It’s official — your kid isn’t scared of the monster under the bed anymore. Now they’re actively seeking intense experiences to get their adrenaline pumping. If you’re looking for a fun family activity to do together, or if you’re looking for an activity for your kid’s next sleepover or birthday party, watching a horror movie can be really fun! As someone who has gotten plenty of my friends hooked on horror, I can recommend some fun family horror movies to you.
Why do teens love horror?
Watching horror movies gives teens a safe space to explore negative emotions and provides a quick shot of adrenaline, which is great for thrill-seekers. There’s also a sense of satisfaction and wonder when you, the watcher, emerge from a scary or dangerous situation unscathed. The benefits of watching horror movies carry over into real life, too. Watching horror movies can help develop coping skills for anxiety and stressful situations, and we all know how anxious and stressed kids are today.
Best horror movies for teens?
Choosing the perfect horror to watch can be a little intimidating, though, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the genre. What I love most about the horror genre is how diverse it is and how it has expanded beyond the movie screen to include scripted series podcasts. (It includes books too, of course, but I’m not including them here.) If you’re scared by paranormal horror (like myself) or find excessive gore disturbing (also like myself), there are still plenty of fun horror movie options to choose from. The following list contains horror films that have likable and realistic protagonists, intelligent twists, rewatch potential, and minimal jump scares. These are some of my favorites.
Best Horror Movies to Marathon
1. Fear Street
Synopsis: Teens accidently encounter an ancient evil curse that plagues their small town with serial killers and then they try to break that curse. Perfect for a sleepover, sick days, or long lazy days when they’re stuck inside, this film trilogy will have your teens holding tight to the edge of their seats.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: A gifted cast, witty dialogue, and source material from the king of tween and teen horror, R. L. Stine, author of the “Goosebumps” book series.
Synopsis: A shy and sheltered teenage girl takes telekinetic revenge on her bullies after an especially cruel prank. Pick from the 1976 classic, the ‘99 sequel, the 2013 remake, or even the 2012 off-Broadway musical adaptation.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: It’s a classic! Fans of Stephen King and Stranger Things will enjoy the throwbacks.
Synopsis: This funny modern slasher mystery has characters self-aware enough to know how to get out of their movie alive. My personal favorites are the original (1996), Scream 4 (2011), and Scream (2022).
Why Your Teen Will Like It: Neve Campbell plays one of the most iconic final girls of all time, and the whodunnit nature of the franchise will keep your kids glued to the screen trying to solve the plot.
Best Zombie Movies that Have a Lot of Heart
4. Anna and the Apocalypse
Synopsis: A zombie Christmas musical, a coming-of-age film, an underrated masterpiece. “Anna and the Apocalypse” went through a production process that deserves its own documentary — the heart that everyone involved has for the project is palpable from the moment you press play.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: A heartwarming zombie flick without too much gore, a group of likable teens you’ll root for until the end, killer soundtrack with songs that will stay in your head for months, and a hopeful message about survival for Gen-Z.
5. Warm Bodies
Synopsis: This Romeo and Juliet take on a zombie apocalypse is an easy entry into horror. It’s 90% teen romcom and 10% zombies, give or take. This film about the undead is notable for its heart and humanity.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: Cheese, cheese, and more cheese. What’s a better challenge for star-crossed lovers than one of them being dead?
6. Train to Busan
Synopsis: If your teen is all in on horror, and loves the life-or-death stakes of “Squid Game,” the Korean zombie film “Train to Busan” might be your teen’s next favorite. There’s a reason this film is so popular — the humanity that permeates every moment of this zombie apocalypse makes it a heart-wrenching watch every time.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: While it leans more on the gore and violence side of things in comparison to the other zombie picks so far, the acting from the cast are more than enough to balance it out. My whole family loves this one!
Best Horror Movies with Slashers and Killers
7. Battle Royale
Synopsis: This Japanese horror is the quintessential “kids killing kids” movie. Every character is given a chance to live in multiple dimensions, even if only for a minute. Watch with subtitles instead of finding an English dub.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: If your kid liked “Hunger Games,” “The Wilds,” “The Society,” or “Yellowjackets,” they’ll like this one, too.
