Ranking Americans' favorite horror movies

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
October 20, 2022, 2:38 PM GMT+0

You know it's October when you turn on the TV and see horror movies featured on multiple channels. Few holidays are as intertwined with a major genre of entertainment as Halloween is with horror. From Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic Psycho, to Jordan Peele's 2019 thriller Us, a recent YouGov poll asks what Americans think of 35 popular horror movies. While each movie asked about is highly rated, the critically-acclaimed 1992 psychological horror film The Silence of the Lambs is the only one to place close to the top of the list by two different ways of ranking the films.

In an earlier poll, we asked Americans to tell us some of their favorite horror movies in an open-ended question. Based on answers to this question, as well as other sources, we developed a list of 35 movies that we asked Americans to rate in the recent poll. By letting respondents decide for themselves whether to classify a movie as horror in the initial poll, we sidestep ubiquitous debates over whether particular movies fall into the genre or not. To account for most of the movies on our list either being part of a franchise or having remakes associated with them, we asked respondents to collectively consider all versions of the movie — including sequels and remakes — that they had seen.

How many Americans have seen 35 popular horror movies?

The poll first asked people whether or not they have ever seen each horror movie on our list, including sequels or remakes of any film on the list that had them. About half of the 35 movies asked about — 18 — have been seen by at least 50% of Americans. The three horror films polled with the largest share of Americans who have viewed them are Jaws (77% have seen it), The Exorcist (73%), and Dracula (69%). The three movies polled with the smallest audiences each still have been seen by at least one in three Americans: Get Out (35%), Us (35%), and Annabelle (38%).

Which horror movies are Americans' favorites?

In the next phase of the survey, people who said they'd seen each movie were asked their opinion of it — that is, whether they loved, liked, disliked, or hated it. The results, displayed below, show that each movie polled is loved or liked by more people who saw it than hate or dislike it.

While all movies received more positive reviews than negative, some stand out as especially highly regarded. We ranked the films two ways. One way is to look at the share of people who have seen each movie who give it a positive review — that is, they say they either love or like it. By this metric, the three most highly rated horror films are The Birds (81% love or like it), The Silence of the Lambs (80%), and Resident Evil (79%).

Another way to rank the results is by the share who say they loved each film. By this metric, the top three films are The Silence of the Lambs (35%), The Shining (34%), and It (32%).

While either way of ranking the data is valid, The Silence of the Lambs's performance as the only movie to rank in the top three on both lists strengthens its claim as Americans' favorite horror film. It also may be the favorite among Oscars voters: It is the first and only horror film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, and one of only three films to have won in all five major categories — for picture, director, actor, actress, and adapted screenplay.

The only other three movies that appear on the top 10 list for each of our two methods of ranking horror films are The Conjuring, The Birds, and Jaws.

Which horror movies are the worst of the best?

Since all the movies asked about are popular among their viewers, none are quite generally disliked. However, of the 35 movies asked about, the three with the largest (though still quite small share) of dissatisfied viewers are The Blair Witch Project (45% hate or dislike it), The Ring (32%), and Rosemary's Baby (31%).

The Blair Witch Project is also the movie which the largest share of people who saw it say they hate, followed by Friday the 13th (10%) and Child's Play (10%). This comes as no great surprise: Another question on the same poll found that the least popular of 10 horror subgenres are found footage and slasher films – genres that collectively encompass all three of these movies.

RELATED: No film genre divides Americans like horror does

— Carl Bialik, Allen Houston, and Linley Sanders contributed to this article.

This poll was conducted on October 11 - 14, 2022, among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this poll.

Image: Getty Images (Archive Photos / Stringer)