The Most Iconic Horror Films--
and the Halloween Costumes they Inspire!

By Jenna Maxwell

Horror movies and Halloween will always go hand in hand. This fall, you can bet your Halloween pumpkin that your local movie theater will be featuring all sorts of creepy movies. In spite of all this enthusiasm for original celluloid scares, there are horror movies, and then there are HORROR movies. Amongst the litany of creepy-crawly, heebie-jeebies inspiring movies that come and go year after year, there are still some time-honored horror films that truly stand the test of time. It's no surprise, however, that the best of the best when it comes to horror, are also some of the most inspiring when it comes to Halloween costumes. The frightening characters in these legendary films tend to stay with you. If you are looking for Halloween costume ideas, your favorite monster movie or slasher flick might be the perfect source of inspiration! Here are some of our all-time horror film character favorites!

The Night of the Living Dead (1968) 
Long before anyone had ever heard of "The Walking Dead," there was a rather low-budget, black and white movie that gave audiences a horrifying tutorial into what a horde of bloodthirsty living dead zombies can and will do. Imagine being holed up in a farmhouse, feeling a little bit claustrophobic, trapped with literally nowhere to go because outside there are walking dead converging in every direction. If you are into zombies, "The Night of the Living Dead" is filled with lots of inspiration as the recently departed return to life, their mission—to hungrily consume the flesh of the living. The best part of being a zombie for Halloween is that virtually any character can be zombified and turned undead. For this reason, zombie looks continue to rank as some of the most popular Halloween costumes, year after year.

It (1990)
When it comes to clowns, there are a lot of mixed feelings out there. Even the nice, friendly clowns can be pretty scary. Perhaps it's all that makeup. Maybe it's the painted-on smile. Who knows what can bring on a good case of coulrophobia! (Fear of clowns, and yes, it's a thing!) We have a sneaking suspicion that Pennywise, the sinister clown of Steven King's "It" might have something to do with it! Steven King lore states that Pennywise returns every 27 years for the sole purpose of sumptuously eating children. No wonder he's so terrifying! Any clown look can be turned scary, but Pennywise, in particular, has guaranteed fright power this Halloween.

Friday the 13th (1980)
One of the most prolific horror movie franchises of all time has to be Friday the 13th. With a total of twelve movies in the catalog, Jason Voorhees reinvents himself and retells his story many times during the Friday the 13th saga. A guy who tends to hold a grudge, the legendary Jason has earned himself the title as the king of horror with the teenage body count to prove it. Although the iconic Jason hockey mask did not actually appear until Friday the 13th III, this iconic accessory has been "the" item to have when it comes to getting that perfect Jason Voorhees look.

The Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Moviegoers have a universal frustration with the victims featured in most horror movies. No matter what the circumstance may be, they can't seem to get away from the bad guys fast enough! Just try watching someone attempt to evade a murderer—can they move any slower? They can't run, they stumble, and they may even fall as the villain gets closer and closer! Now, what happens if there is no way to get away or to ever escape? What if the antagonist haunts you in your dreams? Now you have the scenario of The Nightmare on Elm Street and know why this film has gone into horror history as one of the most frightening movies ever made. Freddy Krueger has been haunting moviegoers for decades and has well earned his place in the Halloween costume character hall of fame.

Scream (1996)
Most people love a good horror movie—but what if your life depended on knowing the answers to random trivia questions about your favorite slasher films? In Scream, a psychotic killer calls his teenage victims on the phone and taunts them with horror movie questions, making this the ticket to saving their lives. The vicious killer costumes himself as "Ghostface" to disguise his true identity from his victims, donning a black hooded cloak and eerie white glow in the dark mask. The "Scream" Ghostface look has become the real face of fear as well as an iconic Halloween costume!​​​​​​​

Saw (2004)
Take one look at the freaky-looking puppet, Billy in the movie, "Saw" and you are sure to get a shiver down your spine. Cold-blooded killer John Kramer used Billy, the oddly painted ventriloquist style puppet to communicate with his victims. Billy himself appears slightly creepy—he's pasty white, with a bulging forehead and cheeks with bright red spirals painted on them. Kramer used Billy the bizarre puppet to toy with his victims, and to teach the rules of his sick and twisted games. Billy the puppet's iconic look—part clown, part toy, but entirely terrifying—adds a macabre twist to the Saw series. This character is an unforgettable choice for a Halloween costume.​​​​​​​

The Exorcist (1973) 
An all-time horror classic, The Exorcist, is likely based on actual life events, adding an intriguing and shocking aspect to this horrific story. Twelve-year-old Regan has been exhibiting some bizarre and frightening behavior that is terrifying to all who witness it. Could Regan be possessed with an evil spirit? Regan costume looks depicting a deranged young girl in her nightgown are popular choices for Halloween. Pair a gory Regan with a dapper Priest, and you have the perfect scary duo for your next Halloween party!

