(Photo by Paramount, New Line Cinema, Dimension Films, Maple Pictures, New World Pictures, Lionsgate / Courtesy: Everett Collection)

25 Essential Slasher Movies

Slashers — that gloriously grubby, stabby subsection of horror — were first unsheathed in the early 1970s, when Mario Bava stalked his cavorting, frequently disrobed victims around in A Bay of Blood. The movie set up mood of the slasher: Sexually charged, with a degree of mystery, where the ample cast of characters one-by-one take a sharp turn into doom. Slashers can be stylish (Opera, Dressed to Kill), carnal (Torso, Friday the 13th), grimly violent (The Prowler, The Burning), trashy (Pieces, The Slumber Party Massacre) and even supernatural (Halloween, Child’s Play). We’re studying all sides of the blade as we assemble movies that best represent this killer genre in the 25 Essential Slasher Movies.

#25
#25
Adjusted Score: 42923%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Someone with a power drill shows up uninvited to Trish's (Michele Michaels) high-school pajama party.... [More]
Directed By: Amy Jones

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: 44223%
Critics Consensus: There is indeed a good amount of tension in this French slasher, but the dubbing is bad and the end twist unbelievable.
Synopsis: A beautiful young Frenchwoman, Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco), travels out to the country to visit her family and brings along... [More]
Directed By: Alexandre Aja

#23

Maniac (1980)
40%

#23
Adjusted Score: 41137%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Childhood abuse triggers a man (Joe Spinell) to kill women and use their scalps to dress his mannequins.... [More]
Directed By: William Lustig

#22

Pieces (1982)
46%

#22
Adjusted Score: 46378%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A frustrated Boston detective searches for the maniac responsible for mutilating a number of university coeds.... [More]
Directed By: Juan Piquer Simon

#21
#21
Adjusted Score: 58543%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Friends defy the rules of a legendary murderer and discover he is real when they start celebrating Valentine's Day.... [More]
Directed By: George Mihalka

#20
Adjusted Score: 48031%
Critics Consensus: Friday the 13th: Part VI - Jason Lives indeed brings back ol' Vorhees, along with a sense of serviceable braindead fun.
Synopsis: Years ago, Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews) killed infamous hockey-masked murderer Jason Voorhees (C.J. Graham), and the intensity of the experience... [More]
Directed By: Tom McLoughlin

#19

The Prowler (1981)
67%

#19
Adjusted Score: 38725%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A crazed World War II veteran gets revenge on his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend, then stalks teens 35 years later.... [More]
Directed By: Joseph Zito

#18

Torso (1974)
50%

#18
Adjusted Score: 44679%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A hooded killer with a hacksaw stalks college coeds (Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont).... [More]
Directed By: Sergio Martino

#17

Candyman (1992)
77%

#17
Adjusted Score: 83244%
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: Skeptical graduate student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) befriends Anne-Marie McCoy (Vanessa Williams) while researching superstitions in a housing project on... [More]
Directed By: Bernard Rose

#16

The Burning (1981)
80%

#16
Adjusted Score: 78212%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: At summer camp, some teenagers pull a prank on the camp's caretaker, Cropsy (Lou David). But the joke goes terribly... [More]
Directed By: Tony Maylam

#15

Happy Death Day (2017)
72%

#15
Adjusted Score: 82450%
Critics Consensus: Happy Death Day puts a darkly humorous sci-fi spin on slasher conventions, with added edge courtesy of a starmaking performance from Jessica Rothe.
Synopsis: Tree Gelbman is a blissfully self-centered collegian who wakes up on her birthday in the bed of a student named... [More]
Directed By: Christopher Landon

#14

You're Next (2011)
79%

#14
Adjusted Score: 84198%
Critics Consensus: You're Next's energetic and effective mix of brutal gore and pitch black humor will please horror buffs and beyond.
Synopsis: The Davisons, an upper-class family, are extremely wealthy -- but also estranged. In an attempt to mend their broken family... [More]
Directed By: Adam Wingard

#13

Child's Play (1988)
71%

#13
Adjusted Score: 73313%
Critics Consensus: Child's Play occasionally stumbles across its tonal tightrope of comedy and horror, but its genuinely creepy monster and some deft direction by Tom Holland makes this chiller stand out on the shelf.
Synopsis: Gunned down by Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon), dying murderer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) uses black magic to put... [More]
Directed By: Tom Holland

