Top five horror movies that still hold up today

Take it from this scare movie enthusiast, you’ll want to dive into these flicks

Mrs. Marquess is a self-professed horror movie guru

Mrs. Marquess is a self-professed horror movie guru

Mrs. Marquess, Health and P.E. Teacher

I have been a horror fanatic since childhood — in fairness, probably far earlier than I should have been watching them. My sister is 12 years older than me and had a great deal of influence over my strange hobbies and interests when it came to the pop culture of the times. The first novel I ever read (stolen off of her shelf) was Stephen King’s “It.” Appropriate? No. Absolutely blew my mind in the best way possible? Yes. 

That said, there is a special place in my heart for old school horror movies that shaped my childhood and began the (borderline obsessive) interest in the genre that I continue to have today. “Old school,”of course, is relative, but for the purposes of this analysis, I chose to limit that timeline down to what I personally feel are the two most interesting decades of horror: the 80’s and 90’s. 

Given that this is a topic I am passionate about, I could write for hours about the myriad number of horror movies that deserve a spot on the “top” lists of the genre. So, it felt right to narrow this list down by including only–what I consider to be–the groundbreaking films that my sister and I watched under the covers in her room well after my bedtime.

 The 80’s and 90’s had a lot of questionable choices in terms of trends: fashion, fads, politics — but, when it came to horror movies, there are more remembered for being super rad than super bad. These, I propose, have withstood the test of time and should definitely be viewed by any horror fans, regardless of their age.

 This is a loose definition of horror, subcategorized more specifically.


Ghostface from “Scream” (Photo courtesy of

1) BEST SLASHER: “Scream” (1996)

“Scream,” obviously, became a multi-decade franchise with the most recent iteration released this past January, but it all started in 1996. The original remains a cult classic and the most highly regarded of the bunch. “Scream” was groundbreaking in the sense that it was really the first “meta” horror movie–a trope that has been used (and overused) a number of times since. It was one of the first self-aware horror movies– a movie about a movie–in which the characters knew the “rules” of survival and, in a general sense, what they were up against. To top that, they *SPOILER ALERT* killed off the star actress (teen icon, Drew Barrymore) in the first scene. My prepubescent mind was blown, along with everyone else’s. The ghost face is still a horror icon seen every October.  Babysitter slashers will never be the same since Wes Craven began his dynasty.  There was not a babysitter in the late 90’s that didn’t learn the true importance of locking the doors and not answering strange calls. To this day, if I answer an unknown number, I already hear what it might ask, “what’s your favorite scary movie?” This, for sure, will always be one.


The cast of “The Craft” (Photo courtesy of

2) BEST WITCHCRAFT FLICK: “The Craft” (1996)

Every good 80’s/90’s kid has participated in a good sleepover seance. Light as a feather, stiff as a board–if you know, you know. I have to believe there are still versions of this now, but even if there aren’t, there are so many things that you will love about this movie. At its core, it is a new-kid-in-town storyline about Sarah and her small group of high school outcasts who find their niche with their collective interest in witchcraft. Once they discover the power that they have as a foursome, they are determined to use it to seek revenge on their high school tormentors. Maybe it doesn’t have the traditional scares that most horror movies provide, but it is dark enough to give you that fun eeriness that only witches can elicit. Plus, it delivers a fierce femme fetale meets Sisterhood Of the Traveling Pants vibe that is impossible not to connect with, even when they take it a bit too far.


Clare Foster and Anthony Hopkins in “The Silence of the Lambs” (Photo courtesy of

3) TOP SERIAL KILLER/PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER: “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)

There’s a reason why this is the only horror movie to win an Oscar for Best Picture (as well as Best Actor, Actress, Director and Screenplay). Genre aside, it is good for good’s sake. We were graced with not one, but two iconic serial killers with very different M.O.’s and beliefs. Hannibal Lector was a true real life monster who charmed his young Clarice into believing otherwise and who’s elegance and intelligence made it hard not to like him. This was juxtaposed with the bizzare moments of “Buffalo Bill” that were both comical and–at times–controversial. This was a movie really in a category of its own in the sense that it delivered thriller-like suspense, law enforcement drama, surprising gore, and the sheer terror that comes in the form of a realization that this could really happen. Above all else, this is a unique plot, well-filmed with even better acting. At the end of the day, I’d share a meal (including fava beans and nice chianti) with Anthony Hopkins and Ted Levine any time… as long as I can keep my organs and well-lotioned skin.


Poster for the 1987 cult classic “The Lost Boys” (Photo courtesy of

4) BEST VAMPIRE MOVIE: “The Lost Boys” (1987)

This was, without a doubt, this most difficult to choose. There is something about the mythology and varied tropes throughout literature and movies that is uniquely intriguing. Invisible in cameras and mirrors? Sure, sometimes. Sharp teeth and claws? Most of the time. Garlic and holy water? Maybe. For certain, the number one trait that makes them inherently scary is that they look and act just like us. They can blend in amongst their human counterparts–all the while having a special charm that allows them to take advantage of us. We may happen upon them when we least expect it. In the case of “The Lost Boys,” it is all of the above conveyed through true 80’s perfection. The music, fashion and actors are a flawless time capsule of the decade. If you are at all into the retro punk rock era and vampire fiction, you will adore this movie.


Teen heartthrobs Devon Sawa and Ali Larter in “Final Destination” (Photo courtesy of

5) BEST SUPERNATURAL STORY: “Final Destination” (2000)

Another great example of an original film that turned into a multimillion dollar franchise. Ok, so this was technically not released until 2000, but it was filmed in 1999 and has all of the teenage angst (and style) that came with that decade. A little known fact that gives this film the edge over others with similar “unexplainable phenomenon” is that it is loosely based on a true story (TWA Flight 800 in 1996). In short, this film manages to take the concept of deja vu coming true and makes it sing with solid effects and the star power provided by the teen heartthrobs of the time. Super dreamy characters aside, it is haunting in its ability to get us thinking about our own immortality. It has some of the most creative and insane death scenes of all time and–much like death–this movie sticks with you.


I’m not one to participate in the “my generation is better than yours” game. In fact, the horror movies these days have incredible ideas, but what they are lacking is the phenomenal star-studded casts that many of the 80’s and 90’s touted. It was the acting that took these unique movie ideas and brought them to life, which ultimately allowed them to have lasting effects on audiences. Choose one to watch this weekend with a parent, guardian or sibling that’s 12 years your senior– they’ll love the nostalgia and you’ll love the originality of “old school” horror.