The 25 Greatest Performances In A Horror Movie

17. Jeffrey Combs in Re-Animator


Playing lunatic medical student Herbert West, Jeffrey Combs pulls off the mad scientist role, which has been a staple in many horror movies, extremely well. West is not an evil mad scientist, but rather a more curious one. He discovers a re-agent that brings back to life the tissue of the undead.

West is intelligent, crazy, and very determined. The character is truly brought to life by Combs’ humorous and often times mad performance.


16. Marcia Gay Harden in The Mist


Some antagonist’s in films are evil yet can still make an audience love the character, albeit in a sick way. And then there’s Mrs. Carmody. It sucks being stuck in a grocery store while monsters are outside eating people, but it sucks even more when you’re stuck with a Jesus freak who thinks certain people in the store should be sacrificed for their sins. She wasn’t a cool, likable villain. She was hated by every person who saw that movie. And credit belongs to Marcia Gay Harden. She could have played the character as delusional when it came to her actions.

Like she was doing it for God and not herself. Instead, Marcia did the Mrs. Carmody character as a woman who subtly gained pleasure from turning everyone in the store against the protagonists. Her slight smiles as she gained more followers added another despicable characteristic to an already hated character. The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films agreed that Harden portrayed the character brilliantly, giving her the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2008. And it was well deserved.


15. Jason Miller in The Exorcist

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Considered a top-10 horror movie by many; The Exorcist is driven by several powerful performances, the best of which came from Jason Miller. Miller plays Father Karras, one of two priests who are called upon to excise a demon from little Regan.

Miller plays the part wonderfully as a young priest who is going up against a powerful demon. Nominated for the academy award in 1973, Miller has earned credit for helping to create a horror movie classic.


14. Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead


The film that mixed zombies and simple British folk and churned out a cult classic. Shaun of the Dead is still beloved and has held up well 10 plus years later. Leading a delightful cast is Simon Pegg, who played Shaun, an unmotivated electronics supervisor who doesn’t seem to care about anything until his girlfriend dumps him.

Pegg was humorous and charming in this role, playing well off the screenplay he and Edgar Wright created. Even though there is nothing special about Shaun, he rises up to the occasion when the zombie apocalypse hits London. Pegg received several awards for his role, including the Fangoria Chainsaw Award in 2005 for Lead Actor. Cheers mate.


13. Kurt Russell in The Thing


When battling a mutating species in the middle of a frozen wilderness, there’s no one better to have on your side than Kurt Russell. Leading an all male cast, Russell plays R.J. MacReady, a helicopter pilot who has transported scientists to Outpost 31 in the Antarctic.

MacReady is an outsider who doesn’t feel the need to get to know the men he’s stationed with. However when the species starts killing and imitating the form of the men it kills, MacReady takes charge. Russell is excellent in the role of the social pariah who then turns into hero. It is a more reserved performance than he’s done before, but every bit as effective.


12. Michael Rooker in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer


Not many can pull off creepy quite like Michael Rooker. When given the task of casting a serial killer, Rooker turned out to be a great choice. Playing Henry, a serial killer who was loosely based off real life murdered Henry Lee Lucas, Rooker captured the menacing characteristics of a man who not only killed dozens, but was able to get away with it for years. He was evil, sinister, and unforgiving.

Rooker found a career-defining role in a movie so controversial it initially earned the infamous X-Rating from the MPAA. Bonus for Rooker: he was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award in 1991.


11. Bela Lugosi in Dracula


The character of Dracula has been done many, many times. From Gary Oldman to Eddie Murphy, many have portrayed the evil head vampire. But no one has done it better than Bela Lugosi did it in 1932 in the first ever Dracula.

Helped by a thick Austrian-Hungarian accent, Lugosi captured the evil and power of the Dracula character. A pioneer for horror films, Lugosi’s Dracula set the tone for the way vampires were perceived by the movie-going audience for years to come.


10. Tim Curry in It

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Granted it’s not difficult to make a killer clown who tortures children scary, Tim Curry still deserves praise for what he did with the character Pennywise. Tim truly did the character justice, as the film It was based off the Stephen King novel of the same name.

He was funny, like a clown should be. And he was terrifying, like most clowns unintentionally are. He delivered each line with such menace that you couldn’t help but relate to the children who felt his wrath. No one likes to be haunted by a creepy clown, and Tim Curry made sure that feeling was as scary as possible. Ever the one to play a range of characters, Curry may have had a career-defining role in It.


9. Sissy Spacek in Carrie


Earning an Oscar nomination as well as other noms, Sissy Spacek truly captured the essence of the titular character of Carrie. She plays a socially awkward high schooler who discovers she has witch-like capabilities. The scene where Spacek truly ears her metal is the most famous scene of the movie.

Poor little Carrie is set up and has pigs blood poured all over her in front of the whole school. This is when stuff gets real and Carrie starts killing nicely-dressed teenagers left and right. Spacek is calm and collect badass in this part of the film, and it helped the film reach classic status.