Ranking the 21 Best Slasher Films of the Past 50 Years

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The slasher genre is a cornerstone of horror. Who knows where the genre would be today without characters like Freddy, Jason, and Michael? These timeless characters have inspired generations of artists and content creators.

Today, we will examine some of the best films the genre offers. Using IMDB rankings and internet polls, we have cultivated a list of the best slasher films of the past 50 years. Settle in; things are about to get bloody.

1. X (2022)

Photo Credit: A24.

Ti West knocked it out of the park with his debut horror film X. The movie follows a group of young adult film stars who rent out a local farm to make an X-rated movie. However, once they start filming, they realize something is off about this old farmhouse.

X’s strength lies in its originality. While it offers plenty of gore and elaborate kills, the film’s unique approach to the format really sells. Mia Goth’s performance in the movie is one of the best in the genre’s history.

2. Happy Death Day (2017)

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

No film can ever top Groundhog Day’s elaborate time loop premise. However, Happy Death Day gets points for creativity. The film follows a young college student stuck in a time loop that restarts every time she dies. Unfortunately for her, she dies every day.

Happy Death Day is a fun horror flick that doesn’t bring many scares to the table. Instead, it focuses on elaborate kills and humor to entertain the audience.

3. My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Photo Credit: Canadian Film Development Corporation.

Holiday-themed films are always fan favorites in the horror genre. My Bloody Valentine is an example of how well the format can work if given the proper attention. The film follows two teenage lovebirds who head into a mineshaft to spend Valentine’s Day together.

As expected, things go horribly wrong when they are confronted by a pick ax-wielding maniac hell-bent on destruction. My Bloody Valentine is showing some signs of its age, but it is still an essential part of the genre’s history and a great slasher film.

4. Candyman (1992)

Photo Credit: TriStar Pictures.

No slasher villain will ever be as smooth as Tony Todd as Candyman. This Clive Barker tale follows a grad student who learns of an urban legend known as Candyman. However, she soon discovers she is in over her head as she becomes consumed by the legend.

Not only is Candyman a terrific slasher film, but it also highlights important topics such as racism, gentrification, and white guilt.

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5. Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Photo Credit: American Eagle Films.

Depending on who you ask, Sleepaway Camp is either an important LGBTQ+ film or an offensive movie that has hurt the movement’s work. Either way, its status as one of the greatest slasher films cannot be denied.

Sleepaway Camp follows two cousins sent to a camp for the summer. Unfortunately, this camp is filled with the worst types of people imaginable. Luckily for the kids, someone starts murdering the adults one by one.

6. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Photo Credit: New Line Cinema.

There’s no denying that Freddy Krueger is the coolest slasher villain ever. However, no film shows off his charisma and unique abilities like A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. The film follows a new youth group as they battle it out against the immortal dream monster. However, this film allows them to use their wildest imaginations to fight back against Krueger.

The resulting film is a fantastic tribute to the campiness of the 80s. Each child creates a dream persona that they use to fight off Krueger in unique and unforgettable ways. Unfortunately, fighting Krueger in the dream world amounts to bringing a knife to a gunfight.

7. Child’s Play (1988)

Photo Credit: United Artists.

There is a constant debate about whether Chucky is a formidable opponent. On one hand, he is the size of an average child’s doll. However, he is also the reincarnation of a serial killer who is now immortal. Either way, Child’s Play presented one of the most unique slasher experiences of the 80s.

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8. Friday the 13th (1980)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

One aspect of Friday the 13th that isn’t discussed enough is how incredible Kevin Bacon’s epic death scene is. The film follows a standard slasher formula, but its main appeal is its special effects and elaborate death scenes.

This is because the legendary Tom Savini handled the special effects for the project. Savini took the job because he wanted to be the first person to show a slow-motion decapitation in the film. The film is almost 50 years old, but Savini’s effect still looks top-notch.

9. Black Christmas (1974)

Photo Credit: August Films.

For a Christmas-themed slasher, Black Christmas has enormously impacted the horror genre. The film features the first use of the killer’s POV, which has become the standard in slasher films. Not only that, but the film’s societal messaging is just as important today as when it was created.

10. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Photo Credit: New Line Cinema.

Tobe Hooper never got the recognition he deserved for this slasher classic. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre follows a group of friends on a road trip who make the mistake of picking up a local hitchhiker. The film suffered from being released in the 1970s.

