Essential Slasher Films Every Horror Fan Must See

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The slasher genre is one of the most common and best-known subgenres of the horror genre, giving rise to franchises like Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hellraiser, Scream, and dozens more.

Due to the sheer size of the genre, there is almost always something for everyone to watch and enjoy. 

So, without further ado, let’s look at the best slasher movies of all time!

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974 – 2022)

First on the list is the franchise that helped define slasher movies as a genre, Texas Chain Saw Massacre (TCM), which was closely followed by Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street.

The first film was released in 1974 and introduced the trope of five college-aged teens going on some type of trip. Whether it is a vacation, moving into a new home, or something similar, it is a core part of the slasher genre. 

Unfortunately for this set of teens, they fell amuck with a cannibal family in a rural section of Texas.

After the meat processing plant shut down where they lived, the Sawyer family found they enjoyed the taste of human flesh. And the skills that they picked up from butchering cows and preparing them came in very handy when killing and eating travelers. 

While the Sawyer family is filled with killers and is quite terrifying all on their own, the character Leatherface gave TCM the fame it still holds at the time of this writing.

Leatherface is a large imposing force who wields a chainsaw, wears human face masks, and is great at plopping people onto meat hooks.

Leatherface is undoubtedly one of the most famous masked killers in horror movies.

His inspiration comes from the Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, who created furniture and clothing from the skin, bones, and other various body parts of the bodies he dug up from a local graveyard.

With an inspiration like that, it is clear why Leatherface holds such sway in the horror community. 

If you are looking for one of the best slashers, watch the TCM franchise, but stay away from the 2022 Texas Chainsaw Massacre film.

It tries its best to create a more diverse film, which is always a great thing, but the plot is weak, the characters are quite obnoxious, and they throw out a lot of already-established lore.

Friday the 13th (1980 – 2009)

While slightly weaker than the other Big 5 in the slasher genre, Friday the 13th, with its killers Jason Voorhees and his mother (Friday the 13th: Part 1), has burned itself into the cultural conscience of multiple generations.

Jason is well-known thanks to his iconic hockey mask, though, in some films, he wears a more temporary mask like a potato sack until he can find his hockey mask again. 

He always tries to hide his face, for it is a hideous and scarred face, which leads to him having many issues trying to integrate with his peers, ultimately playing a role in his death.

Jason unfortunately drowns as a child in the lake at Camp Crystal Lake because the counselors were too busy having sex with one another. 

As you should know by now, this is one of the fundamental rules of the slasher genre, and if you have sex on screen, you are almost guaranteed to die.

However, in the first film, it isn’t Jason who plays the starring role; instead, it is his mother. So, if you ever receive a call from Ghostface asking who was the killer in the original Friday the 13th, it was Jason’s mother. 

Much like Nightmare on Elm Street, the Friday the 13th franchise has only seen one remake since the last main film in the franchise, Jason vs. Freddy, with the remake coming out in 2009.

I highly recommend giving it a watch as it is well-shot and encapsulates the horror of Friday the 13th: Part 2, but with way better quality.

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984 – 2010)

Next up is another one of the big hitters in the slasher subgenre, and it is easily one of the best slasher movies to this day.

Starring the dream killer himself, Freddy Krueger, this franchise is still going strong to this very day.

While most of this franchise’s films are remakes since Wes Craven’s A Nightmare, the remakes are incredibly strong. 

They keep the vibe of the original 80s films while providing better quality, CGI, and even acting/writing.

Like any other slasher film, the Nightmare on Elm Street films feature a group of teenagers living on Elm Street.

Freddy, a child predator before being killed by the townspeople, managed to find a way to live on in the fear of those who live on Elm Street. 

As belief and fear in him grow, he becomes more powerful, allowing him to not only hunt you in your dreams and terrify you but eventually kill you with the razor-sharp knives on his right hand.

He loves to play with his victims, much like a cat does with its food, which is often his downfall. Toying with the main character never goes well for any slasher villain, and when a group of friends finally band together, the villains have to look out. 

While Freddy normally only exists in dreams, there are several instances where he comes into the real world, the most notable being Freddy vs. Jason (2003), where we get to watch as Freddy Krueger, the Dream Killer, battles against Jason Voorhees, an immortal being.

It is an amazing film, and you should watch it after finishing the other Nightmare on Elm Street films.

By the way, if you feel these classic horror movies look “too produced” and enjoy a more documentary-style feel, you should check the best found footage movies instead.

Halloween (1978 – 2022)

Halloween is the next of the Big 5 in the slasher genre and is easily one of the biggest franchises, thanks to its name being Halloween and the murders occurring on Halloween night.

