If you’re a dyed in the wool film buff, then it’s probably safe to say you wouldn’t consider Halloween complete without a horror movie marathon or two. However, no horror movie marathon beats a nostalgic one, and no decade saw the release of more truly chilling films than the 1990s.
Here we’ll take a closer look at the scariest movies of the 90s – the movies that had us biting our nails and sleeping with the lights on for months. Did your favorites make the cut?
Stir of Echoes (1999)
Here we have a highly underrated film that covers all the bases when it comes to horror movie staples – a missing teenaged girl, an unsettling house, and creepy visions galore. Kevin Bacon turns in a riveting performance as a man who begins seeing ghosts after being hypnotized by his sister-in-law. Since it’s based on a narrative by storytelling powerhouse Richard Matheson, it features a solid plot with plenty of twists and turns as well.
If you’re a David Fincher fan, then you’re most likely already very familiar with his sophomore effort, Se7en. It’s one of the first scary movies to feature a serial killer that committed killings based on deep, philosophical and theological concepts. (In this case, it’s the Seven Deadly Sins.) It also features stunning performances by the likes of Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, and Morgan Freeman.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
No nostalgic look back on the scariest movies of the 1990s would be complete without The Silence of the Lambs. Not only does it feature legendary Oscar-winning performances from both Anthony Hopkins as the unsettling Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter and Jodie Foster as FBI agent Clarice Starling, but it’s a film that has stood up remarkably well over time. It seems every bit as bone-chilling and smartly done today as it did back in 1991.
When you think of scary movies that defined horror in the 90s, Scream is probably one of the first films to come to mind, and with good reason. This masterpiece from Wes Craven does an excellent job of poking fun at the genre at large while remaining truly frightening in its own right. It also redefined youth-oriented horror for a new generation.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
These days, scary movie fans are very familiar with the found footage style of filmmaking. However, this Sundance favorite from 1999 was the movie that started it all. Add this movie to your watch list and relive the story of an ill-fated Maryland camping trip that proved you don’t need fancy special effects and expensive technology to make a truly scary movie.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Although even the most devoted film buffs have mixed feelings about the work of M. Night Shyamalan these days, just about everyone can agree on the excellence of this chilling tale of a boy that “sees dead people walking around like regular people.” It combines compelling storytelling, heartfelt performances, and well-timed shocks to create one of the best ghost stories to come along in decades.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Any scary movie fan is more than familiar with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. However, this clever reboot of the series brings something new to the table. Heather Langenkamp returns to the franchise, this time playing herself as she considers filming a new Freddie movie. Not only is it a scary addition to the Nightmare franchise itself, but the film makes some interesting statements about fame, as well as the horror industry.
This stunning contribution from film genius Rob Reiner sought to turn Stephen King’s dark tale of the ultimate obsessed fan into a theater-friendly horror film and succeeded fantastically. It also features two incredible performances from undisputed greats James Caan and Kathy Bates.
Not only is Ringu widely considered to be one of the most terrifying films of all time, but it’s another game changer that had a lasting impact on the horror genre. To begin with, it’s pretty much single-handedly responsible for the rise of the J-horror subgenre. When watched today, it also seems to predict the concept of viral media as we’ve come to know it during the Internet age.
Directed by Bernard Rose and based on a short story by Clive Barker, Candyman is a film that manages to feel truly otherworldly while really delivering in regards to gut-churning gore. It also features a bone-chilling performance by the legendary Tony Todd that keeps viewers riveted right up to the very last scene: a showdown in Chicago’s notorious Cabrini Green.