(Photo by Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection)

The Essential Black Horror Movies

In our guide to some of the best, most resonant Black horror movies, we begin in 1960 with Night of the Living Dead. The movie was groundbreaking for setting the zombie template, but also through its casting of Duane Jones as its hero, an everyman of color. He leads survivors through Night, up until its provocative ending, when director George A. Romero inextricably binds the horror genre to America’s dark living history.

Jones’ other starring movie was 1973’s Ganja & Hess, for which writer/director Bill Gunn uses vampires to press into societal breakdowns. This kind of elevated horror has given definition to many Black horror films, including, obviously, Jordan Peele’s Best Picture-nominated Get Out, but also the Chicago-set Candyman and Oprah Winfrey-starring Beloved.

Of course, horror is there for lights-out entertainment, like ’90s classics Def by Temptation and Tales from the Hood, and with crossovers into the gothic (Eve’s Bayou), sci-fi (Attack the Block), thrillers (Ma), war (Overlord), and superheroes (Blade).

Explore all 20 fun, frightening, and groundbreaking films in our guide to the essential Black horror movies.

Best Spanish-Language Horror Movies | Best Korean Horror Movies | Best Italian Horror Movies | Best French Horror Movies | Best Japanese Horror Movies
2020’s Best Horror Movies | 200 Best Horror Movies Ever


Bones (2001)

Adjusted Score: 24.661%
Critics Consensus: Slow to start, the sleek looking Bones is more silly than scary.
Synopsis: Cinematographer turned director Ernest Dickerson returns to the horror genre with this African-American, urban twist on haunted house stories. Rap... [More]
Directed By: Ernest R. Dickerson

Adjusted Score: 37.527%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This first theatrical feature spun off from the television series Tales from the Crypt (which was in turn inspired by... [More]

Adjusted Score: 50.531%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When a trio of young criminals break into a funeral home searching for a stash of drugs, they instead find... [More]
Directed By: Rusty Cundieff


Blacula (1972)

Adjusted Score: 52.793%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Advertised as the 100th production of American International studios, Blacula stars actor/singer William Marshall in the title role. An 18th... [More]


Blade (1998)

Adjusted Score: 61.698%
Critics Consensus: Though some may find the plot a bit lacking, Blade's action is fierce, plentiful, and appropriately stylish for a comic book adaptation.
Synopsis: British director Stephen Norrington helmed this David S. Goyer adaptation of the Marvel Comics character created in 1973 by scripter... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Norrington


Ma (2019)

Adjusted Score: 63.608%
Critics Consensus: Octavia Spencer's performance overpowers many of Ma's flaws, but uneven pacing and a labored story keep this thriller from fully realizing its unhinged potential.
Synopsis: Oscar (R) winner Octavia Spencer stars as Sue Ann, a loner who keeps to herself in her quiet Ohio town.... [More]
Directed By: Tate Taylor


J.D.'s Revenge (1976)

Adjusted Score: 48.941%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Complete with a soundtrack by a then-barely-known Prince, this blaxploitation film stars Glynn Turman as a modern-day student possessed by... [More]
Directed By: Arthur Marks


Blade II (2002)

Adjusted Score: 61.023%
Critics Consensus: Though Blade II offers more of what worked in the original, its plot and character development appear to have been left on the cutting room floor.
Synopsis: Four years after scoring a box-office touchdown with Blade (1998), actor Wesley Snipes returns to portray the Marvel Comics character... [More]
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro

Adjusted Score: 68.623%
Critics Consensus: Held aloft by gonzo black comedy and socially conscious subtext, The People Under The Stairs marks a unique -- though wildly uneven -- change of pace for director Wes Craven.
Synopsis: Wes Craven wrote and directed this surrealistic horror-comedy, which was inspired by a true story of parents keeping their children... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

Adjusted Score: 67.07%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A black theology student (James Bond III, who also directed) is unaware that his father's early death was at the... [More]
Directed By: James Bond III


Candyman (1992)

Adjusted Score: 79.96%
Critics Consensus: Though it ultimately sacrifices some mystery in the name of gory thrills, Candyman is a nuanced, effectively chilling tale that benefits from an interesting premise and some fine performances.
Synopsis: Researching urban folklore, a University of Chicago student snoops around the housing projects of Cabrini Green to find more about... [More]
Directed By: Bernard Rose


Beloved (1998)

Adjusted Score: 81.315%
Critics Consensus: A powerful, emotional and successful film adaptation of the original novel.
Synopsis: When a former slave takes in a feral young woman, strange occurrences begin to take place, begging the question: could... [More]
Directed By: Jonathan Demme


Overlord (2018)

Adjusted Score: 90.292%
Critics Consensus: Part revisionist war drama, part zombie thriller, and part all-out genre gorefest, Overlord offers A-level fun for B-movie fans of multiple persuasions.
Synopsis: With only hours until D-Day, a team of American paratroopers drop into Nazi-occupied France to carry out a mission that's... [More]
Directed By: Julius Avery


Eve's Bayou (1996)

Adjusted Score: 84.767%
Critics Consensus: Eve's Bayou marks a striking feature debut for director Kasi Lemmons, layering terrific performances and Southern mysticism into a measured meditation on disillusionment and forgiveness.
Synopsis: Black female writer-director Kasi Lemmons made her feature directorial debut with this period family drama set in the South. Depicting... [More]
Directed By: Kasi Lemmons


Sugar Hill (1974)

Adjusted Score: 63.02%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this horror movie, a woman's fiance is killed by gangsters. To get her revenge, she conjures up a corps... [More]
Directed By: Paul Maslansky


Ganja & Hess (1973)

Adjusted Score: 69.92%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: What could have been a mere blaxploitation picture is elevated above the norm by two factors. The first is the... [More]
Directed By: Bill Gunn


Attack the Block (2011)

Adjusted Score: 95.441%
Critics Consensus: Effortlessly mixing scares, laughs, and social commentary, Attack the Block is a thrilling, brisky-paced sci-fi yarn with a distinctly British flavor.
Synopsis: From the producers of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Attack the Block follows a gang of tough inner-city... [More]
Directed By: Joe Cornish


Us (2019)

Adjusted Score: 117.122%
Critics Consensus: With Jordan Peele's second inventive, ambitious horror film, we have seen how to beat the sophomore jinx, and it is Us.
Synopsis: Set in present day along the iconic Northern California coastline, Us, from Monkeypaw Productions, stars Oscar (R) winner Lupita Nyong'o... [More]
Directed By: Jordan Peele

Adjusted Score: 104.319%
Critics Consensus: George A. Romero's debut set the template for the zombie film, and features tight editing, realistic gore, and a sly political undercurrent.
Synopsis: One can only imagine the impact that Night on the Living Dead had on unprepared audiences of 1968. Here was... [More]
Directed By: George A. Romero


Get Out (2017)

Adjusted Score: 114.818%
Critics Consensus: Funny, scary, and thought-provoking, Get Out seamlessly weaves its trenchant social critiques into a brilliantly effective and entertaining horror/comedy thrill ride.
Synopsis: Now that Chris and his girlfriend, Rose, have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend... [More]
Directed By: Jordan Peele

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