my favorite 1970’s horror movies

Halloween is my favorite Holiday. We usually throw a big house party, past themes have included Witches, Mad Scientist’s Laboratory, Zombie Plague, and Retro Halloween. In the 30 days preceding Halloween night we go to the pumpkin patch and get pumpkins for carving and pies. We make our own costumes, go to haunted houses, haunted penitentiaries, haunted cemeteries, and on haunted hayrides. I make Halloween music playlists and we sing Pumpkin Carols. We also watch a lot of horror movies. Like, a lot.

The first movies I ever remember seeing were American Werewolf in London and John Carpenter’s The Thing, in a drive-in double feature my parents went to see. I was supposed to be sleeping in the back of our station wagon, but I watched them both, peeking from underneath my blanket.

Since then I have seen hundreds of horror films, on late night television, when I used to work at a video store, and, nowadays, on streaming video.

All horror fans have certain types of horror films that appeal to them. Some people like torture porn, some like psychological horror, some like copious amounts of gore. I like 70’s horror. It is what I grew up with and now, some 40 years later, it has the added benefit of being nostalgic. I’m not saying these are the best. I left off some great flicks that I don’t consider horror like Alien, as well as some really scary films that I recognize are great, but they aren’t my favorite, like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist. I also didn’t list all the best 1970’s foreign horror, but maybe I will next year.

With that in mind, here is a list of  my personal favorite 70’s/ early 80’s horror films:


Halloween – I watch this movie every year during Halloween month. I think it is very well plotted, and stands the test of time. There is a reason why it is a classic. “I HATE a guy with a car and no sense of humor.”

Black Christmas – If you haven’t seen this Canadian horror movie you really should. It is considered to be the first slasher flick. It really has the whole 70’s vibe going big time. And there are some deranged phone calls that really creep me the heck out! Bonus: It takes place during Christmas, so this movie can be on your queue for Halloween and Yuletide. “No Claire, it’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir making their annual obscene phone call.”

Carrie – Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie are so great in the movie! A true horror classic. “I can see your dirty pillows. Everyone will.”

The Omen – One of my favorites, because I love evil children. Damian is so cute! This movie also has a good plot. Very shocking for the time. “Look at me, Damien! It’s all for you.”

The Wicker Man – The Green Man! Bunnies! Middle English folk songs! What fun! I love everything about this movie. “Summer is icumen in, loudly sing cuckoo.”

The Shining – Everything about the movie is beautiful. Beautiful and troubling. Not only the best horror movie of its decade, but one of the best horror films ever. “Hello, Danny. Come and play with us. Come and play with us, Danny. Forever… and ever… and ever.”

Poltergeist – This movie scarred me forever. Clowns… *shudder* It is also a fun Spielberg blockbuster. “Cross over children. All are welcome. All welcome. Go into the Light.”

Nightmare on Elm Street – This movie also scarred me for life. I saw it in the theatre when I was only 11. NoES is a bit dated now, but it was very influential to me. “Whatever you do… don’t fall asleep.”

Fright Night – Cheesy, but great fun. I watched this over and over again on cable tv. “Oh, you’re so COOL, Brewster!”

Modern but feel like the 70s/early 80s:

The Woods
– 1960s girls boarding school out in the woods, with Patricia Clarkson and Bruce Campbell. ‘Nuff said. “No, you listen very closely, fire-crotch”

The Conjuring – Classic ghost story set in the 1970s. “Based on a true story” and filled to the brim with horror tropes, yet scary as all heck! Saw it 4 times in theaters. “Want to play a game of hide and clap?”

The Orphan – This is maybe more of a thriller than a horror film, it depends on your level of sensitivity. Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard are excellent. I love the whole look of this movie. It is very troubling. “It’s all right. It’s in Heaven now.”

The Orphanage – This is a very unsettling Spanish language horror film produced by Guillermo del Toro. It’s not gory, more of the classic, slow burn, haunted house style, with some jump scares. But the real scares are psychological. “”Uno, dos, tres, toca la pared“.


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