Features and Columns · Lists · Movies

31 Best Slashers, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blade

Slasher? We hardly even knew her.
Best Slashers Horror Movies
By  · Published on October 31st, 2023

10. Pieces (1982)


There are slasher comedies like Happy Death Day, where the laughs are intentional and by design, and there are slasher comedies like J.P. Simon‘s Pieces, where the hilarity is wholly unintentional and absolutely divine. The setup is straightforward enough as we see a young boy hack up his mom for punishing him over his nudie puzzle, and then years later, college co-eds meet a similar fate as an unknown killer collects life-size body parts for his own naked puzzle. The film throws around red herrings like they’re going out of style — Paul L. Smith’s character may as well be named Red — and while none of them work all that well turning your suspicions away from the killer’s true identity, they’re part of the film’s loopy brilliance. Simon (Slugs, 1988) directs with a competent enough eye, and the gore is both plentiful and well executed, but the film’s true joy comes from both the ridiculous dialogue and the performances by amateurs and professionals alike. Real-life couple Christopher George and Lynda Day George play cops on the case, and whether it’s due to excessive sangria drinking (they filmed in Spain) or a fundamental misunderstanding of the dubbing booth, both performers give some hilarious line readings. And the “professional” tennis players who clearly can’t play. And the kids talking about boning on a waterbed or in the school’s pool. And that final shot. That beautifully nonsensical final shot. Masterpiece. (Rob Hunter)

9. Tenebrae (1982)

Dario Argento giallo Tenebrae
Synapse Films

The first of two Dario Argento giallos to crack the top ten, Tenebrae follows murder-mystery writer Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa), whose promotional book tour is cut short by a string of violent murders seemingly inspired by his latest novel. While Tenebrae doesn’t reinvent the giallo/slasher format by any means, it hits each beat with such contagious enthusiasm that it easily stands out amongst the crowd. To boot, the film’s metatextual self-reflection on what kind of sick, twisted mind would write gruesome horror stories nearly borders on autobiography. Argento revels in the themes that define his work (Freudian analysis, voyeurism, and dark doubles) while challenging the confines of the subgenre he helped define. Throw in some familiar faces in John Saxon and Daria Nicolodi (oh, and some of the grooviest tunes Goblin has to offer), and suddenly you’ve got a party. Arterial spray is optional but recommended. (Meg Shields)

8. Blood and Black Lace (1964)

Blood And Black Lace

In my humble opinion, Blood and Black Lace is the quintessential giallo, which also makes it one of the greatest slashers of all time. Models at Christian Haute Couture, a high-end fashion house in Rome, start to fall victim to a mysterious killer who stalks the grounds in a faceless white mask and a black fedora and trenchcoat. Everyone is a suspect with a motive, and Inspector Silvestri is determined to find the culprit. Mario Bava‘s masterpiece is one of the most gorgeous pieces of work ever put to film. As we watch the killer slink in the shadows, Bava provides us with a visual feast. Sleek tracking shots and pops of bold, vivid colors keep us mesmerized between shocking bursts of violent murders. Bava pushed the envelope with plot elements that revolve around taboo subject matter, especially for 1964, with abortion, drug use, and hyper-sexualization being key components. No film prior, and very few since have been able to match Bava’s excellence. (Chris Coffel)

7. Malignant (2021)

Malignant Police Sketch

Malignant starts off in what can only be described as a high-security psych ward. You know what other movie starts out in a psych word? Halloween. So, yeah, it’s a slasher. But Michael Myers, this ain’t. Despite legitimate moments of tension and copious buckets of blood, Malignant is at its best when it serves us camp with a straight face. It’s both obvious and subtle, a fine balance we rarely see in any movie, let alone a big-budget quasi-supernatural slasher. The campy nature of the film becomes even clearer upon rewatch, especially with lines like, “He became a lost memory, buried deep in the back of my head.” That’s a level of intentional comedy even Scream didn’t attempt. We always ask, “Where’s our 21st century Freddy Krueger?” which I’ve taken to mean, “Where’s our slasher that is, above all else, fucking creative”? Without totally ruining the reveal for those who have yet to watch this film, Gabriel is the answer we’ve been searching for. All we need to cement this daydream is eight sequels and a crossover grudge match with The Babadook, and we’ll be set. (Jacob Trussell)

6. My Bloody Valentine (1981)

My Bloody Valentine

I’m not an especially patriotic person, but the fact that two Canadian films made it in the top six feels pretty special. Furthermore, that one of those two films is My Bloody Valentine — a movie the censors all but left for dead in a mine shaft — feels extra special. Take that, the MPAA. I hope your hearts boil in hot dog water. Aggressively set and shot on location in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, George Mihalka’s seasonal revenge tale takes place in a mining town where the wool sweaters are as thick as the accents and a piddling sock hop means the world to the local youth. So it’s nothing short of a minor tragedy when a miner tragedy indefinitely postpones the annual Valentine’s Day dance. Twenty years later, the town is pretty sure they’re in the clear. But the hulking, gas-mask-wearing killer begs to differ. I won’t explain it, but there’s something distinctly Canadian about WHMIS violations being a slasher villain’s motivation. I also cannot overemphasize how little young people in Atlantic Canada have changed aesthetically in the last forty years. All told, My Bloody Valentine is an uncharacteristically brutal and relentlessly charming slasher gem that should be watched once a year… or else! (Meg Shields)

