The 20 Best Horror Comedies Ranked

You wouldn't necessarily think that horror and comedy would go together because they seem so different on the surface. But they share one very important trait. Unlike other genres, horror and comedy films aim to elicit some kind of visceral, external reaction from viewers. Horror wants to scare, revolt, or thrill you, while comedies hope to make you laugh out loud. The best mashups of the two manage a fun blend of those reactions. As evidenced by the abundance of bad examples, it's a difficult concoction to master, but that said, there are also numerous horror-comedies that deliver where it counts.

Narrowing the best of the subgenre to just 20 is a fool's errand, but luckily for you, I am an eternal fool. There seems to be some question regarding what exactly counts as a horror-comedy, so here are my criteria — if a film features a good amount of horror imagery that carries into its story or theme, and it aims for more than a few intentional laughs with an at least mildly fun tone, then it's a horror-comedy. Complicating things further is the reality that humor is entirely subjective, and what makes me laugh might leave you cold. While I find 2010's "A Serbian Film" to be quite funny in its absurdity, its excessively heavy tone means I'll begrudgingly concede it's not a horror-comedy (for the masses).

Now, keep reading for the 20 best horror-comedies!

20. Zombeavers

A group of friends hoping for a relaxing vacation surrounded by nature find something horrifying instead. That's right — undead beavers.

This is where I remind you that comedy is subjective and this is my list, so you're damn right Jordan Rubin's madcap slice of eco-horror, "Zombeavers" has made the cut. The main cast is mostly made up of fresh faces, but the film's setup (involving some poorly handled chemicals finding their way into the beaver community's habitat) features the unexpectedly hilarious pairing of Bill Burr and John Mayer. The laughs continue once the beavers start chewing their way through the human characters. While much of the humor comes from the dialogue and performances — the characters run the gamut from obnoxious frat bros to a terrifically capable final girl — just as much credit is due to the beavers themselves. Built for both menace and comical WTF-ery, they're brought to life via practical effects and puppetry. These beavers mean business! Close-up attacks, wide shots showing the furry army amassing around their hapless victims in the dark of night, and an eventual bit of buck-toothed cross-breeding all deliver the endlessly silly goods.

19. Bubba Ho-Tep

A shady nursing home has some fanciful characters among its residents, but its numbers decline when an ancient, soul-thirsty mummy arrives. It's a good thing both Elvis Presley and JFK are ready to fight back.

That summation sounds bonkers enough, but add Bruce Campbell as Elvis and Ossie Davis as JFK, and you have what might just be writer-director Don Coscarelli's best movie, 2002's "Bubba Ho-Tep." Campbell's performance (including his inner monologues) is a pure cantankerous delight, and his friendship with Davis' JFK (he was dyed after the assassination attempt, you see) brings as much heart as it does laughs. These are old friends, most likely off their rocker, who look back on their past regrets from the loneliness of the present. But good gravy, do they have some fun along the way! The mummy's arrival triggers all sorts of mayhem as it attempts to suck souls out of people's behinds, forcing the two old dudes to act as fast as their aching bodies will let them. It's a funny, sad, honest look at aging that also happens to include a murderous mummy. What's not to love?

18. Trick 'r Treat

It's Halloween night, and the residents of a small Ohio town are about to come face-to-face with evil. For some, it comes as ghosts, for others it's a serial killer, and for one grumpy old man, it's a little pumpkin-headed child looking for treats and tricks.

There can never be too many horror anthology films, and that's why we need to cherish the great ones. Writer-director Michael Dougherty's feature debut, "Trick 'r Treat," is one of them. It seamlessly weaves together five tales with characters crossing over, moving in and out of each other's paths, and ending on exactly the right note. A great cast that includes Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin, and Brian Cox populates the film, but it's the funny, dark, and twisted tales about killers, vampires, werewolves, and undead children that grab your attention. The movie also introduces a new horror icon in the form of Sam, a little Halloween mascot who goes house-to-house to make sure everyone is following the rules of Halloween. He may not be very funny, but his antics are sure to bring a smile to the face of anyone who loves the holiday.