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 76458%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Favorite daughter Karen (Brooke Shields) is viciously strangled and set afire in church on the day of her First Communion,... [More]
Directed By: Alfred Sole

#11

Halloween (2018)
79%

#11
Adjusted Score: 101684%
Critics Consensus: Halloween largely wipes the slate clean after decades of disappointing sequels, ignoring increasingly elaborate mythology in favor of basic - yet still effective - ingredients.
Synopsis: It's been 40 years since Laurie Strode survived a vicious attack from crazed killer Michael Myers on Halloween night. Locked... [More]
Directed By: David Gordon Green

#10

Sleepaway Camp (1983)
78%

#10
Adjusted Score: 79438%
Critics Consensus: Sleepaway Camp is a standard teen slasher elevated by occasional moments of John Waters-esque weirdness and a twisted ending.
Synopsis: Bunks and the showers are a mad stabber's beat at a summer camp strictly for teens.... [More]
Directed By: Robert Hiltzik

#9
Adjusted Score: 74470%
Critics Consensus: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors offers an imaginative and surprisingly satisfying rebound for a franchise already starting to succumb to sequelitis.
Synopsis: During a hallucinatory incident, young Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette) has her wrists slashed by dream-stalking monster Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund).... [More]
Directed By: Chuck Russell

#8

Friday the 13th (1980)
63%

#8
Adjusted Score: 66983%
Critics Consensus: Rather quaint by today's standards, Friday the 13th still has its share of bloody surprises and a '70s-holdover aesthetic to slightly compel.
Synopsis: Crystal Lake's history of murder doesn't deter counselors from setting up a summer camp in the woodsy area. Superstitious locals... [More]
Directed By: Sean S. Cunningham

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: 72950%
Critics Consensus: The rare slasher with enough intelligence to wind up the tension between bloody outbursts, Black Christmas offers fiendishly enjoyable holiday viewing for genre fans.
Synopsis: As winter break begins, a group of sorority sisters, including Jess (Olivia Hussey) and the often inebriated Barb (Margot Kidder),... [More]
Directed By: Bob Clark

#6

Dressed to Kill (1980)
81%

#6
Adjusted Score: 84557%
Critics Consensus: With arresting visuals and an engrossingly lurid mystery, Dressed to Kill stylishly encapsulates writer-director Brian De Palma's signature strengths.
Synopsis: When Liz Blake (Nancy Allen), a prostitute, sees a mysterious woman brutally slay homemaker Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson), she finds... [More]
Directed By: Brian De Palma

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 90052%
Critics Consensus: The Opera house location gives plenty to work with for director Dario Argento, who hits his decadently bloody high notes here.
Synopsis: A hooded figure forces a young diva (Cristina Marsillach) to watch as he murders performers in a production of Verdi's... [More]
Directed By: Dario Argento

#4
Adjusted Score: 85738%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Following the murder of Countess Federica Donati (Isa Miranda), an heiress possessing a beautiful piece of beachfront property, members of... [More]
Directed By: Mario Bava

#3

Scream (1996)
79%

#3
Adjusted Score: 83873%
Critics Consensus: Horror icon Wes Craven's subversive deconstruction of the genre is sly, witty, and surprisingly effective as a slasher film itself, even if it's a little too cheeky for some.
Synopsis: The sleepy little town of Woodsboro just woke up screaming. There's a killer in their midst who's seen a few... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#2
Adjusted Score: 98232%
Critics Consensus: Wes Craven's intelligent premise, combined with the horrifying visual appearance of Freddy Krueger, still causes nightmares to this day.
Synopsis: In Wes Craven's classic slasher film, several Midwestern teenagers fall prey to Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a disfigured midnight mangler... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#1

Halloween (1978)
96%

#1
Adjusted Score: 104058%
Critics Consensus: Scary, suspenseful, and viscerally thrilling, Halloween set the standard for modern horror films.
Synopsis: On a cold Halloween night in 1963, six year old Michael Myers brutally murdered his 17-year-old sister, Judith. He was... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

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