25 Best Teen Horror Movies Ranked

Summary

  • Teen horror movies appeal to young audiences by featuring relatable young protagonists facing terrifying foes.
  • Unique twists in teen horror films, like in Cherry Falls and Jennifer’s Body, add creativity and intrigue to the genre.
  • Cult classics like Sleepaway Camp and The Faculty showcase the lasting impact of teen horror movies on mainstream audiences.

Teens are one of the most integral aspects of the horror genre’s audience and there’s certainly no shortage of the best scary movies for teens. The horror genre branches out into many different sub-genres, with one of the most popular being teen horror. Teen horror movies tend to feature young protagonists in the fight for their lives against a menacing serial killer, monster, ghost, or any other typical horror-movie fiend. Many are targeted specifically to a teen audience while still having universal appeal.

Adults are usually equipped to deal with pressures in life. Teens are not, and when their regular school and social lives are upended by a slasher killer or zombie outbreak, they are the last people anyone would expect to handle it. Horror movies based on teens are not always highly critically acclaimed. However, the best teen horror movies tend to hold a place in the hearts of mainstream audiences as they draw upon the insecurities faced by most people in those formative years of their lives. Some even redefined horror cinema, cementing their place in movie history.

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25 Cherry Falls (2000)

A Serial Killer Targets Virgins

The Cherry Falls Blu-Ray cover.

Cherry Falls isn’t the best-known scary movie for teens simply because it ended up as a straight-to-video release in the United States after appearing at a few film festivals. Starring Brittany Murphy, Cherry Falls takes some of the well-known horror tropes established by slasher movies of the 1970s and ‘80s and turns them around.

The big premise of the movie is that an unknown killer is cutting their way through the small town by killing teenage virgins. This flips the trope of killing those who are more promiscuous on its head as it is the exact opposite of most teen slashers. The movie is campy and brutal and definitely a creative take on teen horror.

It also features a recognizable cast. On top of Murphy, it also stars Michael Biehn (The Terminator) as her father, Jay Mohr (Jerry Maguire) as her English teacher, and Jesse Bradford (West Wing) as one of her friends. The movie won the Best Limited-Release/Direct-to-Video Film award at the Fangoiria Chainsaw Awards.

24 Freaky (2020)

A Body Swap Horror Movie

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The horror-comedy Freaky was partially inspired by Cherry Falls and several other teen horror movies. Freaky sees Kathryn Newton as a shy high-schooler who swaps bodies with her small town’s resident urban legend (Vince Vaughn), a serial killer who finds a new lease on life when he has a whole new body to use to his advantage. The comedy comes from both having to adjust to their new circumstances.

The movie is a loose remake of
Freaky Friday

It’s not as gory as a lot of modern horror movies, but Freaky certainly will appeal to long-time horror fans. It is also a fun switch-up of the body swap genre, as the movie is a loose remake of Freaky Friday, of which the most popular version is the 2003 comedy starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Logan as a mother and daughter who swap bodies.

Here, it is a high school student and a serial killer, but it is the same process and just adds in a slasher killer instead of an awkward situation. The end result is something unique, while Vaughn shines as he tries to nail the mannerisms of a teenage girl.

23 Sleepaway Camp (1983)

A Movie With A Controversial Twist Ending

Angela and campers in Sleepaway Camp

Sleepaway Camp is a well-known slasher from the heyday of teen horror movies, but it has a complicated legacy among horror fans. The film follows a young woman at summer camp who is tormented by other campers and counselors, but then, her tormentors begin to be picked off one by one.

There’s a twist at the end of the movie, but some horror fans see it as transphobic, while others see the ending as ahead of its time in crafting a trans narrative. Those complications prevent the movie from being at the top of the discussion of the best teen horror films.

Despite that, the movie remains a cult classic and one that is played at several horror festivals and midnight screenings over 40 years after its initial release. There were also four sequels that followed, with Angela’s story continuing, but none of the sequels matched up to the original in terms of quality, surprises, or great and scary horror moments.

22 I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

Friends Cover Up An Accidental Murder

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Inspired by a young adult thriller novel by Lous Duncan, I Know What You Did Last Summer spawned a handful of sequels and an Amazon series that was canceled after its first season. It sees four high school friends cover up a tragic accident and keep the secret after graduation. When they reunite in their hometown, they are confronted by the secret in the form of a killer killing them one-by-one and eliminating everyone else in their way.

The story is inspired by an urban legend (“The Hook”) and is set to get a legacy sequel in 2025 with the same title, I Know What You Did Last Summer. The best news is that two of the original stars, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr. are in talks to return to their roles as Julie and Ray, which means it will continue their story. The first entry in the franchise remains a beloved teen horror movie, although it did have the reputation as being a copycat movie of Scream when released.