17. Young Frankenstein

Baron Victor von Frankenstein may be long dead, but when his grandson arrives in Transylvania from America, the locals fear a resurrection of the mad scientist's sinister shenanigans. Can young Frederick (Gene Wilder) avoid his grandfather's fate, or will the castle burn once more?

Since "Young Frankenstein" is a Mel Brooks production, the answer to that question should be pretty clear. The comic maestro puts his own spin on Mary Shelley's classic novel. Brooks co-wrote the film with Wilder, and the pair remain unbeatable in transferring their respective geniuses to the screen. The cast makes "Young Frankenstein" a must-see. Teri Garr, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, and Gene Hackman all deliver stellar performances which, combined with Brooks' direction, make this one of the two funniest films on this list. It's obviously never scary or grim, but Brooks shows respect to the genre and Shelley's work by riffing on well-known elements from the novel and James Whale's 1931 film version.

16. Rubber

If you ever find yourself thinking that horror movies are all the same, the guaranteed cure for your malaise is  Quentin Dupieux's "Rubber." In the film, a homicidal entity is intent on wreaking havoc on a small California town. However, that being is not a monster, a zombie, or an unstoppable serial killer. It's a sentient tire named Robert.

A murderous tire that can make people's heads explode is an absolutely bonkers premise, and the early scenes of Robert coming to life, learning to roll, and discovering his telekinetic gifts are entertaining and wonderfully weird. Robert starts killing with gory abandon, but just when you think you have a handle on things, Dupieux goes nutty with a truly ingenious meta-narrative that (literally) brings the audience into the story with its observations on how things often happen for no discernible reason. "Ribber" is utter madness that's somehow both nonsensical and deliberately crafted. It builds to a very cool ending that teases a sequel we will never see. A killer tire is as unique an antagonist as you're likely to find in any horror movie. However, Robert is just the icing on the cake in one of the strangest films ever made.

15. Tremors

The desert town of Perfection, Nevada, is used to seeing its population dwindle, but its numbers have never dropped this fast. Of course, Perfection has never had giant, carnivorous worms eating its townspeople before.

"Tremors" is one of those films that you can't turn off once it's started. It's just so damn enjoyable from beginning to end. The worm carnage unfolds in broad daylight, the monsters are brought to life via fantastic practical effects, and the lead characters are likable and relatable in ways that immediately endear you to their blue-collar struggles. These characters may initially seem to be losers, but they find purpose and confidence in an unexpected confrontation. We can't help but cheer them on in their monster brawl. Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon are the kind of heroes lesser films wish they had, and watching them bicker, bond, and battle the big beasts is an absolute blast.

14. Deadman Inferno

In "Deadman Inferno," an aging member of the yakuza is released from jail, determined to spend time with his teenage daughter. However, all hell breaks loose when he follows her to a nearby island. It seems their visit has coincided with a viral outbreak that brings the dead back to life.

Released in Japan as "Z airando" ("Z Island"), this terrific action-horror-comedy might seem to have a generic premise, but the film is anything but a typical zombie flick. The lead and his right-hand man are followed to the island by enemy yakuza, and soon, multiple dynamics are in play, including gang feuds, a fractured father-daughter relationship, and a rising tide of hungry zombies. That mix is daunting, but writer-director Hiroshi Shinagawa delivers with exciting fight scenes, heartfelt drama, and lots of undead fun. A great gag involving the debate about whether zombies should walk or run brings a big laugh in this self-aware film. "Deadman Inferno" is silly, sincere, and frequently surprising, and it's a damn shame the film has yet to see a U.S. release.

13. Arachnophobia

In "Arachnophobia," a deadly spider from the jungles of South America stows away with a corpse en route to California. This is unfortunate for the Jennings family, as this eight-legged menace has chosen their house for its new lair.

We're taught from a very early age to fear creepy crawly things and while life experience reveals that spiders really aren't as scary as we thought, those old feelings never really go away. Director Frank Marshall's "Arachnophobia" understands this. Although it wasn't the first spider horror movie, it remains the best because it constantly plays with our fears in energetic, suspenseful, and nerve-shredding ways. Couching these terrors in a family comedy is genius, as our laughter wavers between legitimate responses to funny beats and nervous reactions to what's unfolding on-screen. 