Starting in 1978, the Halloween franchise is more convoluted and all over the place than Saw is sometimes, as there are the main John Carpenter films, a kind of but not connected Halloween III: Season of the Witch film, and two separate remakes. 

Now, Halloween III: Season of the Witch was released in 1982, following Carpenters’ Halloween, and Halloween II, as he wanted to make more of an anthology series, but when that movie bombed, they brought back Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, and never tried to do that again. 

As for the remakes, there are the two Rob Zombie films, Halloween and Halloween II, and then a longer remake series created by David Gordon Green and stars Jamie Lee Curtis as older Laurie Strode.

Now, the remakes are really good, though the David Green films, specifically Halloween Ends, the final movie, are not the greatest. 

They mix up the lore even more than the Rob Zombie remakes, and while fun to watch, they are not necessary to see.

However, you do need to watch the originals; skip Halloween III. It was a terrible film and doesn’t even feature Michael Myers, the Silent Stalker, in all his beautiful glory.

Scream (1996 – 2023)

The Scream franchise is the face of the slasher genre, gaining immense popularity for its “rules of horror” and meta-play, never taking itself too seriously.

Even though it is the youngest of the Big five slashers, it has a lot of success under its belt, and unlike TCM, Friday the 13th, or Nightmare on Elm Street, it is an ongoing franchise. 

The original four films were centered around Sidney Prescott and gave us lovable characters like Dewey and Gale Scotts.

The next two films, Scream and Scream VI, feature cameos by Sidney, Dewey, and Gale, but they introduce a new set of main characters. 

These films lean even heavier into the meta-play that Scream is well-known for, with both modern movies paying homage to the films that came before.

They even go so far as to bring back masks from the previous killers, including Billy Loomis from the first movie. 

Every one of the Scream movies is worth a watch, as they combine comedy and slasher in a beautiful mix that isn’t always pulled off in other horror movies.

Additionally, there is a several season-long Scream series that you can watch that isn’t canonical to the movies but still an excellent show to watch.

It’s great if you need more Ghostface in your life but have already seen all the movies.

So, if you want to see a masked killer trip over a chair while chasing a teenage girl, give Scream a watch.

Child’s Play (1988 – 2019)

While masked killers wielding chainsaws and machetes are terrifying, there is something about a doll that is barely knee-height chasing after you with a knife that adds a whole new level to horror.

Child’s Play is a combination of the horror subgenre doll horror and slasher films, and it is one of the best films out there.

It is a horror comedy franchise featuring Chucky, a doll inhabited by the soul of an infamous serial killer, who, after going on a killing spree, is killed by cops.

He uses a voodoo technique he learned from a friend to transfer his soul into the doll to escape death, and he is constantly trying to get back into a human body. 

His main target is a boy named Andy, who is the first to learn that Chucky is a sentient doll. Since Andy was the first person Chucky revealed himself to, he had to transfer his soul into Andy’s body, or he would be stuck in the doll’s body forever. 

Like many other slasher villains, Chucky is immortal, no matter how he is killed. From being melted in wax, shot, chopped up, and various other forms of execution, he always comes back.

As the franchise progresses, his girlfriend/ex/some relationship person enters a doll’s body. 

If you don’t want to watch dolls having sex, stay away from Bride of Chucky, as they go at it near the end of the film, resulting in their genderfluid child being born.

Another reason Child’s Play is so popular is that while Chucky is a brutal killer with a huge body count, he is an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Like Scream, there is a Child’s Play spin-off series that is good and helps flesh out Chucky as a character much better compared to many of the earlier Child’s Play films.

Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser is another one of the greatest horror films to have been released, and while the subsequent films are a hit-and-miss, the first two were absolute works of art.

Not only do they feature some of the most impressive practical effects seen in late 80s horror.

That is often missing in modern horror films, which rely mainly on CGI and can thus lose the true gritty feeling that came with the 80s era of horror.

That is something that the 2022 Hellraiser film did correctly, as it returned to the roots of the first film and only utilized special effects when necessary.

Besides the amazing effects, an extremely talented director directed the first Hellraiser, none other than the creator of the Hellraiser universe, Clive Barker.

Clive Barker is well-known in the world of horror for his intense body horror movies and books, all of which push our understanding of the limits of the human body.

The main “evil” in Hellraiser is the Cenobites, led by Pinhead, and they are priests of a higher order who are essentially gay BDSM demons. 

They have various body modifications, from throats being split open, hooks piercing their skin, and needles and leather everywhere. These beings only appear when someone solves a puzzle known as the Lament Configuration.

When they appear, they take the one who solved the puzzle and show them the “greatest pleasures known to man,” aka brutally torturing them in their sadistic practices. 

It is an intense film with graphic violence, impressive practical effects, and a storyline that just drags you into the world. 

