The 15 Best Teen Horror Movies Of All Time, Ranked

Teen horror typically explores issues only teens can relate to. Whether that's high school bullies, sex, or drugs, teen-centric films specialize in coming-of-age in the modern world. Along with these themes, filmmakers slather on all the genre conventions, tropes, and murderous thrills we've come to expect. From sci-fi and black comedies to witches and straight-up slashers, teen horror runs the gamut and is often unhindered by genre boundaries. What it means to pass through puberty and how relationships evolve in the process frequently lie at the heart of a teen horror movie, and monsters are usually manifestations of personal traumas and transformation.

This list stretches from several '70s and '80s horror classics to contemporary fare, capturing the progression of teen stories. A smorgasbord of subgenres is celebrated as well, including supernatural horror, slashers, werewolf movies, and a whodunnit. You'll notice common themes threading through many entries on this list, and that's not a coincidence. Themes of adolescence and sexual awakening are the essence of teen horror. If you need a crash course, this list is a good place to start.

15. Halloween

Ushering in the age of slasher films, John Carpenter's "Halloween" laid the foundation for not only genre conventions but the final girl archetype. While Carpenter focused on building the mystery and mania around Michael Myers, co-writer Debra Hill fleshed out the characters of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends Annie (Nancy Keyes) and Lynda (P.J. Soles).

The girls are simply your next-door neighbors. They babysit, have boyfriends (well, except for Laurie, who is too shy to ask anyone out), and have sex. On Halloween night, Laurie babysits Tommy Doyle (Brian Andrews) and is the MVP of girl scouts, making popcorn, carving a pumpkin, and letting Tommy watch a horror marathon. With a different babysitting approach, Annie is across the street looking after Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards) until her boyfriend Paul (Carpenter) calls her up and asks for a ride. As we all know, she doesn't exactly make it and gets brutally killed by The Shape hiding out in the backseat of her car.

"Halloween" is all about Michael's ghoulish tricks and treats, but his murderous mayhem wouldn't be quite the same without the character-building that Carpenter and (mostly) Hill did in the script. Laurie, Annie, and Lynda are the girls you'd so desperately want to be your BFFs, and that makes the third act that much more brutal to watch.

14. I Know What You Did Last Summer

"I Know What You Did Last Summer" takes cues from "Scream," which tracks, considering Kevin Williamson wrote both, but it carves out its own place in late '90s teen horror. When Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and her friends are involved in a car accident that results in someone's assumed death, they find themselves bound and gagged in a web of lies and murder.

A year later, the group has all but moved on with their lives. The ill-fated night hangs over them like a black cloud, haunting their every waking moment. And someone knows their dirty little secret and starts a murderous rampage. "I Know What You Did Last Summer" celebrates both the exhilaration of endless possibilities and the recklessness of the teen years. What could have been avoided altogether is provoked through teens' inability to discern between right and wrong, and the thrill ride comes with how they handle the messy aftermath. A near-fatal mistake costs them far more than their futures.

13. It Follows

With 2014's "It Follows," writer-director David Robert Mitchell brings a supernatural twist to a story about sex and loss of innocence. When Jay (Maika Monroe) hooks up with her boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary), he drugs her with chloroform, binds her to a wheelchair, and shares what's coming for her next. An entity, passed through sex, will now follow her around to try and kill her. To free herself, she must have sex with someone else.

The entity hangs like a shroud over every character. It can also shape-shift into different forms depending on its target, a form of psychological terror that makes it all the more frightening. The film suggests that having sex changes you and your perception of the world forever. Jay and her friends trepidatiously navigate their relationships and sexual awakening while also contending with an unstoppable, all-consuming force. Try as they might to defeat it, they ultimately learn that it can only be passed on to the next person. It's a never-ending terror, and "It Follows" captures the horrors of youth perfectly.

