Editorial

Swallow Hailey Bennett-Best Horror Movies For Women

The 30 Best Horror Movies Every Women Should See

It’s tough to be a woman. As many strides as we have made, there is still a ton of work to do. If you are a horror lover you likely are tired of seeing the giggling sexpot run through the woods only to fall for no reason and get slashed. If you are looking for something a little deeper, with a lot more to say about the female condition list is the list for you. Here are the Best Horror Movies For Women.

Raw

Part coming of age, part straight-up cannibal horror, Raw is a powerful film about embracing your true self while controlling your darker urges. Justine has always been a good girl. Smart, driven and destined for great things until she succumbs to peer pressure shortly after starting veterinarian school she decides to eat raw meat despite being a strict life long vegetarian. Director Julia Ducournau’s richly symbolic film brings carnality to the screen. A sensual wild ride through the hidden desires of our mind, this film will stick with you long after the credits roll. If Lolita had a bloodthirsty streak in her this is what you would get. For any woman struggling with their changing body and mind Ducournau’s vision will resonate. Do not underestimate this film it is nauseating and repellent but an important message about the pressures young women face.

Jennifer’s Body

Jennifer was a mean girl before. Gorgeous and vicious she took no prisons but lots of other girl’s boyfriends. After a demon possesses her she becomes more than just a bully, she becomes deadly. Long-suffering best friend Needy must stop her and protect the town including her own boyfriend. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure because let’s face facts Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried are fire. Hidden underneath all the hot chicks making out stereotypes is quippy dialogue and a bucket load of feminist commentary. It’s not the scariest film for sure, but it is always enjoyable. Written by Diablo Cody(Evil Dead 2013) and directed by Karyn Kusama who also directed the wildly tense The Invitation this is an unapologetically female-fronted film.

Swallow-Best Horror Movies For Women
Courtesy of IFC Films

Swallow

At first blush, newly pregnant Hunter has it all. The perfect husband, perfect house, perfect life until the layers are peeled back and her daily torment is revealed. As she struggles with PICA and control over her body and mind she becomes increasingly more erratic. Consuming larger, sharper, and more dangerous objects as the days past it is a look behind the current. This real condition is used to full effect to induce some squirm-worthy moments. The focus never veers from Hailey Bennett’s(Hunter) childlike tortured face. This is a beautiful girl doing very ugly things for understandable reasons. The blame stays firmly where it should and never feels sensationalist. Written and directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis, Swallow cuts with a sharp knife through all the bullshit. It’s a ferociously quiet look at the desperation of perfection and male toxicity. Read our full review here.

Ginger Snaps

Ginger and Emily are sisters who regularly get bullied in their small town for being unusual. When Ginger gets bit by a werewolf her sister must decide to join her sister or save herself. The best werewolf movie out there is also a biting commentary on teen life. The effects and makeup aren’t great but the acting and writing more than make up for the deficiency. Emily Perkins and Katherine Elizabeth of American Mary are the two young girls ostracized for being different. They are both strong and vulnerable in equal measures. Too often intelligence gets subverted for cheap jump scares. This is not the kind of film. It’s thought-provoking and moving while still managing to be viscerally disturbing.

Alien

In space, no one can hear you scream. Or they say. When a space ship gets a mysterious signal they encounter a life form that is way more than they are equipped to handle. You can’t have a list of horror for women without including the trailblazer Ellen Ripley. Sigourney Weaver has been the stick by which all female heroes have since been measured. The original is still one of the scariest films of all time and the sequel Aliens isn’t half bad too. Ripley’s battle cry as she protects Newt with a power loader is the stuff of feminine dreams. With their overtly pointed commentary on female agency and worth and the imposing xenomorph, this is a great movie.

Halloween

Homicidal Michael Myers escapes from prison for the criminally insane on Halloween night to find his last surviving family member and kill her. Second, only to Ripley is Laurie Strode. Jamie Lee Curtis is the undisputed Queen of Scream and now that she is taking the fight to Michael Myers with the new Halloween reboot, her final girl is coming into her own. She has come a long way from the scared babysitter and confused girl. The original is my all-time favorite film and no one scares me like Michael Myers. Even back in 1978, Laurie was not going to go out without a fight. You go girl. I can’t wait to see her continue her attack on Myers in Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends.