5. Scream (1996)


Coming off the high of the 1980s, horror in the ‘90s faced an uphill battle. Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson raced to the top of that hill and firmly planted their flag with the meta-slasher Scream. Scream is a mean slasher that brutally slaughters the film’s biggest star in the opening moments and never looks back. The film introduced Ghostface, one of the most popular killers the genre has ever seen. Figuring out who the lunatic was beneath the mask was a genuine mystery that fooled us all when it finally revealed that there were two killers instead of one. Williamson’s dialogue is a little cheesy and a bit dated these days, but that’s all part of the film’s charm. To date, Sydney, Gale, Dewey, and Randy have maintained their extreme popularity amongst horror fans. Scream gave new life to the slasher and launched a franchise that’s still going strong nearly thirty years later. (Chris Coffel)

4. Deep Red (1975)

David Hemmings in Deep Red
Rizzoli Film

As I mentioned somewhere above, Deep Red is Dario Argento‘s finest accomplishment. He made several bangers, but Deep Red is the one that checks every box perfectly as one of the best slashers. David Hemmings stars a musician visiting Turin, Italy, who witnesses a murder and then spends the rest of the film trying to recall a clue he just knows he saw. That element is a stroke of brilliance as Argento shows the exact same clue to us, but like the character, our brains don’t quite register it for what it is. The first time I watched the film I actually went back to the beginning, thinking there’s no way Argento actually showed us right up front, but he did. Cheeky bastard. The kills are suspenseful and well staged, the suspense and story twists hold the attention (just make sure you’re watching the two-hour version and not the butchered American edits), the score by Goblin is another unforgettable piece of work, and the film concludes on a bloody high. (Rob Hunter)

3. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chain Saw Massace Scary

Sure, like PsychoThe Texas Chain Saw Massacre contains elements inspired by a real-life sicko. But the movie feels more real than it is unless we’re considering its emotional content. Director (and co-writer, co-composer, and producer) Tobe Hooper walked into a hardware store one day and contemplated turning the power tools against the customers around him. His aggression toward the slow-moving herd was vicious, and the thought of tearing through them was palpable. He could transform that aggression into something, and for those wading through the Vietnam War era they could painfully relate. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is pure anxiety for a world eager to chew you up. It puts the audience through a gauntlet and acts as a training exercise for the hell they’ll find outside the theater. If you can make it to the end alongside Marilyn Burns, maybe you can extend your miserable life a few extra years…days…house. (Brad Gullickson)

2. Halloween (1978)


While it doesn’t top our list, for many, Halloween is the slasher film to rule them all, the one every other title on this list strives to match. Why? Because the film is ultimately simple, a one-night-only dark ride into a suburban massacre at the hands of unrepentant evil, starting from the opening POV shot as we’re ushered into the cursed town of Haddonfield, to the closing frames as we see The Shape vanish into the night. John Carpenter’s film is a potent cocktail of what we bring to it and what we look to get out of it. Popcorn fun? You got it. Legit fright fest? Ab-so-lutely. Michael Myers is the Boogeyman because he exploits our childhood fears and adult anxieties, no matter what they may be. So why do people love Halloween? Because it keeps tapping into a universal scab, we can’t stop picking at it over forty years later. (Jacob Trussell)

1. Black Christmas (1974)

Black Christmas

Some of you may be disappointed to see John Carpenter’s masterpiece at number two behind Bob Clark‘s masterpiece at number one, but you really shouldn’t be. Every film on this list is worth your time, but the top ten, in particular, is a pretty accurate and tight collection of the best slashers out there — even if you’d rearrange the order around some. Black Christmas may not have spawned an army of sequels like Halloween did (but curiously, it has earned the same number of remakes), but its importance to the genre and its sheer quality is absolutely on par. A sorority house at Christmas, a maniacal creeper calling with obscenities and threats, a pitch-perfect drunk performance by Margot Kidder, a red herring in the blank stare of Keir Dullea, John Saxon as a cop caught up in the investigation, and a murderer who moves silently through the house right up until the very end. There are lots of great slashers (obviously), but Clark’s film is a rarity in that it’s legitimately scary at times. The whispering voice, the eyes staring through the door crack, the mystery as to his identity. This guy raises the hair on your arms and will have you wary of the shadows in your own house. (Rob Hunter)

That’s a wrap on the 2023 edition of our 31 Days of Horror Lists, but you can always read more from the archive over the past six years!

Pages: 1 2 3

Related Topics: ,

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.