A definitive list of the best retro horror movies that will still scare the pants off you now.


There’s just something about horror films of a generation gone by – the abundance of gore and blood, supervillains that never died, the establishment of ‘the rules’ of horror and the absolutely terrifying stalking and carnage that left their audiences petrified for…well, forever.

Just in case you’ve forgotten what kept you awake in your youth, here are some hellraising reminders.

Try not to scream.

Looking for something else to watch? Here’s our top 5 true crime documentaries. Post continues below.

Video by Mamamia

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Even now, we can still hear the voices of the children eerily singing:

“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you
Three, four, better lock your door
Five, six, grab your crucifix
Seven, eight, gonna stay up late
Nine, ten, never sleep again”

And with that, nightmares were created.

But if that didn’t do it, Freddy Krueger, the villain of Wes Craven’s 1984 horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street, did.

The film sees a group of teens living on Elm Street invaded and killed in their dreams (or nightmares, really) and thus killed in reality by perhaps the most infamous horror villain of all time, Freddy Krueger — making anyone who ever watched this afraid not only of the dark but of falling asleep, too.


Nearly 40 years later the disfigured face of Freddy, who wears his weapon of choice upon his hand, a bladed leather glove, is still literally the stuff of nightmares and has ruined relaxing baths forever. Not to mention men wearing striped jumpers.

old horror movies
“I’m your boyfriend now Nancy.” Image: Supplied.

Exactly the reason why we take showers.

2. Halloween (1978)

Halloween, the original of the epic franchise, follows masked killer Michael Myers,  an escaped psychiatric patient who goes on a Halloween holiday rampage en route to kill his sister, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis).


The scare factor of Halloween has a lot to do with the mask which covers Michael’s face in a stark white, making his eyes appear completely black as if he is still staring right into your soul, before he stabs you to death with his huge and very sharp knife that is.

You can stream the original Halloween on Amazon Prime.

3. The Exorcist (1973)

There is something really unnerving about witnessing a 12-year-old girl possessed by the devil.

The supernatural horror centres around Regan MacNeil (Linda Bair), a girl who begins to do things ‘out of the norm’ – levitating, convulsing, speaking in tongues and the like.

Upon seeking the assistance of a priest, the decision is made to perform an exorcism to rid her of the devil which has possessed her soul. And that’s where the really unsettling stuff begins.

From the inappropriate use of a crucifix, extreme and crass profanity (especially coming from a 12-year-old), projectile vomiting of what can only be described as green sludge, the 90-degree head spinning and the infamous ‘spider walk’ scene where she contorts into a rigid human spider and walks down the stairs, this film will shock you and forever stay in your mind.

old horror movies
Horrifying. Image: Supplied.

You can view The Exorcist on Netflix.

4. Friday the 13th (1980)

Slasher film Friday the 13th tells the story of a group of teenage camp counsellors who are killed off one by one by a hockey mask-wearing attacker, as they work to re-open an abandoned (and said to be haunted) summer camp, Camp Crystal Lake.

Jason. Is. Terrifying. Image: Supplied

What is utterly disturbing in this title (aside from the gore) is the mask. Yep, it’s definitely terrifying and put us off ice hockey and The Mighty Ducks films forever, because who was really to know who was behind it or what their motives really were?

5. The Amityville Horror (1979)

The supernatural horror film, which is said to be inspired by true events (adding an extra unsettling element from the get-go), takes place in a home which was the scene of a mass murder.

Years later the Lutz family move in and are now the target of the home’s evil forces.

Voices seemingly coming from the house, furniture and parts of the house moving and hurting family members, a malevolent imaginary friend, the walls oozing blood... The Amityville Horror makes you feel unsafe in your own home, and will make you research a little deeper before buying that dream house.

You can watch The Amityville Horror on Stan.

6. Hellraiser (1987)

Horror fantasy Hellraiser starred one of the most deranged looking villains in history, Pinhead. And really need we say more?

The antagonist literally has pins poking out of his head like a human pin-cushion or acupuncture gone very, very wrong. (That's him top right in the feature image.)

Hellraiser focuses on a puzzle box that opens a gateway to the very hell-like realm of Cenobites, where a group of formerly human monsters harvest human souls to torture in sadistic experiments.


And while arguably creative, they are super gory and you will never forget them, no matter how much you try.

7. Scream (1996)

Wes Craven’s classic flick follows Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) who becomes the target of a mysterious, ghost-face-costume wearing, knife-wielding killer, who slashes, stabs, hangs, crushes and mutilates her friends and acquaintances along the way. It’s gory, graphic and pretty realistic (for the '90s).

Other than the above, the scariest part of Scream was definitely the sound of the phone ringing, which has forever associated this noise with a sense of doom (at least until you hear that the husky, deep voice of Ghostface isn’t at the other end.)

Oh, and the fact that the killer was actually smart and would appear in places that the audience often deemed safe, like the high school bathroom during broad daylight, and used ordinary household items like a dog door and electric garage door to kill in a very graphic manner.

So, thanks to Scream, nowhere was safe, nothing was safe, and no one was safe ever again.

You can watch Scream on Stan.

Shona Hendley, Mother of cats, goats and humans is a freelance writer from Victoria. An ex secondary school teacher, Shona has a strong interest in education. She is an animal lover and advocate, with a morbid fascination for true crime and horror movies. You can follow her on Instagram.

Feature image: Supplied.