For years I’ve spent hours watching horror movies, from some of the best horror movies out there to newer ones that have come out, like Malignant or 2021’s Candyman. However, there’s just something about the classic horror movie villains that truly make me shiver in fright every single time I watch their films over and over.
Honestly, they deserve all the praise in the world for not only haunting our nightmares, but creating truly memorable movie-going experiences. In no particular order, here are some of the creepiest, truly terrifying classic horror movie villains that still make me shake.
Michael Myers (Halloween)
Michael Myers is the main antagonist in every Halloween movie, created by John Carpenter. His story begins as a young boy, where he murdered his older sister, and is sent to a psychiatric hospital. But years later, he returns to his home, with one goal in mind - to murder more teenagers.
If I was ranking this list, Michael Myers would be my number one, hands down, probably tied with one other we’ll get into later. There’s just something about him that makes me want to hide under the covers. Michael Myers isn’t this crazy-looking monster in the Halloween franchise. He’s just a man in a mask who’s really good at killing. He doesn't speak, he doesn't yell, he just stands there, menacingly, and stalks until he reaches his prey.
Jamie Lee Curtis had her breakout role in the original Halloween films, and her interactions with Myers are truly terrifying. Even though I’ve seen the original film so many times, he still haunts me to this day. And who can forget his epic musical theme? That piano gets me excited every time I watch.
In Candyman, the legend of Candyman is actually about the ghost of an artist and the son of a slave, who was brutally murdered for having a relationship with a white woman with a rich father. Now, he’s returning to haunt the same spot he was murdered in centuries ago.
Candyman is definitely another instance where there’s nothing truly physically terrifying about him. From a distance, he looks like any other normal person, wearing that iconic long coat. But as he comes closer, you start to notice slowly that some things are off, and then he brings out that clawed hand. What really makes Candyman terrifying is that he’s not a physical presence.
He’s fully a spirit, but because he has that ability, he’s able to manipulate Helen’s life, the main character in Candyman. He murders people, and then puts the blame on her, where she can’t even explain why there are murders - because the true murderer, Candyman, has vanished. Her life ruined, just like that.
Chucky (Child’s Play)
The story of Chucky - you know, that creepy-ass looking doll - is that he was a serial killer who was hunted down by the police, but when he is dying from a gunshot wound, he is able to transfer his soul into the “Good Guys” doll, and through that, tries to transfer to a human body.
Ugh, God, I don’t even want to talk about Chucky, to be honest. As someone who grew up with American Girl Dolls, the idea of a serial killer hiding in dolls creeps me out enough, but just looking at the face of this doll makes it worse. Chucky is terrifying because it’s literally a child’s doll, one of the most seemingly harmless things. But then all of a sudden, the doll is straight-up killing everyone, and who would ever suspect a doll would do that?
While there’s been remakes of the original movie, including a 2019 film where Mark Hamill voiced the iconic character, nothing will ever top the first.
Jack Torrance (The Shining)
Jack Torrance was just a regular guy when he took on the job to watch over the Overlook Hotel with his family in Stephen King’s The Shining. But when those evil spirits start to take over his mind, drowning him in his alcoholism and past trauma, his insanity takes hold, and nothing can stop him.
First off, I want to preface this by saying that no one else could play Jack Torrance like Jack Nicholson. No one. Nicholson brings this certain kind of crazy to the role that’s iconic and can truly never be topped. But what really makes Jack Torrance so terrifying is that he really was just a regular person prior to this.
Did he have problems? Oh, heck yeah. But never at the beginning of the story did you think he would ever want to not only murder his wife but his child as well. It’s a slow, achingly creepy transformation, with a climatic payoff at the end, acted to perfection.
Queen Mother (Alien)
The supreme ruler of the entire Xenomorph species of alien, the Queen Mother is one of the many antagonists in the Alien franchise, and honestly, scares the living sh*t out of me.
Many of the classic horror movie villains on this list are normal-looking people, or strange spirits from another world or dimension, but there is just something about the Queen Mother that makes me want to jump out a window. The tentacles, mixed in with those sharp teeth, along with how quick she is - I mean, literally all of the other aliens, even other Queen Xenomorphs, bow down to her.
