Best Scary Movies for the Holiday Season, Ranked


Although Halloween has already passed, the following months still carry plenty of scares. While most people associate November and December with movies based around Thanksgiving and Christmas, that does not mean there aren’t horror films centered around the more colorful time of the year. With the holiday season just around the corner, it makes sense that there are a few scary movies with a festive vibe nestled between these holidays. What better way to spend your free holiday time than to watch movies that will bring chills down your spine or help you prepare for the jolly season?


As you can expect, many movies on this list touch on the Christmas spirit, but from a horror perspective, like Krampus and Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. Other films align more with the turn of the colder season that pervades this time of year. Whether psychologically terrifying or full-on scary, let’s take a look at the best scary movies that you can watch during the holiday season.

Update December 2, 2023: The holiday season has arrived, so for anyone looking for a break from It’s a Wonderful Life and Elf, here are some great scary movies for the holiday season.


10 The Lodge (2020)

The Lodge

Release Date
January 16, 2020

Director
Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz

Cast
Richard Armitage, Alicia Silverstone, Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, Danny Keough, Lia McHugh

Rating
R

Main Genre
Horror

In The Lodge, a Christmas break for bonding purposes turns into a nightmare for a potential stepmother and two siblings, who start seeing things in the lodge they’re staying in. The problem is that the solution to this issue may be more simple than Grace, the leader and stepmother, thought. However, a series of emotional disturbances may be the spark for something much more sinister. Yeah, we’re being vague on purpose.

Why It Makes the List

If there’s a film that will make you feel dread and is the total opposite of what Christmas should feel like, that film is The Lodge. Right when you think you know what the film is about, it lands a long and strong blow to your head, and it makes you rethink what you got from the film at first. This is another kind of film. Warning: Don’t watch this if you feel down.

You can stream The Lodge on Max.

Related: The Best Dark or Sad Christmas Movies

9 Batman Returns (1992)

batman returns

Batman Returns

Release Date
June 19, 1992

Director
Tim Burton

Cast
Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Michael Murphy

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Action

Batman Returns is the perfect continuation of Tim Burton’s version of the masked man’s franchise. In Returns, Gotham is threatened by something far more organized. Between corporate mogul Max Shreck and Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin, Batman doesn’t know which one’s worse and fights them both before they ruin what’s left of Gotham during the holiday season.

Why It Makes the List

Tim Burton’s sequel to Batman is darker, more violent, and very unsettling in its depiction of a city in chaos but hopeful. The Christmas theme is very present throughout the film, with a very cool kill involving a Christmas tree and the general feeling that no celebration is safe from the terrorism brought upon circus freaks following one order: the decimation of society.

You can stream Batman Returns on Max.

8 Silent Night (2021)

Silent Night

Silent Night (2021)

Release Date
December 3, 2021

Director
Camille Griffin

Cast
Annabelle Wallis, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Lily-Rose Melody Depp, Lucy Punch, Kirby Howell-Baptiste

Rating
Not Rated

Main Genre
Comedy

In Silent Night, families and friends gather for a final Christmas night. After a few moments of family dynamics, the audience comes to realize that they’re under a suicide pact because there’s an imminent toxic cloud that will kill all living organisms in its path. The government has given most people a poisonous pill that they can use to end their lives peacefully. The problem is, on the night of the event, some start asking too many questions.

Why It Makes the List

The film’s humor is unique and works under an exceptional script that keeps the drama with enough gravity to achieve great genre balance. Performances in this apocalypse comedy/drama help too. But it’s the film’s third act that will make you reevaluate how you feel about the film. It jumps into a thrilling mix of suspense and horror that will stay with you for a couple of days. The ending is… unbelievable.

You can stream Silent Night on AMC+.

Related: 10 Best Folklore Horror Movies From the Last Decade

7 Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Release Date
December 3, 2010

Director
Jalmari Helander

Cast
Per Christian Ellefsen, Peeter Jakobi, Tommi Korpela, Jorma Tommila, Jonathan Hutchings, Onni Tommila

Rating
R

Main Genre
Action

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale tells the story of an excavation team in Finland who make a startling discovery: the legend of Santa is real. However, things don’t go well when children start going missing. It appears that the culprit is the creature we all like to think of on Christmas night, only this one is naughtier. Needless to say, this is a very weird film, but still a Santa Claus one.

Why It Makes the List

Yes, the premise is weird, but where Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale goes is hard to describe. The film’s narrative structure jumps back and forth between family adventure and horror, and then the third act turns into a strange fantasy-oriented resolution that makes the experience more bizarre than scary. However, when it has to, this one doesn’t pull any punches.

You can stream Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale on Tubi or Shudder.

6 I Trapped the Devil (2019)

two people look suspiciously in film I Trapped the Devil
IFC Midnight

I Trapped the Devil is an unnerving and underrated horror film that features a very simple story. It tells the story of Matt and Karen, a couple who decide to pay a visit to Matt’s estranged brother, Steve, during Christmas. When they arrive, they realize Steve is behaving erratically and has actually trapped a man in his basement. He says the man claims to be the Devil himself.

