The 10 Best 1960s Horror Films

The 1970s was the decade that really launched modern horror into the mainstream, defining subgenres—demonic possession, slashers, zombies, body horror—that are still with us today. 

The 1960s, in contrast, feel betwixt and between, as older creature features and suspense thrillers mutate into gelatinous semi-forms. 

Watching films of the era can feel a little frustrating for current-day horror fans, as gore and ichor and mass murderers fail to gore and ichor and mass murder in quite the way they’re supposed to. But horror is also fun when, like a Frankenstein monster, the parts aren’t all sewn right way up. 

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Rosemary’s Baby is an extremely faithful, often word-for-word adaptation of Ira Levin’s novel, and it reproduces that book’s feminist approach despite director Roman Polanski’s own ugly history of sexual violence. 

Carnival of Souls (1962)

Determinedly agnostic church organist Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) mysteriously survives a car crash and drowning, and goes to take a new job immediately. But she’s stalked by a pale specter, and slowly loses purchase first on her sanity, or then on the border between the living and the dead. 

Woman in the Dunes (1964)

Entomologist Niki Junpei (Eiji Okada) goes to the dunes to capture beetles, misses his bus, and is captured himself by local villagers who trap him in a pit where he and a woman (Kyōko Kishida) dig sand for cement in exchange for basic necessities.  Domesticity, capitalism, curiosity, and society itself are nightmares in which human beings are helplessly complicit.