15 Best Horror Movies About Nuns

Summary

  • Nuns have been a staple of many supernatural horror movies, making for great imagery in everything from supernatural horror through to slasher films.
  • Many horror directors have utilized nuns as both the victims of horrific circumstances and the source of the terror.
  • While some horror movies with nuns in them are niche titles, others are hit staples of the genre.

Horror movies about nuns play on the common fears and religious rituals many people experience throughout their lives, making them some of the best scary movies out there. More often than not, nuns themselves are not the ones to be feared, but when they become possessed by demons or devils within the fictional narrative, they become something much more sinister. Conversely, some of the greatest nun horror movies depict the dangers of religious fundamentalism and fervor that can turn violent at the drop of a hat.

Nun horror movies are gaining popularity again with the release of Sydney Sweeney’s R-rated Immaculate, but the genre has always included plenty of stellar films. Horror movies are most effective when they transform everyday occurrences, objects, and people and ask the audience to imagine what would happen if those parts of life were not what they seemed. Though horror movies are frequently overlooked or critically panned, they can serve as an excellent insight into the political and societal issues of different generations.

Movie

IMDb Rating

Bloody Bloody Bible Camp (2012)

4.5/10

The Devil’s Doorway (2018)

5.3/10

The First Omen (2024)

6.5/10

The Crucifixion (2017)

5.1/10

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

5.9/10

Verónica (2017)

6.2 / 10

The Nun (2018)

5.3 / 10

The Nun II (2023)

5.6 / 10

Killer Nun (1979)

5 / 10

Immaculate (2024)

6.3 / 10

Saint Maud (2019)

6.7 / 10

Dark Waters (1993)

6. / 10

The Devils (1971)

7.7 / 10

St. Agatha (2018)

4.8 / 10

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

7.3 / 10

15 The Devil’s Doorway (2018)

Directed By Aislinn Clarke

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Horror movies featuring nuns seem to be especially well handled on an international level when they’re made in territories with strong cultural roots in Catholicism, which is the case with the 2018 Irish horror movie The Devil’s Doorway. Directed by Irish filmmaker Aislinn Clarke, The Devil’s Doorway is set in the 1960s and focuses on two Irish Catholic Priests, Father Riley (Lalor Roddy) and Father Thornton (Ciaran Flynn). The pair are sent by the Vatican to validate an alleged miracle that had taken place at the Magdalene Asylum. However, when they arrive, they find the reports of a statue of Mary Magdalene bleeding from her eyes are anything but miraculous.

The Devil’s Doorway is an incredibly chilling found-footage horror movie that is full of intrigue, suspicion, and plenty of creepy nuns with intentions that are far less innocent than their vows and dedication to the Church would suggest. Like many horror movies featuring nuns, the convent of the Magdalene Asylum has been using the Catholic Church as a cover-up for their worship of forces that are incredibly sinister and evil — and the found footage format works incredibly well at building suspense while Father’s Riley and Thornton uncover the truth.

14 Bloody Bloody Bible Camp (2012)

Directed By Vito Trabucco

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Many horror movies featuring nuns are incredibly suspenseful supernaturally-based scary films, but this isn’t always the case. Genre fans who enjoy a good slasher movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously will find that 2012’s Bloody Bloody Bible Camp more than caters to their taste. Coming from director Vito Trabucco, Bloody Bloody Bible Camp is a homage to the slasher flicks of the late 1970s and early 1980s. This means it’s definitely something of a cult horror film, though one that certainly appeals to a specific fanbase who enjoy a good splatter-fest.

Bloody Bloody Bible Camp takes place in 1977 and focuses on a group of Bible Camp students who, as is the tradition of the slasher subgenre, are killed off one-by-one in a variety of gruesome and gory ways. The antagonist is the hilariously appropriately named Sister Mary Chopper, a murderous local teen who was raised by an abusive nun and so takes on the appearance of one to murder those he believes have sinned. Campy and borderline-silly throughout, Bloody Bloody Bible Camp is certainly a horror movie about nuns that will only appeal to a select few, but those select few will adore it.

