Ghosts. Zombies. Killer aliens. Cannibals. Flesh-eating disease. The apocalypse. Sounds like a laugh riot, doesn’t it? Horror movies show us the darkest and most frightening recesses of the human imagination, preying on our fears and vulnerability. Moviegoers go to horror movies, often specifically, to get scared in a safe setting (all the adrenaline with none of that running-from-a-serial-killer hassle).
But sometimes the dark stuff is just too dark. Sometimes real life presents us with tragedies and atrocities and grotesqueries that we don’t want to fully process. Sometimes horror movies that play it straight don’t give us the escape we need. We can’t always fight fire with fire and go from war and natural disasters and social injustice to watching people get tortured or possessed and feel good about ourselves. We need to be reminded that life is too short to not find humor in its absurdity; and we need to be reminded, too, that many of our fears are unfounded and silly.
A good funny horror movie tends to work from the framework of your standard fright flick, and then make the scenarios or action or dialog so absurd that it becomes hysterical. Some of the movies on this list can even be argued to be comedies first, and horror movies second. What we’re concerned with, however, is pointing out movies that give us a fright and a chuckle all in one awesome bundle. We’ve left out plenty of good ones, and would love to hear your feedback on other awesome suggestions.
Here are the 15 Funniest Horror Movies Of All Time.
15. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Tobe Hooper made a splash in the horror world with the early slasher masterpiece, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If that is all you or your friends have seen from the series, prepare to be confused and entertained. Despite the first movie being terrifying, gritty, and gruesome, Hooper felt as though there was humor in there that most of the audience didn’t pick up on. The director was actually handed a carte blanche picture deal from Cannon Films (for the full story, watch the amazing and informative Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films). Out to set the record straight, Hooper blessed us with the glorious ’80s romp that is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
The movie follows Texas radio DJ “Stretch” as she works to survive Leatherface and his murderous dysfunctional family, including Leatherface’s psychotic hippie brother Chop-Top (played to perfection by Bill Moseley). Making matters worse, Dennis Hopper’s “Lefty” Enright is a former Texas Ranger with an ax to grind (or, more accurately, a chainsaw to rev) with Leatherface and family. Enright is so blinded by revenge that he winds up making a case for being the real menace of the movie. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is bright and bloody and weird, going in directions you don’t see coming… and it features a great ’80s soundtrack featuring The Cramps and Oingo Boingo.
14. Black Sheep
Killer animals, mad science, and mutant monsters have all been a staple of horror for decades. When the animals and mutants in question are sheep, it is pretty apparent that the movie isn’t being 100% serious. Black Sheep comes from New Zealand, a country with no shortage of sheep, and it’s so effective at both fright and fun because the movie plays out with a very serious horror tone. A family tragedy/cruel prank when he was a child give the protagonist, Henry, a sheep phobia. Meanwhile, as an adult, his cruel older brother Angus is conducting experiments on sheep that wind up causing them to become bloodthirsty and capable of mutating people with a single bite.
Like with any good mutant movie, a sheep gets loose and things begin to escalate. Henry and Angus are put on a collision course that will force Henry to confront both his brother and his greatest fears. The special effects for the movie were done by the masterful Weta Workshop (The Hobbit, Mad Max: Fury Road) and include a very healthy dose of killer sheep puppets. Some of the humor is a little crass — namely in the ending that we won’t spoil — but the earnestness and craft put into the hilarious premise makes this title stand out where other similar efforts have faltered. In the end, Black Sheep is a frightening and fun energetic romp. Just don’t forget the mint sauce!
13. Cabin Fever
This little gem from 2002 made Eli Roth a household name in horror (for better and for worse) when it became a mini-box office sensation after grossing $30.5 million on a $1.5 million budget. Cabin Fever is perhaps the pinnacle of bro horror, as much of the humor in the movie comes from the bro’d out dialogue and antics of the main characters that wouldn’t be out of place (apart from the setting a man on fire bit) in a fraternity-based comedy. Some of the laughs comes from the same vein of completely unexpected and random humor that would come to find a home on the shows of Adult Swim… such as the infamous Dennis “No pancakes!” scene. If you don’t understand what “No pancakes!” refers to, it just means that you should watch this movie.
