The slasher film. It’s a style of horror film that has become a genre all its own over the years making for some of the bloodiest, most terrifying and even sometimes the most stylish and self-aware films in all of horror. Almost every film in this genre follows the same premise, a usually masked or disguised villain hunts down a group of people or a single person with a sharp object leaving a trail of blood and death in their wake. While this may seem like a concept that would grow old fast a lot of movies have successfully utilized the idea which helped the slasher film become a genre all its own. With the new sequel to one of the most beloved slashers of all time, “Halloween”, in theaters this weekend I thought it was time to finally explore this subgenre-turned-genre of horror for myself. Where does “Halloween” fall on this list? Read on to find out. These are my picks for the Top 10 Slasher Movies.
For this list I looked at any movie considered to be an official slasher film either in hindsight or by design. It’s pretty much as simple as that. Not all of these films follow the defined formula to the letter, but all of them are heavily considered to be slasher movies. I picked the ten slasher films I believe have left a big enough impact to warrant recognition and considered their fan support and legacy, their quality and my own personal opinion as criteria. Also, as always, the film had to have a theatrical release to count and I only chose one film per franchise so while a single series may have several great slasher movies only one will be represented here.
Sadly you’d won’t see “Psycho” on this list because while that film is responsible for helping establish the foundation of the slasher genre it’s not a true slasher and more a psychological thriller that just happens to include a killer with a knife. It might be a controversial exclusion but it’s one I could justify considering the competition. However it deserves an honorable mention because it did, in fact, inspire the genre that this list explores.
With a genre so big and responsible for so many iconic villains and horror moments there’s bound to be some favorites that don’t make this list. So I ask you: what is your favorite slasher movie? Let me know in the comments below and enjoy the list! Be sure to look out for my review of the new “Halloween” film this weekend.
10. “Sleepaway Camp”
Also known as “Nightmare Vacation”, 1983’s “Sleepaway Camp” has earned its place as a cult classic after being released during the golden age of slasher movies. While it borrows some elements from its predecessors, especially “Friday the 13th” to which it was heavily compared upon release, “Sleepaway Camp” created an identity all its own following a group of campers who are killed off one by one by an unknown assailant. The film’s classic kills and infamous twist ending have helped solidify “Sleepaway Camp” as a cherished classic. Today it’s considered a standard setting the bar for almost every teen slasher film that has come around since. It may be more relevant in today’s world thanks to the extent of its twist ending which still shocks genre enthusiasts to this day.
9. “My Bloody Valentine”
While the 2009 remake was a delightfully bloody 3D picture, the original Canadian slasher film “My Bloody Valentine” from 1981 remains a must see for fans of the genre for its unique premise alone. The story involves a group of young adults at a Valentine’s Day party being hunted down by a deranged killer in mining gear believed to be a miner who was trapped during an accident years earlier. The film is popular for its killer’s unique garb and the use of a pickaxe as the weapon of choice making for some absolutely brilliantly bloody murders that caused the MPAA to censor the film, cutting nine minutes off the run time as they deemed the movie too violent. Eventually at least three minutes of this material was restored but even without the remaining six minutes “My Bloody Valentine” is an often overlooked gem and a bloody good time.
8. “The House of Sorority Row”
Released in 1983 and remade in 2009 “The House on Sorority Row”, also known as “Seven Sisters”, is a popular film for its focus on an all women group of victims as well as viewers being challenged whether or not to believe these women deserve the punishment handed down to them. The plot focuses on a group of sorority sister who commit a prank that goes horribly wrong as a killer starts taking them out one by one at a graduation party. One of many slasher films to receive a cult following after its release, “The House on Sorority Row” is not just all blood and gore but actually contains subtle substance while also debuting one of the most underrated slasher villains ever conceived. A “moralistic” slasher film at its core “Sorority Row” may not be the best film in the genre but it’s one with a very different personality worth checking out.
7. “Child’s Play”
One of many franchise-starting films on this list 1988’s “Child’s Play” was the movie that introduced us to Chucky who, aside from Teddy Ruxpin, is probably directly responsible for many kids feeling frightened by their own toys. One of the few slasher films where a physical human is not committing the crime but rather a doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer, “Child’s Play” not only gained a cult following but eventually launched one of the longest running horror franchises in history even if many of the followup films have failed to capture the charm of the original. Chucky has become one of modern horror’s most famous characters with many creative and fun kills to his credit and quite a few in this film alone. It’s a fun and creative concept that has stood the test of time spawning not only sequels but a television series and an upcoming reboot in 2019.
