Hellooooo, everybody, and happy Halloween (almost). It's that time of year when everybody is looking for a spooky movie to put on, but sometimes there are wayyy too many choices. I happen to have seen a lot of scary movies and I read a lot of books, and I feel that I'm enough of an authority to recommend movies. So without further ado (and in no particular order), here are my top spooky movies based on books (that are actually good adaptations). 1. (1973), directed by William Friedkin: The Exorcist An adaptation of: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty Synopsis: We're starting off strong with an absolute classic. If you somehow haven't heard of this movie, the premise is that a little girl, Regan (played by Linda Blair), starts acting strange after playing with a Ouija board (never play with a Ouija board, y'all). When things escalate beyond medical help, her mother finally decides that her only option is to contact a priest. Julia's take: If you want to put on a horror movie and want a solid bet that's honestly not too scary (I mean, not as scary to modern audiences as it was in 1973), watch this movie! I personally have a huge soft spot for all Catholic horror...because it's the best. And if you want my honest, professional opinion — watch The Exorcist III, too. You don't have to watch the first or second movies to watch that one, and it's directed by the author of the original book! Where to watch it: Stream it on Max. Warner Bros. 2. (1991), directed by Jonathan Demme: The Silence of the Lambs An adaptation of: The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris Synopsis: A serial killer is stumping the FBI, and a young recruit, Clarice Starling, is sent to get help from one of the leading experts in the field: famed and convicted murderer Hannibal Lecter. Julia's take: Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster steal the show. Honestly (to me), the plot of the movie exists pretty much as a backdrop for Hopkins to excel. This movie swept the Oscars, and for good reason. If you like psychological thrillers, strong female protagonists, and performances that will stick in your head forever, then watch this movie! Where to watch it: Stream it on Max. Orion Pictures / Via media.giphy.com 3. Salem's Lot (1979), directed by Tobe Hooper: An adaptation of: Salem's Lot by Stephen King Synopsis: Ben Mears, an author, travels back to his hometown to write a book. Soon after, people in the town start getting sick — and bodies start dropping. The town suspects Ben of something, but they're not sure what; and Ben himself is convinced that something supernatural is at play. Julia's take: I just read this book and was obsessed. I decided to watch the movie, and OMG — some of the moments were literally chilling. OK, I will warn you, the movie is very '70s and also very long (it was originally a two-part miniseries), so be aware of that. But overall, it's a great adaptation, and now that I'm talking to people about it, it seems like one of those movies that everyone has seen. Watch it! Where to watch it: Rent it on Google Play, Apple TV, or YouTube for $2.99. CBS / Kadokawa Herald Pictures 4. The Shining (1980), directed by Stanley Kubrick: An adaptation of: The Shining by Stephen King Synopsis: Writer Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson) moves with his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and child, Danny, into a Colorado hotel to become its caretaker for the winter. When Danny starts getting psychic premonitions, Jack begins to sink into insanity. Julia's take: Duvall slays. This movie is soaked into modern film culture. For a contemporary viewer, it's still tense and terrifying — and absolutely iconic. The beginning is slow, but the payoff is totally worth it. If you like classic horror movies, plots where the characters are stuck in the middle of nowhere, weird psychological issues, and a little bit of the supernatural, then watch this movie! Where to watch it: Stream it on Max. Warner Bros. 5. Rebecca (1940), directed by Alfred Hitchcock: An adaptation of: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier Synopsis: A young woman (played by Joan Fontaine) of moderate means meets a very wealthy man, falls in love with him, and marries him. (Goals!) But once she moves into his estate, she finds that the spirit of the first Mrs. de Winter haunts every corner of the place — and there's something very off-putting about the head housekeeper. Julia's take: I LOVE GOTHIC MELODRAMA! Gothic melodrama is the genre where a young woman goes to a big, isolated house in the countryside and