12. Carrie

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) lives an incredibly sheltered life. Her mother (Piper Laurie), a religious zealot, is unwavering in her fire and brimstone beliefs. She even resorts to emotional and physical abuse to keep her daughter under her thumb. Carrie just wants to be like everyone else and live a normal teenage life. While enduring a troubled home life, she is also ostracized by everyone at school.

Little does anyone realize, Carrie possesses supernatural powers that seem to coincide with the late arrival of her menstrual cycle. It's a rite of passage for half the population, and it's made much worse by everyone around her bullying her for it. Before long, though, Chris (Nancy Allen) and the others will learn what sweet revenge means.

Directed by Brian De Palma, the 1976 feature showcases exactly how tough it is in high school and how womanhood is so often demonized by society. Teen girls can be the most venomous when it comes to someone attempting to understand their own identity. "Carrie" is as much a popcorn horror flick as it is a coming-of-age film. Either way, it's a guaranteed good time.

11. Bodies Bodies Bodies

Halina Reijn's "Bodies Bodies Bodies" takes aim at online culture through a very "Clue"-inspired framework. When Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) shows up to her best friend David's (Pete Davidson) lavish mansion with her new girlfriend, Bee (Maria Bakalova), it's like tossing water into a sizzling, oiled-up saucepan. A group of friends unite to weather an impending hurricane and do all the normal things you do at sleepovers: get high, drink too much, and slap each other. What happens next, no one sees coming.

In the spirit of classic whodunits, someone ends up killed, sparking outrage and a desperate search for the real killer. All the while, screenwriter Sarah DeLappe peppers the plot with immense insight into Gen Z, their online habits, phone addictions, and complex friendship dynamics. The film also deconstructs terms like "gaslighting" and explores other toxic online behaviors. As they say, it's a dog-eat-dog world — especially on the internet.

10. A Nightmare on Elm Street

Wes Craven beckons you into the world of Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) and her friends. "A Nightmare on Elm Streets" focuses very little on high school life and instead explores how lonely it is to be a teenager when you're fighting a sleep demon. Adults can't be trusted, and the police are pretty useless. Nancy stands firmly in the eye of a hellish cyclone, with nothing but her book on improvised personnel devices and a fresh pot of coffee to help her.

Nancy's best friend, Tina (Amanda Wyss), has a tumultuous relationship with bad boy Rod (Nick Corri). One minute, they're all hot and heavy, and the next, they're fighting. Suffering from terrible nightmares, Tina invites the group over to her house for a sleepover. She just needs to sleep and is too scared to do so on her own. Despite this failsafe, her time is finally up. Her gruesome murder casts a dark shadow over the rest of the film. It's the tipping point that leads Freddy to continue his reign of terror.

With a cop father and an alcoholic mother, Nancy is the last one standing, and it's up to her to defeat Freddy Krueger. She gathers up all the strength and resilience she can and ultimately succeeds in banishing Fredy from her dreams. Thinking intuitively at every turn, Nancy is a powerhouse. The fact she's a teenager makes her eventual triumph that much sweeter.

9. Ginger Snaps

In a similar vein as "Carrie," John Fawcett's "Ginger Snaps" details burgeoning womanhood and the struggle to make sense of a new stage in life. Written by Karen Walton, the 2000 film follows two sisters, Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger (Katharine Isabelle), around the time of their first menstruation. Needless to say, it's a very confusing time.

One night, while out in the woods, Ginger is bitten by a large, hairy creature that's been terrorizing the community and undergoes a very different kind of change. Her wounds quickly heal, and she begins acting out in every aspect of her life. She even sprouts a tail. The transformation is not only a literal werewolf story but also the transition from childhood to young womanhood. With the mutation, there comes growing aggression and uninhibited behavior, which leads to mayhem and several murders around town. Growing up really can be deadly.

8. Tragedy Girls

"Tragedy Girls" unravels online addiction and the constant quest for validation. Directed by Tyler MacIntyre, this slasher follows Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla (Alexandra Shipp), two would-be serial killers desperate to make a name for themselves. They've done all the work and studied the difference between spree and serial killers. Now, they're ready for the limelight, but their killings are ruled as suicides or accidents by the police.

