Knife and hart

(Photo by © Altered Innocence / Courtesy: Everett Collection)

30 Essential LGBTQ Horror Movies

As long as there have been horror films, there have been queer horror films. Before homosexuality was formally legislated out of existence in Hollywood by the Production Code — commonly referred to as the Hays Code, which established mandates for “moral standards” in motion pictures and banned depictions of “sexual perversity” — the legendary filmmaker James Whale was building the foundation for American genre cinema with films like Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, and The Invisible Man. Here was Whale, a gay man, building horror in his own image and having astounding box office success as some groups were lobbying Hollywood to censor queerness out of existence. Fortunately, they weren’t creative enough to drive the big bad Other away.

In the century since America became the world’s leader in horror film production, the genre became a bastion for the outsiders, the marginalized, the people made monsters by self-appointed adjudicators of sin, and who saw themselves in the supposed “villains” at the center of stories like Dracula’s Daughter. On rare occasion, queer folks were given real protagonists to root for, like Theo in The Haunting, but it wasn’t until the Hays Code was abandoned in the late 1960s that sexuality outside the bounds of heteronormativity became more overt. (Not to say it was all positive representation, but the lesbian vampire wave of the 1970s certainly signified that the puritans were losing the culture wars in genre.) 

The Moral Majority reign of the Reagan Era slammed up against the AIDS crisis, and the excess and tumult of the ’80s gave rise to ultra-stylish and sexualized gore in movies like The Hunger and Hellraiser. The indie cinema boom at the turn of turn of the millennium coincided with the emergence of New Queer Cinema, and eccentric coming-of-age darlings like May and Ginger Snaps provided an alternative to the glossy studio slashers of the time.

Now in 2020, we can choose from a lesbian domestic drama involving a baby werewolf in Good Manners, a transfeminist vampire movie in Bit, or a French slasher set in a gay porn community with Knife + Heart. The monsters are out of the closet, and they’re never going back in.

Here are our 30 essential LGBTQ horror movies, in order of release.Jordan Crucchiola

Adjusted Score: 58.393%
Critics Consensus: Dracula's Daughter extends the Universal horror myth in an interesting direction, but the talky script and mild atmosphere undermine its ambition.
Synopsis: A hypnotic woman steals the body of Count Dracula, and bloodless corpses start appearing in London again.... [More]
Directed By: Lambert Hillyer


The Haunting (1963)

Adjusted Score: 90.585%
Critics Consensus: Both psychological and supernatural, The Haunting is a chilling character study.
Synopsis: Anthropology professor Richard Johnson investigates reports of psychic phenomena at a "troubled" New England mansion known as Hill House. He... [More]
Directed By: Robert Wise


Night Warning (1983)

Adjusted Score: 92.239%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this off-beat slasher film, the over-coddled nephew of a sexually frustrated spinster aunt finds his life in jeopardy after... [More]
Directed By: William Asher


The Hunger (1983)

Adjusted Score: 57.406%
Critics Consensus: Stylish yet hollow, The Hunger is a well-cast vampire thriller that mistakes erotic moments for a satisfying story.
Synopsis: The exquisitely beautiful Catherine Deneuve plays Miriam, a centuries-old vampire capable of bestowing the gift of immortality on her lovers... [More]
Directed By: Tony Scott

Adjusted Score: 59.603%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Though not a true sequel to Paul Lynch's derivative slasher-dud Prom Night, this Carrie-flavored horror film begins in 1957 with... [More]
Directed By: Bruce Pittman

Adjusted Score: 43.695%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this horror sequel, murderous camp counselor Angela Baker (Pamela Springsteen) instructs the campers at Camp Rolling Hills on how... [More]
Directed By: Michael A. Simpson


Hellraiser (1987)

Adjusted Score: 76.525%
Critics Consensus: Elevated by writer-director Clive Barker's fiendishly unique vision, Hellraiser offers a disquieting - and sadistically smart - alternative to mindless gore.
Synopsis: The directorial debut from horror novelist Clive Barker stars Sean Chapman as a man who buys a strange Chinese puzzle... [More]
Directed By: Clive Barker

