Whether you’re a student looking for light escapism or some truly terrifying and thought-provoking genre fare, we’ve got the best in class.
Maybe we’re biased (we most definitely are), but we think it’s just as important to expand your cinematic horizons and strengthen your film education as it is to pursue academic knowledge and higher learning. Ok, maybe one is slightly more important. Watching great horror movies may not help you land that dream job or pursue your passions, but it can definitely help keep you sane as you cram your head full of knowledge and burn the midnight oil. And as entertaining as horror movies can be, many are surprisingly cerebral and intellectually stimulating.
Below are four of our favorite films for horror-loving students to watch. Whatever your particular tastes, we’ve got you covered — whether you crave a smart sociopolitical slasher, a witty and wildly fun horror comedy, a dread-inducing psychological horror film, or an absolute genre staple featuring some of the best acting and directorial talent of all time. We’ve picked these films for different reasons, but we think they all have something that will appeal to the young, scholarly genre fan.
1. Black Christmas (1974)
Even though it was released back in 1974, this remains one of the best horror movies of all time and still manages to delight and terrify nearly five decades later. There’s a good reason it’s been remade twice and has garnered a strong cult following. It’s also credited as being one of the first slasher films, inspiring many other horror classics, including John Carpenter’s hugely influential Halloween (1978).
Black Christmas is about a serial killer who stalks and murders a group of young women at a sorority house. Our heroine, Jess Bradford, and her sorority sisters begin receiving threatening phone calls. While the original film isn’t overly bloody, it does a masterful job of creating tension and atmospheric dread. It was also highly topical and controversial at the time, dealing with the hot-button topics of abortion and feminism, which are ironically no less relevant and highly debated today.
Not only is this film truly frightening, but it focuses on great characters, a compelling story, and the importance of sisterhood — making it a must-see for horror-loving students. And, of course, it can be enjoyed by both men and women, young and old, but it really resonates with young women.
Any co-eds looking to unwind and take the stress out of studying by enjoying a classic scary movie are strongly encouraged to check out Black Christmas. It’s also the pinnacle of holiday horror and a great pick for this time of year. You may want to give the 2006 and 2019 remakes a try, too, but don’t skip out on the original. There’s even a fun fan film you can catch for free on YouTube called It’s Me, Billy: A Black Christmas Fan Film.
And if you need a lifeline during this busy academic season as you cram for finals and try to make time for rest and entertainment, there are some great do my homework services that can support you and help keep you sane. Because, sometimes, we all need some help finding more time to watch killer horror movies like Black Christmas and others on this list.
2. Happy Death Day (2019)
Not all horror movies are only about blood, terror, and sleepless nights. Some of the best make you laugh as much as they make you scream, and they can be an absolute blast. These horror comedies are tailor-made for watching with friends, roommates, and sorority sisters/fraternity brothers. They are also perfect for your college mates who may be a little squeamish when it comes to more intense horror films.
One of the best horror comedies in recent years that takes place on a college campus is Happy Death Day. It takes a familiar Groundhog Day premise, that of an endless time loop, and puts a unique and wildly fun spin on it.
We all know the stereotype of the mean girl from the sorority house no one likes. Well, this movie takes that trope and turns it on its head — giving us a mean girl we actually want to root for and making us care about her journey and character evolution. Thanks to a star-making performance from the brilliant Jessica Rothe, it’s wickedly funny, surprisingly endearing, and still scary enough to give horror fans a thrill.
3. The Canal (2014)
The Canal is a truly great psychological horror film from Ireland that portrays the story of a man investigating a horrific murder that took place in his home in the early 1900s.
Rupert Evans (Bridgerton) stars as David, a film archivist who discovers a short snuff film from the 1900s. Titled “Crime Scene”, it reveals the nightmare-inducing aftermath of a triple murder that took place in the house where he and his family currently live.
As David investigates his home’s bloody past, he becomes haunted by the images in the film and begins to lose his sanity. It’s a powerful film about losing control and becoming consumed by painful thoughts, crippling anxiety, and depression. It’s truly haunting and unsettling, with some horrific imagery and some of the most memorable scenes you’ll ever see. It may remind you a bit of 2012’s Sinister and even the next film on our list, The Shining. But it’s also original, powerfully acted, absolutely chilling, and unforgettable.
Why is it recommended for students? Because most academics will relate on some level to the themes of obsession and madness. And it’s also smart, thought-provoking, and satisfying, with an ending that will give you a lot to analyze and discuss among your fellow intellectuals.
This lesser-known genre gem is currently free to watch on Tubi in the U.S.
4. The Shining (1980)
It may feel like a cliché recommendation, but there’s a good reason why The Shining is widely considered one of the best and most influential horror films of all time. Directed by the legendary auteur Stanley Kubrick, it’s based on a story by the undisputed master of literary horror, Stephen King. It also features the great Jack Nicholson in one of his most memorable roles.
It’s about a man (Nicholson) hired to be the caretaker of an empty hotel deep in the mountains of Colorado during the winter season. A writer and recovering alcoholic, he begins to lose his mind due to extreme cabin fever and the influence of the hotel’s dark and haunted past.
With its stunning visual style and ominous score, this perfectly paced film is a masterful example of using fictional horrors to explore real-world ones. There are terrifying supernatural elements, but the film’s subtext is far scarier as it highlights issues of spousal and child abuse along with the damaging effects of substance abuse.
Many students will relate to themes of isolation, often finding themselves far away from home and family for the first time. And most will also identify with the feeling of being couped up during times of intense studying, feeling driven to the point of near insanity while cramming for exams or cranking out lengthy term papers.
But the real reason The Shining is such an essential film for students is that, like The Canal, it’s guaranteed to make you think. It’s intentionally left wide open to interpretation. In fact, countless essays and books have been written that attempt to decipher the film’s deeper meaning. The ending is ambiguous but in a way that still feels satisfying and not frustrating. It’s got the power to keep you talking about it and pondering it long after the final chilling scene.