Coming from Eli Roth, the gore is heavy and used to great effect. The movie’s horror cleverly relies on the genre cliche of college kids in the woods being promiscuous. The film has generated such a following in its 14 years that a remake came out earlier this year that used the exact same script as the original. Cabin Fever is certainly the most serious of the horror films on this list, but somehow it’s all the funnier for it.
12. Return of the Living Dead: Part 2
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: sequels are almost never as good as the originals. Such is the case with this series, but the 2nd entry is still fun and creative… even if it does lean a little on the inventiveness of the original. Return of the Living Dead: Part 2 begins with a trio of kids (including the main protagonist) finding barrels, lost by the military, containing zombies and the chemical agent that they release in a cemetery. The barrels are breached, exposing one of the kids, a couple bumbling grave robbers, and all the corpses in the cemetery. The dead come back to life, and the living that were exposed slowly begin to turn into zombies themselves. A departure from the zombie films of the era, the zombies in Return are smart and able to run (pre-dating the ‘fast zombies’ of the early 2000s by 15 years).
Things get funny as the grave robbers work to deal with the zombies, their own impending demise, and their undead needs. Other zombies get in on the act, figuring out ingenious ways of eating more brains. For the younger set, there is even a cute nod to Michael Jackson’s Thriller on the part of the zombies. A surprisingly family friendly flick for being about creatures rising from the dead to eat peoples’ brains, this movie is light-hearted and thoroughly enjoyable.
11. Night of the Comet
Night of the Comet, perhaps more than any horror comedy of the 1980s, typifies the decade in which it was made. The movie follows two Valley girls sisters who have managed to survive the apocalypse. As the tail of a comet catches the Earth, everybody who wasn’t protected was either vaporized into red dust or turned into a zombie (the movie plays very fast and loose with what we consider to be zombies, however).
The girls are obsessed with video games and shopping and, in the wake of the Earth essentially having been destroyed, they elect to go shopping at the mall (reminiscent of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead). After having coming in contact with another survivor, the girls find themselves pitted against not just the zombies, but some well-meaning (ish) scientists that prove to be just as dangerous. The dialogue is snappy and full of quotables, like “Daddy would have gotten us Uzis!” And, as is rare in horror, it is great to see two capable and smart female protagonists that never really play damsels in distress. Night of the Comet hasn’t aged as well as some of the other movies on the list, but it is a solid and enjoyable film, and a great time capsule of ’80s culture.
Not to be confused with the amazing (and funny in its own right) Japanese horror movie of the same name by Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1986’s House is a staple of the golden age of horror comedies in the mid-80s. House was based on a story by horror icon Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps, Monster Squad), and follows a struggling writer/Vietnam vet who is living in his aunt’s house following her suicide as he tries to write his next book and cope with the mysterious disappearance of his only son. Despite the grim premise, the movie delivers a great deal of action and fun, coupled with some truly memorable beasties. George Wendt, of Cheers fame, plays sidekick to the writer… and his mere presence manages to keep everything light and fluffy, no matter how dark the goings-ons really are in concept.
While far from a comedic performance itself, Richard Moll (Bull from Night Court) plays ‘Big Ben’, who the writer fought alongside in Vietnam with great aplomb. As a complete aside, House features one of the most iconic and tremendous movie posters of the video store era. If you were perhaps too young or too afraid to rent this movie on a Friday night, rest assured that it is not too late to let the flick shock and amuse you this Halloween season.
The most notable film of director Stuart Gordon’s illustrious (and ongoing) career, Re-Animator stands in the eyes of many as one of the films on the Mount Rushmore of ’80s horror. Drawing its source material from an H.P. Lovecraft story, Re-Animator is an action-packed, disturbing, and very humorous examination of the depths to which people will sink for the sake of their obsession. Genre legend and nerd hero Jeffrey Combs (in addition to several amazing horror roles, he’s also done work in the Star Trek, DC, Marvel, and Thundercats universes) made his mark in horror as Herbert West in this film — the anti-hero who acts as the titular Re-Animator.
