Horror is better when shared, and these horror films — from funny to frightful — will help strengthen your killer bond with friends.
Horror movies are about imagining terrifying scenarios, pushing boundaries, and turning expectations upside down. One of the pleasures of watching horror movies is that all the bad stuff is happening to someone else. We can empathize with horror movie protagonists, but we don’t actually have to deal with the dream-hopping monster or the doll that won’t die. We have our issues, and they probably seem a lot more manageable after a horror movie.
These powerful experiences are great to share with friends — making us cry, laugh, or shudder behind the couch. Here are some of the best horror films to watch with friends.
Funny Friends: Gore and Guffaws
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Two guys in a mortuary open a case that sprays them with mysterious green gas. What happens next is hilarious. It has moments that are laugh-out-loud funny as the two try to figure out what is happening to them and then face the unenviable reality of what to do about it.
The Return of the Living Dead is considered one of the best zombie comedies ever made, which is really saying something. It’s endlessly entertaining with a quick pace, legitimately funny jokes, cool-looking zombies, and a stellar ensemble cast. It also boasts a real punk-rock sensibility with a to-die-for soundtrack. It’s 80s ridiculousness at its very best.
The movie was nominated for four Saturn Awards, including Best Horror Film, Best Actor for James Karen, Best Director, and Best Make-up. It was the directorial debut of the legendary Dan O’Bannon, who co-authored the screenplay for Alien. It’s also worth watching because the zombies in this film talk, which is a dimension relatively unexplored in other zombie movies.
Child’s Play (1988) (Known colloquially as Chucky)
The iconic Child’s Play franchise is widely considered one of the best, most consistently excellent and creative, funniest horror franchises of all time. The first film is intentionally comedic, but it doesn’t cross the line into farce. The franchise does get increasingly campy and more outlandish as it goes along.
Brad Dourif, as the voice of Chucky, helped make this killer doll an icon. And as Robert Englund did for Freddy, Dourif infuses Chucky with a quick wit and smart mouth, making him damn near impossible not to love.
Along with the genius of Dourif, Child’s Play slays with strong practical effects, the obvious passion and creativity of creator Don Mancini, smart writing and stellar direction, interesting characters, and the perfect balance of horror and humor. It’s also a great Pride Month watch. Don Mancini is one of the few openly gay creators in the slasher genre, and he always includes queer inclusivity in his films.
When the master of horror Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes) makes a horror film about horror films, it’s time to sit up and listen. Scream — like the rest of the series — is an excellent look at the horror genre and its tropes. It will make you laugh, but it doesn’t pull its punches. Or slashes.
I’m quite sure I don’t need to sell you on what makes Scream so special, as the film launched one of the most successful, influential, and still wildly popular franchises. You probably also know that Scream is credited for reviving the horror genre, which was in a state of decline at the time of its release. It also paved the way for a “post-Scream” era where other films began to incorporate meta-horror and a self-reflective tone.
Scream was the first movie of its kind to execute a satire genre within a horror movie, and it continues to remain smart and relevant all these years later. It transformed 90s horror and gave rise to generations of clever genre re-invention by filmmakers heavily inspired by this absolutely essential modern horror classic.
Friends Who Slay Together Stay Together
Here are some horror movies that get the pulse and the mind racing. Potentially too agonizing to squirm over alone, here are some killer flicks you might want to share so you can enjoy a scare without feeling the panic of being alone in a dark house with only your nightmares — and whatever may be lurking in shadows — to keep you company.
Saw spawned an entire sub-genre of horror movies that put characters in dilemmas counterposed with diabolical traumatic situations and tasks often resulting in injury, trauma, or death. The film revolves around the mystery of the Jigsaw Killer, a man who tests his victims’ will to live by putting them through deadly games where they must inflict great physical pain upon themselves to survive. Despite the gratuitous violence, it’s a complex and clever series that might shock and surprise anyone discovering it for the first time.
Even if you’ve seen this one, it still packs a punch every time, and those wildly clever traps never get old. Plus, that ending! It’s one of the biggest and best twists in all of horror.
Director James Wan, now widely considered a modern master of horror, freely acknowledges that Saw put him on the map. Shockingly, it was a story partially inspired by true events and people. The film was shot in 18 days inside a single converted warehouse in the industrial area east of Downtown Los Angeles.
Get Out (2017)
Then comedian Jordan Peel made a dazzling directorial debut with the social horror Get Out, a breathtaking film that won him the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay — an almost unheard-of rarity for a genre film. This fantastic movie was designed to help people think about unconscious bias and thoughtfully reconsider notions of a post-racial America. But even without the important message, it’s a brilliant horror movie with excellent pacing, and it will keep your friends on the edge of their seats until they’re shrinking back from the screen.
Inspired by an Eddie Murphy joke from his Delirious standup routine, Get Out was a critical and commercial juggernaut, receiving an impressive four Academy Award nominations. Jordan Peele stated he wrote more than 200 drafts of the script, which almost certainly accounts for why it’s widely considered such an expertly crafted masterwork of horror. Despite being quite chilling, Peele noted that the original ending was meant to be much darker.
The Conjuring (2013)
There’s a reason this genuinely scary horror movie became such a record-breaking horror hit and launched a hugely successful franchise — as well as an entire cinematic universe. Solid writing and excellent performances help elevate it among most supernatural genre fare. Despite being a fairly formulaic haunted house movie, it really delivers in style and depth.