spooky things come into play. It's the best! Think The Haunting of Hill House or Jane Eyre. Rebecca is THE gothic melodrama, the book is amazing, and the Hitchcock adaptation is, well, Hitchcock. Hitchcock only ever ages well. Where to watch it: Before you get mad at me, know that I am recommending this movie to you knowing that you cannot find it anywhere, but I also feel a duty to tell you to watch it, because it's just that good. No, it's not streaming anywhere. It's not even available to rent, to my knowledge. But if you do have a chance to ever watch this, take it. It was good enough to put on the list despite the fact that I can't tell you where to find it! United Artists 6. The Haunting (1963), directed by Robert Wise: An adaptation of: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson Synopsis: A small group of people are invited by a paranormal investigator to an infamous haunted house. Eleanor (played by Julie Harris), one of the invitees, slowly comes to believe that the house has a special connection with her. Julia's take: I almost made this a special mention after Rebecca, but I decided it absolutely deserves its own mention. This movie is gorgeous, and so haunting! If you've seen and enjoyed Mike Flanagan's series The Haunting of Hill House (which you should watch if you haven't) and enjoy the atmosphere of 1960s movies (which you should), then absolutely watch this movie! Where to watch it: Stream it on Max. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / Courtesy Everett Collection 7. Carrie (1976), directed by Brian De Palma: An adaptation of: Carrie by Stephen King Synopsis: Carrie (played by Sissy Spacek), a high school senior, is caught between her extremely religious mother and the peers at school who bully her. Relentless bullying causes her to feel lonely, isolated, and hopeless, but soon, she discovers that she has powers of telekinesis. Julia's take: This movie is incredibly iconic (and, dare I say, such a good-for-her movie? I'm on Carrie's side). If you're looking to put something on around Halloween and want a solid, good old-fashioned horror flick that's actually good, Carrie is where it's at. Where to watch it: Stream it on Max. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / United Artists 8. Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), directed by Francis Ford Coppola: An adaptation of: Dracula by Bram Stoker (obviously, LOL) Synopsis: English lawyer Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania to meet a new client, to whom he hopes to sell a piece of English real estate. Unfortunately for him, that client turns out to be none other than Count Dracula, who is, of course, a vampire. The count travels to England in pursuit of Jonathan's wife, Mina, who he believes is the reincarnation of his deceased wife. And then, of course, everyone must come together to take Dracula down. Julia's take: This is probably the most direct adaptation of the original novel, and it's beautiful . First of all, we've got a star-studded cast: Gary Oldman (as the Count himself), Winona Ryder (as Mina), Keanu Reeves (as Jonathan), Anthony Hopkins, Cary Elwes...I mean, come on. Second, it was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, so it's perfect. It's my favorite Dracula adaptation (...I think), and I've seen a hundred, so take my advice and put it on! This movie has influenced a ton of other vampire movies and is very dreamy and gothic; if your perfect Halloween aesthetic is Phantom of the Opera–esque, this is the movie for you. Where to watch it: Watch it for free on Pluto TV or rent it starting at $3.59 on Amazon, YouTube, or Google Play. Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures 9. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), directed by Werner Herzog: An adaptation of: Dracula by Bram Stoker, but also the first Nosferatu film from 1922, directed by F.W. Murnau Synopsis: Like its 1920s predecessor, this isn't a direct adaptation of the original novel (in fact, the 1920s one was famously a well-done but illegal rip-off). It consolidates the main cast of characters into basically just Jonathan, his wife (who is Lucy in this version, not Mina), and Dracula himself.
Following Jonathan's visit to Transylvania, Dracula travels to Jonathan's own hometown of Wismar, Germany, with the intent of seducing his wife, Lucy. He brings the plague with him on his ghost ship, as well as about a trillion rats. (If you get the chance to learn about the making of this movie, do it.) Lucy discovers that something other than the plague is afflicting the town, but nobody believes her.