Sadie and McKayla capture their idol, serial killer Lowell Orson Lehmann (Kevin Durand), and hold him hostage. They've taken ample notes from Lowell's crimes, but they would love to get more direct guidance. Lehmann doesn't oblige. Instead, the duo keeps on killing and making YouTube videos, ramping things up to finally get the police's attention. Throughout the film, Sadie and McKayla are the best of friends. They do everything together.

As their online fame grows, cracks begin to show in their friendship. Yet, that's the flow of a close relationship. There are highs and lows, and it almost always comes down to communication. Ultimately, our two favorite serial killers conclude their bloody escapades with an ending that sets up what could be a thrilling "Thelma & Louise" spin-off. We're still waiting for that to happen.

7. Final Destination 3

"Final Destination 3," the third entry in the franchise, supplies a cool twist to the series' mythology. High school graduate Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) sees a vision that a roller coaster will go off the rails and kill everyone aboard. Soon after, she realizes that photographs in her digital camera show how those around her will die. Alongside classmate Kevin (Ryan Merriman), Wendy makes it her mission to stop as many deaths as possible, but you can't cheat death — and there are no accidents.

There's only fate. Their fate is to die. From the nail gun to the tanning bed scene, "Final Destination 3" ups the ante with inventive, unexpected kills. Directed by James Wong from a script co-written with Glen Morgan, the film mines the complicated nature of adolescence and attempts to untangle romantic and platonic relationships. Of course, "Final Destination 3" is nothing more than a fun time on the surface and features gripping character dynamics and a truly epic third act.

6. The Craft

Coming of age as a witch can be the pits. It's hard enough to wade through bigotry and bullying in high school without adding spooky weirdness into the mix. Bonnie (Neve Campbel), Nancy (Fairuza Balk), and Rochelle (Rachel True) worship a god named Manon and need a fourth girl to complete their coven. When Sarah (Robin Tunney) moves to town, it becomes clear she possesses supernatural powers and becomes part of the group.

While growing their powers (see the iconic "light as a feather" scene), not only does high school become harder to handle but their friendship is tested. "The Craft," directed by Andrew Fleming, suggests that the price of power is the relationships you cherish most in your life, and perhaps it's not worth it in the end.

Hungry for power, Nancy invokes the spirit during a ritual and begins using her power recklessly. Her desire to do harm nearly consumes her, and it's up to her friends to pull her back from the edge. "The Craft" details the power of sisterhood and the limitless nature of friendships while keeping things relentlessly spooky, too.

5. Freaky

Kathryn Newton stars in Christopher Landon's 2020 film, "Freaky." With a script co-written with Michael Kennedy, Landon explores loss, grief, and one young girl's struggle to find herself. Newton's character, Milly Kessler, has become withdrawn following the tragic death of her father the year before, and her wood shop instructor seems to have an ax to grind.

That's not the only thing plaguing her mind, though. A serial killer known as the Blissfield Butcher appears to have made a return, slaughtering a group of teens during a night of "underage debauchery," one character jokes. "Freaky" supplies all the gore you'd expect in a "Scream"-influenced slasher, but there are deeper themes in its bloody layers: There's Milly's turmoil being trapped in the body of a serial killer, her alcoholic mother barely keeping things together, and an apt lesson about living in the moment.

The bond between Milly, Nyla (Celeste O'Connor), and Josh (Misha Osherovich) is strong and unwavering. When things inevitably get worse, there's no questioning their undying loyalty to one another. Nyla and Josh have Milly's back, and she has theirs. It's a true gold standard in friendship.

4. Scream

In an early scene in 1996's "Scream," Sidney (Neve Campbell) and her friends sit around a fountain outside their high school. They're discussing the brutal murder of classmates Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) and her boyfriend. It's all anybody can talk about — and for good reason. Woodsboro is your typical small town, idyllic and quiet, but the lives of Sidney and her friends are about to be rocked.

