Want to watch something truly spine-chilling on Halloween night? If you're like most horror fans, you'll scour the internet for the creepiest, most terrifying films as soon as the spooky season starts. If you're a fan of scary stories or of writing your own horror literature, you might also crave unsettling movies based on some of the most bloodcurdling books. But, which horror movies will satisfy you the most on Halloween night? Which films will you want to watch alone or with other adults? And which movies are family-friendly? With overwhelming access to streaming movies in your home, choosing the best horror films for Halloween night is tough. But now you can simply sit back, relax, and cower in fear under your blanket. Let this list serve as your guide to determine the top Halloween horror movies based on terrifying books.
Horror Classics That Can't Fail
We often spend time scrolling with our remotes only to find that we've wasted 30 minutes trying to decide what to watch. When it comes down to it, you're probably searching for a "mood" in a Halloween movie, so here is your perfect, spoiler-free, go-to list of titles that'll have you feeling spooked for weeks (or years) to come.
If you're set on sticking to the classics for Halloween night, you can't go wrong with the following movies. Grab your group of horror-loving friends or enjoy these movies alone in the dark.
The Exorcist (1973)
Who could go wrong with this top-shelf horror selection? If you're looking for the quintessential, never-sleep-again movie to paralyze you with fear on Halloween night, look no further. When this horror treasure was released, theaters reported their share of audience-goers fainting, vomiting, and even having heart attacks in response to the terrifying scenes in this movie. William Friedkin directed this hit based on a novel. This movie details the experience of a priest who attempts to save a young child possessed by a demonic spirit. The book was even loosely based on some real events that occurred near Washington, D.C. Just try to fall asleep quickly after this one.
Based on the novel The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971).
You've probably heard about folks avoiding showers after viewing Psycho upon its release in 1960, but did you know that the Norman Bates character was loosely based on the real-life serial killer Ed Gein? Directed by horror legend Alfred Hitchcock, this film will go down in history as a pivotal turning point for horror movies. From its music to its mood, this unsettling story will have you checking over your shoulder and feeling uneasy long after you see it. While this one wasn't filmed in color and doesn't show much blood, it still manages to be one of the creepiest films of all time.
Based on the novel Psycho by Robert Bloch (1959).
The Shining (1980)
If you're trying to please a crowd on Halloween night, this movie would be a great pick. Most people can quote lines from The Shining even if they haven't seen the entire movie. The mood and setting of this tale will have you feeling uneasy from start to finish as you watch a father, Jack Torrance, move his family into the eerie Overlook Hotel to act as a caretaker of this hotel through the winter months. This one is definitely worth the watch if you've never seen it or if you've only read the Stephen King novel, as director Stanley Kubrick made some significant changes to the details of this story to place Kubrick's personal stamp on the movie. If you don't get around to watching this movie in October, save it for a chillier day as this movie counts as the perfect winter horror watch as well.
Based on the novel The Shining by Stephen King (1977).
Horrific Honorable Mentions
While the following movies could easily be called classics in our book, they're ones that sometimes go unnoticed on Halloween. Each of these is, without a doubt, a spooky and horrifying tale based on haunting literature.
The Innocents (1961)
What's worse than children behaving badly? How about children who appear to be perfect but might be conspiring against the adults who are simply trying to care for them? Add a dash of a possession-ghost story and you have the classic film The Innocents. Directed by Jack Clayton, this adaptation of the novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is full of wild twists that will keep you guessing throughout. Famously known as a psychological thriller, this tale takes place inside an old English manor so it's the perfect setting to get your mind racing with mysterious sounds and freaky shadows in your own home once the movie ends.
Based on the novel The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898).
Let the Right One In (2008)
If you enjoy vampiric horror, you'll love this tale of two adolescent outsiders who find each other and work together to make the best of their situation with some gory side effects. This tale captures the perfect combination of fantasy and reality as the two main characters struggle in a community that criticizes them. They begin relying on each other for comfort and protection as others reject them. Though this movie inspired an American remake and television adaptation, the original Swedish version directed by Tomas Alfredson holds a special place in horror fans' hearts so be sure to watch this one before the others.
Based on the novel Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (2004).
Another excellent movie that's often overlooked as a fun Halloween pick is the 2008 Canadian film Pontypool directed by Bruce McDonald. If you're tired of the same old zombie story, this one may be right up your dark, spooky alley. An unusual plague takes over a community in Ontario and spreads as people talk, causing victims to go into fits of nonsensical rage as the yet-unaffected individuals try to make sense of why this virus is spreading before it's too late for them. Pontypool doesn't disappoint with its chilling vibe and disturbing originality.
Based on the second book in the Pontypool Trilogy titled Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess (1995).
Horror for the Whole Family
While we're talking horror, why not subject the little ones to a bit of scary fun this season? The following movies are fun for families any time of the year, but you may find them especially great for Halloween night if your kids are sugared up and still awake after trick-or-treating. You get bonus points as a parent for sharing these movies with your children since each of these picks has a book they were based on and you could easily encourage your kids to read some spooky literature this season if they enjoy watching the movie adaptations.
Though this film is recommended for children aged 10 or above, plenty of adults still consider the "other mother" in this movie their nightmare fuel. Directed by Henry Selick and based on the Neil Gaiman novel, this groundbreaking stop-motion animation follows Coraline Jones, an imaginative 11-year-old who struggles to gain the attention of her parents and finds herself entering a creepy fantasy world through a small door she discovers in the wall of her home's living room. She faces the decision to remain in the new world she discovers but with sinister consequences. This movie provides a fun, scary adventure that's sure to have children cozying up to their parents while they watch. Be ready for kids to start searching around the house for secret doors after viewing this menacing story.
Based on the novella Coraline by Neil Gaiman (2002).
The Witches (1990 and 2020)
If you grew up terrified that you'd get stuck in a painting or that a witch would smell the "clean" on you, then you probably watched Nicolas Roeg's version of The Witches during your formative years. While this movie might not be suitable for children under eight, it still holds up as a disturbing and eccentric story based on the original Roald Dahl novel. If you have teens who are looking for a fun spooky movie that's not too scary, they may appreciate the 2020 Robert Zemeckis remake of the same name. Just be aware that this version isn't recommended for children younger than 13 years old. Enjoy the shocking scenes in The Witches as your horror-loving family snuggles up together for a movie night.
Based on the novel The Witches by Roald Dahl (1983).
Why stop the horror fun on Halloween night? If you're interested in seeing all of these movies and could only choose one to watch on Halloween, schedule movie nights throughout the end of the year and enjoy! Keep in mind that, in many cases, horror novels can detail horrific, graphic ideas even better than movies ever can, so don't underestimate the intense mood you'll feel if you decide to read the book before watching the film version. Better yet, let these titles inspire you to write your own spooky tale.