13 The Crucifixion (2017)

Directed By Xavier Gens

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Director Xavier Gens Release Date April 27, 2017 Cast Sophie Cookson , Corneliu Ulici , Brittany Ashworth , Matthew Zajac , Diana Vladu , Radu Banzaru Runtime 90 minutes

2017’s The Crucifixion may not be the most well-known horror movie featuring nuns, but it is one of the best when it comes to using religious tropes to create a truly chilling atmosphere. Like many religious horror films, The Crucifixion is an exorcism movie, and is based on a true story — the Tanacu exorcism, which took place in Romania in the early 2000s. The plot of The Crucifixion starts during the aftermath of an exorcism that claimed the life of a nun, Sister Adelina Marienescu, after which four nuns and the priest Father Dumitru are arrested for her murder.

While there’s plenty to suggest that Sister Adelina was suffering from Schizophrenia, Nicole begins to experience supernatural phenomena.

The movie then switches focus to Nicole Rawlins (Sophie Cookson), who travels to Romania to investigate the case. While there’s plenty to suggest that Sister Adelina was suffering from Schizophrenia, Nicole begins to experience supernatural phenomena. By the chilling ending Nicole is questioning everything she thought she knew, and is caught up in events with far wider ramifications than the simple cover-up of a fatally violent religious practice.

12 The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

Directed By Osgood Perkins

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Director Oz Perkins Cast Emma Roberts , Kiernan Shipka , Lucy Boynton , James Remar , Lauren Holly , Greg Ellwand Runtime 93 minutes

Emma Roberts has established herself as a staple of modern horror movies, and one of her first roles that cemented her as a presence in the genre was 2015’s The Blackcoat’s Daughter (which also goes by the title of February). Directed by Osgood Perkins, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is split into three separate timelines, all centering around bizarre events that take place in a high-end Catholic boarding school, Bramford Academy, in New York.

While the nuns in The Blackcoat’s Daughter aren’t the primary source of the horror, they are certainly an intimidating and chilling presence throughout. The movie also explores the mental health implications of the incredibly strict standards imposed on the students of Bramford Academy, which leads to more than one murder. There’s also a sinister demonic presence hanging over the events of each of the three timelines, and the movie definitely delivers when it comes to the supernatural religious themes that make horror movies with nuns in them so popular.

11 The First Omen (2024)

Directed By Arkasha Stevenson

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The First Omen is a horror film from director Arkasha Stevenson that acts as a prequel to the 1976 film The Omen. The film follows a young woman who goes to Rome to become a nun but begins to question her faith after encountering a terrifying darkness that aims to spawn an evil incarnate.

Director Arkasha Stevenson Release Date April 5, 2024 Cast Nell Tiger Free , Tawfeek Barhom , sonia braga , Ralph Ineson , Bill Nighy Runtime 119 Minutes

2024’s The First Omen serves as a perfect example of how to successfully reinvigorate a franchise, with director Arkasha Stevenson receiving praise for delivering perhaps the best movie in the Omen franchise since the 1976 original. Nuns take a center stage throughout the movie, with the plot focusing on Margert, an American initiate who travels to work at an orphanage in Rome as part of her preparation for taking the veil.

However, Margaret quickly finds that her time in Rome will be far from what she expected. After a night out with a fellow initiate after which she has no memory, Margaret begins to experience strange visions. She also learns of a conspiracy within the church itself to usher in the birth of the Antichrist. Not only does The First Exorcist serve as a brilliant prequel to The Omen that explains how Damien, the aforementioned Antichrist, was conceived, but it also stands as a solid standalone horror movie in its own right.

