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The Essential Black Horror Movies

In our guide to some of the best, most resonant Black horror movies, we begin in 1960 with Night of the Living Dead. The movie was groundbreaking for setting the zombie template, but also through its casting of Duane Jones as its hero, an everyman of color. He leads survivors through Night, up until its provocative ending, when director George A. Romero inextricably binds the horror genre to America’s dark living history.

Jones’ other starring movie was 1973’s Ganja & Hess, for which writer/director Bill Gunn uses vampires to press into societal breakdowns. This kind of elevated horror has given definition to many Black horror films, including, obviously, Jordan Peele’s Best Picture-nominated Get Out, but also the Chicago-set Candyman and Oprah Winfrey-starring Beloved.

Of course, horror is there for lights-out entertainment, like ’90s classics Def by Temptation and Tales from the Hood, and with crossovers into the gothic (Eve’s Bayou), sci-fi (Attack the Block), thrillers (Ma), war (Overlord), and superheroes (Blade).

Explore all 25 fun, frightening, and groundbreaking films in our guide to the essential Black horror movies.


Best Spanish-Language Horror Movies | Best Korean Horror Movies | Best Italian Horror Movies | Best French Horror Movies | Best Japanese Horror Movies
2020’s Best Horror Movies | 200 Best Horror Movies Ever

#25

Bones (2001)
25%

#25
Adjusted Score: 27257%
Critics Consensus: Slow to start, the sleek looking Bones is more silly than scary.
Synopsis: Jimmy Bones (Snoop "Doggy" Dogg) is a legendary protector and patron of his thriving neighborhood. Cool, handsome and respected -... [More]
Directed By: Ernest R. Dickerson

#24
Adjusted Score: 37469%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Ex-soldier Frank Brayker (William Sadler) is the guardian of an ancient key that can unlock tremendous evil; the sinister but... [More]
Directed By: Ernest Dickerson

#23
#23
Adjusted Score: 58639%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A creepy mortician, Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III), attempts to scare teenage drug dealer Stack (Joe Torry) and his friends... [More]
Directed By: Rusty Cundieff

#22

Blacula (1972)
46%

#22
Adjusted Score: 48114%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: During a visit to Transylvania, an African prince (William Marshall) gets turned into a vampire by Count Dracula (Charles McCauley).... [More]
Directed By: William Crain

#21

Blade (1998)
57%

#21
Adjusted Score: 62532%
Critics Consensus: Though some may find the plot a bit lacking, Blade's action is fierce, plentiful, and appropriately stylish for a comic book adaptation.
Synopsis: A half-mortal, half-immortal is out to avenge his mother's death and rid the world of vampires. The modern-day technologically advanced... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Norrington

#20

Ma (2019)
56%

#20
Adjusted Score: 68034%
Critics Consensus: Octavia Spencer's performance overpowers many of Ma's flaws, but uneven pacing and a labored story keep this thriller from fully realizing its unhinged potential.
Synopsis: A lonely middle-aged woman befriends some teenagers and decides to let them party in the basement of her home. But... [More]
Directed By: Tate Taylor

#19

J.D.'s Revenge (1976)
44%

#19
Adjusted Score: 18170%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Although notorious New Orleans gangster J.D. Walker (David McKnight) is shot and killed in the 1940s, his spirit remains restless... [More]
Directed By: Arthur Marks

#18

Black Box (2020)
70%

#18
Adjusted Score: 74085%
Critics Consensus: An intriguing debut for writer-director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, Black Box compensates for a lack of surprises with strong performances and an emotionally rewarding story.
Synopsis: After losing his wife and memory in a car accident, a single father undergoes an agonizing experimental treatment that causes... [More]
Directed By: Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour

#17

Blade II (2002)
58%

#17
Adjusted Score: 61969%
Critics Consensus: Though Blade II offers more of what worked in the original, its plot and character development appear to have been left on the cutting room floor.
Synopsis: Exploding from the pages of Marvel Comics comes the thrilling follow-up to the blockbuster "Blade." Half Man ... half vampire,... [More]
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro

#16

Sweetheart (2019)
93%

#16
Adjusted Score: 93713%
Critics Consensus: Carried by Kiersey Clemons' performance, Sweetheart balances smart subtext and social commentary against effective genre thrills.
Synopsis: A shipwreck survivor on an uninhabited island must fend off a malevolent force that surfaces each night.... [More]
Directed By: J.D. Dillard

#15
Adjusted Score: 70834%
Critics Consensus: Held aloft by gonzo black comedy and socially conscious subtext, The People Under The Stairs marks a unique -- though wildly uneven -- change of pace for director Wes Craven.
Synopsis: When young Fool (Brandon Adams) breaks into the home of his family's greedy and uncaring landlords, he discovers a disturbing... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 75320%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Joel (James Bond III), a quiet divinity student from North Carolina, starts to question his faith. So he heads to... [More]
Directed By: James Bond III

