Knife and hart

(Photo by © Altered Innocence / Courtesy: Everett Collection)

30 Essential LGBTQ+ Horror Movies

As long as there have been horror films, there have been queer horror films. Before homosexuality was formally legislated out of existence in Hollywood by the Production Code — commonly referred to as the Hays Code, which established mandates for “moral standards” in motion pictures and banned depictions of “sexual perversity” — the legendary filmmaker James Whale was building the foundation for American genre cinema with films like Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, and The Invisible Man. Here was Whale, a gay man, building horror in his own image and having astounding box office success as some groups were lobbying Hollywood to censor queerness out of existence. Fortunately, they weren’t creative enough to drive the big bad Other away.

In the century since America became the world’s leader in horror film production, the genre became a bastion for the outsiders, the marginalized, the people made monsters by self-appointed adjudicators of sin, and who saw themselves in the supposed “villains” at the center of stories like Dracula’s Daughter. On rare occasion, queer folks were given real protagonists to root for, like Theo in The Haunting, but it wasn’t until the Hays Code was abandoned in the late 1960s that sexuality outside the bounds of heteronormativity became more overt. (Not to say it was all positive representation, but the lesbian vampire wave of the 1970s certainly signified that the puritans were losing the culture wars in genre.) 

The Moral Majority reign of the Reagan Era slammed up against the AIDS crisis, and the excess and tumult of the ’80s gave rise to ultra-stylish and sexualized gore in movies like The Hunger and Hellraiser. The indie cinema boom at the turn of turn of the millennium coincided with the emergence of New Queer Cinema, and eccentric coming-of-age darlings like May and Ginger Snaps provided an alternative to the glossy studio slashers of the time.

Now in 2020, we can choose from a lesbian domestic drama involving a baby werewolf in Good Manners, a transfeminist vampire movie in Bit, or a French slasher set in a gay porn community with Knife + Heart. The monsters are out of the closet, and they’re never going back in.

Here are our 30 essential LGBTQ+ horror movies, in order of release.Jordan Crucchiola

#29
#29
Adjusted Score: 60403%
Critics Consensus: Dracula's Daughter extends the Universal horror myth in an interesting direction, but the talky script and mild atmosphere undermine its ambition.
Synopsis: A vampire countess (Gloria Holden) in black falls in love with a psychologist (Otto Kruger) and kidnaps his fiancee (Marguerite... [More]
Directed By: Lambert Hillyer

#28

The Haunting (1963)
86%

#28
Adjusted Score: 91409%
Critics Consensus: Both psychological and supernatural, The Haunting is a chilling character study.
Synopsis: An anthropologist (Richard Johnson), an heir and two ESP-prone women (Julie Harris, Claire Bloom) explore a New England mansion.... [More]
Directed By: Robert Wise

#27

Night Warning (1981)
92%

#27
Adjusted Score: 91510%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An obsessive and murderous woman (Susan Tyrrell) tries to control her nephew, a 17-year-old basketball player (Jimmy McNichol).... [More]
Directed By: William Asher

#26

The Hunger (1983)
55%

#26
Adjusted Score: 57274%
Critics Consensus: Stylish yet hollow, The Hunger is a well-cast vampire thriller that mistakes erotic moments for a satisfying story.
Synopsis: A kinky couple (Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie) from Manhattan satisfy their vampire thirst with victims in discotheques.... [More]
Directed By: Tony Scott

#25
Adjusted Score: 55991%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Decades after promiscuous teen Mary Lou Maloney dies during a prank gone wrong, she returns as a spirit out for... [More]
Directed By: Bruce Pittman

#24
Adjusted Score: 50061%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A summer-camp slasher returns, after a sex change, as a female counselor (Pamela Springsteen) who kills.... [More]
Directed By: Michael A. Simpson

#23

Hellraiser (1987)
72%

#23
Adjusted Score: 76524%
Critics Consensus: Elevated by writer-director Clive Barker's fiendishly unique vision, Hellraiser offers a disquieting - and sadistically smart - alternative to mindless gore.
Synopsis: A puzzle box summons the Cenobites, destroying a family (Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence).... [More]
Directed By: Clive Barker