She’s powerful, horrifying, and hungry for you - and that’s enough to make anyone squirm at the TV.
The Thing (The Thing)
In The Thing, the titular monster is a hostile shape-shifting extra-terrestrial and the primary villain of the 1982 film, with the ability to assimilate into other living forms to survive and spread.
The thing with the Thing (see what I did there) is that it’s honestly not that scary at first glance, just like Candyman. But while Candyman was just a ghost, the Thing is something that you literally can’t see.
It can be anyone. It’s the paranoia of who might be this terrifying, horrible creature, because it could be your friend, your wife, your husband, your daughter, anything. There are few ways to figure out who it is, but who exactly can you trust? The very idea makes my skin crawl.
Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th)
In the Friday the 13th franchise, Jason Voorhees is the main antagonist for most of the series, except for the very first film, although his name is featured. He’s a little boy who drowned in Camp Crystal Lake when he was a camper because the counselors were too busy having sex, so he comes back to murder everyone there.
While Jason wasn’t around in the first film and his mother was the main villain there, he ended up becoming one of the most recognizable faces in horror, thanks to that iconic hockey mask from the third film. Jason has become more of a supernatural being over the films he’s been in - even having a fight with Freddy Kreuger down in hell one time - but there’s no denying he's terrifying.
He just doesn’t seem like he can die, even in the afterlife. He’s still terrorizing from beyond the grave. Who would have thought a machete and a hockey mask would make for one of the most iconic characters ever?
Norman Bates (Psycho)
Directed by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho features Norman Bates, a seemingly normal man who has a love for his mother and looks over a motel. But as time passes, there’s a sinister secret behind Bates - and his true insanity.
Out of everyone on this list, Norman Bates is one of those horror movie villains that I can feasibly see happening in the real world. He seems completely normal at first, but soon, we find out that he’s literally kept his mother’s skeleton, mummifying her corpse after murdering her, recreating his mother in his mind as an alternate personality, and kills women when he’s in that personality.
The dude is just freaking unhinged, but to be honest, this sort of strange mental manipulation can happen to people in the real world, which is what makes a character like Norman so terrifying. Who knows what would have happened if he wasn’t caught, how many other women he might have killed. Plus, you can never forget that iconic shower scene with that famous score.
Pazuzu (The Exorcist)
The Exorcist franchise is memorable in many ways, but no one can quite outdo the first. In The Exorcist, for a bit it's unknown what exactly is possessing Regan, but soon reveals itself to be an evil entity from Hell called Pazuzu, controlling the mind of the young girl, killing people along the way.
Pazuzu is another case where we don’t actively see the villain. There’s really no physical presence. But we can tell how chilling and horrifying it is through the possession of Regan. It physically changes her body, her character, takes over her mind, causing her skin to rot, makes her body float, harms her - it’s truly evil.
It even goes as far as to cause a heart attack in someone else, Merrin, because it wants to hold onto a human body so badly.
Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Last but certainly not least, we take a look at Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Freddy is the spirit of a serial killer who uses a gloved hand with razors to kill his victims in their dreams, causing their deaths in the real world at the same time.
My first pick on this list was Michael Myers, but if I was ranking them, Freddy would be tied with Myers for how terrifying both of them are, mainly because Freddy has a hold on one thing we truly thought would never harm us - dreams and nightmares. When we wake up from them, we’re not actually harmed from nightmares, or living in dream worlds, but Freddy can get into those nightmares and dreams and literally kill you from inside your own head, causing your death in the real world.
That sort of thought is bloody scary to think of - to me, I always feel the safest in my bed, where I feel the most vulnerable, and to have that taken away from you with just a flick of Freddy’s wrist, and your life ended? That’s a terrifying villain, one that truly deserves the amount of movies he’s gotten.
With so many iconic horror villains, I can only hope that all the upcoming horror movies will have just as many amazingly scary antagonists. Who knows? We might get the next horror icon in the next year or so - only time will tell.
Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!
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