Frankenstein (1931)
The movie Frankenstein quickly became a horror fan favorite. Don't let the age of this film fool you, because when it comes to sinister plots, this one is right up there with the best of the best. In this classic monster film, Dr. Frankenstein and his assistant dig up corpses, collecting body parts to put together a man-monster. When Dr. Frankenstein's assistant inadvertently gives the created being a murderous killer's brain, things begin to go seriously awry. Frankenstein's epic creature has stood the test of time as one of Halloween's classic monster lineup. Frankenstein costumes are always a Halloween hit and are sure to get lots of attention this Halloween!

Dracula (1931) One of the early vampire thrillers that started it all, "Dracula" is considered a horror movie classic and with good reason. Loosely based on Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula," the film sets the tone for what would become decades of fascination with these legendary eternal beings. Dracula is remarkably suave, smooth, and debonair. In spite of his charm, he's still a rather peculiar sort of guy. Dracula has persuasive powers over others that lead to some pretty nasty outcomes. In spite of all the blood-sucking, years have turned to decades, and still, the dashing vampire continues to be one of the most popular Halloween costume characters of all time.​​​​​​​

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) 
Some horror movie die-hards opine that this is the film that started the entire slasher film genre. The story, like many slasher films that would follow, involves teenagers coming face to face with an insanely evil killer. What set the Texas Chainsaw Massacre apart from other horror films was the style of the wildly maniacal killer. Not one for stealthy pursuit, good ol' Leatherface comes at his victims with a roaring chainsaw a-blazing. So much for subtlety! Nonetheless, if slasher flicks are your thing, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre will not disappoint. Leatherface, the gruesome-looking, cannibalistic teen-terrorizer, makes a terrifying Halloween costume look!​​​​​​​

Jaws (1975) 
When it comes to Halloween horror films, you might be scratching your head as to why "Jaws" should be a candidate for the A-list. Think about it. In the movie, "Jaws" the shark, like many other scary movie villains, is a terrifying, predatory killer. You cannot watch this movie without being on the edge of your seat, and once you do, you never forget the experience-particularly when you are swimming in the ocean! Shark costumes are a little more unusual and unexpected as well, making them a humorous departure from typical Halloween fare.

Carrie (1976) 
If you think your senior prom experience was terrible, you haven't seen anything yet! The film, "Carrie" spins a sinister yarn taking teenage angst, revenge, and retaliation to a whole new level. Don't underestimate the shy, quiet ones—you never know the powers that may lurk underneath the surface! Prom queen Carrie, with blood streaming down her face and body is a costume look that everyone will instantly recognize!

Child's Play (1988)
What is it about creepy dolls? There are plenty of people out there that can't look at them—the dolls literally freak them out. "Child's Play," featuring the horrific doll, Chucky capitalizes on that fear of dolls—and takes it to a whole new level. If you weren't afraid of dolls before seeing this movie, you might very well be afterward. With seven movies total as part of the Chucky franchise, giving life to a murderous toy is this horror movie's magic formula for blood chilling scares. Chucky is so sinister and creepy that his character has been recreated thousands of times every Halloween.

Psycho (1960)
Alfred Hitchcock was considered a master when it came to horror, and the movie Psycho could arguably be his crowning glory. When it comes to shock cinema, "Psycho" set the bar very high. To this day, the film reigns as one of the most profitable black and white sound movies ever made. "Psycho" manages to take an ordinary shower and make it one of the most terrifying experiences a person could have. Don't be surprised if a bloodied and shower curtain clad Marion Crane or a grannied up Norman Bates show up at your next Halloween party!

Watching your favorite spooky movies is one of the simple pleasures of the Halloween season. Horror movies are a surefire way to get your heart racing and your spine-tingling. Additionally, some of the best ideas for Halloween costumes come from your favorite flicks. Seasonal Halloween retailers such as Halloween Express provide a wide variety of movie costumes.

Get inspired this Halloween and embrace your spookier side!

Read more about Jenna Maxwell