The Top 10 1970s to 1990s Horror Movies

The Top 10 1970s to 1990s Horror Movies

You probably already know that the three decades under consideration here were phenomenal. Let’s start with the ’70s, which bore some rarity for horror movies. The decade brought about the industry’s rebirth. It was marked with mixed creativity and emotional sensitivity. All this helped to produce vividly descriptive and excruciating horror that mirrored what the world was like then. Also, the ’70s marked the period when a horror movie got the first-ever Academy Award nomination. These decades were so innovative to the horror movie industry that we just had to make a list on the Top 10 1970s to 1990s Horror Movies.

Well, the ’80s wasn’t going to let the ’70s take all the glory. It effectively ushered in an improved extended trend of movies from the ’70s. The ’80s saw a much more improved dynamism and advancement in style, plot, production, and all forms of peculiarities the horror movie holds to date. The ’90s also did amazingly well. It ushered in a wave of horror movies that was stern on realism. It brought psychological thrillers, special effects, coupled with self-parody as well as ironic humor – a magnificent renaissance!

Now, due to the distinctiveness of these three decades and the gore attached to the peculiarity of each decade, there will be a witty twist to this list! Therefore, the movies that make this list are only those that match the high taste of both the ‘scary’ and ‘dynamism’ factor, which will take preference this time.

Get a cozy chair, and sit tight for the unveiling of what is:

The top 10 horror movies from the ’70s down to the ’90s!

10. Scream (1996)

“Now Sid, Don’t You Blame the Movies. Movies Don’t Create Psychos. Movies Make Psychos More Creative!”


Yes, right there in number 10, Scream! During the late ’90s, horror movies seemed to look a bit tiring. And it was then that Wes Craven’s Scream reinvigorated the genre with its exquisite blend of Black Comedy, mystery, and of course, scares. This gave birth to a brilliant modern horror classic.

Scream‘s scares can catch anyone off guard as it is very much unpredictable. In the story, Neve Campbell, Rose McGowan, and Drew Barrymore, being teenagers, are effortlessly talking about horror movies as their genre-obsessed masked maniac haunts them. As the story unfolds, the unfortunate victims succumb to this slasher’s knife in an unswerving manner. This is quite disturbing, leaving viewers to wonder who will survive the last minute of the movie. Craven’s Scream surely guarantees terror and horror till your screen turns black.

9. Jaws (1975)

“…Cage goes in the water, you go in the water. Shark’s in the water. Our shark.”


Here is one of Steven Spielberg’s toothy horrors. It has got to be one of the original blockbusters that made quite a crowd queue. It is a horrifying movie! If you see this movie once, it can ruin all your trips to any water bodies. Jaws is indeed the ultimate creature film.

This movie is about Amity Island’s gory summer season. It features Chief Brody who desperately tries to keep swimmers from the water. But of course, the giant 25-foot white shark doesn’t disappoint in his continuous threat of the quiet island. Jaws is succinctly a horror legend.

8. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

“I gave him your name, Franklin. And I told him where you lived. I even gave him your ZIP code. He’s gonna kill you.”

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Tobe Hooper’s brilliance in this movie makes it a grimy piece of sweaty horror history. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre makes it the number 8. It presents a raw, controversial, and brutal feel of scary elements as well as a powerful sense of dreadfulness. Although every death takes place off-screen, the editing, special effects, and iconic disturbing sound design will undoubtedly send chills down your spine.

In the story, a car of a group of 5 young folks breaks down while on a trip across Texas that led up to Leatherface brutally terrorizing them. The effect simply stays with you long after the credit rolls.

7. The Exorcist (1973)

“…Your mother’s in here with us, Karras. Would you like to leave a message? I’ll see that she gets it.”

The Exorcist

The 7th pick is William Friedkin’s masterpiece, The Exorcist. It is one of the best horrors made in these three decades. The Exorcist is one horror that is intuitive, unsafe, and unpredictable! Of interest, William’s push for ‘truth’ and ‘authenticity’ in the delivery of his movie meant that his actors were somewhat refrigerated in a bedroom and pulled across sets on occasions to depict the demon’s strength.

The story concerns the tale of Regan, who happens to be the daughter of a successful movie actress. She gets herself in the basement and plays with an Ouija board. It becomes the gateway for an unwelcome guest to take root in the little girl (Linda Blair). As the so-called exorcist comes to the rescue, you need to guard your emotions as you watch!

6. The Shining (1980)

“You got a biiiig surprise coming to you. You’re not going anywhere. Go check out the Snow Cat and the radio and you’ll see what I mean. Go check it out.”

The Shining

The 6th on this list? You will find The Shining. This particular movie feels evil! It is one of Kubrick’s beast-like films. It never lets you feel safe, especially with Jack Nicholson’s insane performance. This movie simply makes you feel like a drunk mad man is piloting you and you never can tell what’s coming next! The terror keeps looming around the bath of room 237, stains of blood, and chopped body parts of little girls. It is not a random horror movie that features cheap tricks. Instead, the psychological horror is pretty scary and could stay with you long after your TV goes dark. This Stephen King adaptation proves that he is the master of all things dreadful!