Sidney is picking up the pieces after her mother's murder a year prior. By all accounts, she's holding up pretty well, but anniversary news coverage undoes all the progress she's made. Add to that reporter Gale Weathers' (Courtney Cox) upcoming book detailing the tragedy, and you have one traumatized high school teen. Wes Craven and scriptwriter Kevin Williamson punctuate their slasher bonanza with rich character moments to create a true-to-life tone for the film.

When Sidney's friends are killed off one by one, each loss carries a weight that organically moves the story forward. Speaking of friendships, Sidney's connection with Tatum (Rose McGowan) exemplifies what all friendships should look like. We all need a Tatum who sticks with you through every high and low.

3. The Faculty

Amidst the resurgence of teen horror in the late '90s, Robert Rodriguez's "The Faculty" brings "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" into a more modern setting. Penned by "Scream" scriptwriter, Kevin Williamson, the sci-fi feature follows a group of high school students not only confronting their hormonal teen years but also a doomsday scenario. They must set aside their differences and the social hierarchy if they have any hope of surviving.

Zeke (Josh Hartnett) is the resident bad boy, Delilah (Jordana Brewster) carries the hot popular girl torch while Casey (Elijah Wood) is the nerdy photographer for the school paper. Then, there's typical jock Stan (Shawn Hatosy), goth girl Stokely (Clea DuVall), and the new girl, Marybeth (Laura Harris). All the high school cliques are represented (except maybe band geeks), and the characters don't necessarily feel like clichés. They're real students wading through social pressures and the weight of impending adulthood. Forget about the aliens. They have enough to worry about.

2. Fear Street Part One: 1994

Leigh Janiak's "Fear Street" trilogy was the horror event of 2021. Janiak, who co-wrote the "Fear Street Part One: 1994" script with Phil Graziadei, wields the usual slasher conventions and gives the LGBTQ+ community representation that doesn't induce trauma of any kind. Deena (Kiana Madeira) and Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) simply exist in the world. Only their breakup fuels the story. While stricken with heartsickness, they unwittingly find themselves entangled in the Shadyside curse that dates back centuries.

Inspired by "Scream" and other late '90s slashers, "Fear Street: 1994" drops the audience smack dab in the middle of what it was like growing up in the '90s: Radiohead's "Creep" blasts through the radio, kids begrudgingly go to band class, and drugs abound in the halls. Like any high school, there are hook-ups and break-ups, fights and reconciliations, and the mounting dread of adulthood.

Throughout the film, Deena and Sam navigate all this and a plot to break the witch's curse once and for all. Along with her friends Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) and Kate (Julia Rehwald), it's up to Deena to discover her inner warrior. "Fear Street: 1994" pays homage to past horror films while planting its flag in slasher history. It doesn't get much better than this.

1. Jennifer's Body

"Jennifer's Body" examines sex and female relationships through a supernatural lens. Amanda Seyfried stars as Needy, a nerdy bookworm and best friend to popular cheerleader Jennifer Check (Megan Fox). Their relationship is coded in queer subtext, and they traverse the usual territory: puberty, boys, and the social ladder. 

Their friendship seems stronger than ever until one of them is transformed into a succubus. Following a concert by Low Shoulder, Jennifer heads off with the band in their van and returns later that night, forever changed. Needy finds her friend ripping into a rotisserie chicken and puking a black sludge onto her kitchen floor. True to succubus lore, Jennifer must feed on the flesh of boys to stay healthy and strong and can only be destroyed when she's weak and emaciated. Jennifer and Needy's friendship is tested as Jennifer gruesomely picks off their classmates.

Writer Diablo Cody and director Karyn Kusama bring a sharp female perspective to the screen. "Jennifer's Body" is very much a statement about blossoming womanhood, female power, and the strength of the bonds between women.