Two years ago, It became the highest grossing horror movie of all time with a Stephen King adaptation that finally felt like the work of the master properly translated to the screen. Rather than the nostalgic view of the ‘80s we get in Stranger Things, It offered us a bleaker, more accurate version of the ‘80s in which real-life terrors go hand-in-hand with paranormal ones.
So, while you wait for the second and concluding chapter of It to be released later this year, catching up with the Losers Club as adults who are determined to eradicate the titular supernatural beast once and for all, here are 10 terrifying horror movies to watch if you liked It.
10 The Conjuring
There’s a tendency in modern horror films to use jump scares as a crutch. Lazy filmmakers have realized that they don’t have to use any craft to create suspense or tension if they just have a monster jump out of the closet every five minutes. But there are still directors out there, like James Wan, who realize that the most effective jump scares have to be earned, and this is perfectly on display in his frightful haunted house story The Conjuring.
The movie is based on the true story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who went out to a family’s isolated home in the 1970s and found that it was possessed by demonic forces.
9 Let Me In
At its core, It is a story about how tough it is to grow up. Being a kid in a world dominated by bullies and authority figures is difficult and scary, and It reflects that – as does Matt Reeves’ Let Me In, the Hollywood remake of the Swedish horror classic Let the Right One In.
Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as a neglected boy who lives a lonely life of having no friends and getting mercilessly beaten up by kids who are bigger and angrier than him. And then he befriends a vampire played by Chloë Grace Moretz and they drum up sort of a romance. She has an irrepressible bloodlust, which gets in the way of their relationship, and leads to some harrowing and violent sequences.
If creepy clowns are your thing, then look no further than Poltergeist (the 1982 original, not the dreadful 2015 remake), which counts a chilling clown doll among the many household items that the titular specter manipulates. Being drawn from a script by Steven Spielberg, there is a hopeful ‘80s Amblin element to Poltergeist, but being directed by Tobe Hooper of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, it’s also suitably terrifying.
It’s a suburban haunted house story about a family being terrorized by the otherworldly spirit has that abducted their young daughter through the TV, and it’s filled with instantly recognizable iconography.
7 The Thing
When Netflix’s Stranger Things dropped its first season on the streaming service, it became instantly apparent that the Duffer brothers had been heavily influenced by Stephen King’s It. But they were also inspired by the films of John Carpenter, who contributed to the horror landscape of the ‘70s and ‘80s that King helped to create.
Carpenter’s film The Thing features a monster as vaguely defined as the monster in It – it’s an alien creature that can disguise itself as anything, including one of the protagonists. Set in a remote Arctic outpost, The Thing is perhaps the greatest claustrophobic thriller ever made.
6 It Follows
The villain in It Follows, like the villain in It, is an unstoppable, intangible entity. They’re both described very simply as “it,” meaning they can be swapped out in your head for pretty much anything you’re afraid of, which makes them very effective horror films. In It Follows, the allegory is more obvious than just “your biggest fear” – it represents sexually transmitted diseases. The parasite itself is sexually transmitted, but it latches onto a single host.
Monsters follow you relentlessly until you pass it on to someone else. It’s an interesting premise that is handled as a delightfully old-fashioned scary movie.
In It, the kids in the Losers Club are bullied by the other kids at their school before being threatened by a supernatural monster, but in Carrie, the teenage girl who gets bullied at school is the supernatural monster. When she hits puberty, she begins to discover her dormant telekinetic powers, and uses them to get revenge on her classmates. Like It, Carrie is adapted from a Stephen King novel – his very first published one, actually – and so it has the same terrifying tone.
In 2013, a re-adaptation was released that promised to be more faithful than the first, but that was confusing, because this original adaptation by Brian De Palma was both a faithful adaptation of the source material and an instant horror classic.
4 A Quiet Place
While It still remains the highest grossing horror movie of all time, A Quiet Place gave it a run for its money last year with an unexpectedly huge box office haul. Much in the vein of It, A Quiet Place makes its monster abundantly clear to the audience – unlike 2014’s Godzilla remake, which shrouded its titular beast a little bit too much – without revealing so much that our sense of fear and mystery disappears.
Directed by John Krasinski, who also stars as a grieving father in a post-apocalyptic world, A Quiet Place sees alien creatures roaming the Earth, listening out for any sign of sound, so if you want to survive, you have to remain completely silent.
3 The Shining
Like It, The Shining is a Stephen King adaptation with an overwhelming sense of dread that dominates every frame. Just like the fear that Pennywise could be lurking anywhere keeps you on the edge of your seat while watching It, so does the inexplicable stranglehold that paranormal forces have over the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.
It stars Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a novelist with writer’s block who takes a job as the winter caretaker at a frosty, haunted Colorado. The last guy to have Jack’s job ended up murdering his family. So, naturally, you spend the whole movie on edge.
While It is not a slasher film in the traditional sense, the plot does introduce a group of characters who get slowly picked off in gruesome fashion by a malevolent force, so it is kind of a slasher. John Carpenter’s Halloween – the second film in the Carpenter oeuvre to be included on this list – is the crème de la crème of the slasher genre.
It is about a bunch of preteen kids who face the threat of It, while Halloween is about a bunch of teenagers who face the threat of escaped mental patient Michael Myers, whose abilities are vaguely established in the movie, but definitely beyond human.
Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning directorial debut Get Out was not a traditional horror film. There was nothing supernatural going on, there were no bloodthirsty monsters – it focused on something much scarier and more startlingly real than that: racism. And while that made for a powerful social thriller, the themes were a little heavy for some horror buffs looking for simple escapism. That’s where Peele’s sophomore effort, Us, comes in.
Us has a more traditional horror setup, with a vacationing family getting terrorized by their own doppelgangers, as well as a surprising sense of humor. And while there are political overtones, they’re subtler here than in Get Out.