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Top Ten Horror Films Of The 1990’s

The 1990’s were a happening time for me. I was born in ’91, which is a pretty big milestone in my life, and I started watching horror movies shortly after. The films that I watched in those earliest years of my life really shaped my taste in movies, and I’m still loving those same movies today.

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Before you read any further, just know that this list killed me. It literally killed me. My body is currently rotting in a casket and the maggots of my guilty conscience will surely dispose of my remains before morning. That’s just the price you pay when you write about movies, I suppose. I put aside some of my favorite movies of the 1990’s in order to bring you the films that I truly believe to be the greatest ten of the decade (My apologies to Leprechaun, I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me). Go ahead and take a few deep breaths now. Once you’ve adequately prepared yourself, by all means, continue reading below.

10.) Stir Of Echoes (1999)

Stir Of Echoes is a supernatural horror film starring Kevin Bacon as Tom Witzky, a man who lives with his wife, Maggie, and son, Jake, who possesses an ability to communicate with the dead. After being hypnotized at a party, Tom develops a similar ability as his son – soon having visions of a seventeen-year-old girl that disappeared from their neighborhood six months prior.

I’ve always been a huge Kevin Bacon fan, and this is easily one of the greatest performances of his career. He plays Tom, a man possessed by the mystery of his visions, and his dedication to finding the truth drives the entire movie rendering him nearly insane. Part ghost flick, part mystery-thriller, this film is one of the biggest surprises of the 1990’s. It’s a shame that it’s flown under the radar for so many people.

9.) The Exorcist III (1990)

The Exorcist III is a supernatural horror film written and directed by William Peter Blatty. Blatty adapted the script from his book Legion, which is a direct sequel to The Exorcist. Taking place fifteen years after the original movie – and wisely ignoring the events of Exorcist II: The HereticThe Exorcist III follows Lieutenant William F. Kinderman (played by the always fantastic George C. Scott), who is investigating a series of bizarre murders in Georgetown. Each one of the murders appear to have some sort of satanic motive, and they also resemble the work of the deceased serial killer, “The Gemini.”

The Exorcist III is hardly connected to the first film, save for the appearance of Father Karras (Jason Miller). Where the sequel failed to cash in on the success of the original film, though, The Exorcist III manages to stand on its own. With great performances by George C. Scott, Jason Miller, and Brad Dourif as The Gemini, The Exorcist III is one of the most underrated films of the 1990’s. It’s worth seeking out and giving a chance. You’d be surprised.

8.) Stephen King’s It (1990)

It is a supernatural horror made-for-TV movie based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. The first part of the movie follows a group of outcast children, known as The Loser’s Club, who take revenge on a powerful predator disguised as a sadistic clown. The second part of the film focuses on the characters, now adults, who are called back to their hometown after the creature resurfaces.

Stephen King’s It is a rare breed of horror film. Made for television – and with several things removed from its source material – It has still managed to terrify audiences everywhere. Maybe the most iconic horror villain of the 1990’s, Tim Curry’s masterful performance as Pennywise The Dancing Clown has terrified children and grown ups alike for more than twenty-five years now. I know grown men who are fucking terrified of clowns because of this movie. Not me though, of course.

7.) Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

Jacob’s Ladder is a psychological horror film that may actually be the most mentally disturbing film of the 1990’s. Tim Robbins stars as Jacob Singer, a Vietnam veteran who experiences fragmentary flashbacks and horrific hallucinations after returning home from the war. As his condition worsens, Jacob searches desperately for the truth about what he’s experiencing.

I seem to be talking about this movie a lot lately – both in work and outside of it – and that is a testament to how brilliant it is still after all these years. Cloaked in a dark, uncertain atmosphere, Jacob’s Ladder is a movie that will never leave you.

6.) Tremors (1990)

Tremors stars Kevin Bacon (the heart and soul of this list, apparently) and Fred Ward as Val and Earl, two handymen looking to leave their isolated town in Nevada and make something of themselves in the world. On their way out, they discover a series of dead bodies in which they believe to have been victims of a serial killer. They return home with the warning, and soon learn that the bodies were actually victims of large worm-like creatures that are living under the ground and feeding on the settlers of the town.

Just barely a 90’s film (released in January of 1990), Tremors is one of my favorite films ever made. If this list revolved around me choosing my favorite horror films, Tremors would be much higher. As it stands, I still feel that it definitely deserves a spot in the top ten. Likely the funniest movie on the list, Tremors masterfully weaves comedy and horror together in a way that makes the B-movies of yesteryear proud. Watch it once, watch it twice, watch it a thousand times.