Many felt the film was too violent, resulting in several countries banning its release. Although it picked up steam several years later, the initial backlash stopped The Texas Chain Saw Massacre from getting its deserved respect.  

11. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Photo Credit: New Line Cinema.

How Wes Craven turned a child murderer into one of the media’s most entertaining villains is still a mystery. A Nightmare on Elm Street follows a group of teens who are being murdered in their dreams by Freddy Krueger.

Craven got the inspiration for the project after reading a news story about a young man who refused to sleep out of fear he would die in his dreams. As absurd as that sounds, the young man died shortly after in his sleep. Craven used this event to create one of the best slasher franchises of all time.

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12. Scream (1996)

Photo Credit: Lionsgate Entertainment.

Another Craven classic, Scream is the greatest meta-horror film ever made. The film follows a group of high school students who a masked murderer is killing off. While this is a fairly standard slasher plot, Scream has one aspect the other films don’t. The characters in the film are aware that horror films exist.

13. Psycho (1960)

Photo Credit: Shamley Productions.

This is one of the earliest slasher films created. Psycho is the story of a shy man who has a horrible relationship with his mother. While the effects don’t pack the punch they used to, Hitchcock’s distressing story is still as compelling as ever.

14. Halloween (1978)

Photo Credit: Compass International Pictures.

John Carpenter’s Halloween is the standard by which all slasher films are judged. Carpenter was asked to make a simple film about a babysitter getting murdered.

However, Carpenter morphed the initial premise into one of the greatest horror films ever conceived. Although the franchise has experienced numerous sequels and reboots, none can touch the original Halloween’s greatness.

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15. Hatchet (2006)

Photo Credit: ArieScope Pictures.

Neo-slashers have a hard road ahead of them. These films must embody what makes the genre so fantastic while honoring those who came before it. Hatchet is Adam Green’s love letter to the slasher genre.

The film features all the blood and gore one would expect while harnessing all the cheesiness of 80s horror. Not only that, but the Hatchet franchise also features cameo appearances from horror royalty, such as Felissa Rose.

16. Thanksgiving (2023)

Photo Credit: TriStar Pictures.

Eli Roth shocked audiences when he announced he was finally creating Thanksgiving in 2023. Before this announcement, horror fans abandoned hope that Roth would ever deliver on his Grindhouse trailer. The resulting film was everything fans could have asked for. This gory, campy slasher has all of the elements of the genre without taking itself too seriously.

17. Terrifier (2016)

Photo Credit: Dark Age Cinema.

There is no slasher villain as sadistic as Art the Clown. This indie film has worked its way from a hidden gem to a Halloween blockbuster. Terrifier presents the most elaborate and horrifying kills ever featured on the big screen. It should be noted that as awesome as the franchise is, it should not be viewed by those with a weak stomach.

18. The Final Girls (2015)

Photo Credit: Groundswell Productions.

Another meta-horror film, The Final Girls manages to blend horror with an uplifting message about the nature of family. After her mother’s death, Max Cartwright heads to the screening of an 80s slasher her mother appeared in.

However, an electrical problem causes the group to be sucked into the movie. This twist allows the film to poke jabs at the horror genre and explain concepts such as the final girl. The Final Girls offers some decent scares, but more importantly, it has a lot of heart.

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19. Detention (2011)

Photo Credit: Detention Films.

Classifying this film is difficult. Throughout its runtime, Detention borrows from every aspect of science fiction and horror. Whether the film is objectively good is debatable, but it is certainly one of the most entertaining and unique films you will ever see.

20. Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)

Photo Credit: A24.

This film brings Gen Z into the slasher genre. Bodies Bodies Bodies follows a group of friends having a house party that gets out of hand. Before the friends can makeup, someone starts killing them off one by one.

While this premise has been done about a million times, Bodies Bodies Bodies brings a refreshing perspective to the premise. Not to mention, you get to witness Pete Davidson in a horror flick. That has to be worth something.

21. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2007)

Photo Credit: Glen Echo Entertainment.

This mockumentary gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a slasher villain. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is about a reporter who follows an up-and-coming slasher villain to learn more about the process. However, once the blood begins to spill, she realizes she may have made a mistake.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a unique take on the meta genre. It offers keen insight into the horror world and provides an engaging plot filled with memorable characters. 

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

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Photo Credit: MRC Television.

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