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Horror Film: Cult/Popular Horror

An exploration of the modern horror film, examining how we can successfully break down horror through a social justice lens.

Cult/Popular Horror

The films listed here as cult/popular horror films are not specific to one genre; these are films that defined the genre of film that just didn't fit into any other category. They're important to the film canon and are definitely worth checking out for any kind of paper over horror, or any kind of paper over film, really.

The films listed here are simply examples and are not a comprehensive list.

All posters are cited from

The Shining

The Shining (1980) is a Kubrick classic horror film that has been hailed as a staple of pop culture. Following the deterioration of a man's sanity and the attempted murder of his family due to supernatural forces and childhood possession, films have drawn heavily from it, such as The Sixth Sense, which played with the idea of childhood possession.

The Shining can be rented from UK Libraries or viewed on Amazon.

Night Of The Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead (1968) is an American independent horror film by George Romero. Filmed for an incredibly small budget, it earned over 250 times it's budget, becoming a cult classic in American film. It follows seven people trapped in a barn being attacked by "the living dead." While initially criticized for it's explicit gore, the film has been embraced by fans and is now an important part of pop culture.

Night of the Living Dead can be rented from UK Libraries or viewed on Amazon.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) is a German expressionist silent horror film that is known as the first "true" horror film. A defining film just after World War I, it ignited horror as a genre and defined the German expressionist film movement as a whole, giving way to the arthouse movement of film. The movie's use of shadows and the dark, visually striking style setup horror for the rest of time for the genre.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari can be rented from UK Libraries or viewed on Amazon.

The Exorcist

The Exorcist (1963) is one of the most culturally important horror films of all time, iconicized for being one of the most horrifying horror movies of all time. It has won Academy Awards, been put in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, and has become one of the highest grossing films of all time. It started with a troubled production history, with rumors of the set being haunted, but it managed to persevere and define American horror film as we know it.

The Exorcist can be rented from UK Libraries or viewed on Amazon.


Hellraiser (1987) is a British-American horror film, renown for being one of the most popular British horror movies ever. It follows dealings with extraterrestrial creatures from another dimension, and their leader, Pinhead. Pinhead is one of the most critical horror movie villains in cinematic history because he was a departure from most of them being mute and just killing their victims: he was articulate, intelligent, and horrifying.

Hellraiser can be viewed on Amazon.

The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) is an American psychological thriller horror film that is based on the novel of the same name. Critically acclaimed for being one of the most influential films in cinematic history, it follows an FBI agent investigating a serial killer and her interactions with another serial killer helping her find "Buffalo Bill." Her experiences with Hannibal Lector are chilling, and Lector has gone on to become one of the most influential horror villains in cinematic history.

The Silence of the Lambs can be rented from UK Libraries or viewed on Amazon.


A large egg-shaped object that is cracked and emits a yellow-ish light hovers in mid-air against a black background and above a waffle-like floor. The title "ALIEN" appears in block letters above the egg, and just below it in smaller type appears the tagline "in space no one can hear you scream".[1]

Alien (1979) is an American sci-fi horror film directed by the critically acclaimed Ridley Scott. Kickstarting Sigourney Weaver's career, the film has had a major impact on both the science fiction genre and the horror genre due to it's horrifying consequences of what an extraterrestrial creature will do to you if you're on a ship in space. It's been critically acclaimed because of it's impact, and the film has spawned a decades surviving franchise of books, games, art, merchandise, and of course, other movies.

Alien can be rented from UK Libraries or viewed on Amazon.


Jaws (1975) is an American horror film that terrified generations to come, focusing not on a psychotic killer or anything supernatural, but something that was terrifyingly real for everyone: sharks. It defined the box office model of horror films, specifically the summer blockbuster, and was the prototype for generations of films to follow it. What makes it truly horrifying is that you almost never see the shark; the presence is simply suggested.

Jaws can be rented from UK Libraries or viewed on Amazon.


Carrie (1976) is an American supernatural horror film following a teen girl harassed by her classmates who eventually snaps and gets her revenge with her powers of telekinesis.Based off the Stephen King novel, this adaptation has become critically acclaimed, having major influence on pop culture and the horror film as a whole. The prom scene where blood is dumped on Carrie has been called one of the scariest moments in cinematic history.

Carrie can be rented from UK Libraries or viewed on Amazon.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) is an influential American horror film. The film follows aliens coming down and replacing human beings by stealing their memories, personality, etc. The only thing the aliens lack is human emotion, and it comes down on a doctor to stop it before the aliens take over the entire planet. It was shot partially in a film noir style, and was incredibly influential on the science fiction horror genre.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers can be rented from UK Libraries or viewed on Amazon.