The slasher film genre peaked in 1978 and became popular around the 1980s after the release of classic horror films like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. While this is considered the genre’s Golden Age, the 1990s produced some of the best slasher movies as well as additional movies in franchises such as Child’s Play and Halloween.
They were also a success due to the genre’s pioneer filmmakers such as Wes Cravenand John Carpenter who had become masters of their craft. Out of the dozens of titles including ScreamandI Know What You Did Last Summer, these are 10 of the most popular slasher movies, according to Letterboxd.
‘The Faculty’ (1998)
After a brutal attack on their principal, a group of high school students notices something off about their teachers who are acting stranger than usual. They soon discover that the faculty has been taken over by an alien parasite and are planning to infect the entire school.
After the success ofScreamin 1996, Miramax gave the green light for the movie as a follow-up to the Wes Craven hit but unfortunately, The Faculty was a flop. The movie has a great cast of young stars including Josh Hartnett andElijah Wood but itdidn’t become popular until it was released on VHS and managed to become a cult classic.
‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991)
Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is an FBI agent in training assigned to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) who is a brilliant psychologist as well as a psychopath. The young agent hopes to gain information from Lecter that will help stop a serial killer known as Buffalo Bill.
The Silence of the Lambs is one of the most iconic horror movies of all time and is noted for brilliant performances by Hopkins and Foster. When the movie was first released, it was a sleeper hit but eventually gained traction and went on to become the third movie in Oscar history to win all five major categories.
‘Sleepy Hollow’ (1999)
Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) a police constable, is sent to investigate a series of mysterious murders in a small town known as Sleepy Hollow. As he starts digging into the crimes, the young constable eventually learns that an unworldly force is at work that his scientific methods cannot explain.
Sleepy Hollow is a classic Tim Burton movie with a string of his usual stars alongside Depp including Christina Ricci, Michelle Pfeiffer and Christopher Lee. While Depp’s performance is one of the actor’s best, Christopher Walken’s portrayal as the Headless Horseman is essentially the highlight of this 90s movie.
‘Urban Legend’ (1998)
A university is plagued by a series of brutal slayings that have left police baffled and the entire student body on edge. When a student’s roommate is killed, she realizes that the murders resemble urban legends and attempts to track down the killer before she becomes the next victim.
Urban Legendis known for its cast of horror legends including Robert Englund and Brad Dourif plus starsJared Leto, Tara Reid and Michael Rosenbaum. The movie was initially called out for being a rip-off of Scream, but it’s still considered a decent slasher flick by many horror fans today.
‘Halloween H20: 20 Years Later’ (1998)
It’s been 20 years since Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) survived the horrors of her brother and serial killer, Michael Myers. She has managed to successfully start a life under a new name but when Michael escapes from custody, Laurie knows that he’s coming to finish what he started.
Halloween H20 is a suspenseful addition to the Halloween franchise and was the highest-grossing sequel in the franchise until David Gordon Green’s sequel in 2018. The movie features a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt as well as a cameo by Curtis’ mother and original Scream Queen, Janet Leigh who starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller,Psycho.
‘Wes Craven’s New Nightmare’ (1994)
Heather Langenkamp is a young mom and actress who is known for playing Nancy Thompson in the successful slasher franchise, A Nightmare on Elm Street. While Heather considers returning to Elm Street to do another movie, Freddy Krueger finds his way into our world where Heather must defeat him in order to save her son.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmareis a unique slasher sequel that has a more realistic and darker tone than the franchise’s previous movies. Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t a box office success, but it didn’t help that it opened the same weekend as Quentin Tarantino’s movie, Pulp Fiction.Critics still gave the movie positive reviews including Roger Ebert who had never been a fan of the movies until this installment.
‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ (1997)
Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) her boyfriend and friends decide to drive to the beach on the 4th of July to drink and watch the fireworks. While driving home, they accidentally hit someone and instead of calling the police, they decide to dispose of the body. The friends make a pact to never speak of what happened again but one year later, they find out that someone else knows their secret.
I Know What You Did Last Summer is another slasher franchise directed by Wes Craven but is noted for its story more than kill shots. Unlike Scream, the suspense in this film lies heavily on the plot instead of a visual spectacle of blood and violence and is essentially a throwback to earlier slasher films including When a Stranger Calls and Prom Night.
‘Scream 2’ (1997)
It’s been 2 years since Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) survived the Woodsboro Massacre and is attempting to move on with her life away at Windsor College. Just when she thinks her past is finally behind her, students start turning up dead and the suspect is described as someone who is wearing a Ghostface mask.
Scream 2is a solid follow-up to the original that reunites Sidney with fellow survivors Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and officer Dewey Riley (David Arquette) while adding in new popular stars including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Timothy Olyphant and Jerry O’Connell. The script went through numerous rewrites and production was reportedly rushed, but despite the complications, the sequel was still a success and earned glowing reviews some even claiming it even surpassed the first movie.
Helen is a graduate student in Chicago who is researching urban legends and decides to explore an old housing project where there have been several unexplained murders. She meets a resident who tells her the urban legend of the Candyman, a vengeful man with a hook for a right hand who appears when someone looks in a mirror and says his name five times.
Candyman was inspired by an actual housing project in Chicago that experienced a wave of gang violence and deadly crime during the 70s and 80s. This slasher movie has plenty of gore plus a sinister origin story that excuses some minor flaws in the movie’s plot. Tony Todd’s performance as the Candyman is both terrifying and strangely poetic compared to other killers in the genre.
After a high school student is brutally murdered, Sidney Prescott is terrorized by a killer wearing a Ghostface mask. As Sidney and her friends try to figure out the killer’s identity, they soon realize that the most plausible suspect is one of them.
In the 1990s, Scream essentially defined the slasher film genre ushering in a new kind of scary movie with self-aware characters and comedy. Originally, Craven had been approached multiple times to direct but declined as he was trying to move away from horror. The director changed his mind when he learned that established actress, Drew Barrymore, had personally signed on to the film.