The Witch

In 1630 New England a family lives in exile. When their infant goes missing the eldest daughter is blamed. As tensions escalate the family finds they may have something to fear after all. This folk horror witchcraft film from Robert Eggers is damn near perfect. A daunting marathon of dread, the pay off is more a relief than anything else. The young girl in question, Thomasin played by Anya Taylor-Joy(Morgan and Split) is just the right mix of a rebellious teen and innocent(until she isn’t) young girl. This is the kind of film that allows you to root for the monsters even though you know they are monsters.

Horror Films For Women
Courtesy of Spark Chamber

The Swerve

A woman with everything to lose begins unraveling after insomnia causes something to happen that puts a bunch of terrible eventualities in motion. If you like your horror bleak as the abyss, The Swerve is your kind of movie. There is horror in grief and this film more than any other shows how the pressures of being a wife and mother can be crushing. Azura Skye is amazing as a brittle woman on the edge. This is not for these easily triggered as the ending is tough to watch but it is an important look inside the lives of women. Read our full review here of this powerful film by writer/director Dean Kapsalis.

The Babadook

A grief-stricken mother and son find themselves haunted by a creature from a child’s book. As paranoia mounts the impossible becomes plausible. This is a favorite of our Editor In Chief Tyler. Writer/director Jennifer Kent has a couple of films on this list for a reason. She uniquely gives voice to the hardships of womanhood. In particular, motherhood. It is eerie, moody, and deeply terrifying. An allegory for grief and exhaustion, Babadook is a tough look inside the heart of an overwhelmed mother.

The Descent

A group of female cavers on an expedition find themselves pursued by monsters who may bot be that different from humans. An almost entirely female-led cast brings the terror to a dark and claustrophobic film. It is easily one of the scariest films on this list. This film is absolute, unrelenting tension. It is perfectly crafted and so well-paced you hardly have a moment to breathe. The female camaraderie is believable and our female warrior hero is everything you could want. This is a personal favorite and Neil Marshall’s best work. An unfortunate life truth about women being our own worst enemy is found in this terrifying vision.

Courtesy of Causeway Films

The Nightingale

In 1825 a young Irish convict girl chases a British soldier through Tasmania hell-bent on revenge for an unbelievably violent act against her family. She enlists an aboriginal man who has had his own brush with violence. The second of Jennifer Kent’s films on this list is bleak. This is one of those films that sticks with you years after you see it. The violence to the beginning is so horrific it is almost gratuitous. Kent is making a statement with the acts though and unfortunately, sometimes you have to shout to be heard. Aisling Franciosi is a singular force as Clare. She has been bent but not broken and now she’s out for vengeance.

Midsommar
Photo Courtesy of Photon Cinema

Midsommar

A couple and their friends go to an idyllic Swedish village during a pagan holiday. Once there, things turn from beautiful to dangerous in ever-increasingly bizarre ways. The intensely anti-dude breakup film is the answer to any broken heart. It is also one of the most gorgeously portrayed nightmares in cinema. Ari Aster’s folk horror, psychological shocker breathes fresh life into the familiar theme. Florence Pugh is a revelation and shows such a vast array of emotions I’m shocked she wasn’t nominated for Midsommar. Her Dani is every woman who has ever been gaslit by a bad boyfriend. There are quite a few truly funny moments in between the horror and the final scene is so exquisitely insane you won’t soon forget it. It makes me smile just thinking about it. Need to know more about the symbols and Blood Eagles click here?

Unsane

For all those women who have ever been gaslit before Unsane is for you. Sawyer unwittingly and unwillingly becomes committed to a mental institution where she is forced to confront her worst fears. She may be locked in with an unrelenting stalker or she might be losing her mind. Steven Soderbergh directs a frenetically paced, dizzying vehicle to showcase Claire Foy’s intense talent. Shot with an iPhone, the gimmick aids instead of detracts from the overall claustrophobic and psychedelic vision. Foy is always effective, with Soderbergh practically in her face, he is brilliant. Some of the best performances come from unexpected places and this is no exception. An excellent example of the unstable woman trope, Unsane is a great example of what a talented star and visionary director can do.

Courtesy of Industry Works Pictures

American Mary

Mary is a medical student who drops out after she is raped at a party by one of her professors. She then finds herself in the murky world of off-book body modifications. Finding herself further and further entrenched in this strange world she begins to lose herself and find something even more terrifying. The Soska Twins who wrote, directed, and even had a brief cameo are not afraid to show some seriously freaky stuff. If you can look past all the gore(and there is a ton of it) there is a powerful message here about what it means to be a woman, male entitlement, and personal acceptance. It is highly graphic and defiantly feminist so beware because nothing is off-limits.

