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The Best Horror Movie Scripts of All Time

By David Young · October 31, 2022

The Best Horror Movie Scripts of All Time_featured

You can’t go wrong reading horror movie scripts during this time of year. Actually, any time is a good time for horror. Whether it’s about serial killers, alien invasions, possessions, or being trapped on a train with zombies, there’s a story out there that can grip you.

Still, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff? What stories are the crême de la crême of horror movie scripts? After all, you don’t want to waste your time with the duds. We’ve got you covered.

Here, you’ll get a full list of the best all-time horror movie scripts out there — some clever, some shocking, but all using terror in the best ways possible!

Scripts from this Article

Halloween (1978)

Few movies are as iconic of the season as the one titled Halloween. Go figure, right? Reinvigorating an entire movement in film history, John Carpenter put the nightmare we now call Michael Myers onto the big screen. The intimately creepy POV catches you off-guard early on, and the darkness of that first encounter lingers on as the shape of this character — his mere outline — becomes the thing of nightmares.

Even the inhuman silence he possesses is disquieting to audiences everywhere, and it’s partly why he lives on for decades more as the killer, the vessel of evil itself, we’ve feared for so long.

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Alien

Sometimes a movie isn’t about evil outright, but about survival. One such movie is Alien. The species that takes out your friendly neighborhood Nostromo ship is just like you and me — it needs to eat and reproduce. There’s nothing wrong with that until you realize that the xenomorph is a creature that uses humans for both purposes.

The utter alienness of this creature demonstrates why Alien was a genius title for the piece. Both parasite and predator, its unnerving intelligence and perseverance are enough to set a reader’s teeth on edge for an hour or more. From this aberration to the feeling of isolation conveyed in the screenplay, there’s little else you can do to make this story a masterclass in terror.

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Scream (1996)

The best way to learn about horror is from a movie that teaches horror — ins and outs alike. That movie is Scream, a decades-later commentary on the slasher subgenre. With its tongue-in-cheek reference to the so-called rules of survival in horror films, it shatters a construct of separation between audience and characters that had existed for years.

Namely, Scream destroyed the illusion that the people on the screen aren’t like you and me. With its intentional destruction of this barrier, we now can’t say that a character got killed for not knowing the tropes that exist in the genre. They might know the rules, but they still get “got.” If that realization isn’t chilling in itself, read it again.

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28 Days Later

Something truly upsetting for anyone would be finding yourself isolated with only a few other humans to talk with. Try as we might to deny it, humans are social creatures. But you know what else might try to find some company? The infected from 28 Days Later. Call them zombies if you want (we really messed up that word anyway), these creatures are the pressure that stands against the humans we’re rooting for.

What we see in this flick is a dire situation that screams “end of the world,” but we can do nothing about it except yearn for the survival of a lone few. But what’s truly terrifying is the fact that the true dangers may not be infected, but other humans themselves. After all, survival instincts hit everyone just a little differently.

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The Exorcist

There’s something about the 1970s that makes for inherently creepier horror films. The truest example of this is 1973, the year of The Exorcist, a flick that left a trail of urban legend and deaths that raised more than one question about a curse. If only that were the only creepy thing about this story. In fact, The Exorcist still holds the record for being the most disturbing and nightmare-inducing piece of cinema in the horror zeitgeist.

People seeing it in theaters and people seeing it in their homes all experience the soul-shriveling fear that comes from an encounter with a powerful, dangerous demon. Not to mention, everyone in the ’70s was ready to whisper to each other about a curse, bringing more of a presence to this film about demons and possession.

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The Thing (1982)

Some things frighten you more when you don’t understand them at all. The unknown is a source of fright for many a Lovecraftian tale, and it’s tales like that which inspired this film and its previous iteration (or spiritual predecessor), The Thing from Another World.

The 1982 alien horror plays with acute elements of horror psychology while still allowing us a glimpse many times at the creature wreaking devastation in Antarctica — becoming at every chance a monster movie, a thriller, and a whodunit all in one.

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Hereditary

As Danzig once pointed out in a banger of a song, keeping your family in the dark doesn’t always keep them safe. In fact, the devilry that pervades the family in Hereditary remains a shut mystery for some time — all the while working to develop some dark aims that you really need to read to believe.

The way this horror all comes together is a frightening thing — almost as if it was planned all along.

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The Conjuring

Real stories are often the most difficult to face. In horror, that means they’re also the scariest. The Conjuring is one such film, using a story of real-life events to fuel the narrative you read in the script.

What the family in The Conjuring faced was as real to them as the Warrens, and it was up to the Warrens to end the haunting they came across. Following them is fascinating enough. But, to latch onto the intimate, very real struggle of one family in the face of something unexplained is even more compelling — albeit creepy.

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Candyman (2021)

Urban legends hold a special place in our hearts, don’t they? From the loners in creepy, isolated houses to the stories of how a town came to be, these ideas shape our perception of the world more than we realize. Sometimes, though, the legends are not only real — they’re deadly.

This is definitely the case with the Candyman, and you can really feel the terror when people realize he’s not just a legend after all.

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A Quiet Place

A powerful approach to scary cinema, A Quiet Place takes silence and makes it not an inhuman quality, but a necessity. In a world where sound can get you killed, every breath and every step is carefully measured.

You start reading this not only feeling that urgency and caution but also internalizing it yourself. If you hold your breath while reading certain high-stakes moments of this script, you’re reading it right!

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Night of the Living Dead

The iconic zombie movie features ghouls that have since become a symbol of social ills. However, at the heart of this movie is a mob of unstoppable dangers, an “us vs. them” dichotomy that instills anxiety and unease at every turn.

This true horror is so close to natural instinct — the social condemnation of the “other” — that it hits home in more ways than a conventional fright fest. Read this story to get a heaping helping of the danger that comes from this kind of mindset.

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Insidious

Some places are better off unexplored. Some dangers are better left undiscovered. After all, when you stare long enough into the Abyss… well, you know the rest.

It’s important to remember that when reading Insidious, which captures the elements of discovery and danger all in one through the experiences Josh has when his son becomes trapped in The Further, a place beyond the physical realm — including the creepy song that signals the main malevolent presence in the story.

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Horror is a timeless art, and every year there are movies that play with the conventions of the genre. Yet, there are those that stand as the best of the best — either on screen or on the page. Sometimes, it’s both.

Take a look at the horror movie scripts above to get a glimpse at what makes such a script one of the greats. And by the way, these are only a very small sampling — there are so many more. Take a look at the other great horror movie scripts on The Script Lab!

Hopefully, reading these titles will help you understand what you should know about writing in the horror genre.

Scripts from this Article