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5 Best Old School Horror Movies to Watch This Halloween

Discover five classic horror films that are perfect to watch in October this year — and for years to come.

Jamie Lee Curtis in 'Halloween.' Credit: Mary Evans/Compass International Pictures

Spooky season is finally here! It’s a time for falling leaves, pumpkin spice lattes, and, of course, some good scares.

With October nearly halfway through and Halloween fast approaching, there’s no better way to get festive this month than with some classic horror movies. From the films that defined the genre to ones that just did it so well, we’ve compiled a list of five that are sure to both entertain and fright.

Horror movies are all the rage these days. In the last ten years alone, there have been some incredible entries into the genre that’ll likely be remembered for a long time, like Get Out and Hereditary. But let’s be honest, horror movies have been around for ages. In fact, some of the best ones we get nowadays owe a lot to the movies of the late 20th century. These films cemented horror as a genre full of possibilities and, of course, some good old-fashioned fear.

So, if you’re looking to check out some old-school horror classics this October, we’ve got you covered. Even though this list will only cover five of them, rest assured that you’re certain to discover more through these.

Father Merrin and Father Karras perform an exorcism on Regan as she is levitating in the air.
Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, and Jason Miller in ‘The Exorcist.’ Credit: Warner Bros.

1. The Exorcist

First up is The Exorcist, which raised the standard for horror in more ways than one. It feels especially timely to discuss this film now — it’s about to celebrate its 50th anniversary, and The Exorcist: Believer was released just last week. The original from 1973 centers on a movie star whose daughter starts exhibiting a series of irrational behaviors. After consulting every doctor and psychiatrist that she can find, she eventually turns to a priest who can perform an exorcism and hopefully save her daughter’s life.

It’s hard to account for another movie that induces as much dread as The Exorcist. Disturbing as it is profound, no film captures the timelessness of the genre quite as well. So sure, it’s scary. It’s also deeply layered in its messages of faith, science, and how the two overlap in unlikely ways. Combine that with a slow burn that will have you on the edge of your seat, The Exorcist is a must-watch for horror and movie fans alike.

The Exorcist is available to stream on Max.

Laurie hides from Michael Myers in the final sequence of 'Halloween.'
Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle in ‘Halloween.’ Credit: Compass International Pictures

2. Halloween

Another horror classic from the 1970s is John Carpenter’s Halloween. Modern movie-goers probably recognize the name — it’s a title that has been reimagined a number of times in recent years. The first film follows Michael Myers, a masked killer who returns to his hometown fifteen years after murdering his sister. With eyes set on new victims, his main target is Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), a teenage girl who’s babysitting a young boy on Halloween night.

The most effective thing about Halloween has got to be its simplicity. Unlike other horror movies, the first Halloween film isn’t interested in backstories or even a motive behind the deranged psycho at its center. It only aims to scare and get under the audience’s skin, and it excels at both. It’s no surprise that the movie’s been used as a blueprint for countless slasher films in the years since. Plus, it gave us one of our most iconic scream queens: Jamie Lee Curtis. Really, what more could you ask for in a horror movie?

Halloween is available to stream on Crackle, PLEX, fuboTV, and Philo.

Annie ties Paul to his bed in a scene from 'Misery.'
Kathy Bates and James Caan in ‘Misery.’ Credit: Columbia Pictures

3. Misery

Next up is Misery, the 1990 film directed by Rob Reiner and based on the novel by Stephen King. The movie is a classic game of cat and mouse between Paul Sheldon (James Caan) and Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates). Paul is a famous writer who crashes his car in a blizzard, and Annie is the woman who nurses him back to health. She also happens to be his number-one fan, with plans to keep him under her care, no matter the cost to either of them.

Misery is unlikely to be the first movie people think of when it comes to iconic horror. It’s often overlooked despite a fairly unscathed reputation among most fans of the genre. For this list, consider it a deep-cut — one that’s worth checking out if you haven’t already. Like Halloween, it’s the simplicity of Misery that makes it so horrifying. The isolation, claustrophobia, and pure terror of the events allow it to transcend beyond what it could’ve been. And with that, it achieves what all the best of them do.

Misery is available to purchase on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Google Play.

Jack Torrance during the "Here's Johnny" scene in 'The Shining.'
Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining.’ Credit: Warner Bros.

4. The Shining

Now, this list would not be complete without including one of the best horror movies ever made, right? Well then, next up is The Shining, the movie that trademarked the genre and continues to terrify audiences over 40 years later.

Another film originally conceived by Stephen King, The Shining centers on a man who is driven to madness and murder after taking a job at a hotel deep in the mountains. Of course, the movie’s a classic when it comes to horror, but what exactly makes it so great?

Obviously, the movie is stock full of iconic visuals — the blood in the elevator, the twins at the end of the hall, and the tricycle that continuously rides over carpet and wood floors. But probably the best thing about The Shining is how atmospheric it is in using them. Stanley Kubrick’s direction is dynamic and full of tension, making every scene demand your attention.

So, while you may come for the status, you’re sure to stick around for the movie itself. As dark, twisted, and compelling as it was in 1980, The Shining prevails as an absolute feat in horror filmmaking.

The Shining is available to stream on Max.

Gale, Randy, and Sidney with blood stains on their face and clothes during the final sequence of 'Scream.'
Courtney Cox, Jamie Kennedy, and Neve Campbell in ‘Scream.’ Credit: Dimension Films

5. Scream

Last, but certainly not least is the cult classic known as Scream. As of this year, there are six entries in the Scream franchise. It’s clearly a beloved premise in modern horror, and the original from 1996 proves why time and time again. Scream follows a group of teenagers who are terrorized by a masked killer who uses classic horror movies to play tricks on its victims. A plot like that is sure to entertain, but Scream also shows that the genre never has to be confined to just scares.

When it comes to horror classics, Scream stands out due to its impeccable and timely comedic satire. It pokes fun at all the best tropes, many of which were discussed in this article alone. It also tells a pretty compelling story of its own while doing so, which continues to resonate with audiences all these years later. So, whether you watch for horror, comedy, or everything in between, Scream is the perfect movie to watch this October. Hell, it’s perfect for any time of the year.

Scream is available to stream on Max.

Written By

Student at the University of Utah and Storytelling Enthusiast

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