10 Verónica (2017)

Directed by Paco Plaza

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Verónica is set in the 1990s, and this Spanish film delves into the inner world of the teenager Verónica (Sandra Escacena). It takes place after the death of her father when she accidentally summons a spirit. Nuns become involved through the Catholic school Verónica attends and the religious upbringing that colors her view of the world. The prequel film Sister Death was released in 2023 and tells the backstory of the mysterious and ancient nun that Verónica discovers in the basement of her school.

Critical response to Verónica often states that although the film is effective in the fear department, it doesn’t delve further enough into the inner world of Verónica. Though the story is loosely based on real events that took place in Madrid in the 1970s, the movie takes many liberties with the narrative, as it is a fictionalized depiction. Though Verónica does feature nuns and wouldn’t be the same without the inclusion of them, it’s not the best use of the archetype, even if the chilling story is effective.

9 The Nun (2018)

Directed by Corin Hardy

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The Nun is a supernatural horror film by director Corin Hardy. When a young nun inexplicably takes her own life in a Romanian monastery, the Vatican sends a priest with a haunted past and a nun on the threshold of her final vows to investigate. Together, they uncover the order’s unholy secret. Risking not only their lives but their faith and very souls,

Director Corin Hardy Release Date September 7, 2018 Cast Bonnie Aarons , charlotte hope , Ingrid Bisu , Demián Bichir , Taissa Farmiga , Jonas Bloquet Runtime 96 Minutes

The Nun is a spinoff of The Conjuring franchise and is a take-off of one of the most terrifying demonic possessions within the universe of the movies. The film explains the events that lead up to The Conjuring 2 by exploring the origins of the demon that takes the form of a nun. Within the story, an ancient rift between worlds is opened in Romania because of the bombing during World War II. The demon was summoned to Earth by an ancient Duke who built the castle during the Dark Ages.

A priest, Father Burke (Demián Bichir), and a young nun, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), are sent to the convent to discover why the nuns living there have been dying. The Nun was an enormous box office success, likely due to its predecessors within the Conjuring franchise and the work of Farmiga, who is well-known in horror circles. While the movie puts too much emphasis on the truth and realism of religion and doesn’t look into the allusions that could be made with the material, it’s still a solid addition to the genre.

8 The Nun II (2023)

Directed by Michael Chaves

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Set in the universe of The Conjuring films, the sequel to James Wan’s The Nun from 2018, The Nun 2, set roughly four years after the events of the original film, sees Sister Irene’s return and continuing battle against the demonic nun known as Valak in a whole new terrifying light.

Director Michael Chaves Release Date September 8, 2023 Cast Storm Reid , Taissa Farmiga , Anna Popplewell , Katelyn Rose Downey , Bonnie Aarons , Jonas Bloquet Runtime 110 Minutes

The Nun II takes everything successful about The Nun and ups the ante with a compelling story and amazing character work from its ensemble cast. In the story, Farmiga is back as Sister Irene, but this time, Storm Reid joins her as Sister Debra, a young novice. The narrative revolves again around the nun demon. Still, the pacing is stronger, the plot is more active, and additional lore is revealed about Irene and her connection to the demon. Additionally, Farmiga and Reid have excellent chemistry as a pair of young nuns who work together.

Strong visuals and effective scare tactics are an important part of any film, and
The Nun II
is certainly scarier than the first film of the spinoff franchise.

Like most films in the oeuvre, it was criticized for style over substance, but this isn’t the worst way a film can go in a horror movie. Strong visuals and effective scare tactics are an important part of any film, and The Nun II is certainly scarier than the first film of the spinoff franchise. The visual effects were better across the board, and much of that came with the better technology the filmmakers had access to, but overall, it would be reasonable to watch The Nun II without ever seeing The Nun.