Why It Makes the List

With a premise, the film could have taken the easy way out and gone for a plot device featuring the brothers fighting over Steve’s arguments. But writer/director Josh Lobo decides otherwise and designs an unsettling horror experience that, using a Christmas backdrop, explores a supernatural theme that leaves nothing to doubt. Absolutely nothing.

You can stream I Trapped the Devil on Tubi.

5 The Children (2008)

two creepy-looking kids in film the children
Vertigo Films

2008’s The Children tells a very simple story. It’s so simple that anyone would think it’s hard to make such a thrilling film about it: Elaine and Jonah are Miranda, Paulie, and Casey’s parents, and they all decide to get away for the Christmas weekend. The problem is that in the home’s surroundings, a virus lurks—one that turns children into killing machines.

Related: The 25 Best Thanksgiving Movies of All Time, Ranked

Why It Makes the List

The Children is a quick watch that doesn’t make you think beyond its silly premise. However, don’t let that fool you. In its tiny cosmos of B-movie madness, it works as a horror film that uses a Christmas setting to bring together a family, only to destroy it a couple of minutes later when little kids start killing everyone for no apparent reason. If you think it’s very similar to a recently released film, you’re not wrong.

You can stream The Children on Tubi.

4 Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut

Release Date
July 16, 1999

Director
Stanley Kubrick

Cast
Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Madison Eginton, Jackie Sawiris, Sydney Pollack, Leslie Lowe

Rating
R

Main Genre
Drama

Not many people remember the events of Eyes Wide Shut taking place during Christmas. It’s the time to be among your loved ones, and Kubrick’s erotic thriller almost weaponizes the Christmas theme to make you feel everything’s alright in the Hartford household. But after Alice reveals to Bill that she’s having sexual fantasies with another man, he also begins experimenting with… stuff. The fall down the rabbit hole is spectacular. As the ending will tell you, the Hardfords avoid tragedy. However, for them, Christmas will never be the same. The scars are emotionally visible.

Why It Makes the List

Kubrick’s film is too close to horror to put it in another genre. The disturbing imagery is only the beginning of it, as Bill’s immersion in the world of secret societies and their link to murder is grim, and not very subtle. It’s not horror, but it’s extremely disturbing where the film goes once it confirms what it’s about.

You can stream Eyes Wide Shut on Showtime.

3 Krampus (2015)

krampus

Krampus

Release Date
November 26, 2015

Director
Michael Dougherty

Cast
Emjay Anthony, Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Stefania Owen, Krista Stadler, Conchata Ferrell

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Horror

Who doesn’t like a Christmas-themed horror film based on European folklore? Directed by Michael Dougherty, Krampus stars Adam Scott, Toni Collette, and David Koechner, among others, as the main characters. It’s a tale about a dysfunctional family whose constant fighting forces the little son of the family to lose the festive spirit and accidentally awaken the wrath of Krampus, a creature that punishes bad children on Christmas. As a result, the dysfunctional family is forced to save one another from the monster while simultaneously realizing the importance of a family unit.

Why It Makes the List

The thing about Krampus is that it doesn’t pull any punches. The film’s terribly violent and horrific, and never aims to be anything less than a horror movie taking place around a festivity. Scott’s performance in particular brings a great amount of emotion into the story and makes it that more enjoyable. The ending is an uppercut blow to the jaw that you’ll never recover from. Now, where is the long-awaited sequel?

You can stream Krampus on Peacock Premium.

2 Black Christmas (1974)

Olivia Hussey speaks on the phone in Black Christmas
Warner Bros.

Bob Clark’s Black Christmas tells the story of a sorority house where young women live that starts receiving the calls of a madman with an intention that gets revealed early on. He starts killing them, including a sorority sister. The problem is, as the calls continue, the leads don’t realize that the killer may be closer to them than they thought at first.

Why It Makes the List

Black Christmas is a slasher genre pioneer that people normally don’t see as superior to similar films that were released after, like John Carpenter’s Halloween. But in reality, Bob Clark’s Christmas film is a terrifying exploration of horror tropes (and urban legends) that features a realistic setting for a madman who shows his true self early on in the film with the phone call element.

You can stream Black Christmas on Tubi or Shudder.

1 Gremlins (1984)

gremlins

Gremlins

Release Date
June 7, 1984

Director
Joe Dante

Cast
Hoyt Axton, John Louie, Keye Luke, Don Steele, Susan Burgess, Scott Brady

Rating
PG

Main Genre
Comedy

In Joe Dante’s Gremlins, a Christmas present turns into the beginning of a nightmare. Billy learns, the hard way, that he can’t take care of the mogwai his father gives him, and thus begins the destruction of a small, snowy town that falls into the hands of otherworldly monsters that just want to turn human society into prey.

Why It Makes the List

Gremlins is the ultimate Christmas classic that people don’t necessarily associate with a creepy time at the movies. However, Joe Dante’s creature feature is scary enough to make little ones cover their eyes, and it totally steps into “forbidden” territory when the gremlins do more than just misbehave. Just the concept of destructive creatures being able to reproduce at will is just… unnerving.

You can rent or buy Gremlins on Prime Video or Apple TV+.

To stay in a mood of “ror-related festivities,” here’s a video about some silly horror films set on Thanksgiving:



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