Top 20 Best Horror Movie Trailers of All Time

Top 20 Best Horror Movie Trailers of All Time

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Mimi Kenny
These terrifying trailers had us dying to see what would happen next! For this list, we'll be looking at the best teasers or full-length trailers for horror and horror-adjacent films. Our countdown includes “Halloween”, "The Strangers", "The Shining", "Alien", "Jaws", and more!

Top 20 Best Horror Movie Trailers

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 horror movie trailers.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the best teasers or full-length trailers for horror and horror-adjacent films

What makes a great horror film trailer for you? Let us know in the comments

#20: “Halloween” (1978)

From the opening seconds featuring director John Carpenter's eerie score, the trailer for this classic slasher will immediately have you rattled. As Dr. Samuel Loomis, played by Donald Pleasence, describes escaped killer Michael Myers as "purely and simply evil," it's clear he's a force of absolute terror and destruction. With terrifying highlights like Myers dressed up as a ghost, or emerging from the darkness behind Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, the “Halloween” trailer will have you eager to see more, but petrified about what might come next.

#19: “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” (1987)

The original “Nightmare on Elm Street” is definitely the best one, but when it comes to marketing, nothing beats the third installment. In this unsettling teaser, a little girl sits on her bed, singing in key with a music box about diabolical dream invader Freddy Krueger. As the camera pans around the room, taking in all the seemingly innocuous aspects of this bedroom, the viewer’s unease grows more and more until a jump scare that will leave you breathless and perhaps a little disoriented. Good luck getting the nursery rhyme out of your head and getting to sleep after watching this trailer.

#18: “Goodnight Mommy” (2014)

This Austrian horror film's trailer gives just enough information to draw you in, while withholding enough to keep you intrigued. When a woman returns home after cosmetic surgery, her young sons, played by identical twins Elias and Lukas Schwarz, realize this isn’t their mother. The fear in this trailer comes not from blood and monsters but from disturbing quiet, with the two brothers speaking in hushed tones to each other as they try to uncover this mystery. However, there are plenty of skin-crawling moments to be found, including one with a cockroach and a mouth.

#17: “The Strangers” (2008)

Vacations never go exactly as we want them to, but they usually don’t turn out as horrifying as this. In director Bryan Bertino’s home invasion thriller, couple Kristen McKay and James Hoyt, played by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, find their isolated vacation home invaded by a trio of masked intruders. With no easy way out or understanding of what's going on, "The Strangers" trailer immediately puts you in the characters' shoes, wondering what you would - or could - do to get out of this situation. You’ll want to triple-check your locks after watching this one.

#16: “Sinister” (2012)

“Sinister” is definitely the perfect word to describe this movie and its trailer. Author Ellison Oswalt, played by Ethan Hawke, has some big plans for his next book. During a trip up to the attic, he finds a box of film reels, showing just what happened to the home's previous occupants. With the symbol of a child soul-eating Pagan deity occurring throughout the footage, Ellison is rightfully terrified, and so are we. It’s even scarier if you have kids. Remember: if you have a bad feeling about a house, it’s best to listen to your gut.

#15: “The Blair Witch Project” (1999)

If you knew nothing about “The Blair Witch Project” before seeing the trailer, you might have been fooled into believing it was real! The trailer for this found footage horror classic is a masterclass in stoking fear through realism. Starting with audio from actress Heather Donahue's iconic "apology" scene, the "Blair Witch" trailer posits the film as authentic recordings, recovered in the woods. There’s little in the way of action, but a whole lot in the way of tension. Even if you know it’s all fiction, the “Blair Witch” trailer can still send shivers down your spine.

#14: “Paranormal Activity” (2007)

Arguably the most influential found footage film since “The Blair Witch Project,” “Paranormal Activity’s” trailer made it a must-see. Instead of a standard trailer only with select scenes from the film, the “Paranormal Activity” trailer focused on the audience. Showing participants at an early screening, it highlights just how nerve-wracking of an experience this movie is, and why it’s so much fun to see it with an audience. They also include plenty of terrifying moments from the film, showing why the test audience was so unnerved. Once you see this trailer, you know you have to see the movie.

#13: “Poltergeist” (1982)

If a trailer starts out with a relaxing score and a pan across a suburban street, don't get too cozy. The trailer for this Steven Spielberg-produced horror classic introduces us to all the members of the Freeling family before the narrator tells us there’s “something more.” Cue the flashing TV and one of the most famous line deliveries of all-time... [“They’re here!”] As the “Poltergeist” trailer continues, things go from confusing to chaotic. Without giving anything away, it gets scarier and scarier. Four decades later, this trailer - and movie - can still scare the heck out of us.