The film is based on a supposed true story about a haunted house, demon possession, and exorcism. And that sense of realism helps add to the terror. The real Perron family the story was based on even visited the set of the film. As an eerie bit of backstory, eight generations of families lived and died in the house before the Perrons moved in. The real Lorraine Warren, the spiritualist/supernatural sensitive called in to help the Perron family (played by the incredible Vera Farmiga, alongside Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren), made a cameo appearance in the film and is credited as a consultant.
The Conjuring is considered so effective at scaring the wits out of audiences because it relies on ample tension and well-earned, genuine frights rather than forced jump scares. So, turn off the lights and enjoy the spooky terror.
In movies, horror strains relationships and pushes characters’ bonds to the breaking point. In your home, however, horror films can bring you closer, particularly if they’re so scary they make you want to huddle together.
IT (2017) and IT Chapter Two (2019)
This hugely successful two-part adaptation of one of Stephen King’s most popular books featured a stellar ensemble cast of kids and their adult counterparts. The book was a dense 800 pages of very fine print, so the decision to give us two films instead of one really helped the filmmakers tell a rich and compelling story while making us fall in love with these characters.
As you probably already know, this story follows a group of friends — first as adolescents and 27 years later as adults — as they face a terrifying clown hellbent on terrorizing their town and using their worst fears against them. The films highlight the power of friendship by showing how the main group of friends, known as The Losers’ Club, are strengthened when they join together to battle Pennywise.
The first miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s novel IT came out in 1990. The remake, starring Bill Skarsgard as the evil clown, was released 27 years later in homage to the source material.
The Ruins (2008)
The Ruins is a 2008 film based on Scott Smith’s novel of the same name. It’s a low-budget eco-horror about the discovery of an ancient Mayan temple covered in an unknown plant that isn’t as innocent as it appears.
This unnerving horror film about a group of tourists who find themselves devoured by a third-world environment they don’t understand or respect is a great film to watch if you’re a fan of some grisly violence. It’s well-acted and incredibly intense, delivering some nasty body horror that may be hard for some to watch but will absolutely delight horror fans that can’t get enough visceral gore.
It’s not terribly inventive when it comes to plot or characters, but it does deliver a fresh idea or two and is certainly well executed. The violence in the movie is extremely graphic and disturbing. No doubt, you and your friends will be very entertained and scared.
Final Destination (2000)
In this movie (and subsequent movies), characters cheat Death by failing to die as would have been expected. Death comes for them one by one to reset the balance. It’s a simple but creative idea, and the film makes the most of the unbearable tension we feel waiting for each character to die and wondering just how and when it will happen. The film and the franchise are notorious for subverting expectations and throwing out a slew of red herrings and misdirection to make the final death scenes surprising, shocking, and often over-the-top insane.
You’ll love this film and its sequels if you enjoy intensely suspenseful moments, jump scares, wildly creative kills, and gory special effects. For many, the opening scene of each film is the highlight, becoming permanently ingrained in the minds of viewers and in pop culture (especially the log truck scene in Final Destination 2).
Final Destination was such a huge hit because it demonstrated that we could get wickedly fun horror and lots of gory bloodshot outside of the traditional slasher formula. And even though it’s nihilistic, given how impossible it is to outrun or outsmart death, these films all revolve around groups of friends and the unrelenting way they try to band together to save themselves from the inevitable.
How to Make a Movie Night Fun
A movie night with friends in itself is super entertaining, but it’s even better when you make it a scary movie night. It’s not always fun to increase your adrenaline level alone, so inviting friends to join you for a night of thrills and chills is always a good idea. Here’s how to make a movie night unforgettable.
Movie night is not complete without food. Get a variety of snacks to satisfy all tastes. Consider sweet and salty popcorn, chips and dips, sweets and chocolates, and a variety of drinks — soft and/or alcoholic, depending on your audience and preferences.
Be Selective — About Your Movies and Your Friends
Some people say they are not into horror films, so you’ll need to choose your friends and your movies carefully for this night. It can be a good idea to give people a selection to choose from and/or offer a vote so that you are not imposing your desire to watch a particular movie over the desires of the group. There are plenty of horror films you can watch for those who are a bit more squeamish and can’t handle excessive gore or jump scares. If you find yourself in that situation, this list should be very helpful.
Be Sure to Set Ground Rules
Rules tell everyone what to expect and what is allowed. Let people know if you are willing to change movies if nobody is enjoying them within fifteen minutes. And maybe develop an agreement about voting or who gets to decide what to watch. Keep it respectful and be prepared if a film gets to be too much for one of your friends. The idea here is to have fun and not traumatize anyone. You might even consider an adult sleepover, so no one has to go home to a dark, empty house after being thoroughly frightened. There’s no real that says slumber parties are just for youngsters!
Movie parties are a great way to get to know new friends or even develop strong relationships. But you’ll want to make sure everyone is safe. So, if you are having people over you may not know that well — maybe friends of a friend, acquaintances from work or a club, or someone you met on a friendship or dating app — use Nuwber to get a bit more information about them before they turn up on your doorstep. It’s very important to be careful. As always, we want to keep the horror on the screen and not bring it into our real lives!