You can watch it for free online, together with other horror movies on this list.

X (2022)

When it came out in 2022, X quickly became an insanely popular horror movie because of its new approach to the slasher genre.

The main characters are a group of young filmmakers who are in the process of shooting and producing an adult film, hence the name X. 

Now, while there is sex shown on screen, the film does not hyper-focus on it, and it shows how the people in adult films are actors and actresses doing a job.

Thus, it doesn’t come off as feeling like a porn film, and instead, an intriguing horror movie that uses erotic topics to add to the film. 

The main characters shoot their film on the property of an old couple, who rent out the extra house they have to various people.

You might like this article about famous horror couples from movies.

However, this old couple is not all they seem to be because, after all, this is a slasher film.

It shows a fair amount of graphic violence but is not overly gratuitous like some torture porn films like The Collector, or I Spit on Your Grave. 

While this may not be at the level of Halloween or Scream, X is still one of the best slasher films from the modern horror genre.

There is a second film in the series, Pearl, released in 2023, and there are plans for a third film to help tie everything together.

Scary Movie (2000)

What would be a list of the best slasher films that didn’t include the greatest parody film series known to man, Scary Movie?

Scary Movie is a five-movie-long franchise, with each film bringing in references from various horror films, most commonly slasher films, and creating a wacky comedy. 

While that sounds like a great premise, unfortunately, many of the films after Scary Movie 1 just fell flat, as there is only so much potentially questionable comedy that someone can watch before they grow sick of it.

Regardless of the downfalls of the other Scary Movies, Scary Movie 1 was an absolute masterpiece when it was released in 2000.

It parodies films like Scream, The Matrix, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and The Sixth Sense.

It is not a family-friendly movie, so if you have any younger children in your home, they should probably not watch it.

If you’re looking to watch horror movies with your kids, check out this article instead, which has titles appropriate for those under 13.

But if you are looking for a movie to watch with some buddies and just have a good time, I cannot recommend Scary Movie enough. 

Candyman (2021)

Candyman, specifically the 2021 remake, is possibly one of this list’s most poignant and important slasher films.

This is not just a regular slasher movie where the plot is about a group of teens trying to escape an unknown assailant who wants to murder them for various reasons. 

Instead, Candyman (2021) and the original films are all about the Black experience and living with the police brutality that still exists worldwide, especially in America, and its effects on a demographic.

It’s a tale of various black people killed unjustly, and the ghost of one of them, a man with a hook on his hand, who was beaten to death for supposedly giving a white child a piece of candy with a razor blade in it. 

Like many other Jordan Peele films, it is fully political. It broaches some very uncomfortable topics for people with a lot of privilege who don’t have to worry about things like police brutality regularly.

Even though it can be an uncomfortable movie, it is a must-watch!

Not only is the story extremely well done, with some impressive practical effects, but it shares an important message about privilege, the Black experience, and the current societal environment.

You’re Next (2011)

The final movie on this list is the 2011 film You’re Next, which takes the typical house invasion/slasher horror movie and throws multiple plot wrenches.

The main character is a young woman attending a family dinner with her boyfriend when a trio of masked killers tries to kill the group. 

However, it turns out the girlfriend is a trained survivalist. So we get to see her beat the ever-living crap out of the killers who were not expecting any resistance.

It becomes almost like a reverse slasher film and is a great movie. The characters are all well done, and you can feel for the main girl who didn’t want to come to this dinner. 

So if you want a revenge-themed movie without the usually brutal r-pe that often occurs in them and features a tough and independent female lead character, you must check out You’re Next.

Closing Thoughts

Slasher movies are bone-chilling and captivating flicks, and the genre remains just as popular today as it did in the 1970s.

Films like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre have set a gold standard for the genre and influenced countless other filmmakers and their subsequent works.

They’ve shown us the thrill of fear, the suspense of the unknown, and the chill of confronting our darkest nightmares.

One of the best parts of slasher films is that they almost always follow a formula, which gave rise to the so-called “rules of horror,” often referred to in meta-slasher films like Scream or Scary Movie.

Some of these rules include the final girl trope, avoid sex, drugs, and drinking, and never say, “I’ll be right back.” 

These rules help connect the slasher genre, and dozens of other rules are floating about the internet when it comes to the slasher genre.

However, it is important to note that not every slasher will follow these rules, but more often than not, they will. 

When a severe niche becomes mainstream enough, spin-offs and parodies surface. A good example is Scary Movie, which has brilliantly and hilariously spoofed the classic horror tropes.

Whether you’re a die-hard fan of the terror-inducing slashers or prefer your horror with a side of laughter, these films are the epitome of cinematic brilliance in their unique ways.

If you’re more into puzzle horror movies, you should check out this article.


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  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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