Wes Craven was a horror mastermind and in 1996 he took his expertise to the next level giving us the self-aware slasher film “Scream”. A modern classic, “Scream” combines many different horror elements including black comedy, the “whodunit” trope, and the masked killer with a knife but where it really stands out is how knowledgeable the film’s characters are. The killer in the film, the famous Ghostface, kills using horror movie rules and there are victim characters in the film that play by those same rules as well sometimes putting themselves in classic situations despite knowing the danger. In a way, “Scream” is an homage, parody and serious slasher film all in one poking fun at the genre while also providing a great mystery. Subsequent sequels have tried to build off this film’s concept and even the “Scary Movie” franchise tried to parody it, but the original “Scream” still remains one of the most inventive slashers ever released.
5. “A Nightmare on Elm Street”
Staying with Wes Craven, before he brought “Scream” to the big screen he explored the depth of our dreams with 1984’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. The first film to feature the legendary killer Freddy Krueger “A Nightmare on Elm Street” took a new spin on the slasher concept with Freddy and his bladed glove killing victims in their dreams rather than in the world of the living. Over the years this has made for some creative and symbolic kills but the original has always been the most terrifying and impactful. We never know whose going to die next or how they’re going to die which gives “Nightmare” a fun and unpredictable vibe every step of the way. Freddy Kruger has since become a horror legend and helped push the idea of a slasher villain in a new, more creative direction. It is without a doubt one of the most creative and inspired horror movies of the 80s and it still holds up today.
4. “Friday the 13th”
The “Friday the 13th” franchise has become a massive horror series spanning numerous sequels, video games and other forms of merchandise. However it’s become a cliché that people don’t seem to remember that Jason was not the original killer. The first “Friday the 13th” in 1980 became an iconic slasher purely by the power of its own content and the mystery behind the killer’s identity while Jason was only introduced as the full-time antagonist in the second film. The story focuses on a group of young adults reopening Camp Crystal Lake when a killer starts picking them off one by one. While seeing Jason kill victims in the sequels might be fun this first film offers many of the most cringe-inducing kills in the entire series and a great “whodunit” story with awesome atmosphere and suspense. Once you find out who really committed these crimes it changes your perspective and demands a rewatch. “Friday the 13th” may have minimal Jason but it provides a whole lot of bloody fun nonetheless.
3. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”
If you have yet to experience this brutal genre staple you’re missing out. The original “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” from 1974 helped define the slasher genre back in the day while also popularizing the “based on a true story” trope. An exploitation film made to challenge political correctness in cinema “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was directly responsible for popularizing many of the basics of a great slasher film including an iconic villain (in this case the legendary Leatherface) who utilizes a sharp weapon (a chainsaw) and kills off a group of young adults in often brutal fashion. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” spawned not only a franchise but has become popular in other mediums as well including comic books and video games. It’s an iconic horror classic that provided the foundation for the entire genre and while many question whether it is truly a slasher today there’s no denying that it set the bar for everything that followed.
“Halloween” is the quintessential slasher flick. Released in 1978, “Halloween” may not have originated a lot of the tropes of the genre but it certainly popularized it for the masses and inspired a slew of imitators many of which are on this very list. Featuring one of the most famous horror movie characters of all time in Michael Myers, “Halloween” launched one of horror’s most popular franchises while also making John Carpenter a household name and perfecting the formula that most slasher films have utilized since. The fact that even 40 years later “Halloween” remains one of the most relevant and beloved horror classics of all time should not be understated. It’s the film that all slashers, even its own sequels, long to be but few have never been able to replicate. “Halloween’s” frights set the bar high for not only slasher’s but horror in general and Michael Myers remains one of horror’s best characters and, to many, is the most iconic masked killers in all of cinema.
1. “Black Christmas”
Alright so some might find this to be an odd choice for the top spot here, but hear me out. While many films on this list are popular for the kills or iconic villains 1974’s “Black Christmas” has become a classic based purely on its content and quality. Inspired by the urban legend “The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs” and a series of real murders the story focuses on sorority sisters who are stalked by a murderer around Christmas time. “Black Christmas” (originally released in America as “Silent Night, Evil Night”) is considered one of the earliest pure slasher movies and received critical acclaim upon its release whereas other slashers became more respected in hindsight. While “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” helped establish some ground rules for slashers, “Black Christmas” is often credited with setting the ultimate standard and is even considered a heavy influence for “Halloween”. It might not be as popular as many others on this list, but “Black Christmas” is directly responsible for not only establishing the genre but proving that these films could be respected works in addition to genre staples leading the charge for nearly every entry on this list. For this is earns the top spot as my pick for the greatest slasher movie of all time.