Slasher movies are one of the most popular subgenres in all of horror. Some are dark, some are comedic, some are over-the-top laughably bad, but all of them are generally incredibly violent and disturbing.
We don’t know what it is about slashers — maybe it’s the fact that many of them have aged so poorly, some are so bad they’re good, or maybe it has to do with the genre’s rough similarity of sorts to true crime, an increasingly popular form of nonfiction more and more people are getting hooked on.
Whatever it is, the slasher's continuing popularity today is undeniable. Just look at the fact that most sequels out there are related to horror franchises — and more often than not, slashers specifically.
So let’s take a look back at the best slasher movies currently streaming. Additionally, we also thought it’d be fun to organize the list based on each film’s release, detailing which movies influenced which others, and which movies were responsible for introducing the genre to a mainstream audience.
List Criteria: Given how prone slasher movies are to spawning sequels, we opted to narrow the potential candidates down to the first movie in each horror franchise. Therefore, as much as we loved the recent 2018 sequel to Halloween or the Scream sequels (well, maybe not Scream 3), you won’t find any sequels, prequels, reboots, or spin-offs on this list.
This may be a bit highbrow for the slasher genre and a controversial pick, but Psycho today is widely credited for being one of the original slasher movies that popularized many conventions that became the genre’s standard — the tense scenes of suspenseful build-up punctuated by shocking, random violence, scenes that pushed the boundaries of sexual themes you can show on camera, the iconic stings-heavy soundtrack, and the unhinged main villain, to name just a few of its characteristics that later slashers would take inspiration from again and again.
One of Alfred Hitchcock’s most well-known movies, Psycho, along with Peeping Tom, is today credited as being the two of the hallmarks of the genre — not to mention the fact Psycho still remains one of the most popular horror movies over 60 years since its release.
Currently streaming on Peacock
Along with its contemporary, Psycho — released at about the same time in 1960 — the British horror movie, Peeping Tom, is labeled as being one of the earliest inspirations for what would later become known as the slasher genre.
From acclaimed British director Michael Powell, known for high art classics with his frequent collaborator Emeric Pressburger like The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, A Matter of Life and Death, and The Red Shoes, Peeping Tom was such a controversial movie upon its release — largely due to its violence and sexual themes for the time — it pretty much destroyed Powell’s reputation as a respected filmmaker.
Today, critics frequently praise Peeping Tom for its unique approach to the psychological horror film, revolving around a serial killer battling his murderous inner tendencies when he falls in love with one of his would-be victims. It also popularized many of the conventions that would become staples of the slasher genre, including the killer having a distinct weapon, being a product of a traumatic familial upbringing, and scenes featuring attacks from the killer’s point of view.
Currently streaming on Tubi.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
One of the absolute most insane slashers on this list, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is 100%, unlike anything you’ve ever seen. With extremely strange main villains — a family of crazed redneck cannibals who dress up in human skin-suits made from their victims — and made with a very offbeat filmmaking style, this movie shocked and bewildered audiences with its taboo subject matter and extreme violence. (Surprisingly, very little violence is actually shown, but is rather implied off-screen — a deliberate choice by director Tobe Hooper to ensure the movie didn’t get slapped with an X-rating).
Controversial for its time due to its disturbing content, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was nonetheless a commercial success, with notable admirers of the film including legendary director Stanley Kubrick. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was a key inspiration for slasher movies that followed, including the fact that the film has a large, silent, masked villain who wields a distinct weapon, which would become commonplace in later horror movies like Halloween and Friday the 13th.
Currently streaming on Prime Video, Tubi & Paramount+.
Perhaps the most underrated slasher movie of all time, Black Christmas today is praised for technically being the first modern slasher movie, paving the way for the ‘70s and ‘80s slasher craze that pumped out some of the most recognizable movies in all of horror.
Though it has a somewhat stereotypical plotline (a bunch of co-eds in a sorority house fall prey to a deranged psychopath during the holiday season), Black Christmas is anything but cliche, featuring an ending so terrifying, we guarantee you’ll sleep uneasily at night after watching it.
Whereas earlier movies like Psycho and Peeping Tom served as the inspiration for the slasher genre, Black Christmas is seen as the movie responsible for setting the stage for the genre to come, with John Carpenter naming Black Christmas as a direct inspiration for his groundbreaking Halloween.
Currently streaming on Peacock, Tubi, Crackle and YouTube.
The movie responsible for establishing the slasher genre and introducing it to a larger mainstream audience, Halloween may just be John Carpenter’s greatest movie (and with hits like The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, and Escape from New York under his belt, that’s saying something).
Using inspiration from earlier proto-slashers like Psycho and Peeping Tom as well as building upon many of the genre tropes seen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Black Christmas, Halloween was crucial in developing the slasher further.