The movie features healthy amounts of gore, cheesecake (courtesy of horror royalty Barbara Crampton), and chuckles. The glowing green re-animating serum is effective in bringing the dead back to life, but there are unexpected side effects that come with it… and even more unexpected outcomes. The sheer audacity that Gordon shows us in the progression of the characters and their motives is what drives both the scares and the comedy of the movie. Re-Animator is truly one of the classics of the genre, and it stands as one of the few movies that always manages to over-deliver on entertainment regardless of how much praise is thrown at it.
Zombieland came on the eve of zombie saturation and somehow managed to re-invigorate the horror comedy sub-genre in the process. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg as a neurotic survivor of the zombie apocalypse who abides by a set of rules that he shares with the audience. He encounters another survivor in Woody Harrelson (on the hunt for any remaining Twinkies… and inventive ways to kill zombies), and the two become traveling companions. They soon meet up with a pair of sisters on their way to California, and join them on the journey.
Zombieland‘s strength as a comedy is that it realizes the absurdity of a world overrun by zombies and what that would actually look like. Most people, generally unfit and ill-equipped for dangerous situations, are unable to survive in a post-zombie world. The ones that do have the freedom to do as they please… a theme examined on occasion in other horror and sci-fi films, but not nearly to the same extent. Zombieland can be tense and filled with action, but it takes great pains to inject humor in ways that are never forced or out of place. While most definitely an all-time classic of horror comedy, the movie also doubles as an all-time roadtrip movie.
Slither is the unsung masterpiece of James Gunn’s early career (Dawn of the Dead, Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2). The film is a veritable who’s who of great character actors and nerd heroes, and it features Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, and Michael Rooker as its leads. The movie revolves around Rooker’s Grant Grant (great name, right?) coming in contact with an alien parasite that immediately takes root inside of him. Changing his behavior, and causing him to infect other people, Grant Grant takes great pains at hiding his transformation (and disfiguration) from his wife, played by Banks.
The movie is a gross-out fest, but it never relies on it. It’s stuffed to the gills with inventive and unexpected twists and turns, and somehow manages to stay true to its genre roots. Slither plays out like the lifelong dream and thesis of a truly dedicated horror fan and historian. It is nearly impossible to describe the fun and crazy things that go on in this movie without revealing spoilers, so suffice it to say that if you have any love for horror, be sure to check out Slither… and don’t do it while eating meat.
6. Killer Klowns From Outer Space
Of all the movies on the list, this one is perhaps the least serious (you’re shocked, right?). Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a love letter from the Chiodo Brothers (famous more for their effects and animation work on other projects than their own) to the alien invasion horror movies of the 1950s and 1960s. By making the aliens and their equipment resemble circus clowns and the tools of their trade, they managed to eliminate the seriousness of the film, create great gag segments, and tap into the coulrophobia (fear of clowns) that is surprisingly prevalent in the modern day.
The movie flies from one amusing bit to another, as the clowns capture or kill people using alien popcorn, puppets holding rayguns, shadow puppets, caustic cream pies, and more. The Chiodos lovingly crafted amazing puppet suits for each of their clowns, giving them a cartoony and menacing presence (the costumes were so good, it was just recently revealed that some of them were re-purposed as trolls for Ernest Scared Stupid). Despite the subject matter, there are some truly disturbing scenes and some genuinely good jump scares hidden underneath the silliness. The film also features a theme song done by classic novelty punk act, The Dickies.
5. Shaun of the Dead
Written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, Shaun of the Dead is a carefully crafted send-up of the traditional zombie movie. Pegg plays Shaun, a shiftless electronics store salesman who does little else but drink at a pub, pal around with his friend Ed (played to perfection by frequent collaborator Nick Frost), and flounder in his attempts to maintain his relationship with his girlfriend Liz. When a zombie infection takes hold of London, Shaun is slow on the uptake. Only when he is face-to-face with a couple undead in very dangerous situations does he wise up enough to take Ed to get Liz (and his mom) to his idea of safety… his beloved pub.
The movie flips a number of classic zombie tropes on their head. In the hands of a barely capable pair of slackers, zombie apocalypse survival becomes much, much funnier. Perhaps one of the greatest scenes in horror movie history comes when Shaun and Ed use Shaun’s record collection as a weapon against a zombie… carefully choosing their chosen projectiles based on how good the record is. Edgar Wright’s directorial style amps up both the laughs and the tension in equal measure, and leaves us with an all-time classic.