21 Jennifer’s Body (2009)

A Sexy Revenge Horror Movie

Jennifer lights her tongue with a lighter in Jennifers Body

Jennifer’s Body debuted to some harsh reviews and a lower box office than expected. Much of that disappointment was due to audiences expecting a very different movie than they got from Jennifer’s Body. The movie is the story of the friendship between Jennifer (Megan Fox) and Needy (Amanda Seyfried), which becomes strained when Jennifer is possessed by a demon that feeds on young men to survive.

The script is also very smart, which makes sense because Diablo Cody (
Juno
) wrote the screenplay.

Needy takes it upon herself to stop Jennifer from killing all the men in their lives. While the movie is a great horror flick, it’s also a great look at teenage friendship. The script is also very smart, which makes sense because Diablo Cody (Juno) wrote the screenplay.

While the film was originally marketed for its sex appeal with Megan Fox as the selling point, it delivered a lot more under the hood than most people expected and has since become a cult classic and misunderstood masterpiece.

20 The Faculty (1998)

A Robert Rodriguez Alien Invasion Movie

Elijah Woods' Casey, Clea Duvall's Stokely, Shawn Hatosy's Stan, Laura Harris's Marybeth, Jordana Brewster's Delilah, and Josh Hartnett's Zeke look terrified in The Faculty

Often seen as a loose remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Faculty is an ensemble horror movie with several different high school cliques represented by the teens at the story’s center. Teenagers notice that not everything is as it seems in their hometown when a strange aquatic creature is discovered, and everyone starts acting like completely different people.

The group bands together to try to combat what looks like an alien invasion. As with Invasion of the Body Snatchers, they find that they might not all be able to trust one another. Starring Josh Hartnett and Elijah Wood, The Faculty has become a cult classic since its 1998 debut.

This is also one of the only studio movies Robert Rodriguez directed after making his mark in 1992 with El Mariachi. It has his fingerprints all over the film’s look and is a much better 1990s teen horror movie than some people might remember.

19 Tragedy Girls (2017)

Two Teenage Slashers Try To Frame A Serial Killer

McKayla and Sadie in masks and wearing all black in Tragedy Girls

Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp star in this twist on the slasher genre. Rather than the two central characters being traditional horror final girls, they are actually obsessed with death and seeking to make a name for themselves as slashers instead.

Not only do they run a true crime blog, but they manage to lure and kidnap a local serial killer so that they can frame him for their own crimes. Hilariously, many of their crimes are ruled as accidental deaths, and the teenagers become more and more obsessed with making their mark as cracks in their friendship begin to show.

Tragedy Girls manages to use the slasher genre to take a look at social media fame and true crime in a unique and great way. Critics loved the movie, awarding it an 84% rating on Rotten Tomatoes thanks to its pitch-black humor.

18 The Final Girls (2015)

High School Students Transported Into A 1986 Slasher Movie

A group of five teens are shocked in the woods in The Final Girls

The Final Girls is one of the best modern scary movies for teens because it takes what Scream taught audiences about horror flicks and actually puts its characters inside a horror movie with those rules. In The Final Girls, a group of teens attends a film festival showcasing a famous slasher flick that starred one of their mothers.

Afterward, the friends end up transported into the movie themselves and have to use what they know to survive. The Final Girls starts with Max’s mother, Amanda, dying in a car accident after she complains she can’t get good movie roles because of her iconic role in a slasher movie.

That is the movie Max and her friends are sucked into. The film is as much about processing grief as it is a modern take on slashers. Max is living the role that her mother just played and learning more about her mother and herself in the process. Combine the fun premise with some memorable kills and a talented cast and it’s understandable why it’s enjoyable.

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17 Heathers (1989)

A Teenage Rebel Starts A Murderous Rampage

Veronica and JD outside the Snappy Snack Shack in Heathers

Heathers is often thought of as a black comedy first, but it is absolutely a teen horror movie. Winona Ryder stars as a teenager named Veronica who wants to be a part of the popular crowd, but when she ends up falling for the local rebel named J.D. (Christian Slater), her intentions change. Instead of ingratiating themselves with the popular crowd, J.D. starts murdering the popular kids for Veronica, three of which are named Heather.

Heathers is such a cult classic that it has been made into a Broadway musical and left a lasting reputation in the teen horror genre. The movie has several iconic moments, both in the quality of kills in the movie and the absurdist scenes that play out as nightmares, hallucinations, and otherwise bizarre moments.

The ending is also a quirky spin on the tale, with there being a villain who has to face his comeuppance, but also the fact that the worst characters are the ones who already died.