Boxing Helena

A surgeon becomes so obsessed with the beautiful woman he once dated he kidnaps her and creatively subdues her so she can never escape. This is one of those movies that has stuck with me. It’s a little like Misery only less with reversed roles and with less overt insanity. Julian Sands and Sherilyn Fenn are fantastic in this bizarre cat and mouse psycho-sexual drama from David Lynch’s daughter Jennifer Lynch. Boxing Helena is exactly what you would expect from a Lynchian film only with a very feminine spin. The male gaze is highlighted and despite what happens to Helena completely skewered in what can only be described as the weirdest, sexiest, most inherently scary movie on this list. Sands plays cool menace better than anyone and Sherilyn simpers as the object of his affection. There is one surprising and weirdly satisfying twist at the end.

In My Skin

An ambitious young professional seriously hurts herself one night which leads to a dangerous compulsion to self mutilate. The painful and uncomfortable foreign film is the ultimate in body horror. This is a bloody mess of a movie heavy on psychological fear. Thinly veiled allusions to professional versus traditional views on women and their role in the world are where this arthouse film really shines. Once pretense is thrown away the portrayal of a woman on the edge comes sharply into focus. There is a lot of blood so prepare yourself for this powerful movie.

Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

A young cheerleader living in Sunnydale learns her school has been overrun by vampires and she is the one chosen slayer who can save everyone. The film that started it all is granted not as great as the series but for nothing else, it brought us, Joss Whedon and Sarah Michelle Gellar. The strong feminist message is coupled with a lighthearted vampire flick and the late Luke Perry is adorable. Kristy Swanson captures the doofy Buffy before the weight of the world rested on her shoulders in the Buffy of the WB series.

Whatever Happened To Baby Jane

Ahead of her time, Bette Davis delivers the goods in this terrifying look at the psychology of aging, jealousy, and sisters. An aging star(Bette Davis) tortures her disabled sister(Joan Crawford) in their crumbling mansion. It is a biting statement on the pressures of fame and beauty and what happens when it is lost. It is also a prime example of how women are sometimes worse than men to one another. The dynamic between sisters is unique and in this classic it is uniquely horrifying. It is the only film in black and white to make the Best Horror Movies For Women list. The dynamic between these two women is interesting in real life as well as they were bitter enemies. This was their sole collaboration together.

Inside

In the wake of a tragedy a very pregnant woman is tormented by a strange woman who wants her unborn child. Brutal with a capitol B, Inside capitalizes on the fear every mother has. The tension is only matched by the shocking violence. This gory film is part of the New French Extremity Movement along with Martyrs, High Tension, and Claire Denis’ Trouble Every Day both of which could easily be on this list. These films tend to be light on characterization sometimes, Martyrs being an exception. Inside is not heavy on exposition but more than makes up for it in blood soaked madness.

The Entity

The Entity is scary for what it represents. Similar to The Invisible Man which is getting yet another reboot, what we can’t see can hurt us. A single mother of three struggles to make ends meet when an invisible force begins sexually assaulting her. The movie is based on the real story of California woman Doris Bither who claimed three unseen beings held her down and raped her. Barbara Hershey plays the desperate women and she fully commits to the complete loss of control necessary to bring authenticity to the film. In any era this would be scary but in our current era of #MeToo and #TimesUp it is timely as well.

The Craft

Four high school girls use witchcraft to bond and get even when their bullies become too much. We are our own worst enemy sometimes as this supernatural thriller showcases both the good and bad of female power. It really speaks to the outcast condition, male toxicity, and revenge. Fairuza Balk is a scene-stealer and there is something deeply unsettling about many of the ways these girls choose to enact their vengeance. The acts are both satisfying and disturbing. The newest film to hit the reboot machine The Craft has big shoes to fill.

Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Stoker

After India’s father dies her strange uncle arrives to stay with her and her unstable mother. This stranger who she never knew existed acts in increasingly suspicious ways which cause her to become obsessed with him. Stoker is a unique experience steeped in ambiguousness and dreamscapes. More like a gorgeous dream than anything else the circuitous nature of the plot and the almost lyrical nature of the cinematography come together to make one maddening but stunning film. The cast is amazing with Nichole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska, in particular, providing stellar performances. This is psychological horror at its best. Stylish and twisted, Chan-wook Park’s vision is everything you could want. Written by Wentworth Miller of Prison Break and Flash, this film is confidently strange. What begins as a familiar mystery becomes a dread laden journey to find India’s power and her true self.