5.) In The Mouth Of Madness (1995)

In The Mouth Of Madness is a Lovecraftian psychological horror film directed by THE John Carpenter. Sam Neill (who basically owned the 1990’s) stars as John Trent, an insurance investigator who is hired to look into the disappearance of the world’s most profitable horror author, Sutter Cane. Trent is convinced that the disappearance is merely a publicity stunt, but upon beginning his investigation, he experiences strange dreams and unsettling encounters. Trent eventually tracks the author to the town of Hobb’s End – the “fictional” location of Sutter Cane’s stories – and sheer madness ensues.

ITMOM is one of the weirdest movies that I’ve ever seen. The entire thing plays like a messed up episode of The Twilight Zone, mixed with an equally messed up nightmare. Met with divisive reviews from critics but almost universally praised by horror fans, In The Mouth Of Madness is one worth revisiting. Just don’t plan on getting any sleep.

4.) The Sixth Sense (1999)

The Sixth Sense is a supernatural horror film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan (before he wore out his welcome/made a decent attempt at a comeback) and it is an example of masterful film making. One of the greatest films of the 1990’s, the story follows Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a troubled young boy who can see and talk to the dead, and a revered psychiatrist (Bruce Willis in one of his greatest roles) who tries to help him.

M. Night’s Oscar-nominated writing and direction weren’t the only things on display in The Sixth Sense. The acting here is top-notch, with Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette receiving nominations as well. The film also went on to be nominated for Best Picture. Not bad for a horror film, right? Factor in its effect on pop culture, as well as it’s unforgettable twist ending, and you have the recipe for an all-time classic.

3.) Scream (1996) 

Directed by the legendary Wes Craven, Scream has widely been credited with revitalizing the horror genre in the 1990’s. Equal parts satire and straightforward slasher film, Scream is something of a miracle. Neve Campbell stars as Sidney Prescott – the heroine of the Scream franchise – who becomes the target of the serial killer, Ghostface. While her friends are killed off one by one, Sidney must decide who she can really trust as she fights to survive.

I’ve watched Scream more than any other film on this list, and with each viewing, I find something new to love. The script by Kevin Williamson is smart and funny, while somehow also keeping the horror intact. With references to the greatest horror films ever made scattered throughout and a mystery that keeps you guessing until the end, Scream is a love letter to horror fans everywhere.

2.) The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

The Silence Of The Lambs is not only one of the greatest films of this decade but is also widely considered to be one of the greatest films ever made. Part thriller, part psychological horror film, The Silence Of The Lambs is pretty damn perfect. Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, a young woman who is pulled from her FBI training and assigned to interview Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a former psychiatrist and imprisoned cannibalistic serial killer who might have information about the notorious serial killer, “Buffalo Bill.”

The Silence Of The Lambs swept the Academy Awards in 1991, becoming just the third film in history to take home wins in all five major categories: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress (Jodie Foster), Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Director (Jonathan Demme), and Best Picture. In 2011, Silence was selected to be forever preserved in the National Film Registry. Some statistics just speak for themselves.

1.) Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

Is The Silence Of The Lambs one of the greatest films ever made? Yes. Is Wes Craven’s New Nightmare a better horror film than The Silence Of The Lambs? Yes, I do believe it is. New Nightmare is a slasher metafilm, written and directed by Wes Craven, and it’s the smartest horror film that I’ve ever seen. It’s also the most terrifying version of Freddy Krueger to ever be put on the silver screen.

Heather Langenkamp – Nancy from the original Nightmare (and also Nightmare 3) – stars as herself, living in Los Angeles with her husband and young son, Dylan, who is being tormented by Freddy Krueger. This is a different Freddy than the one in the films, though. As suggested by Wes Craven (in a cameo as himself), Freddy is a powerful entity that was drawn to the films made about him. Now that the series has been completed, Freddy is on the verge of being released into the real world, but he must first defeat Heather, as Nancy, to successfully do so. If it sounds intricate, it’s because it is. New Nightmare is a complex horror film that is under-appreciated and misunderstood. With nods to the first Nightmare, as well as cameos by the actors and suits that helped to make the film iconic, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is the greatest sequel of the franchise, and in my unpopular opinion, even better than the original film. Freddy in the real world makes for the scariest film of the 1990’s.

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Man, that was tough. After going back and forth a million times, switching places and removing films from the list entirely, I think that I can let my conscience rest peacefully now. Surely you don’t feel the same though. There are so many great 1990’s horror films that didn’t make my list, and I’d love for you to let me hear about them. With great power comes great responsibility…right? 

About Curt Oglesbee

I'm just a guy that loves to write and talk about movies.

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2 comments

  1. I have read many books in my life. Legion (Exorcist 3) was literally the only book I ever read straight through without stopping, it took me 8 hours. The book was phenomenal and a true page turner!

    • It’s an amazing book! Blatty is an underrated author, I think. He’s written some classics.

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