16 The Fear Street Trilogy (2021)

Based On R.L. Stine’s Novels

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In 2021, Netflix debuted a trilogy of scary movies for teens. Inspired by R.L. Stine’s teen novel series Fear Street, the movies center around a group of teens experiencing the effects of a curse in their community. While Fear Street Part One is set in 1994, the next two movies head to the past to explore the origins of the curse. It’s a great exploration of teenage relationships, how young women are viewed by society, and a great take on teen horror in general.

While
Fear Street Part One
is set in 1994, the next two movies head to the past

The first three movies, all released in the same month in 2021, were directed by Leigh Janiak, and all of them connected to each other thematically and with characters. They were all also critically acclaimed, all sitting above 80% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Because of its popularity at its debut, Netflix subscribers have been waiting impatiently for more potential installments of the Fear Street movies, with the next installment already titled Fear Street: Prom Queen.

15 Warm Bodies (2013)

A Movie From The Zombie’s POV

Nicholas Hoult as a zombie in Warm Bodies.

A fun spin on the Romeo and Juliet story, Jonathan Levine’s adaptation of Isaac Marion’s novel of the same name garnered an impressive fanbase thanks to its comedic take on the revitalized zombie movie craze. Nicholas Hoult stars as R, a zombie in a post-apocalyptic world whose inner monologue reveals his loneliness and longing. Teresa Palmer is Julie, a living girl with whom he falls in love.

Their unlikely romance of two warring worlds may lean more heavily towards the ‘Rom’ and ‘Com’ parts of the ‘Rom-Zom-Com’ format begun by Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, but it’s a crowdpleaser that introduced zombie horror fiction to a wider audience. The ending was a twist on what normally happens in zombie movies, and it plays into the romantic love story as well. A sequel was expected, but it never arrived.

14 Christine (1983)

Stephen King’s Story Of A Boy And His Car

Arnie sitting in Christine car.

Horror icons John Carpenter and Stephen King collided with this adaptation of the author’s successful cursed car story, and though it’s rarely lumped in with the director’s classics in the genre, Christine remains one of the best teen horror movies spun from King’s numerous works.

The titular vehicle becomes the object of a loner teen’s obsession and his burgeoning libido grows darker and darker as his attachment to the menacing Plymouth Fury grows stronger and stronger. The movie is a little more about the haunted car than the book, which is actually a lot more about a young man who loves his car and realizes it means more to him than any human around him.

However, both paint a haunting portrait of longing and obsession. The movie is also known for its great soundtrack, with music scored by John Carpenter himself. Christine has become a cult classic since its release and is one of King’s more iconic adaptations thanks to Carpenter’s involvement.

13 Summer Of 84 (2018)

Young Friends Hunt For Missing Kids

The teens with flashlights in Summer Of 84 .

A teenage boy convinces some of his neighborhood friends that a friendly local police officer could be a serial killer, and they all embark on a summer of adventure and investigation to unravel the mystery of several missing boys.

As inspired as Summer of 84 is by relatively lighthearted detective fiction from the era and as heavily as it plays into the stereotypes of the ‘Kids on Bikes’ subgenre utilized by movies and TV shows like Stranger Things, this coming-of-age story is far darker than most. Summer of 84 left a palpable impact on the teen horror niche in a short amount of time since its release.

The movie premiered initially at the Sundance Film Festival and got a small theatrical release before it headed to streaming services. Critics were kind, considering the genre usually is dismissed, as it sits at 72% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. When it finally premiered on Shudder, it was one of the streaming services’ biggest premieres (via X).

12 Final Destination (2000)

Death Comes For Everyone

The cast of the movie Final Destination (2000)

Final Destination was a strange addition to the best teen horror movies in the genre, as the killer here wasn’t a masked slasher or a demonic monster. The killer here was simply death, as it sought to end the lives of people who might have snuck their way out of their fates due to a twist of luck.

However, no one escapes death, and what made the original fresh was that it was all about the natural everyday incidents that could end a teen’s life once they escaped their seeming fate. While it received negative critical reviews, it was popular with the mainstream and spawned several sequels that expanded on the mythology.

Since the first movie’s release, there have been four Final Destination sequels, and they have opened up the mythology and rules involving death and what happens to those who escape it. A sixth movie slated for 2025 is set to continue the story, although it is meant to be a standalone sequel in the movie’s world.

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11 Fright Night (1985)

A Vampire Moves In Next Door

Jerry Dandridge as a vampire in Fright Night.

One of the best teen horror movies that blends horror with humor is the highly acclaimed 1985 cult classic vampire movie, Fright Night. It follows a teenager who discovers his new neighbor is a vampire, and he enlists a washed-up actor from a horror television series to help him hunt the vampire down.