#22
#22
Adjusted Score: 22129%
Critics Consensus: As disposable as its predecessor is indispensable, The Rage: Carrie 2 mimics the arc of Stephen King's classic story without adding anything of value.
Synopsis: After her best friend commits suicide, an unpopular girl (Emily Bergl) discovers she has telekinetic powers and uses them to... [More]
Directed By: Katt Shea

#21

Ginger Snaps (2000)
90%

#21
Adjusted Score: 90609%
Critics Consensus: The strong female cast and biting satire of teenage life makes Ginger Snaps far more memorable than your average werewolf movie -- or teen flick.
Synopsis: A fearsome transformation takes place after a death-obsessed teen (Katharine Isabelle) and her sister (Emily Perkins) are attacked by a... [More]
Directed By: John Fawcett

#20

May (2002)
69%

#20
Adjusted Score: 70617%
Critics Consensus: Above average slasher flick.
Synopsis: Unable to make friends, a young woman (Angela Bettis) goes on a killing spree and assembles body parts to construct... [More]
Directed By: Lucky McKee

#19

Seed of Chucky (2004)
34%

#19
Adjusted Score: 34823%
Critics Consensus: Give Seed of Chucky credit for embracing the increasing absurdity of the franchise -- even if the end results really aren't all that funny or entertaining.
Synopsis: Resurrected by their offspring (Billy Boyd), the murderous doll (Brad Dourif) and his twisted bride (Jennifer Tilly) learn about a... [More]
Directed By: Don Mancini

#18

The Covenant (2006)
4%

#18
Adjusted Score: 6295%
Critics Consensus: The Covenant plays out like a teen soap opera, full of pretty faces, wooden acting, laughable dialogue, and little suspense.
Synopsis: The death of a student at an elite Massachusetts academy threatens to shatter a pact that has protected four families... [More]
Directed By: Renny Harlin

#17
#17
Adjusted Score: 105127%
Critics Consensus: Let the Right One In reinvigorates the seemingly tired vampire genre by effectively mixing scares with intelligent storytelling.
Synopsis: A lonely misfit (KÃ¥re Hedebrant) finds a soul mate in the form of a vampire child (Lina Leandersson) who recently... [More]
Directed By: Tomas Alfredson

#16
Adjusted Score: 47783%
Critics Consensus: Otto, or Up with Dead People plays to writer-director Bruce LaBruce's provocative strengths, but proves frustratingly less than the sum of its parts.
Synopsis: A gay zombie (Jey Crisfar) manages to be cast in a horror film.... [More]
Directed By: Bruce La Bruce

#15

Jennifer's Body (2009)
45%

#15
Adjusted Score: 51503%
Critics Consensus: Jennifer's Body features occasionally clever dialogue, but its horror/comedy premise ultimately fails to be consistently funny or scary enough to satisfy.
Synopsis: A beautiful cheerleader (Megan Fox) gains an insatiable appetite for human flesh after a hungry demon takes control of her... [More]
Directed By: Karyn Kusama

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 48226%
Critics Consensus: All Cheerleaders Die sets out to subvert horror tropes, but ends up falling victim to many of the same trashy cliches it's trying to mock.
Synopsis: A rebellious teen convinces the cheerleaders to take down the captain of the football team until a supernatural problem thrusts... [More]

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 97194%
Critics Consensus: Sexy, smart, and darkly humorous, Stranger by the Lake offers rewarding viewing for adult filmgoers in search of thought-provoking drama.
Synopsis: Franck falls in love with Michel, an attractive, potent and lethally dangerous man.... [More]
Directed By: Alain Guiraudie

#12

Lyle (2014)
100%

#12
Adjusted Score: 58305%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Leah's grief over her toddler's death turns into paranoia when she begins to suspect her neighbors are part of a... [More]
Directed By: Stewart Thorndike