Adjusted Score: 22.892%
Critics Consensus: As disposable as its predecessor is indispensable, The Rage: Carrie 2 mimics the arc of Stephen King's classic story without adding anything of value.
Synopsis: In this film, the boys on the high-school football team compete to see who can seduce the most girls. When... [More]
Directed By: Katt Shea


Ginger Snaps (2001)

Adjusted Score: 91.235%
Critics Consensus: The strong female cast and biting satire of teenage life makes Ginger Snaps far more memorable than your average werewolf movie -- or teen flick.
Synopsis: In this modern werewolf tale, sisters Ginger and Brigitte are ostracized by their town because of their morbid inclinations. Soon... [More]
Directed By: John Fawcett


May (2003)

Adjusted Score: 70.287%
Critics Consensus: Above average slasher flick.
Synopsis: May has always been a bit of an outsider--you might consider her a quirky girl. If you passed her on... [More]
Directed By: Lucky McKee


Seed of Chucky (2004)

Adjusted Score: 35.545%
Critics Consensus: Give Seed of Chucky credit for embracing the increasing absurdity of the franchise -- even if the end results really aren't all that funny or entertaining.
Synopsis: When the notoriously evil Chucky doll and his lover gave birth, they had no idea that their spawn would grow... [More]
Directed By: Don Mancini


The Covenant (2006)

Adjusted Score: 5.892%
Critics Consensus: The Covenant plays out like a teen soap opera, full of pretty faces, wooden acting, laughable dialogue, and little suspense.
Synopsis: In 1692, in the Ipswich Colony of Massachusetts, five families with untold power formed a covenant of silence. One family,... [More]
Directed By: Renny Harlin

Adjusted Score: 105.148%
Critics Consensus: Let the Right One In reinvigorates the seemingly tired vampire genre by effectively mixing scares with intelligent storytelling.
Synopsis: A 12-year-old boy befriends a mysterious young girl whose appearance in town suspiciously coincides with a horrifying series of murders... [More]
Directed By: Tomas Alfredson

Adjusted Score: 42.661%
Critics Consensus: Otto, or Up with Dead People plays to writer-director Bruce LaBruce's provocative strengths, but proves frustratingly less than the sum of its parts.
Synopsis: An gay teenage zombie falls in with a pretentious experimental filmmaker who casts him in a politically themed porno while... [More]
Directed By: Bruce La Bruce


Jennifer's Body (2009)

Adjusted Score: 51.578%
Critics Consensus: Jennifer's Body features occasionally clever dialogue, but its horror/comedy premise ultimately fails to be consistently funny or scary enough to satisfy.
Synopsis: When small town high-school student Jennifer is possessed by a hungry demon, she transitions from being "high-school evil" -- gorgeous... [More]
Directed By: Karyn Kusama

Adjusted Score: 48.844%
Critics Consensus: All Cheerleaders Die sets out to subvert horror tropes, but ends up falling victim to many of the same trashy cliches it's trying to mock.
Synopsis: Teenage outsider Maddy is keeping some dark secrets and holding a serious grudge against the captain of the Blackfoot High... [More]

Adjusted Score: 97.259%
Critics Consensus: Sexy, smart, and darkly humorous, Stranger by the Lake offers rewarding viewing for adult filmgoers in search of thought-provoking drama.
Synopsis: Frank (Pierre Deladonchamps) spends his summer days hopelessly searching for companionship at a popular cruising spot on the shores of... [More]
Directed By: Alain Guiraudie


Lyle (2014)

Adjusted Score: 48.302%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Expecting couple Leah (Gaby Hoffmann) and June (Ingrid Jungermann) move into a Brooklyn brownstone apartment with their toddler daughter Lyle.... [More]
Directed By: Stewart Thorndike


Raw (2017)

