The 21 Best Horror Movies of the 1990s

7. Ringu (1998)

Ringu (1998)

Ringu is another Japanese horror and mystery film of the 1990s. Ringu was a massive hit when it came out across the border, and was of course subsequently remade by America in 2002. The story of Ringu has a simple premise. Do not watch the videotape, if you watch the videotape you will die in seven days. But yet, people still watch the videotape.

Reporter Reiko (Nanako Matsushima) starts investigating the mysterious curse of the video tape after her niece and some friends are found dead after supposedly watching the tape. She watches the tape with her husband and immediately afterwards receives a telephone call telling her that she will die in seven days. After this her and her husband attempt to discover the tapes origins and try to break the curse on them.

Ringu is such a great horror film because it combines an old folk tale and appeals to all generations of movie goers. The films pace is perfect, it builds up the tension perfectly and it is constantly ticking closer to the end of the seven days. The film leaves a lot of the horror to the audience’s imagination and this proves such a success. It is also very very scary and creepy which is always a must for a brilliant horror film.


6. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)


Jacob’s Ladder is a psychological horror film which stars Tim Robbins as protagonist, Jacob, who is suffering from strange hallucinations since his return from the Vietnam War. The flashbacks and hallucinations continue to get worse and Jacob has to try to understand what is happening to him.

Jacob’s Ladder is quite a depressing film, but it is most definitely worth watching. It is incredibly powerfully acted and the direction and writing are brilliantly done. It is viscerally frightening and incredibly dark, but these factors enable it to be a brilliant psychologically creepy horror film. Tim Robbins is brilliant in his role, fully embodying his character.


5. Audition (Ôdishon) (1999)


Another Japanese horror film (there were a spate of brilliant ones in the 90s) Audition, frightened the audiences back in 1999. Audition stars Ryo Ishibashi as Aoyama, a widower. Along with his friend who works in film, Aoyama decides to start dating again and decides to use auditions as a dating service. One of these women is beautiful Asami (Eihi Shiina) and the two start a relationship. However, Asami is not all that she seems.

The premise is quite a common trope in a horror film (the woman not quite as she seems), but it is done so well here it is absolutely brilliant, be it absolutely disturbing. It is a highly grisly film and did cause some walk outs when it premiered. It is not one for the fainthearted, but a brilliant horror film.


4. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

from dusk till dawn

The film begins as quite a good kidnap film. Clooney and Tarantino play brothers, Richard and Seth, criminals who end up kidnapping the Fuller family and driving across the country in their camper van. They cross into Mexico and end up holed up at a bar called the Titty Twister. From then on the film switches genre and turns into a survival film as the group defend themselves from a fierce and hungry bunch of vampires.

When I watched it, I had no clue at all that it was a vampire film so the shock when Salma Hayak turns from sexy dancer to fanged vampire was huge. It is a vampire film with a difference and certainly a memorable one. Each actor plays their part to perfection and mostly you are routing for their survival. It is one of Clooney’s best roles as an anti-hero and Tarantino also plays his role despicably well.


3. Nightwatch (Nattevagten) (1994)

Night Watch

He of Game of Thrones fame, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, plays Martin, a law student in this fantastic Danish film. To earn money whilst he is studying he takes a job as a night watchman at a morgue. That sounds creepy enough. He lives with his girlfriend and together they spend a lot of time with another couple. There is also an ongoing case in the city in which local prostitutes are being murdered and scalped. Martin meets the Detective investigating the case at his new place of employment.

The film turns into a murder mystery as well as a horror film as we race to establish who is killing all these women. There are many suspects and red herrings, and when the killer is finally revealed it is in a heart stopping scene which takes place in the flat of his latest victim. Nightwatch is a truly frightening film; watch it in the dark with the doors locked. It was remade in 1997 starring Ewan MacGregor in the lead role, and whilst not as good as this version it is still a good watch and still very frightening.


2. The Sixth Sense (1999)

The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, has now become such an iconic film since its release on the screens of 1999, and mostly remembered for its surprise twist (which even people who have not seen the film know by now). It stars Bruce Willis as Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist, who is working with 9 year old Cole (Haley Joel Osmont) and trying to get through to him. Cole says he can see dead people. And he most certainly does.

What makes The Sixth Sense such a good film is that all its elements comprise together to make not only a fantastic film, but also a fantastic horror film. It is genuinely scary in some parts, but it is also full of intrigue. Haley Joel Osmont is so believable as the little boy who can see dead people, and Bruce Willis embodies his role as such a broken man.

Toni Collette is also brilliant as the put upon Mum of Cole. The ending is almost staring you in the face once you know it, but Shyamalan does it so well the audience don’t realise until the end. It is definitely a re-watcher, to see all the little things you missed which were hints throughout the film.


1. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)


Jodie Foster plays Clarice Starling in this highly acclaimed and Oscar winning film. It is a blend of horror, thriller and crime genres but it is most definitely one of the scariest films ever.  Directed by Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lambs won five Oscars for Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally), Best Director (Jonathan Demme) and Best Picture.

Clarice is a trainee FBI agent and towards the end of her training her boss, Jack Crawford (Scott Glen) assigns her to go and meet with the infamous Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a psychiatrist and serial killer who may prove helpful in the case they are working on of the ‘Buffalo Bill’ killer.

Starling and Lecter start a ‘quid pro quo’ game between each other, Starling wanting information and Lecter delving into her psyche. As this is happening so are the awful murders committed by Buffalo Bill, and when the Senator’s daughter is taken by Bill Lecter is released from maximum security to get him to give information to help with the case.

The performances in The Silence of the Lambs are brilliant, especially Hopkins and Foster. Hopkins morphs into Hannibal Lecter, and he is literally terrifying. Ted Levine is incredibly creepy as Buffalo Bill and the conclusion of this film with him and Foster is heart pounding. The cinematography and overall feel of the film is gloomy and atmospheric, and contributes to the terrifying mise en scène. The Silence of the Lambs is one of the best films ever made, and definitely the best horror film of the 1990s.

Author Bio: Tessa has been a film fanatic and list writer since she learned to walk. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Film and Television Studies, and a Masters Degree in Scriptwriting from Aberystwyth University. She has a particular interest in horror films, and is currently attempting to write her debut horror script whilst living the dream in Bristol. Follow her on Twitter @Tessicat.