Halloween’s critical and box office success, making an estimated $70 million off of a $300,000 budget, helped set up the slasher craze of the 1980s’, and popularized further tropes now common in the genre, including: killing characters who used drugs, drank, or had sex, introducing the concept of a “final girl,” and having a distinct theme song for the main villain.
Currently streaming on Shudder and fubo TV.
Ahh, the ‘80s. Who doesn’t love them? The loud hairdos, the strange outfits, the less-than-great music, and of course, some of the best slasher movies of the entire genre. The Burning came at the height of the slasher craze caused by the success of Halloween and Friday the 13th.
However, in many ways, The Burning was a vast improvement on any of the Friday the 13th movies, featuring a story based on the New York urban legend of “Cropsey” as well as superb practical effects from horror legend Tom Savini, one of the genre’s top makeup artists (Savini had previously won notable acclaim for his work on the original Friday the 13th and George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead).
One of The Burning’s notable characteristics is that it also sports then-unknown actors Holly Hunter and Jason Alexander in their debut roles, both of whom would later go on to great success in their respective careers.
Currently streaming on Shudder and Tubi.
Like The Burning, Sleepaway Camp is another movie made to cash in on the success of Friday the 13th. Set in a summer camp where a crazed maniac begins murdering campers and staff one by one, Sleepaway Camp creates a fantastic mystery at the center of the film’s story.
Famous today for its out-of-nowhere twist ending, Sleepaway Camp set itself apart from other summer camp slasher movies by introducing a suspenseful “whodunnit” aspect to the genre — yes, we know the original Friday the 13th also had a mystery, but Sleepaway Camp did it much to better effect.
When you start this one, you may be tempted to turn it off — the acting and general cheesiness of the story are a little laughable — but we highly recommend you watch to the end. This movie has a final act you won’t believe.
Currently streaming on Tubi, Peacock, Crackle and Prime Video.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
If there were a Mount Rushmore of iconic horror villains, Freddy Krueger’s burnt face would be smack dab between Halloween’s Michael Myers and Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees. One of the most popular slashers out there, A Nightmare on Elm Street took a unique spin on the genre that had grown somewhat stale by 1984.
By blending psychological horror with supernatural elements, audiences and critics fell in love with A Nightmare in Elm Street, praising the idea of a killer who stalks your dreams and being unable to tell what’s real from everyday life. Upon its release in 1984, A Nightmare on Elm Street was an overwhelming critical and financial success, with New Line Cinema, the studio responsible for the movie’s production, eventually being dubbed “The House That Freddy Built” due to the movie’s popularity among moviegoers.
Currently streaming on HBO Max.
One of the most innovative horror movies to this day, Candyman merged psychological horror with the slasher archetypes to create one of the most terrifying movies of the 1990s’. Not only that, Candyman also featured a key exploration regarding race, a topic that few horror movies, in general, have explored extensively before.
Based on a Clive Barker short story, Candyman focuses on a Chicago grad student (Virginia Madsen) who begins investigating the folkloric “Candyman,” a mythic “bogeyman”-type figure who was murdered for his relationship with a white woman in the 19th century, and who is rumored to now haunt the public housing district of Cabrini-Green.
With a recent sequel co-written by Jordan Peele, a huge fan of the original film, we highly recommend watching the original Candyman and then seeing the new movie in time for Halloween.
Currently streaming on Peacock.
Lightning rarely strikes twice for most horror movie directors. But with Scream, director Wes Craven didn’t just manage to catch lightning in a bottle a second time after A Nightmare on Elm Street — he managed to catch a whole damn thunderstorm.
Based on a fantastic script from Kevin Williamson that completely dissected the slasher mythology, Scream offers a very self-referential approach to the traditional horror movie, with characters who are almost aware they are in a scary movie, frequently commenting on each scene’s similarity to a famous horror classics like Psycho, Halloween, Prom Night, and many more.
In many ways, Scream was almost a meta-comedy in a similar vein as The Cabin in the Woods. Featuring fantastic plot twists left and right and weaving in direct influences like Halloween, Scream not only offered an introspective analysis of the slasher movie, but also helped reestablish the then-completely stagnated slasher genre, paving the way for a short resurgence of movies hoping to cash in on Scream’s success like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Bride of Chucky.
Currently streaming on Paramount+.
Slashers certainly aren’t for everyone. They’re violent, twisted, dark movies where the audience is constantly wondering what’s behind every corner and who’s about to die next. Quite frankly, a decent amount of them are just downright silly, especially the seemingly endless number of sequels to some of the most successful slashers out there.
However, nobody can deny the fact that slashers are an incredibly popular subgenre in horror, offering some of the biggest frights and over-the-top deaths you’ll ever see. With new slashers on the horizon, too, it’s safe to say the genre isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, which is honestly great news for horror fans out there.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.