Adjusted Score: 99.694%
Critics Consensus: Raw's lurid violence and sexuality live up to its title, but they're anchored with an immersive atmosphere and deep symbolism that linger long after the provocative visuals fade.
Synopsis: Everyone in Justine's family is a vet. And a vegetarian. At sixteen she's a brilliant student starting out at veterinary... [More]
Directed By: Julia Ducournau


Blue My Mind (2017)

Adjusted Score: 79.281%
Critics Consensus: A coming-of-age drama with unexpected twists, Blue My Mind transcends some clunky moments with fully realized characters brought to life by strong performances.
Synopsis: 15-year-old Mia is facing an overwhelming transformation which calls her entire existence into question. Her body is changing radically, and... [More]
Directed By: Lisa Ivana Brühlmann


Rift (Rökkur) (2017)

Adjusted Score: 63.831%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Gunner receives a strange phone call from his ex-boyfriend, Einar, months after they broke up. Einar sounds distraught, like he's... [More]
Directed By: Erlingur Thoroddsen


Thelma (2017)

Adjusted Score: 98.772%
Critics Consensus: Thelma plays with genre tropes in unexpected ways, delivering a thoughtfully twisty supernatural thriller with a lingering impact.
Synopsis: Thelma, a shy young student, has just left her religious family in a small town on the west coast of... [More]
Directed By: Joachim Trier

Adjusted Score: 83.355%
Critics Consensus: Smart, stylish, and well-acted, What Keeps You Alive proves it's still possible to spin an engrossing horror yarn without fundamentally altering established formula.
Synopsis: How much can you really know about another person? The unsettling truth that even those closest to us can harbor... [More]
Directed By: Colin Minihan

Adjusted Score: 87.291%
Critics Consensus: Debuting writer-director Bertrand Mandico's The Wild Boys impresses with the breadth of its ambitions -- and the skill with which they're often triumphantly realized.
Synopsis: The debut feature from Bertrand Mandico tells the tale of five adolescent boys (all played by actresses) enamored by the... [More]
Directed By: Bertrand Mandico

Adjusted Score: 97.171%
Critics Consensus: Good Manners adroitly juggles disparate tonal shifts while taking a uniquely smart and sensitive look at female relationships.
Synopsis: Clara, a lonely nurse from the outskirts of São Paulo, is hired by mysterious and wealthy Ana as the nanny... [More]
Directed By: Marco Dutra, Juliana Rojas


Suspiria (2018)

Adjusted Score: 79.057%
Critics Consensus: Suspiria attacks heady themes with garish vigor, offering a viewing experience that's daringly confrontational - and definitely not for everyone.
Synopsis: A darkness swirls at the center of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the troupe's artistic director (Swinton),... [More]
Directed By: Luca Guadagnino


Climax (2019)

Adjusted Score: 75.349%
Critics Consensus: Challenging and rewarding in equal measure, Climax captures writer-director Gaspar Noé working near his technically brilliant and visually distinctive peak.
Synopsis: From director Gaspar Noé (Irreversible; Enter the Void; Love) comes a hypnotic, hallucinatory, and ultimately hair-raising depiction of a party... [More]
Directed By: Gaspar Noé

Adjusted Score: 83.711%
Critics Consensus: Knife + Heart wrings giallo-inspired thrills out of a boldly challenging story that defiantly succeeds on its own stylish merits.
Synopsis: Paris, Summer 1979. Anne (Vanessa Paradis) produces third-rate gay porn. After her editor and lover Lois leaves her, she tries... [More]
Directed By: Yann Gonzalez


Bit (2019)

Adjusted Score: 41.746%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A transgender teenage girl on summer vacation in Los Angeles fights to survive after she falls in with four queer... [More]
Directed By: Brad Michael Elmore


The Perfection (2019)

Adjusted Score: 75.406%
Critics Consensus: Led by a pair of compelling performances, The Perfection is a smart, gripping thriller that barbs its wild twists with cutting wit.
Synopsis: When troubled musical prodigy Charlotte (Allison Williams) seeks out Elizabeth (Logan Browning), the new star pupil of her former school,... [More]
Directed By: Richard Shepard

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