#11

Raw (2016)
92%

#11
Adjusted Score: 101412%
Critics Consensus: Raw's lurid violence and sexuality live up to its title, but they're anchored with an immersive atmosphere and deep symbolism that linger long after the provocative visuals fade.
Synopsis: A stringent vegetarian (Garance Marillier) starts to develop a voracious appetite for human flesh after enduring a hazing ritual at... [More]
Directed By: Julia Ducournau

#10

Blue My Mind (2017)
80%

#10
Adjusted Score: 80577%
Critics Consensus: A coming-of-age drama with unexpected twists, Blue My Mind transcends some clunky moments with fully realized characters brought to life by strong performances.
Synopsis: Mia, 15, is facing an overwhelming transformation. Her body is changing radically, and despite desperate attempts to halt the process,... [More]
Directed By: Lisa Brühlmann

#9

Rift (2017)
93%

#9
Adjusted Score: 73354%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Two men are haunted by their dead relationship.... [More]
Directed By: Erlingur Thoroddsen

#8

Thelma (2017)
92%

#8
Adjusted Score: 98888%
Critics Consensus: Thelma plays with genre tropes in unexpected ways, delivering a thoughtfully twisty supernatural thriller with a lingering impact.
Synopsis: A college student starts to experience extreme seizures while studying at a university in Oslo, Norway. She soon learns that... [More]
Directed By: Joachim Trier

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: 81048%
Critics Consensus: Smart, stylish, and well-acted, What Keeps You Alive proves it's still possible to spin an engrossing horror yarn without fundamentally altering established formula.
Synopsis: Venomous betrayals engulf a female married couple attempting to celebrate their one-year anniversary.... [More]
Directed By: Colin Minihan

#7

The Wild Boys (2017)
91%

#7
Adjusted Score: 90242%
Critics Consensus: Debuting writer-director Bertrand Mandico's The Wild Boys impresses with the breadth of its ambitions -- and the skill with which they're often triumphantly realized.
Synopsis: In the beginning of the 20th century, five children on the island of La Réunion commit a savage crime. As... [More]
Directed By: Bertrand Mandico

#6

Good Manners (2017)
96%

#6
Adjusted Score: 96471%
Critics Consensus: Good Manners adroitly juggles disparate tonal shifts while taking a uniquely smart and sensitive look at female relationships.
Synopsis: A mysterious and wealthy woman hires a lonely nurse named Clara to be the nanny of her soon-to-be born child.... [More]
Directed By: Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra

#5

Suspiria (2018)
65%

#5
Adjusted Score: 82643%
Critics Consensus: Suspiria attacks heady themes with garish vigor, offering a viewing experience that's daringly confrontational - and definitely not for everyone.
Synopsis: A woman accuses the Helena Markos Dance Co. of witchcraft when she loses the role of lead dancer to an... [More]
Directed By: Luca Guadagnino

#4

Climax (2018)
68%

#4
Adjusted Score: 77618%
Critics Consensus: Challenging and rewarding in equal measure, Climax captures writer-director Gaspar Noé working near his technically brilliant and visually distinctive peak.
Synopsis: When members of a dance troupe are lured to an empty school, drug-laced sangria causes their jubilant rehearsal to descend... [More]
Directed By: Gaspar Noé

#3

Knife + Heart (2018)
80%

#3
Adjusted Score: 83576%
Critics Consensus: Knife + Heart wrings giallo-inspired thrills out of a boldly challenging story that defiantly succeeds on its own stylish merits.
Synopsis: In the summer of 1979, gay porn producer Anne sets out to film her most ambitious film yet, but her... [More]
Directed By: Yann Gonzalez

#2

Bit (2019)
91%

#2
Adjusted Score: 57041%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A transgender teenage girl fights to survive after she falls in with four queer feminist vampires.... [More]
Directed By: Brad Michael Elmore

#1

The Perfection (2018)
71%

#1
Adjusted Score: 75537%
Critics Consensus: Led by a pair of compelling performances, The Perfection is a smart, gripping thriller that barbs its wild twists with cutting wit.
Synopsis: A troubled musical prodigy and a new star pupil embark down a sinister path.... [More]
Directed By: Richard Shepard

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