7 Killer Nun (1979)

Directed by Giulio Berruti

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The Italian surrealist film Killer Nun faced censorship and controversy when it was released in 1979, but it leaves behind an interesting legacy in the nunsploitation genre. Killer Nun‘s influence can be seen across films that take on religious fervor and how religion can push people into doing things they never thought they were capable of. Sister Gertrude (Anita Ekberg) is so plagued by her fear that the cancer she suffers from will return that she turns to drug abuse. Due to her impaired state, she believes she might be committing murders all over the hospital she works in.

However, not all is what it seems, and Killer Nun relies on the fact that Gertrude isn’t a reliable narrator to keep the audience guessing until the final moments of the film. It’s only then that the truth is revealed, and Gertrude and the viewer begin to see things clearly. Although Killer Nun shies away from showing graphic depictions of violence and sex, the implications are still enough to terrify the audience.

Split Image Religious Horror Related 10 Best Religious Horror Movies, According To Rotten Tomatoes

From The Exorcist to Midsommar, plenty of acclaimed horror movies have drawn on religious themes for their stories and scares.

6 Immaculate (2024)

Directed by Michael Mohan

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Immaculate is a 2024 horror film directed by Michael Mohan and stars Sydney Sweeney. When a devout woman named Cecilia is offered a position at a prestigious convent in Italy, she takes it with little hesitation. However, Cecilia’s world is turned upside down when she discovers the terrible secrets hidden within her new place of faith.

Director michael mohan Release Date March 22, 2024 Cast Sydney Sweeney , Álvaro Morte , Benedetta Porcaroli , Dora Romano , Giorgio Colangeli , Simona Tabasco Runtime 89 minutes

Immaculate is Sydney Sweeney’s best horror movie, as it not only boasts a strong performance by the actress but also is an interesting twist on the fable of immaculate conceptions. The film was a passion project for Sweeney, who was eyed for the role of Cecilia years before her role in Euphoria, but the project didn’t get off the ground until Sweeney purchased the rights. Also serving as a producer, Sweeney gives her all to portraying a young nun who travels to Italy only to discover that she has become pregnant despite being a virgin.

Though the other nuns rarely try to help her and often are terrifying representations of what guilt and terror can do to a person, they are not the ultimate villains of the film. Overall, the film has been praised for its open-ended narrative that leaves much up to the interpretation of the viewer. This is a strong choice that few horror films are brave enough to make, and while films surrounding immaculate conceptions have been made before, Immaculate makes it fresh and entertaining.

5 Saint Maud (2019)

Directed by Rose Glass

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Director Rose Glass Release Date October 9, 2020 Cast Morfydd Clark , Jennifer Ehle , Lily Frazer , Lily Knight , Rosie Sansom Runtime 85 Minutes

Saint Maud was directed by Rose Glass, who also helmed a recent LGBTQ+ romance thriller, Love Lies Bleeding. Love Lies Bleeding ends with the classic violence and humor the director has come to be known for. This style can be seen in Glass’ earlier work, Saint Maud, which disrupts traditional horror tropes through a uniquely feminine and grotesque narrative. Maud (Morfydd Clark) becomes a Catholic nun and nurse because of an unknown trauma and becomes devoted to what she believes is saving the soul of one of her patients.

While some horror films fall flat because they rely too much on body horror and don’t give enough suspense or mental stimulation,
Saint Maud
doesn’t have that problem.

While some horror films fall flat because they rely too much on body horror and don’t give enough suspense or mental stimulation, Saint Maud doesn’t have that problem. The film travels deep into the psyche of Maud and doesn’t let the viewer rest for a moment. Like Love Lies Bleeding, Saint Maud has been praised for its shocking ending and for imbuing dark humor into every aspect of the narrative. Fans of Glass’ work will not be disappointed if they haven’t yet seen her religious masterpiece.

4 Dark Waters (1993)

Directed by Mariano Baino

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Dark Waters is not a film for the faint of heart and explores parent-child relationships, asking how well a person can truly know and understand their parents. Elizabeth (Louise Salter) returns to the lonely island she was born on after the death of her father and finds things are not as she remembers. Her father started a convent, and the nuns that inhabit the island are sinister, and she frequently catches them acting mysteriously. They even go so far as to try and burn her childhood home down with her inside.