We've all been creeped out by a little spider and laughed about it later. Watching "Arachnophobia" captures that feeling and multiplies a hundredfold. Add in John Goodman as an overconfident exterminator unprepared for the horrors awaiting him and a big-boss spider pissed off by Jeff Daniels' slaughter of her furry babies, and you have a wonderfully crafted mix of horror and comedy.

12. Housebound

In "Housebound," Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O'Reilly), a young woman prone to making trouble, is sentenced to house arrest. However, she soon learns the real meaning of trouble. Her mom (Rima Te Wiata) believes their house to be haunted — and she might not be wrong.

There are twenty horror-comedies on this list, but the number of them that deliver truly frightening sequences (beyond mere jump scares) can be counted on one mutilated hand. This wickedly fun little chiller from New Zealand is one of them. Writer-director Gerard Johnstone (whose follow-up film is finally arriving early next year) does a terrific job balancing the film's tone with some truly humorous sequences that are punctuated by fantastic scares. Conversely, "Housebound" also sets up some tense scenes that are given funny as hell punchlines. 

Johnstone's script keeps viewers on their toes, as it plays around with genre expectations regarding just what or who is haunting the Bucknells' house. O'Reilly and Te Wiata are as endearing as they are entertaining. Seeing them struggle to bond forms the heart of both "Housebound's" laughs and screams.

11. Re-Animator

A mad medical student named Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) upends Miskatonic University with his experiments in reanimating dead tissue. Soon, a jealous professor (David Gale) and a legion of the undead cause everyone's grade point average to plummet.

"Re-Animator," director Stuart Gordon's first stab at the works of H.P. Lovecraft, remains an all-time genre favorite for numerous reasons. I can still hear my mom's raised voice when she walked in on me during the infamous Dr. Hill "head" scene. That sequence is definitely seared into many a brain, but the rest of the film is, too — from the eye-popping opening in which we first meet Combs' maniacal Herbert West to the scene where an entire morgue full of corpses comes to life. Featuring squashed heads, a bone saw through the chest of Arnold Schwarzenegger's body double, exploding intestines, and one of cinema's greatest decapitations, this movie has it all! 

That "Re-Animator" can milk its bloody premise for laughs is a testament to the cast's talent at playing things straight in the face of gory, over-the-top ridiculousness. Although a few sequels followed, they don't quite have the same genre magic as the original.

10. Ghostbusters

In the 1984 hit "Ghostbusters," a group of out-of-work parapsychologists catches a break when New York City faces a supernatural meltdown. Ghosts begin amassing all over the city, and these brainy misfits are the only ones prepared to bust some ghostly behinds.

I get that few people think of "Ghostbusters" as horror, but per the guidelines laid out above (by me), it most definitely fits. Ghosts, demon dogs, possessions, and a giant sugary monster portending the end of the world all scream horror even if the tone of Ivan Reitman's comedy classic is decidedly sillier. You could hardly ask for a better quartet for a weird comedy than Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson. And all four are obviously having a blast. The cast's enthusiasm is infectious, the dialogue is still quotable nearly four decades later, and the film even manages a couple of fun jump scares along the way. It's also one of only a few '80s franchises that's still going strong(ish). While "Ghostbusters'" two subsequent follow-ups and its 2016 reboot are a mixed bag, they speak to the quality of director Ivan Reitman's original creation.

9. Dead Alive

When a Sumatran rat-monkey bites an elderly woman (Elizabeth Moody), her son (Timothy Balme) goes to great lengths to conceal her illness until she dies. However, it becomes much more difficult once she returns to life and begins turning people into zombies.

You can keep your "Hobbit" movies and epic Beatles documentaries — the Peter Jackson I know and love is the Kiwi madman behind low-budget romps like "Bad Taste," "Meet the Feebles," and this absolute masterpiece of gory goofiness, "Dead Alive." 

From bloody custard to sex between the undead to a zombie-baby-monster in a onesie, "Dead Alive" (originally titled "Braindead") sees Jackson fully embracing his love of gory horror and bonkers comedy. A coming-of-age tale about a man stepping out of his mother's shadow to stand up for himself and the woman he loves, it's as brilliant as it is immature. The practical effects delight and disgust, a priest kicks zombie ass for the Lord, and the finale unloads with the most excessively bloody rager you've ever seen. Fans of "Dead Alive" have cause to rejoice as Jackson is remastering it and his other early films for a 4K release.  

