Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here


Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

The 15 Best Scary Movies to Watch This Halloween

These films are perfect for dark nights and chilly thrills

spinner image Jack Nicholson stars in the film The Shining and Linda Blair stars in The Exorcist
(Left to right) Jack Nicholson in "The Shining" and Linda Blair in "The Exorcist."
Warner Brothers/Getty Images; FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

Halloween is nigh. And you know what that means: It's time to watch a spooky movie — which, according to a new Prime Video survey, 78 percent of Americans plan to do this year. The average citizen will watch six Halloween scare-fests by Oct. 31. But why not watch all 15 of these?

The Exorcist: Believer (2023)

Angela (a convincing Lidya Jewett) heads to the Georgia woods to resurrect the spirit of her mother, who died in a Haitian earthquake 13 years earlier. Her bestie Katherine (Olivia Marcum) is at her side. The pair vanish, much to the horror of Angela’s father (Leslie Odom Jr., liquid-eyed and concerned) and Katherine’s pious parents. When the tweens reappear after three days, their tattered, burnt bare feet look as if they’ve walked to hell and back. Fifty years after the late William Friedkin’s horror essential The Exorcist, the devil comes back to Georgia to possess their virginal souls. Though the elegantly crafted, head-swiveling sequel fails to reach new heights, it delivers on suspense and jump scares, uplifted by returning original cast member Ellen Burstyn, 90! We dare you to see it in a pitch-black theater. 

Watch it: The Exorcist: Believer, in theaters

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

A Haunting in Venice (2023)

The illusion begins with that absurd, two-tiered mustache, hanging like stage curtains beneath the nostrils of Kenneth Branagh. The Oscar winner embodies one of Agatha Christie’s most eccentric sleuths, Hercule Poirot, for the third time. And directs, too. Branagh’s affection for Christie and her persnickety Belgian sleuth shines through in this lavish, luxurious whodunit set post-World War II in the City of Masks. A psychic (the deliciously comic Michelle Yeoh) arrives to conduct a séance to connect a drafty villa’s bereaved owner (Kelly Reilly) with her dear departed daughter. The mansion fills with an exuberant cast of characters/suspects/potential victims: a shell-shocked vet (Jamie Dornan), his precocious son (Jude Hill), an American novelist (a tart Tina Fey) and more. Corpses pile up, and naturally, Poirot will eventually discover the killer loose among them, but will the rational master of deduction also succumb to a belief in the supernatural?

Watch it: A Haunting in Venice, in theaters

Totally Killer (2023)

Back to the Future meets Friday the 13th! Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) plays a modern teenager who’s magically transported back to 1987, where she meets the high school version of her own mom and tries to stop the “Sweet 16 Killer” who slayed her mom’s three besties. If that’s not scary enough, the characters all seem to be wearing horrific color-blocked duds in day-glo colors.

Watch it: Totally Killer on Prime Video

Halloween (1978)

No autumnal list of horror flicks would be complete without John Carpenter’s jump-scare masterpiece about a certain masked maniac named Michael Myers. Most of the sequels in the franchise are disposable junk food that you forget about the moment the end credits roll, but the 1978 original is still a tensely paced, bloodcurdling exercise in pure terror thanks to the breakout performance of future scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis as an innocent but quick-thinking babysitter battling the all-too-real bogeyman on Halloween night.

Watch it: Halloween

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

From out of nowhere — well, Pittsburgh — George A. Romero scraped together a few bucks and a handful of friends to make what has since become the alpha and omega of zombie movies. Released during the height of Vietnam and the civil rights struggle, the movie has more on its mind than just the walking dead terrorizing the living. The presence of a Black hero (Duane Jones) was downright revolutionary. But even if you glaze over all of the political subtext, this is a suffocatingly claustrophobic nail-biter whose black-and-white cinematography only seems to heighten its unrelenting mood of dread.

Watch it: Night of the Living Dead

Get Out (2017)

Jordan Peele’s Get Out is obviously more than just a horror movie. It’s a meditation on white privilege and race in America. But yes, it’s also deeply unsettling and scary as all get out. Daniel Kaluuya’s performance as Chris, a Black photographer who’s brought to the swanky suburbs to meet his white girlfriend’s liberal parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener, both perfection) is harrowing and layered. The rare horror show that doubles as stinging satire, Get Out never lets you off the hook for a second.

Watch it: Get Out

Shopping & Groceries


$20 off a Walmart+ annual membership

See more Shopping & Groceries offers >

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Scary movies rarely get a date with Oscar, but Jonathan Demme’s serial-killer thriller virtually swept the Academy Awards in 1992. It’s not just a great horror film, it’s a great film, period. Jodie Foster absolutely soars as the determined FBI novice Clarice Starling, and Anthony Hopkins is an unshakable waking nightmare of seductive depravity as Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. It’s also a corker of a police procedural, too, peppered with macabre details and twists that all snap together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Plus, if you’re so inclined, we hear it pairs well with a nice Chianti.