However, Dark Water has a fantastically subversive ending, and the nuns are not the evildoers they are made out to be throughout the film. Dark Waters is successful because even though it was made in the early ’90s, it was already aware of the cultural perception and tropes surrounding nuns and was able to capitalize on these societal beliefs. In doing so, the twist of Elizabeth’s past is made all the more intriguing, as is her final choice at the end of the film.

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Horror and religion have a shockingly close history, and these zealots of cinema showcase exactly why audiences can fear sinister devotion.

3 The Devils (1971)

Directed by Ken Russell

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The Devils had a widely controversial reputation when it first premiered in 1971, as it drew upon real events and illustrated the dangers of using religious fervor and beliefs to gain political power. To this day, it still isn’t widely available due to its sexually explicit and graphic scenes and harsh criticisms of religion. In the film, a nun and a Cardinal accuse a local priest of a French town of witchcraft to oust him. This results in mass hysteria and sexual depravity that are shown graphically in the film.

Initial responses to the film are predominantly colored by its controversial topics and the extreme depictions of violence and sex that are featured prominently in the film. Some were against the film because they felt it negatively portrayed religion without nuance. Conversely, others felt it was overreliant on flashy sequences and over-the-top set pieces and performances. Today, critics and audiences have warmed to the film, and it’s considered a triumph and a boundary-pushing example of what film is capable of.

2 St. Agatha (2018)

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman

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St. Agatha is a classic film in the nunsploitation genre and is a waking nightmare for the protagonist, Mary (Sabrina Kern). After getting pregnant outside of marriage in the 1950s, she runs away to a convent, hoping for peace and protection, but it turns out the nuns are not what they seem. It turns out they aren’t even part of the Catholic Church at all but are obsessed with taking the children of young pregnant women. There is a very clear throughline and connection to the story of the Virgin Mary in the Bible.

Though St. Agatha received mixed reviews, the small, low-budget indie horror film will likely come to be reevaluated in recent years. Its subject matter is particularly poignant in the United States at this time, and the performances are strong across the board. The biggest issue with St. Agatha is the early pacing of the film, which takes a little while to get going and transition into the meat of the story. However, once it gets on track, visually and narratively, it’s a strong film that effectively gets its point across without being too obvious.

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1 The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Directed by James Wan

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The sequel to 2013’s horror hit, The Conjuring 2 is a supernatural horror film that again follows Ed and Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigators who travel to London to investigate the case of the Hodgson family. When one of the Hodgson’s daughters becomes seemingly possessed after playing with an Ouija board, supernatural occurrences begin happening all over the home. 

Director James Wan Release Date June 10, 2016 Cast Robin Atkin Downes , Vera Farmiga , Madison Wolfe , Patrick Wilson , Abhi Sinha , Simon McBurney , Maria Doyle Kennedy , Sterling Jerins , Frances O’Connor Runtime 134 minutes Franchise(s) The Conjuring

The Conjuring was an enormously popular film, and the second film in the franchise was equally successful and interesting through where it took the existing narrative of the story’s universe. Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) team up once again to determine if supernatural events in London are what they seem or if the haunted family is faking it. It seems that they are at first, but Lorraine soon realizes that a demon nun is preventing her from using her powers of detection and is the one orchestrating the haunting.

Of all the Conjuring Universe movies, the nun is one of the scariest demons in the franchise and leaves chills down the spine of anyone who watches the movie. Delivering a horror sequel that’s not only just as good but just as successful at the box office as its predecessor is a difficult task, but The Conjuring 2 did an amazing job keeping the film franchise going. The movie has enough twists and turns combined with homages to traditional horror motifs to make it fun, unsettling, and a tribute to nunsploitation.

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