Fright Night is a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is one of its biggest strengths. While there’s no shortage of horror in the film, it’s of the type that’s tongue-in-cheek, making for a fun horror movie viewing experience.

Fright Night’s cult popularity saw it get a remake in 2011 with Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, and David Tennant, and it was just as entertaining, although it couldn’t match the popularity of the original movie. The first movie was a success in awards season, winning three Saturn Awards with five nominations, including Best Writing (Tom Holland), Best Supporting Actor (Roddy McDowall), and Best Horror Film.

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10 The Lost Boys (1987)

A Boy Learns Vampires Have Turned His Brother

The vampire gang in The Lost Boys.

A vampire cult classic in the teen horror movie landscape, The Lost Boys follows a single mother who arrives in a new town with her two young sons, who soon discover that the town is home to a deadly vampire presence. The younger son makes friends with a pair of self-proclaimed vampire hunters (the Frog Brothers), while the older teenage son gets mixed up with a local gang with a love for motorbikes, partying, and draining the blood from unsuspecting victims.

A young Keifer Sutherland plays the main vampire in the gang

The Lost Boys is known as much for its aesthetic as its horror, with director Joel Schumacher capturing the essence of a late 80s Californian beach town lifestyle perfectly. The cast was perfect, with Corey Feldman and Corey Haim teaming up here, while a young Kiefer Sutherland plays the main vampire in the gang and Jason Patric plays the older brother tempted and turned. The film even stars Alex Winter of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure fame as a vampire.

9 It Follows (2014)

An Invisible Serial Killer

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David Robert Mitchell used the fear of the unknown to instill a sense of dread in his audience with the 2014 film, It Follows. In it, a teenager discovers she’s become cursed after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, by which an invisible presence with sinister intentions begins following her.

The teen and her friends must then try and stay alive while avoiding passing on the curse through further physical contact. It’s a film with themes that allude to the consequences that can come with one’s actions, which is especially prevalent in the teenage years.

This was a rare teen horror movie that was a box office success and received high critical acclaim. It has also since gained an even bigger cult following as people began to discover it on streaming platforms. It sits at 95% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, which is very impressive for any horror movie regarding critical acclaim. There has also been talks of a sequel called They Follow, which makes it sound like there might be more than one threat for the young adults.

8 The Cabin In The Woods (2012)

The Ultimate Meta Horror Movie

The kids exploring in Cabin in the Woods.

A group of teenagers heads to a remote cabin in the woods for a holiday when they discover that the cabin is housing some horrific things. Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods uses one of the oldest setups in the book for its premise but with a refreshing twist.

One of the best teen horror movies, it satirizes horror movie tropes and is full of clichés without being tacky. It also features a unique ending that’s hard to see coming. The Cabin in the Woods takes all the best aspects from past horror movies and neatly packages them up in a single feature film.

The movie picked up awards from Fangoria and also won the Bram Stoker Award. Written by Josh Whedon, the film has a lot of his quirky dialogue, but it is the idea of manufactured horror with real monsters that really launched this movie to greatness.

7 The Craft (1996)

Teenage Witches Veer Into Dark Arts

A close-up of Sarah looking scared in The Craft

One scary movie for teens that picked up a huge legacy over the years was the 1998 teen horror movie, The Craft. The story focuses on four teenage girls who practice witchcraft and use it to get revenge against the people who bullied them in high school. However, when three of them go too far in their violent behavior, it results in the group breaking and a deadly rivalry occurs.

It earned Fairuza Balk recognition at both the Saturn Awards and MTV Movie Awards.

The movie not only gained a large cult following, but when released, it earned Fairuza Balk recognition at both the Saturn Awards and MTV Movie Awards. 24 years after its release, The Craft received a sequel, although it only tied into one of the original witches and that was only thanks to a twist at the end of the movie. For the original, it remains one of the best movies ever made about witchcraft.

6 Ginger Snaps (2000)

A Werewolf Movie About Female Changes

Ginger and Brigitte looking at something in Ginger Snaps.

There are not many great werewolf films compared to other horror subgenres, but one of the best teen horror movies is actually based solidly on the werewolf mythology. Ginger Snaps features teenage sisters Brigitte and Ginger, two girls fascinated with death and who came up with a plan to die together when they turned 16. However, when Ginger starts the first period of her adolescent years, a werewolf smells the blood and attacks, turning her into a werewolf.

Ginger Snaps plays out as a metaphor for girls reaching adolescence and the struggles that they have to overcome. The movie received high critical praise and two sequels, though the sequels never reached the level of the original, mainly because the cast here was so good and the later movies mostly ignored the brilliant subtext that made this more than just another scary teen movie.

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