Watch it: The Silence of the Lambs

The Shining (1980)

Jack Nicholson gives the most haunting — and haunted — performance of his career as a snowed-in writer who neither works nor plays but becomes anything but a dull boy as he descends into madness and terrorizes his family in an abandoned hotel. The Shining is wall-to-wall with hallucinogenic visual images that continue to plague our nightmares: ghostly butlers, creepy twins, blood elevators, whatever happens in Room 237, “Redrum.” It may be the closest thing we have to an encyclopedia of terror.

Watch it: The Shining

The Exorcist (1973)

How on earth did this movie ever get an R rating? William Friedkin’s The Exorcist goes beyond scary, messing with the sacred and profane in ways that popular entertainment normally isn’t allowed to. This is a transgressive masterpiece that messes with your head by putting Satan inside the body of a sweet and innocent 12-year-old girl (Linda Blair). There is no taboo line that The Exorcist doesn’t walk up to and defiantly step across. It should be objectionable and offensive and awful. Yet it remains one of the most powerful and viscerally bloodcurdling movies ever made.

Watch it: The Exorcist

Psycho (1960)

This is the movie that reinvented all of the rules of horror by breaking them. When that knife came swooping at the showering and vulnerable Janet Leigh, Alfred Hitchcock was announcing that absolutely no one was safe. Even the main star of a movie could be butchered before the film was half over. Add Anthony Perkins as the essence of creepiness as mama’s boy Norman Bates, and what you’re left with is the movie that officially launched the modern age of horror.

Watch it: Psycho

spinner image membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

“What have you done to its eyes?!” Roman Polanski’s deal-with-the-devil thriller has aged impeccably well thanks to its eerie score, vise-tightening pacing and the performances of Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes and 70-year-old Ruth Gordon as the quintessential nosy neighbor from hell. Pregnant and increasingly paranoid (or is she?), Farrow’s Rosemary is haunted by the suspicion that she’s the victim of a conspiracy of devil worshippers coming for her unborn child. A master class in hysteria that, in the end, proves to be all too real.

Watch it: Rosemary’s Baby

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Overshadowed by Dracula, The Wolf Man and the original Frankenstein in the pantheon of classic Universal monster movies, director James Whale’s dark, tongue-in-cheek horror comedy may actually be the best film in the bunch. The bolt-necked Boris Karloff returns as Colin Clive’s lumbering reanimated giant, but it’s Elsa Lanchester (and her shocking-locks hairdo) who steals this wildly entertaining monster mash. This is the rare horror sequel that not only lives up to its predecessor but actually surpasses it.

Watch it: The Bride of Frankenstein

The Thing (1982)

John Carpenter scared a generation to death with his 1978 cult classic, Halloween. Here, the killer isn’t some lunatic in a mask. Scarier, still: It could be any one of us. A gripping sci-fi meditation on paranoia and subzero dread, The Thing (a loose remake of 1951’s The Thing from Another World) is the story of a group of scientists shut off from the rest of the world in an Antarctic research station where something alien is assuming the bodies of its victims in very messy ways. Kurt Russell heads up a stellar ensemble that will make you break out in cold sweats and shiver with fear.

Watch it: The Thing

Carrie (1976)

If you didn’t fit in in high school, you’ll identify with Carrie White. Played by Sissy Spacek, Carrie is an outcast who’s hazed by the popular crowd at school and tormented by her religious fanatic mother (Piper Laurie) at home. Something’s gotta give. And when it does, at the prom, no less, hoo boy, the pig’s blood goes flying! Brian De Palma’s masterful adaptation of Stephen King’s horrific novel is a metaphor for puberty, teenage rebellion and what happens when you’re pushed too far. But it’s Spacek’s quiet vulnerability that grabs you like a hand reaching out from the grave.

Watch it: Carrie

Hereditary (2018)

Between this and 2019’s Midsommar, writer-director Ari Aster may be the most innovative (and deeply disturbing) new voice in American horror. Hereditary is the more traditionally effective of the two when it comes to pure joy-buzzer scares. Gabriel Byrne and Toni Collette star as a couple whose family starts to experience a bizarre string of terrifying cautions and curses. Hereditary works its way through a checklist of tried-and-true scary-movie ingredients — séances, shock scares, supernatural weirdness — but it’s the performances that get under your skin and raise goose bumps, especially Collette’s.

Watch it: Hereditary

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?