Black Swan

A beautiful dancer vies for the role of a lifetime. Despite being ideal for the role of the White Swan she desperately wants to break free of her image and dance the role of Black Swan. When she meets a fellow dancer who personifies all of the darkness she wishes she had she taps into a wild side she never knew she had. As her desires become darker her behavior spirals out of control. The yen and yang of womanhood are put on full display here. Women often feel they must fit into one of two categories. The perfect and pure feminine waif, or the sexpot. Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis play the warring sides of the female condition to taut perfection. Black Swan is the kind of hyper-stylized film only director Darren Aronofsky could make. This haunting nightmare is tightly paced and thought-provoking.

Teeth

Dawn is a good girl with a big secret. She has vagina dentata. When the object of her affection forces himself on her Dawn realizes she has more power than she thought. If ever there was a more perfect form of revenge on a rapist I don’t know what it would be. Black humor and feminist horror combine to create a thoroughly entertaining film. Jess Weixler who stars as Dawn and will be seen next in Hell House is bravely unblinking. She stares boldly into the screen and dares you to flinch first. Her uncompromising and at times uncomfortably honest portrayal of Dawn is the reason this film works so well. Teeth is a coming of age story that doesn’t take itself too seriously yet manages to convey a very powerful message. It’s funny, wacky, and guaranteed to make the man in your life squirm.

Martyrs(2008)

Fellow friends and victims of past trauma Anna and Lucie find themselves in a house in the middle of a forest where terrible reminders of the past invade their present. Pascal Laugier who went on to direct one of my favorites Incident In A Ghostland directs an intense film that is unabashedly brutal. To some, it may be exploitative to the female protagonists(?). To me, there is something quintessentially feminine about enduring pain and there lies the heart of the message. It is no coincidence that the leader of the cult is female. This is an endurance test of a movie that challenges the viewer to see behind the torture into the soul of the film. That’s a tall order as many scenes are so grisly you can’t help but look away.

Hagazussa-Best Independent Horror Movies On Shudder
Courtesy of Shudder

Hagazussa

A young mother with an infant is shunned on the outskirts of a village for being a witch. As madness takes hold, and a forceful violent act is perpetrated against Albrun she loses all grip on reality. This German film from Lukas Feigelfeld is easily one of the weirdest films on this list or any other for that matter. It is gorgeously rendered and acted. Aleksandra Cwen fully commits to the sensuous madness. The vulnerability and persecution of women is explored in a very personal way that will make some very uncomfortable. It’s a stunning film that is wildly ambiguous. Read our full explained post here to help you sort out what really happened.

XX

In this horror anthology, four stories from four different women directors are brought to life by female leads. Each story is women-centric and each offers commentary on the female condition. Questions of motherhood, white male privilege, and insecurity are explored. Concepts of gender constructs are displayed in grotesque ways. All four stories are fantastic with The Birthday Cake being a personal favorite. The wrap around creepy dollhouse vignette provides just the right touch of continuity. This is the only anthology on our Best Horror Movies For Women list. Read our full review here if you aren’t convinced yet.

Revenge

Three wealthy, entitled married men take one of their mistresses on an annual guys getaway thinking she will be the perfect prey for their horrible games. Little do they know this chics got hunting skills and a temper. You can’t have a Best Horror Movies For Women List without including a great survival revenge film. This one from Coralie Fargeat is as good as it gets. Matilda Lutz is believably powerful and angry and this bloody battle of wits is more fun than you think it should be. The cinematography is interesting due to the dry setting and the violence is plenty. They dudes are all turds so watching our hero kick ass is more than a little satisfying.

Beast

Gaslit by everyone in her family into believing girls should be only placid, quiet and dainty the rebellious Moll is lured by the seductive Pascal who promises excitement and acceptance. Too bad he’s suspected of a rash of killings. Tour de Force performances by Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn are amazing. Writer/ Director Michael Pearce delivers a fierce modern fairy tale that keeps you guessing clear until the final satisfying conclusion. For every woman who has ever been told to behave. To not be angry, this is your film. Emotions are for the strong not the weak.

I Spit On Your Grave

A writer who is brutally raped and beaten on a writing retreat seeks revenge on those who hurt her. This film is an exploitative gorefest for sure but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to watch. It’s a great horror film that focuses completely on showcasing the grisly violence. The one thing this film does is bring the horror of rape to the screen. It is straight chaos but Jennifer’s plight is compelling.

Looking for something different than the Best Horror Movies for Women? Check out all our lists here.

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