Here, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) gets to be a winter caretaker in the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado. Here, he hopes to clear his writer’s block. So, Torrence gets settled with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and his son Danny (Danny Lloyd). They subsequently get plagued by psychic premonitions. It gets intensified as the hotel’s dark secrets unravel into a homicidal terror from hell itself!

5. The Sixth Sense (1999)

“I see dead people. They don’t know they’re dead.”

The Sixth Sense

The number 5 spot goes to The Sixth Sense. M. Night Shyamalan produced this horror masterwork. It stands tall as one of the genre’s best piece of the ’90s! It is a brilliant horror of a child who can talk to the dead. This spot almost didn’t make the top 10 1970s to 1990s horror movies list as it was released in 1999, just barely squeaking it’s way onto the list.

In the movie, little Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) is visited by ghosts and haunted by them. These scary visitations scared Cole as they come with unresolved problems. Somehow, he confides in his psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) who tries to uncover the truth about this special kid’s ability to speak to the dead. This consequently leads both of them to the awakening of something unexplainable. A top choice indeed!

4. The Thing (1982)

“I dunno what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”

The Thing - Top 10 1970s to 1990s Horror Movies

The Thing remains one of the creepiest and intense horrors from these three decades. With themes of suspicion, isolation, and alienation in John Carpenter’s brilliant execution, don’t get too confident of what to expect because this horror movie is filled with intense paranoia as the movie unfolds.

Here, a group of scientists is disturbed by the sight of a helicopter trying to shoot down a sled dog. They took the dog in but paid brutally for such a terrible decision. Soon, they realize that the creature took up the form and appearance of its victim. In no time, a battle of survival proceeds between the beast and everything else alive!

3. The Evil Dead 2 (1987)

“Then let’s head on down into that cellar and carve ourselves a witch.”

Evil Dead II - Top 10 1970s to 1990s horror movies

This is one horror classic that brilliantly combines just the right amount of humor and gore. It gifts viewers a balanced amount of laugh, thrill, and shiver. Hence, it sits boldly as the second runner-up! With Sam Raimi’s excellent input to the movie, be sure to expect eyes in mouths, chainsaws dripping with blood, and other extensive gore.

The 2nd of the Evil Dead series features Bruce Campbell, playing the role of Ash Williams. In this film, he battles scary demons at a secluded cabin down in the woods. Ash later discovers an audiotape of a professor that features voices coming out from the Book of the Dead. This then saturated Ash’s girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) with these demons. Now, he has to escape the woods. Will that ever happen? Evil Dead 2 is simply a perfect comedy horror, and you can be sure to embrace all the physical effects.

2. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

“Evil’s just destructive? Then storms are evil if it’s that simple. And we have fire, and there there’s hail. Underwriters lump it all under ‘Acts of God.”

The Silence of the Lambs - Top 10 1970s to 1990s horror movies

The Silence of the Lambs is an outstanding psychological horror. It gifts you the brilliance of feeling what you see. The movie adapts Thomas Harris’ 1998 novel. Ted Tally wrote the screenplay while Jonathan Demme excellently directed the film. Interestingly, this movie was the third in Hollywood history to sweep all the 5 big awards at the Oscars in 1992 despite being a psychological horror: winning the best film, best adapted screenplay, best director, best actor, and best actress! It would be ludicrous to not put this movie under the top 10 1970s to 1990s Horror movies list.

Here, a pretty young F.B.I cadet has to employ the help of an imprisoned and highly cunning cannibal killer, to further help catch another serial killer. This movie makes the list as one of the best of all time.

1. Alien (1979)

“Paralyzes Him, Puts Him in A Coma…Then Keeps Him Alive. Now What the Hell Is That?”

ALIEN - Top 10 1970s to 1990s Horror Movies

And, of course, at the very top of this list is perhaps one of the greatest science-fiction horror movies ever. Aliens is the perfect number 1 candidate for this top 10 1970s to 1990s Horror movies list. This sci-fi horror classic has stood the test of time in all ramifications. Ridley Scott’s direction makes the dread in the movie, perhaps much deeper than infinite gloom. What is more terrifying than being isolated in a spaceship that is light years away from where you call home? (Not to mention that there is a horrific monster on the spaceship).

Here, the Nostromo crew is sent to investigate a distress signal from an abandoned spaceship on a planet. Unfortunately, they were viciously attacked by an alien. Turn off your lights and watch Alien, you had enjoyed what I call a “true horror movie”!

Final Thoughts

There you have it, our list of the Top 10 1970s to 1990s Horror Movies! These decades practically mark the major highlight of the horror movie genre and don’t feel sad if your favorite doesn’t make the list. These periods were filled with so many great horrors that feel evergreen even in our present-day world. They have now become a major point of reference when an exceptional horror movie is made or mentioned. If you still want more content check out this blog about the top 10 1970s to 1990s Sci-Fi movies.

About the Author

Author: Chris Ingledue 


Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!

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