8. The Innkeepers

In "The Innkeepers," two employees (Sara Paxton and Pat Healy) working at a small inn decide to explore their workplace's spooky history in the final days before it shuts down for good. They discover too late, though, that some ghosts should stay in the past.

There seems to be some disagreement as to whether or not "The Innkeepers," Ti West's fifth feature, counts as a horror-comedy (IMDB lists it only as "drama" and "horror"), but West himself suggests the film might have been a rom-com if only one of the characters hadn't gone into the basement. I'm definitely in the camp of "The Innkeepers" being an intentional balancing act between laughs and terror. This is one of the subgenre's rare entries that goes as hard with the horror side of things as it does the comedy. 

West delivers a masterful slow burn, spending time with two perfect leads before incrementally introducing the creepy stuff. Paxton and Healey's banter is great fun, and the duo finds humor in their early investigations. Still, West isn't fooling around with the scares. We care about these characters, and the increasingly terrifying ghostly appearances are wonderfully chilling.

7. Gremlins

"Gremlins" sees director Joe Dante and writer Chris Columbus teaming up for the best family-friendly Christmas horror movie ever. In the film, an inventor gifts his son a rare little creature called a mogwai, but the young man drops the ball on some very simple rules. Soon their whole town is overrun with mischievous (and deadly) gremlins.

Zach Galligan is perfectly suited as Billy, the flustered protagonist trying to clean up his mess before the carnage gets too far out of hand. Phoebe Cates lands the film's biggest laugh, though, with a darkly funny story about her father. Still, it's the creatures who lead the comedic charge with cartoonishly violent antics, costume changes, and more. 

Chris Walas' design for the gremlins remains iconic in its mix of the playful and psychotic. The little beasts are cute in a "bad boy" kind of way while also looking utterly threatening and watching them fool around with household appliances is like glimpsing barely-controlled chaos. Once the little monsters arrive, "Gremlins" is high-energy entertainment, proving that big, scary fun can come in small, scary packages.

6. American Psycho

In "American Psycho," Christian Bale stars as Patrick Bateman, an investment banker with impeccable taste in pop music, snazzy business cards, and chainsaws. He's also a sociopathic serial killer.

As with "The Innkeepers," IMDB doesn't list director Mary Harron's brilliant adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' novel as a comedy and instead classifies it as "crime," "drama," and "horror." But come on, "American Psycho" is incredibly (and intentionally) hilarious. It's blackly comedic, nailing a satirical look at 1980s consumer culture. However, in a world where people are as vain as they are desperate for validation as ever, it remains relevant. The business card scene is a perfect encapsulation of that attitude, and it extends to Bateman's musings on the things he owns and the art he appreciates.

The murders come out of Bateman's quest for the ideal and his insecurity that it's unachievable, and viewers are trapped between sheer terror and glorious insanity. We laugh, but we also tense up as a nude, blood-covered Christian Bale chases a Cara Seymour with his chainsaw. We're on edge, but we also bust a gut watching him hallucinate that an ATM is telling him to feed it a kitten.

This is arguably Bale's best performance, too. He captures Bateman's ego and mania while also ensuring that viewers are entertained by this madman. Harron frames the balance between those two halves to frightening and funny effect while playing fast and loose with an ambiguous narrative.

5. What We Do in the Shadows

"What We Do in the Shadows" invites us to take a peek inside the daily lives of vampire flatmates living in modern-day New Zealand. Life can be hard — especially when you're undead.

The single biggest laugh I've ever had in a theater was for "What We Do in the Shadows" and in response to a scene in which Jermaine Clement as the vampire Vladislav compares virgins to sandwiches. I'm laughing now just thinking about it, and that's the ultimate gift of this ridiculously funny film. 

"What We Do in the Shadows" is a riff on vampires facing mundane aspects of life like dinner guests, housecleaning, and spats with werewolves. Every element of the film is perfect from the production design to the dialogue to the wardrobe to the performances. 

