerizing frappe.
8. 'Jacob's Ladder' (1990)
Not every horror movie sets out to overtly terrify the viewer. Some are content to take a more subtle, psychological approach, unsettling moviegoers until they start to question the reality around them. That's why "Jacob's Ladder" is such a spooky delight. We only wish more films would follow its example and exercise more restraint.
7. 'Audition' (1999)
"The Ring" may get most of the attention when it comes to the explosion of Japanese horror films in the late '90s, but "Audition" is the high water mark for the period. This incredibly disturbing film from prolific director Takashi Miike follows the struggles of a middle-aged widower who really should have vetted the candidates for his new wife better.
6. 'The Blair Witch Project' (1999)
You can loathe this movie for popularizing the found footage genre, but there's no denying that it used the format to its advantage. This faux-doc about a group of filmmakers becoming lost in the wilderness and running afoul of something evil hits hard because it feels so real. Thanks in part to the film's clever marketing campaign, many moviegoers thought it actually was genuine. That's a sign of a great horror film.
5. 'Misery' (1990)
We can't help but notice that the best Stephen King adaptations tend to be those with the least supernatural elements. Take this one for example. "Misery" avoids killer clowns and haunted hotels, instead opting for Hitchcockian suspense as an injured writer finds himself the unwilling captive of the world's most overbearing fan.
4. 'The Sixth Sense' (1999)
The '90s really ended on a high note where horror movies were concerned. What better way to cap off a decade of spooky fun than with this masterfully crafted film about a child psychologist trying to save a young boy from the ghosts who haunt his waking life? Sure, the twist ending helped elevate this film, but it wouldn't have made as huge an impact if it wasn't such a moving, haunting piece of work in general.
3. 'Scream' (1996)
You'd think Wes Crave would have been content with creating one of the most iconic horror franchises in Hollywood. Instead, he had to go and repeat the process all over again with "Scream." Building on his approach in "New Nightmare," Craven crafted a very smart, self-aware film that's as much comedy as it is horror.
2. 'Seven' (1995)
Based solely on quality, "Seven" probably deserves the top ranking on this list. It's one of director David Fincher's absolute finest. The fact that it's not strictly a horror film knocks it down a few pegs. Though between the generally unsettling atmosphere and a handful of truly terrific scares, it certainly has the creep factor down.
1. 'The Silence of the Lambs' (1991)
With one movie, Anthony Hopkins elevated Hannibal Lecter into a horror movie villain worthy of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers. Hopkins' electrifying, Oscar-winning performance may be the highlight of this film, which explores the desperate struggle of one FBI trainee to track down a serial killer before the clock runs out.