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If you’re new to the genre or looking to strengthen your horror foundation, these fifteen films — new and old — are a great place to start.

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Everyone has to start somewhere, even horror fans. Be it a Stephen King novel or reruns of horror staples on TV, everyone got their first exposure to the genre in a unique way. For those of you out there who may be wondering where to start, I took my best shot at compiling the best fifteen films to help you explore different subgenres and time periods of filmmaking and storytelling. If these don’t make a horror lover, nothing will.

I wanted to reach into the past and scan the present for horror gems best suited for first-time or beginner enthusiasts. You can use these to bolster your horror knowledge or begin your genre journey.

For those horror veterans, I ask, what was your first horror experience? 

1. Alien (1979) Rated R

Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) is not just one of the best horror films; it is considered one of the best films in history.

The science fiction horror classic directed by Scott and written by Dan O’Bannon trails the crew of a commercial space rig, the Nostromo. After coming into contact with a rogue ship on an uncharted planet, the doomed rescue team faces a hostile, deadly alien lifeform.

With a cast of stars, the film was highlighted by a hallmark performance by Sigourney Weaver as Officer Ellen Ripley, helping create the mold for the “final girl,” making her so iconic as to introduce her into the ultimate modern meta moment of Cabin in the Woods as one of horror’s first and brightest female stars.

With terrifying and action-packed scenes that most are familiar with — whether they’ve seen the film or not — Alien is mandatory educational viewing for those ready for its scares. It also boasts explosive scary sequels to follow its strong first act, including its newer universal installments, Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.

Alien explores the sci-fi horror genre with intense efficiency, both gruesome and nerve-wracking, and introduces us to an extraterrestrial predator that remains iconic and unforgettable.

With tense action, a claustrophobic set, and a monster styled ahead of its time, Alien set a high standard for horror viewing and should be considered an absolute classic.

2. The Craft (1996) Rated R

A female power ballad for magic and sisterhood, The Craft (1996), directed by Andrew Flemming from the screenplay written by Peter Filardi, is a tale about a young girl — an outsider with misunderstood powers — who finds herself at the center of another band of misfits who believe they are witches.

When a ritual seems to bring the girls true power they can wield, it becomes a square-off between bad girl Nancy Downs (who could be played by none other than Fairuza Balk with equally vengeful friend Bonnie, played by Neve Campbell