If you ask me, the best horror movies are the ones rooted in some sense of reality and provide a thought-provoking, analogous (or even boldly straightforward) commentary on the true horrors of the world. As far as I am concerned, few films achieve these sort of nuanced nightmares quite as effectively as Black horror movies.
The subgenre, defined by thrillers created by Black artists, led by a Black actor, or featuring a predominantly Black cast, has a long and fascinating history, but it was after the more recent release of Get Out when it notably received a major uptick in popularity and prestige. Therefore, I cannot think of a better way to kick off our recommendations for the 13 best Black horror movies available on streaming, digital rental, or on physical media.
Get Out (2017)
A young, Black photographer (Academy Award winner Daniel Kaluuya) learns that he was right to be anxious to meet his white girlfriend’s family in more horrifying ways than he could have imagined.
Why it is one of the best Black horror movies: Comedy star Jordan Peele proved he also had a real knack for creeping us out while waking us up to modern day racial tension with his stunning directorial debut, Get Out, which earned him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
A well-to-do Black family (led by Black Panther cast members Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) vacationing in Santa Cruz finds their holiday interrupted by the violent appearance of another family that looks just like them.
Why it is one of the best Black horror movies: In his arguably scarier follow-up to Get Out, Jordan Peele takes on economic class disparity and the chilling concept of becoming your own worst enemy in Us, which should have, at least, earned Lupita Nyong’o an Oscar nomination for her arresting performance in dual roles.
Tales From The Hood (1995)
An eccentric mortician (Clarence Williams III) entertains his three guests, who have arrived at his funeral home seeking a drug deal, with four chilling stories about his most infamous clientele, including one about a Black cop haunted by the guilt of a mistake and a racist politician who receives his comeuppance from an unlikely source.
Why it is one of the best Black horror movies: One of the most definitive and poignant examples of Black horror and one of the best anthology horror movies ever made is Tales from the Hood, from award-winning director and co-writer Rusty Cundieff.
Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
A group of Pennsylvanians take refuge inside an old farmhouse to protect themselves from shuffling, flesh-eating corpses that have suddenly risen from their graves and are spreading in numbers fast.
Why it is one of the best Black horror movies: One of the very first horror movies to subtly comment on racial prejudice (which writer and director George A. Romero would claim was never quite intentional) was Night of the Living Dead, which made history for introducing the modern zombie into the mainstream and casting Duane Jones as the first-ever Black actor to lead a horror movie.
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Ganja And Hess (1973)
After he is stabbed by an ancient artifact while on a research trip in Africa, an anthropologist (Duane Jones) returns to the United States with a fervent craving for blood and seduces his former partner’s wife (Marlene Clark) into being the same deadly creature he has become.
Why it is one of the best Black horror movies: Furthering his status as an iconic horror movie actor, Duane Jones starred in Ganja & Hess - an erotic and surreal vampire story unlike any other from writer Bill Gunn, who also co-directed the landmark thriller with Emmy nominee Lawrence Jordan.
A grad student’s (Virginia Madsen) ambitious research on urban legends leads her to unwittingly summon a vengeful spirit (Tony Todd) feared by tenants of an impoverished housing project in Chicago.
Why it is one of the best Black horror movies: Filling in for Duane Jones’ role in Tom Savini’s 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead was Tony Todd, who would became a horror legend himself when cast as the title character of Candyman - director Bernard Rose’s suspenseful adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story “The Forbidden” that, like Nia DaCosta’s 2021 sequel, boldly sheds light on topics like systemic racism and gentrification.
Almost two centuries after he was transformed into a creature of the night by Count Dracula himself, an African prince is accidentally transported to Los Angeles where he pursues a woman he hopes to make into his vampire bride.
Why it is one of the best Black horror movies: Years before Tony Todd starred in Candyman, one of the first and only villainous Black horror movie characters was the title role of Blacula - as played brilliantly by William Marshall in director William Crain’s Blaxploitation-era take on the lore pioneered by Bram Stoker.
A half-mortal, half-vampire hybrid (Wesley Snipes) uses his unique gifts to hunt down pure, evil bloodsuckers.
Why it is one of the best Black horror movies: Someone who could certainly give Blacula a run for his money is the title character of Blade - as portrayed by a supremely badass Wesley Snipes in a gory, action-packed thriller that is also one of the first Black superhero movies and one of the first great Marvel movies, which will also soon be rebooted with Mahershala Ali.
Eve’s Bayou (1997)
After witnessing her father - a charming, respected physician (Samuel L. Jackson) - in an uncompromising situation, a young girl (Jurnee Smollett) conspires to punish him for the hurt he has put her family through with help from forces of a mystic legend in 1962 Louisiana.
Why it is one of the best Black horror movies: Speaking of Marvel movies, Nick Fury actor Samuel L. Jackson stars in a chilling tale of love, betrayal, and voodoo called Eve’s Bayou - Candyman star Kasi Lemmons' feature-length debut as a writer and director that also stars a then-11-year-old Jurnee Smollett in the title role.
His House (2020)
A couple of married, South Sudanese refugees (Some Disiru and Wunmi Mosaku) were already having a difficult enough time adjusting to life in a London suburb when they find themselves tormented by a malevolent spirit.
Why it is one of the best Black horror movies: Speaking of Jurnee Smollett, her Lovecraft Country co-star, Wunmi Mosaku (also known for Disney+’s Loki), gives a beautiful performance in writer and director Remi Weekes’ feature-length debut His House - an indelibly frightening, shocking Netflix original hybrid of haunted house movies with graphic commentary on cultural integration, among other pressing themes.
A young woman (Kiersey Clemons) is already living a nightmare after she becomes stranded on a deserted island after a devastating shipwreck, when she comes to find out that she may not alone.
Why it is one of the best Black horror movies: Another one of the best horror movies on Netflix is Sweetheart - an underrated, Blumhouse-produced creature feature/survival thriller starring Zack Snyder’s Justice League star, Kiersey Clemons, in an impressive, almost completely isolated performance.
The People Under The Stairs (1991)
A teenage boy (The Sandlot cast member Brandon Quintin Adams) becomes roped into a plot to rob his family’s landlords (Twin Peaks cast members Everett McGill and Wendy Cobie), only to learn that their home is a genuine death trap hiding many horrifying secrets.
Why it is one of the best Black horror movies: Writer and director Wes Craven brings us one of the most grounded and frighteningly plausible films of his career in The People Under the Stairs, which combines a narrative structure inspired by fairy tale lore with real-life themes of poverty and urban decay.
Attack The Block (2011)
A teen street gang team up with an adult nurse (Doctor Who’s Jodie Whitaker) to defend their neighborhood from an invasion of vicious, man-eating extra-terrestrials in South London.
Why it is one of the best Black horror movies: Before the Star Wars movies made John Boyega a household name, he gave a stunning breakthrough performance as the lead of Attack the Block - one of the best horror-comedies with a more overtly sci-fi twist you will ever see, heightened by its clever commentary on the classist root of gang violence in the UK, or even in the U.S.
I cannot wait to see what upcoming horror movies from Black artists we can add to our collection nexts.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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