8. Rocky Horror Picture Show
Synopsis: This bizarre cult-classic musical from the seventies is still alive! A newly engaged couple gets caught in a storm and seeks shelter at the home of a mad scientist. There is a lot of sexual innuendo in this one and so I recommend this one for older teens, around the age when they’re heading off to college. Seeing this one is a midnight rite of passage.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: Tim Curry’s most iconic role. Queer representation, defiance of gender roles, an over-the-top celebration of individual creativity and uniqueness.
9. The Final Girls
Synopsis: A grieving teen finds herself in the film world and movie role that made her mother famous — one of the teens in a summer camp slasher. This film makes references to other camp slashers like “Friday the 13th,” so having some familiarity with those films will make it even more fun to watch.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: A cast featuring Vampire Diaries and American Horror Stories alum, gorgeous set design, and moments that will make you laugh even when characters are about to die. This movie is funny, heartfelt, and exciting at every beat. Be prepared for this one to become a favorite.
10. Jennifer’s Body
Synopsis: There’s plenty to love about this B-Movie staple from the late 00’s and it’s perfect for teens unbothered by a bit of gore. A demon takes possession of a high school girl, turning her into a succubus killer who offs her male classmates. When her friend discovers what’s happening, she vows to end the carnage.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: A time capsule of the late 00’s, iconic script by Diablo Cody, quality acting from the dual leads of Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox, an earworm soundtrack. You’ve definitely seen people dress up as the namesake for Halloween.
11. Tragedy Girls
Synopsis: Two true crime bloggers report on their own murder spree. An exploration of female friendships pushed to the extreme, it’s an oddly empowering piece and does a great job of endearing you to people whose morals are reprehensible.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: It’s like a true crime podcast, but with the dark humor of “Heathers” and “Jawbreaker.”
Bingeable Horror Movies Made for Television
12. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Synopsis: A teenage girl and her friends going up against the forces of evil in her small California town. A stacked cast and amazing scripts help bring this classic late 90’s show to life.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: Combines high school drama with life or death stakes. Perfect if they like “The Vampire Diaries” or “Teen Wolf.”
13. Scream (Seasons One and Two)
Synopsis: A masked killer borrows from the town’s history of murder to target a group of teens connected to the original massacre’s final girl.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: This one is an underrated guilty pleasure. If your teen likes a slow-burn mystery reminiscent of “Pretty Little Liars” with a horror legend mixed in, they’ll enjoy this slasher series.
14. Teen Wolf (2011)
Synopsis: A teenage boy is bit by a werewolf and finds himself in the middle of a war between wolves and hunters, wolf packs, and supernatural forces.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: A must-watch for Gen-Z. The vibe of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” but also adamantly Team Jacob.
15. I Know What You Did Last Summer (Amazon Prime)
Synopsis: Amazon’s restaging of the 90’s film classic and the 70’s novel. A group of teens accidentally run over a pedestrian and, a year later, are haunted by reminders of their crime.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: Easily bingeable at 8 episodes. This one will appeal to fans of the drawn-out whodunnit of MTV’s “Scream.”
Best Horror Movies on the Web
16. The Hatchetfield Series by StarKid (YouTube)
Synopsis: Starkid is famous for its comedic musicals. This series adds horror to the mix. I recommend two installments in the Hatchetfield Series: “The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals” and “Black Friday.” And, possibly “Nerdy Prudes Must Die,” which is set to premiere in 2023. “TGWDLM” is about a hive-mind alien invasion when a musical pandemic sweeps an entire city. “Black Friday” is about the shopping day from hell when shoppers literally go mad for the latest, hottest toy.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: Starkid has earned a reputation for being the internet’s favorite theater company, and their recent excursions into horror are no exception. Starkid has influenced internet culture for a long time, so even if you don’t usually like musicals, it’s worth a shot.
17. Ghost Files (YouTube)
Synopsis: A believer and a skeptic conduct paranormal investigations across the United States.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: It’s funny. It’s approachable. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, there’s something for everyone in this series. The Ghoul Boys can make anyone comfortable with the paranormal.
18. Film Reroll (Friday the 13th, Halloween)
Synopsis: The Film Reroll is a podcast where people go off-script to play through movies as an RPG (role playing game), letting a dice roll change the way the movie plays out. They role play movies in different genres but their play-throughs of horror movies stand out as my personal favorites.
Why Your Teen Will Like It: If your teen has ever shouted at a tv screen because the characters are impossibly self-aware, or they’ve thought fictional characters or people in their own lives should be doing things differently, this is a perfect podcast to explore.