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 23370%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When nightclub owner Langston (Larry D. Johnson) refuses to sell out to local mob boss Morgan (Robert Quarry), he is... [More]
Directed By: Paul Maslansky

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 11547%
Critics Consensus: Neither scary nor very funny, this misguided effort never lives up to its premise.
Synopsis: In the wake of her mother's death in a mental institution, detective Rita Veder (Angela Bassett) is assigned to a... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#11

Candyman (1992)
78%

#11
Adjusted Score: 84688%
Critics Consensus: Though it ultimately sacrifices some mystery in the name of gory thrills, Candyman is a nuanced, effectively chilling tale that benefits from an interesting premise and some fine performances.
Synopsis: Skeptical graduate student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) befriends Anne-Marie McCoy (Vanessa Williams) while researching superstitions in a housing project on... [More]
Directed By: Bernard Rose

#10

Beloved (1998)
71%

#10
Adjusted Score: 77691%
Critics Consensus: A powerful, emotional and successful film adaptation of the original novel.
Synopsis: In 1873 Ohio, Sethe (Oprah Winfrey) is a mother of three haunted by her horrific slavery past and her desperate... [More]
Directed By: Jonathan Demme

#9

Eve's Bayou (1997)
83%

#9
Adjusted Score: 85095%
Critics Consensus: Eve's Bayou marks a striking feature debut for director Kasi Lemmons, layering terrific performances and Southern mysticism into a measured meditation on disillusionment and forgiveness.
Synopsis: Over the course of a long, hot Louisiana summer, a 10-year-old black girl, Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett), discovers that her... [More]
Directed By: Kasi Lemmons

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 98702%
Critics Consensus: A tense, terrifying, and all-around outstanding feature debut for its co-directing duo, The Boy Behind the Door should thrill discerning horror fans.
Synopsis: In The Boy Behind the Door, a night of unimaginable terror awaits twelve-year-old Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and his best friend,... [More]

#7

Ganja & Hess (1973)
91%

#7
Adjusted Score: 90149%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Germs from the stab of an ancient dagger turn two lovers (Duane Jones, Marlene Clark) into immortal vampires.... [More]
Directed By: Bill Gunn

#6

His House (2020)
100%

#6
Adjusted Score: 108106%
Critics Consensus: Featuring genuine scares through every corridor, His House is a terrifying look at the specters of the refugee experience and a stunning feature debut for Remi Weekes.
Synopsis: A refugee couple makes a harrowing escape from war-torn South Sudan, but then they struggle to adjust to their new... [More]
Directed By: Remi Weekes

#5

Candyman (2021)
84%

#5
Adjusted Score: 102145%
Critics Consensus: Candyman takes an incisive, visually thrilling approach to deepening the franchise's mythology -- and terrifying audiences along the way.
Synopsis: For as long as residents can remember, the housing projects of Chicago's Cabrini-Green neighborhood were terrorized by a word-of-mouth ghost... [More]
Directed By: Nia DaCosta

#4

Attack the Block (2011)
90%

#4
Adjusted Score: 97325%
Critics Consensus: Effortlessly mixing scares, laughs, and social commentary, Attack the Block is a thrilling, briskly-paced sci-fi yarn with a distinctly British flavor.
Synopsis: South London teenagers (John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Leeon Jones) defend their neighborhood from malevolent extraterrestrials.... [More]
Directed By: Joe Cornish

#3

Us (2019)
93%

#3
Adjusted Score: 127662%
Critics Consensus: With Jordan Peele's second inventive, ambitious horror film, we have seen how to beat the sophomore jinx, and it is Us.
Synopsis: Accompanied by her husband, son and daughter, Adelaide Wilson returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a... [More]
Directed By: Jordan Peele

#2
#2
Adjusted Score: 98487%
Critics Consensus: George A. Romero's debut set the template for the zombie film, and features tight editing, realistic gore, and a sly political undercurrent.
Synopsis: A disparate group of individuals takes refuge in an abandoned house when corpses begin to leave the graveyard in search... [More]
Directed By: George A. Romero

#1

Get Out (2017)
98%

#1
Adjusted Score: 129043%
Critics Consensus: Funny, scary, and thought-provoking, Get Out seamlessly weaves its trenchant social critiques into a brilliantly effective and entertaining horror/comedy thrill ride.
Synopsis: Now that Chris and his girlfriend, Rose, have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend... [More]
Directed By: Jordan Peele

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