So far we’ve counted down the best slasher movies of all time from Number 50 to 21. In Part Four of the countdown, we’re paring down the potential list to the cream of the crop. As we list off Numbers 20 to 11 of the best slashers in horror, there’s a few big franchise sequels, another classic Giallo, and a New French Extremity representative. A few more contemporary releases also make the cut. Without further ado, below are the next 10 of the best slasher movies ever made.
20 – Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
The first of three entries from the Elm Street franchise, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is a flawed effort. Not of all of its post-modern, meta-horror works. A few years later, Craven perfected the approach with Scream. Nonetheless, New Nightmare felt fresh at the time of its release. And it accomplishes something that several earlier sequels failed to get right – it makes Freddy Krueger scary again. It took Craven to invest his creation with a genuine sense of menace. There’s several well-executed scares. Besides it’s nice to see Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon share the screen again with Robert Englund.
19 – Scream 2 (1997)
In hindsight, Scream 2 shouldn’t have worked. Rushed into development following Scream’s massive success, Craven and Williamson were tasked with following up one of the biggest game changers in horror. Somehow everything came together in a horror sequel that dishes plenty of meta reflection on why sequels don’t work while simultaneously avoiding those pitfalls. Both the movie’s killer opening and climax rival what Craven accomplished a year earlier. In addition, this sequel packs itself with cast of talent young-and-upcoming actors. Throw in a shocking death and a decent ‘whodunnit’ that follows on the original without just re-hashing and Scream 2 may just be one of the better horror sequels.
18 – Inside (2007)
French horror Inside, or À l’intérieur, represents the second New French Extremity entry on the list. From directors Alexandre Bustillo (The Deep House) and Julien Maury (Leatherface), Inside is a lean, brutal slasher movie. On Christmas Eve, a pregnant woman who lost her husband in a car crash must fight off a mysterious woman who wants to steal her unborn child. Bustillo and Maury waste little time and, as a result, Inside maintains a near constant level of tension. As for its slasher violence, this French horror movie is gut-wrenching and its conclusion proves to be hard to watch without looking away. In addition to a nice visual reference to Halloween, Beatrice Dalle’s ‘La Femme’ is a genuinely frightening villain.
17 – Jason Lives (1986)
At our Number 17 position, another Friday the 13th sequel makes the list. Following the poorly received A New Beginning, Jason Lives dramatically reverses course. Writer and director Tom McLoughlin goes all in with the franchise’s sixth entry, delivering a self-aware, fun Friday the 13th movie. No more pretending that Jason is an ordinary guy with really good endurance. No more pretending that the axe to the head was just a flesh wound. Jason Lives throws out the rule book, resurrects Jason with lightning (because why not), and just turns him into an unstoppable killing machine. The result is a briskly paced sequel with over-the-top death scenes where everyone involved seems to be having fun.
16 – You’re Next (2013)
Over the last 10 years, Adam Wingard (V/H/S, Blair Witch, Godzilla vs Kong) has established himself as a top genre filmmaker. But it was Wingard’s clever mix of home invasion and slasher tropes in You’re Next that brought him to the attention of horror fans. Like Mike Flanagan’s Hush, Adam Wingard’s You’re Next delights in subverting audience expectations. Watching a privileged family bicker amongst themselves as intruders pick them off from outside lends the movie a dark sense of humour. In addition to the movie’s sly wit, Wingard dials up some brutal death scenes. On one hand, you can blame You’re Next for the decade of ‘creepy animal’ mask-wearing killers. But You’re Next also gave us a strong female protagonist, inspiring movies like Mayhem, Ready or Not, and Hush.
15 – Tenebrae (1982)
Written and directed by Dario Argento (Suspiria), Tenebrae represents one of the better examples of Italian gialli. Contrary to most Giallo movies, Tenebrae’s story – a pulpy mystery – actually unfolds in a surprisingly coherent manner. The plot is straightforward – a serial killer may taking inspiration from murder-mystery author Peter Neal’s latest novel. Everything you expect from a Giallo thriller is here. That is, Argento juxtaposes beautiful cinematography and visuals with lavishly constructed violent set-pieces.
14 – It Follows (2015)
Not surprisingly, more recent slasher movies have invoked the classic era of the subgenre by tapping into 80s visual aesthetics. Several horror movies released in the 2010’s emulated that grainy, VHS look that defined ‘Golden Era’ classics. Our Number 14 entry on the list, It Follows, is one of those movies. Aside from its strong premise, It Follows is a genuinely disturbing and frightening film. That prologue may be the best pre-credits horror scene since Wes Craven’s Scream or The Ring. Yet perhaps the best thing about It Follows is that it’s a completely unique concept. Amidst a sea of remakes, reboots, and sequels, here’s proof that original ideas can still lure horror fans. Throw in a fantastic jump scare and ambiguously eerie ending and you have a smart, modern update on an old concept.
13 – A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: The Dream Warriors (1987)
At the Number 13 spot on this list, we have our second entry from the Elm Street franchise. Contrary to initial critical consensus, Freddy’s Revenge, the first franchise sequel, is not a bad movie. But A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: The Dream Warriors steered the series back to where fans wanted. Wes Craven worked on the screenplay along with Frank Darabont and it shows. There’s a continuity here that was missing from the first sequel. Though Freddy Krueger remains haunting, Dream Warriors introduces fans to the wise-cracking side of the villain. But this sequel capably balances out the humour with genuine scares. Director Chuck Russell also opens up Freddy’s nightmare world with more elaborate and inventive uses of the concept.
12 – Child’s Play (1998)
Arguably, Child’s Play has one of the more interesting trajectories of slasher franchises. And Chucky is still going. Created by Dan Mancini and directed by Tom Holland, Child’s Play came out well past the slasher’s expiration date. But similar to Elm Street, Child’s Play put enough of a twist on the tropes that made it feel unique. In the wrong creative hands, the concept could have fallen straight into laughable camp. To his credit, Holland films Chucky in a way that never allows the concept to feel as silly as it should. In fact, Holland conjures up a few good scares. For instance, the scene where Andy’s mom discovers that Chucky never had his batteries installed still delivers a good jolt. Much of the concept works thanks in no small part to Brad Dourif’s performance. Last but not least, Child’s Play gave us one of horror’s most iconic villains.
11 – Happy Death Day (2017)
One part slasher-lite and two parts Groundhog Day, Christopher Landon and Scott Lobdell’s Happy Death Day was a 2017 box office surprise for Blumhouse. Light on gore and loaded with mostly safe PG-13 scares, Happy Death Day benefits from a well-developed premise and Jessica Rothe’s winning performance. Fun scares, mystery, and a surprisingly effective character arc distinguish this slasher from from the pack. This year’s sequel, Happy Death Day 2U, leaned more on the movie’s humour and sci-fi concepts to considerably lower box office returns. It’s too bad because the sequel was a lot of fun and promised bigger things for a sequel that may not happen. Regardless, Happy Death Day illustrates the heights the subgenre can go in the right creative hands.