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13 classic Halloween horror films and thrillers to rewatch

By Lily Valette 26 October 2023

Header image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Does anything scream “Halloween” louder than a scary movie night? We think not, and by the long list of Halloween and horror movies that have become classics over the decades, we dare say we are not the only ones. Some might prefer to dress up for the occasion, and some might favour going out, but we suggest combining all three activities for the ultimate spooky celebration. Here’s a list of 13 classic films to watch on Halloween night. Trigger warning: If horror and gore are difficult themes for you to handle, it’s best to give most of the movies in this article a big skip.

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Scream (1996)

Scream needs no introduction. Originally intended as slasher-movie satire, it has become a classic since its release almost 30 years ago. With references to other horror movies, Scream humorously pays homage to the genre. The story follows a group of high school students who are targeted by Ghostface, a killer with a revenge plan and a ghost mask. Taunting the teenagers with phone calls, hanging his victims from trees—Ghostface has high body count. Slasher movies favour violence over suspense, and sometimes over realism, too, and Scream is no exception. The movie has since turned into a film franchise, with its last instalment released in 2022, if you’re planning on bingeing them all through the weekend.

Ring (1998)

In Japan, a journalist and a psychic—who were previously married and share a son—investigate a mysterious tape inhabited by a killer. In this surrealist plot, those who watch the tape, and receive a phone call right after, die within seven days. A famous American version with Naomi Watts has made the story well-known, but give the Japanese adaptation of the eponymous novel a chance. Realistic and gripping, Ring really gives you the scares.

The Witches (1990)

You might have seen the recent adaptation of The Witches helmed by Anne Hathaway, but the 1990 version of Roald Dahl’s eponymous novel is a classic Halloween movie that is hard to surpass. With a striking Anjelica Huston portraying the Grand High Witch, the dark fantasy film follows Luke and his grandma Helga as they spend the summer in a hotel where a secret witch convention is underway. The Grand High Witch has just invented a potion that turns children into mice, and what follows might be the end of human children or the end of witches as we know them!

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Halloween (1978)

Yet another major slasher franchise, Halloween has released 13 instalments, from the first movie in 1978 up until Halloween Ends in 2022. Multiple generations have now followed the battle between Laurie Strode (many times played by the amazing Jamie Lee Curtis) and serial killer Michael Myers. The plot of the first movie follows the escape of a patient, Myers, from a mental hospital 15 years after he was incarcerated for killing his sister on Halloween night. Myers targets teenager Laurie and her group of friends. As they get murdered one by one, the surviving characters are quite oblivious to what is happening around them, with viewers famously feeling frustrated and shouting “The murderer is behind you!” at their TV.

Jaws (1975)

The thriller that tainted the reputation of sharks forever… We give you Steven Spielberg’s iconic Jaws. On the hunt to stop a great white shark from violently killing beach-goers, a policeman, a marine biologist, and a shark hunter join forces. Ghastly killings, rivalry, and an agonising soundtrack made this movie the first blockbuster of all time.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the perfect movie for a Halloween house party. Imagined as an homage to science-fiction movies, The Rocky Horror Picture Show follows naïve Brad and Janet and their encounter with Dr Frank N. Furter, a transvestite from another galaxy who runs weird experiments in his lab. With an array of funky characters living in the castle, a soundtrack to dance to, and fantastic costumes, it is no wonder this musical has its own cult following. It is now tradition to dress up as one of the characters and sing along to this musical comedy-horror movie. As it happens, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is on show at The Grounds outdoor cinema on 30 October. See you there?

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The Shining (1980)

For many, horror and Stephen King go together. Many of the author’s spine-chilling novels have been made into equally terrifying movies, with The Shining is among them. The movie is led by Jack Nicholson in his incredible performance of a murderous Jack Torrance, whose axe scene has become somewhat of a meme legend. The movie is much more than just a meme, however, with a creepy hotel as décor, a chilling backstory for the main family, Torrance’s descent into madness, and the slow pace of a psychological thriller.

It (2017)

A more recent Stephen King-inspired film has already earned its seat at the classics table, and it is the long-awaited 2017 adaptation of It. Following seven friends dubbed the Losers Club as they are terrorised by a shapeshifting demon called It, this movie is probably the scariest coming-of-age tale we’ve seen recently. It deserves an honourable mention for bringing us the frightening clown Pennywise, whose face and smile haunts us all. The sequel, It Chapter Two, sees the grown-up friends fight the monster once again, almost 30 years later.

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Hocus Pocus is a perfect witchy comedy for Halloween. Produced by Walt Disney Pictures, and released in 1993, it is tradition among many households to rewatch the film when October comes. Hocus Pocus follows the story of three Salem witches—Winifred, Sarah, and Mary—who are brought back to life on Halloween night, and proceed to steal life force from children in order to be young forever. Originally a kids’ movie, this film is rooted in nostalgia and is also a great movie-night option if you don’t like horror.

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The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

A classic horror-film list would not be complete without The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The plot itself sends chills up our spines. The story follows a group of friends as they end up in a cannibal family’s house, tracked by the horrendous Leatherface. It is simply one of the most gruesome motion pictures of all time.

Scary Movie (2000)

The first of a five-instalment franchise, Scary Movie is a parody of horror films and mostly inspired by Scream. Granted, Scream already tackled the clichés of slasher films, but Scary Movie takes the tribute a step further with the use of bawdy and crude humour. The plot follows a group of teenagers who die at the hands of a ghost-faced killer, exactly one year after they covered up killing a man. Scary Movie is mostly only good if you get the references, so it’s better to catch up on your teenage horror movies before pressing play on this one.

The Addams Family (1991)

Long before Wednesday Addams took over Netflix, and the world, in 2022, The Addams Family was already ruling over Halloween. Although the original cartoon created by Charles Addams and the TV series from the 1960s deserve honourable mentions, the movie that came out in 1991, starring an exceptional Anjelica Huston, sits at the top of the Addams Family podium. “Weird is relative” and the members of the Addams clan love all things sordid. Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, and the disembodied hand Thing thwart the plan of a con artist in this delightful supernatural film.

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Friday the 13th (1980)

Number 13 on this eerie list of Halloween classics had to be Friday the 13th, a teenage flick where a group of teenagers working at a lake camp are violently killed one after the other after they are targeted by a mourning mother. We know—this plot sounds very similar to many other classic Halloween movies, but if it ain’t broken, why fix it?

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Lily Valette

Editor

Born and raised in the French countryside, Lily arrived in Hong Kong looking for an adventure. Passionate about books, she spent some time in Parisian publishing houses and is the author of an illustrated book about hair. Life in Hong Kong for her entails looking for seaside places to eat and a lot of hiking.

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