4. The Return of the Living Dead
A horror cinema treasure, The Return of the Living Dead, took its premise as a pseudo-sequel to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and turned it into a bold and unique movie more than capable of standing on its own. The movie was written by, and is one of just two full-length movies to have been directed by, the late Dan O’Bannon (writer of Alien, Total Recall, and a number of other classics). Young Freddy gets a job working in a medical supply warehouse alongside the eager old hand, Frank. Frank accidentally unleashes a chemical from a misplaced military barrel that causes the deceased residents of the nearby cemetery to rise from the dead and fiend for brains. Meanwhile, Freddy’s punk rocker friends are waiting for him in that very same cemetery (uh oh).
One of the all-time coolest soundtracks (45 Grave, Roky Erickson, The Damned, T.S.O.L., and more) paces the action, which is abundant. Scream queen Linnea Quigley puts on a show-stealing performance (and that’s even ignoring the striptease). The film has a great sense of humor about nearly everything, and features several iconic zombies like the Tar Man. For some reason, despite its pedigree and how beloved it is in cult circles, this movie remains largely unknown by the general public, though it remains a great and fun treat to impress your friends with on a movie night.
3. The Cabin in the Woods
The Cabin in the Woods is the most recent movie on this list, but by no means does that make it any less of a classic. Along with Wes Craven’s Scream, perhaps no horror movie plays with fright flick conventions and expectations so deftly. Sinister forces conspire, quite literally, to doom a group of young and attractive people staying in a remote cabin. Nothing horror is sacred and everything horror is sacred in the hands of writing duo Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon.
As time goes on, the folks in the cabin begin to get wise to what’s going on… but nothing can truly prepare them for the truth. If you haven’t seen the movie, then probably nothing can prepare you, either. The cast, headlined by Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, and Jesse Williams, manage to make even the unbelievable seem plausible. Unfortunately for a post like this, the less said the better. We leave it to you to journey to The Cabin in the Woods.
2. Dead Alive
The film that announced to Hollywood that Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, The Frighteners) had arrived was this super gross-out New Zealand production. Set in the 1950s, Dead Alive follows adult mama’s boy Lionel as he attempts a romance with the lovely Paquita under the pathologically overbearing and demanding behavior of Lionel’s mother. Things get complicated when Lionel’s mother contracts a nasty disease that causes her to quickly decline… and attack other living things. Keeping his mother’s condition under wraps, the conditions escalate to the point of boiling over in an explosive and bloody fashion.
Quite possibly the bloodiest movie of all-time, the movie plays out like a demented Looney Tunes cartoon. For instance, one zombie who is roaming around headless has a garden gnome forcibly attached to its neck stump. To be clear, this is perhaps the least shocking and least violent thing to happen in the movie. Cartoonish to the nth degree, the movie is not for the faint of heart. Those that can stomach the ultraviolence (and understand the Kiwi accent) will be rewarded with one of the most fun and funny horror movies of all-time in Dead Alive.
1. Evil Dead II
The gold standard for all horror comedy, Evil Dead II is a timeless masterpiece helmed by master director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, Darkman). Brilliant physical comedy actor Bruce Campbell plays Ash Williams, a well-meaning and swarthy protagonist whose bone-headed antics invite a terrible evil into the cabin in which he and his girlfriend are staying. Ash is soon joined in the cabin by a foursome that believe him to be a lunatic and murderer. The action starts fast in the movie, and rarely lets up for its whole duration. Full of expert jump scares, bizarre sequences, genuinely funny slapstick, and gruesome effects, the movie is everything you could want in a horror comedy.
This film cemented Campbell in the hearts of genre fans forever, and was successful enough to spawn another sequel (Army of Darkness), a video game, several series of comics, and, most recently, a television series (Ash vs Evil Dead, which is starting its 2nd season October 2nd). An interesting note: this movie’s predecessor, The Evil Dead, feels startlingly similar to this movie in plot. Evil Dead II is an actual sequel rather than a reboot, although it does serve to set the tone of the rest of the series… as The Evil Dead is played as more straight horror (with both great and unintentionally funny results). Even the most diehard of Raimi fans would concede that you could start your Ash experience with Evil Dead II and come back to the first whenever you’re good and ready.
What do you think is the funniest horror movie ever made? Sound off in the comments.