Co-directors Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi wrote the film and also play lead roles alongside Jonny Brugh. Each creates a wholly unique vampiric persona complete with their own observations and opinions on the world as they know it. Much of the film's humor comes from examining the thin line between vampires and the rest of us. While their struggles are a little different, there's far more they have in common with mortal humans. The horror may be minimal, but the laughs are eternal.

4. An American Werewolf in London

When two American friends are attacked while backpacking across rural England, the rest of their vacation becomes a nightmare in 1981's "An American Werewolf in London."

Just one year before the infamous helicopter accident that claimed the lives of Vic Morrow and two child actors on the set of "Twilight Zone: The Movie" and resulted in John Landis facing accusations of involuntary manslaughter (he and four members of the crew would later be acquitted of the charges), the "Animal House" director delivered a horror-comedy that helped revolutionize the use of practical effects.

David Naughton and Griffin Dunne star in "An American Werewolf in London" as the two friends. While Naughton takes the lead as the survivor of the werewolf attack, Dunne brings big laughs as an increasingly decomposing ghostly visitor who warns his friend of what's to come. It's funny and tragic with plenty of gore, but the real stars will always be Rick Baker's werewolf prosthetics and the transformation sequence. The scene remains a testament to the power of practical effects, as we see, feel, and hear the character's anguish as his body stretches, breaks, and reforms. 

3. House

Seven high school classmates head to a relative's house for a break from the drudgery of life, but Aunt Karei's home isn't the kind of good time they were hoping for. It's haunted in some very strange ways.

You can't talk about the best horror-comedies ever made without mentioning Nobuhiko Ôbayashi's "House." A haunted house tale like no other, Ôbayashi's wildly inventive masterpiece has a dreamlike atmosphere that is as curious as it is nightmarish.

The friends come together to support one of their own, but the house immediately gets to work dispatching them in creatively creepy and highly amusing ways. From a possessed mattress to a carnivorous piano to a decapitated head hungry for buttocks, there's no end to the variety of dangers the house holds. The absurdity of the visuals and action deliver big laughs and jaw-dropping moments, and the addition of animation and bizarre set design add to the dreamy feel. Still, "House" never lets you forget that it's a horror film.

2. The Cabin in the Woods

Five college friends head to a remote cabin in the woods. Looking for good times, the group finds unimaginable terror instead. However, the horrors they face have far deeper implications, as their survival might just determine the fate of the world.

Director Drew Goddard has only made one feature since, but even if "The Cabin in the Woods" was his sole contribution to genre cinema, it would still be considered a classic. Both horror and comedy are rarely built on smarts, but "The Cabin in the Woods" is such an elaborately-conceived and brilliantly-executed tale that you can't help but admire the intelligence, wit, and genre knowledge that went into it. From the backwoods undead to J-horror to monsters ripping apart human victims, the film never shies away from its love of horror. It's no less funny for it, either. While the victim pool provides some laughs, it's the workplace antics of Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, and Amy Acker that will have you rolling. Featuring unexpected twists and turns that lead to one hell of an ending, "The Cabin in the Woods" is horror-comedy at its finest.

1. Return of the Living Dead

An accident at a medical supply warehouse unleashes a long-forgotten chemical agent. Soon, the dead are coming back to life with a hunger for brains. A group of young punks and grizzled old men are humanity's only hope for stopping the zombie apocalypse in "Return of the Living Dead."

I'll go to bat for any film on this list, but there was never any doubt that Dan O'Bannon's stone-cold masterpiece "Return of the Living Dead" would land at No. 1. Building on an original story co-written by John Russo, co-writer of the original "Night of the Living Dead," this gem treats George Romero's classic film as if it really happened with some truly hilarious results. O'Bannon's script is endlessly quotable ("Send more cops!" "You mean the movie lied?!") and has some equally unforgettable visual gags. "Return of the Living Dead" pairs some big laughs with fantastic practical gore effects, and O'Bannon even squeezes in some serious beats in the characters' relationships and the painful hunger of the undead. The cast consists mostly of young faces, but veterans Clu Gulager, James Karen, and Don Calfa all bring charm and experience to a wildly entertaining and bloody ride. "Return of the Living Dead" is the best horror-comedy ever made.