Julia's take: I love, love, love this movie. (Writing about it is making me want to rewatch it tonight!) It's definitely a more artsy and European adaptation than other movies on this list, so if that's the kind of movie you like, I definitely recommend viewing. It's absolutely gorgeous and stars the formidable Klaus Kinski as Dracula and the beautiful, ethereal, incredible, showstopping Isabelle Adjani as Lucy. Where to watch it: Watch it for free on Tubi or stream it on Peacock. Werner Herzog Filmproduktion / 20th Century Studios 10. Pet Sematary (1989), directed by Mary Lambert: An adaptation of: Pet Sematary by Stephen King Synopsis: When a family who have just moved to rural Maine tragically lose their beloved pet cat, a friendly neighbor informs the father, Louis, of the local pet cemetery. Supposedly, if the cat is buried there, it will come back to life. Well, they bury it, and the cat comes back, alright — but it's a little bit odd. Then the family loses their son. Julia's take: This has one of the best premises of any horror stories, IMO. Sure, it's a little campy, but it deals with grief, the loss of a child, and how people deal with loss and despair. Also, people really love the acting from the cat. Oscarworthy. Where to watch it: Stream it on Max. Paramount Pictures 11. American Psycho (2000), directed by Mary Harron: An adaptation of: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis Synopsis: Patrick Bateman, an investment banker who is infuriated by the fact that he is basically indistinguishable from his other successful peers, begins a double life as a serial killer. Julia's take: Who HASN'T felt that they are an interesting individual just trying their best to stand out in the crowd by being the absolute best at fitting in?! This movie is the absolute best. Please ignore the fact that it was hijacked by annoying 14-year-old boys and give it a chance; it features amazing performances from Christian Bale (who is very nice to look at), Willem Dafoe, and Chloë Sevigny. Where to watch it: Stream it on Peacock or rent it starting at $3.79 from Amazon, YouTube, or Google Play. Lionsgate 12. Psycho (1960), directed by Alfred Hitchcock: An adaptation of: Psycho by Robert Bloch Synopsis: After stealing $40,000 from her employer, a young woman on the run decides to stay at the Bates Motel, a little off the main highway. She meets the young Norman Bates (played by Anthony Perkins), the personable if awkward man who runs the place and owns it with his mother. Meanwhile, her sister and boyfriend, fearing the worst, go looking for her and discover that Norman is not who he seems. Julia's take: I rewatched this very recently, and as I said above, Hitchcock movies only ever age well. Where to watch it: Stream it on Peacock. Universal Pictures / Paramount Pictures 13. It (2017), directed by Andrés Muschietti: An adaptation of: It by Stephen King Synopsis: After one of their little brothers disappears, a group of kids in a small town in '80s Maine band together to defeat a horrifying, shape-shifting, evil entity that returns to their town every 27 years to prey on children. Julia's take: Okay, TBH, I haven't read the book, so It superfans, don't come for me! I haven't watched this since I saw it in theaters in 2017, but I remember it being one of my most terrifying theater experiences. To me, it felt like such a fun moment in that early era of '80s nostalgia movies and television, and it did such a great job of making the kids' friend group feel real, funny, and authentic. Also, Bill Skarsgård did an absolutely incredible job of scaring the shit out of me. Where to watch it: Stream it on Max. Warner Bros. 14. Let the Right One In (2008), directed by Tomas Alfredson: An adaptation of: Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist Synopsis: A young boy, Oskar, who is bullied at school, befriends Eli, a strange girl who lives in his apartment complex. There's something unnatural about Eli; and as their bond strengthens, she eventually shares the truth about herself with Oskar. Julia's take: This movie is a classic Scandinavian slay (physically bleak, everyone is sad, and we sort of drift through the world and explore in depth the protagonist's weird personal relationships). The perfect film! I love and am also terrified by the relationship between Oskar and Eli. The setting, a suburb outside Sweden, almost makes you feel cold through the screen; the whole movie is very atmospheric. If you want to watch something that is all at once mesmerizing, chilling, and a little endearing, this movie is for you. Where to watch it: Watch it for free on Tubi or Pluto TV or stream it on Peacock. Sandrew Metronome 15. And finally, Interview With the Vampire (1994), directed by Neil Jordan: An adaptation of: Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice Synopsis: The film begins with a vampire named Louis (played by Brad Pitt) telling his life story to a biographer in 1990s San Francisco. Following the death of his family in late-18th-century New Orleans, a depressed Louis wanders the streets and is attacked by a vampire named Lestat (Tom Cruise), who turns him. Louis, gentle and loving, has a serious personality conflict with Lestat, who is a little more bloodthirsty. The two more or less adopt a 12-year-old named Claudia (Kirsten Dunst), whom Lestat also turns into a vampire; but their happy family can't last for long. Julia's take: It's going to be biased because I watched this movie on television one night as a child when my parents were at dinner, and it changed me and formed my tastes forever. What you actually need to know: Brad slays. Tom slays. Kirsten SLAYS. This is peak '90s movie. This is peak vampire movie. Watch this movie!!! Where to watch it: Stream it on Hulu or rent it on Amazon, YouTube, or Google Play starting at $3.79. Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection Okay, phew! I hope you watch at least one of these, because this list took a while to put together. And if I missed your favorite, let me know in the comments below! I'm always looking for more movies to watch. View comments