Arguably the best kinds of horror movies are those that take the audience on a thrilling journey, from the tense beginning all the way to the bloody conclusion, as quickly as possible. That doesn’t mean that longer horrors can’t work, but for audiences seeking a quick shot of movie adrenaline, an under-90-minute horror flick can be a good way to go.
To raise awareness of some of cinema’s most successful short horror movies, Ranker has put together an exhaustive list of the site’s best horror movies that clock in at under 90 minutes. And plenty of them are obvious horror classics, there are plenty of lesser-known movies to interest even the most die-hard horror fans.
Note: Ranker lists are fan-voted, live, and continue to accrue votes, so some rankings may have changed after this publishing.
10 Frankenstein (1931)
Rent On Apple TV
Although it might be a little dated for most audiences, James Whale’s Frankenstein is undeniably one of the most foundational and influential horror movies of all time. It tells the timeless story of Mary Shelley’s original ‘Frankenstein’ novel, which chronicles one scientist’s attempts to animate an uncanny, humanoid monster.
whales Frankenstein had a huge impact on how audiences perceive horror movies, bringing these unique kinds of dark and gothic stories right into the mainstream. without movies like Frankensteinit’s hard to imagine that many of today’s modern classics would ever have been made.
9 Paranormal Activity (2007)
Stream On Paramount+, Amazon Prime, & Epix
Another extremely influential horror that practically changed the face of the genre, Paranormal Activity is widely regarded as one of the first uses of supernatural ‘found footage.’ The story follows a young couple who move into a seemingly haunted house, forcing them to set up cameras in their bedroom in order to capture their unwanted visitors.
since the original, Paranormal Activity has spawned a whole franchise full of exciting characters and unique thrills, with each of the films focusing on a separate story with the same basic premise. They’re undoubtedly some of the scariest horrors of recent years, and the original’s short runtime makes it a quick fix of adrenaline for any horror fan.
8 Evil Dead II (1987)
Rent On Vudu
Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II is one of the fastest-paced horrors there’s ever been, mixing frights with laughs as it navigates a bizarre story of supernatural activity and bloody violence. The film practically invented a genre of its own, with many horror comedies attempting and failing to recapture its unique style.
Raimi is widely considered to be one of the best and most influential horror directors there’s ever been, and it’s films like Evil Dead II that really cements his position in the hall of fame. There are very few directors who could balance such a wild and unpredictable story as effectively as Raimi did with this film.
7 Re-Animator (1985)
Stream On Kanopy & Shudder
Re-Animator is a satirical retelling of Shelley’s classic ‘Frankenstein’ story, told through some shocking horror set pieces and plenty of sharp satire that gives it a signature ’80s style. Like many horror/comedies of the 1980s, Re-Animator riffs off a familiar story in a fresh and original way, which makes it stand out from the crowd.
Re-Animator tells a ridiculous horror story that’s not really intended to scare, but rather to celebrate the genre as a whole and display just how unique and versatile its stories can be. It features brilliant performances from Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott, the undeniable standouts of the cast.
6 Child’s Play (1988)
Stream On Amazon Prime & The Roku Channel
There’s a whole generation of horror fans who will claim that Child’s Play is one of the scariest movies ever made, which is a huge testament to its inventive premise and expert execution. It rejects the combination of horror and comedy that was so popular in the ’80s, focusing instead on its chilling narrative and attempting to scare its audience at every turn.
To grasp the breadth of Child Play‘s commercial and critical successes, one needs to look no further than the endless wave of sequels and spin-offs featuring the film’s main antagonist, Chucky. He’s become one of the most iconic and prolific horror villains of all time, terrifying generations of audiences with his creepy appearance and bloody crimes.
5 Phantom (1979)
Stream On Peacock, AMC+, Shudder, & Kanopy
phantasm proves that in the hands of a good story and a competent filmmaker, a 90-minute runtime should impose no limitations upon a film’s quality. With a bizarre, unpredictable story that takes the audience on a thrilling ride of bloody imagery and haunting storytelling, phantasm is one of the finest examples of a horror movie ahead of its time.
Not only is phantasm one of the ’70s best and most underrated horror movies, but it also proved that movies don’t need to be overly complex and sophisticated to be successful. Its whirlwind narrative and eccentric characters inspired plenty of horrors in the decades to come.
4 Eraser Head (1977)
Stream On HBO Max & The Criterion Channel
Eraserhead is quite unlike any other horror movie on this list, blending haunting visuals with an abstractly nightmarish narrative in a way that only David Lynch could ever achieve. The film certainly won’t be for everyone, but it has to be commended for its bold diversions from tradition.
Eraserhead is undoubtedly one of David Lynch’s weirdest films to date, but that definitely shouldn’t deter audiences from revisiting this influential and revolutionary piece of horror filmmaking. Though unconventional, there’s an argument to be made that many of today’s most outlandish horrors owe their existence, at least in part, to Eraserhead.
3 Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Rent On Apple TV
yet another adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic ‘Frankenstein,’ James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein is undeniably one of the horror genre’s most fundamental and distinctive assets. With fantastic practical effects and surprisingly effective cinematography, there’s a reason that Bride of Frankenstein is considered an all-time classic.
But beyond its gothic imagery and inhuman creatures, there’s actually an argument to be made that Bride of Frankenstein isn’t much of a horror movie at all. Instead of the traditional blood and guts of modern horror, James Whale explores a poignant narrative of humanity and philosophy through this distinctly mature story.
2 The Wicker Man (1973)
Rent On Vudu
The original The Wicker Man is one of the most frequently-cited examples of ‘folk horror’ with its stirring examinations of religion, morality and autonomy still holding up today as some of the sharpest social commentaries ever put to the screen.
The film is held together by Robin Hardy’s astute direction and Edward Woodward’s chilling lead performance, which work in harmony to create a very distinct atmosphere that’s sure to keep audiences on the edge of their seats until the credits roll. Its tight runtime makes this even more effective, bringing the whole story together in just over 87 minutes.
1 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Stream On Shudder, AMC+, Freevee, & Showtime
Even today, it’s almost unbelievable to think that Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is only 83 minutes long. The film features so many unforgettable moments that it’s easy to forget just how perfectly paced and precisely written it actually is.
Although many of the film’s sequels seemed to forget this, Hooper’s original makes the most out of its unique premise by using the first half of the story to establish the characters and set up the central conflict, which then comes crashing down in an unforgettably bloody final act.
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