#12: “Psycho” (1960)

“Psycho” is one of the most influential horror films of all-time, but the importance of its trailer shouldn’t be overlooked. Beginning with shots from the infamous shower scene, the trailer soon cuts to director Alfred Hitchcok introducing the Bates Motel as “a quiet little motel,” one that’s become “the scene of the crime.” Accompanied by composer Bernard Herrmann's unforgettable strings, the "Psycho" trailer is light on exposition, but it conveys the fear in Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh, and the unease generated by Anthony Perkins’s Norman Bates. You might not know what exactly is going on at the Bates Motel, but this trailer should certainly pique your curiosity.

#11: “The Hills Have Eyes 2” (2007)

It’s always a shame when a great trailer is attached to a bad movie. Case in point, “The Hills Have Eyes 2.” The followup to the 2006 remake may have received brutal reviews, but we give the teaser trailer an “A.” Opening with a beautiful desert landscape and gorgeously picked guitar, courtesy of singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart, the tranquility is interrupted by the stomp of a boot and the dragging of a body. Another body is dragged behind them, and a camera shift makes us realize we're watching from their POV. If they put the same kind of effort into the actual movie, “The Hills Have Eyes 2” could’ve been an all-time great horror sequel.

#10: “The Conjuring” (2013)

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned ghost story. The trailer for this 70s-set horror film, directed by James Wan of “Saw” and “Insidious” does a great job establishing the plot and creating dread. Real-life paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, play footage of them exploring a creepy basement for a college classroom. They’re then introduced to Lili Taylor’s Carolyn Perron, who says “something horrible” is happening at her rural home. “Horrible” might be an understatement. Supposedly inspired by an actual supernatural investigation in Rhode Island, “The Conjuring” is one of the best horror films of the last decade, and the trailer is equally terrifying.

#9: “Dawn of the Dead” (2004)

How would you survive a zombie apocalypse? It’s a question that immediately springs to mind when watching the “Dawn of the Dead” trailer. A remake of George A. Romero’s classic horror flick, “Dawn of the Dead” was the perfect kickstart for a new fascination with the undead. The trailer captures all of the fear and pandemonium in director Zack Snyder’s film, and establishes Sarah Polley’s Ana as a protagonist worth rooting for. With multiple memorable shots from the film, dialogue that shows exactly what's at stake, and a series of abrupt cuts that build tension, the "Dawn of the Dead" is equal parts exciting and frightening.

#8: “The Babadook” (2014)

Leave it to Australia to create some of the most chilling horror films ever. “The Babadook” trailer introduces us to Amelia Vanek and her young son Sam. After Amelia reads Sam a picture book about the titular creature, he becomes obsessed with it, and Amelia realizes it’s not-so imaginary. “The Babadook” trailer expertly combines supernatural scares with the fear that comes with being a parent and trying to protect your children. After watching this trailer, you might peek under your bed and inside your closet, just to make sure there isn’t a “Babadook” lying in wait.

#7: “It” (2017)

Not adjusting for inflation, the 2017 film version of Stephen King’s “It” is the highest-grossing horror film of all-time. With a trailer this good, it’s easy to understand why. In a small Maine town, moments of bliss and joy among childhood friends are overtaken by ominous signs and tragedy before we see a creepy clown in a storm drain. From there, we learn that the town is plagued by a horrible evil, namely Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise. The “It” trailer is great not only for the unforgettable imagery it creates, but also for how it shows kids teaming up and working together, even in terrifying circumstances.

#6: “The Witch” (2015)

Witches are a common occurrence in horror films, but few directors have surrounded them in as much suspense as Robert Eggers did. The trailer for this “New England folktale,” shows a family of Puritans starting over near the woods after being banished from their community. Things feel uneasy from the beginning, and after a game of peek-a-boo, they only get worse. With Jarin Blaschke’s gorgeous cinematography and Mark Korven’s spine-tingling music, things get so unsettling, you may be relieved when it’s all over. We might not see a single witch in this trailer, but it still manages to put a spell on us.

#5: “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974)

Many horror movie trailers start off mundane before gradually revealing the scarier aspects. That’s not the case with the one for “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” which immediately shows the characters being terrorized by Leatherface, henchman of perhaps the most frightening family in movie history. With no music to accompany it, this trailer feels like you’re watching real-life horrors play out. Gruesome shots of bones and bodies are enough to disturb even the sturdiest of viewers. This trailer is so effective, it even manages to make broad daylight scary. You know what they say, “Don’t mess with Texas.”

#4: “The Shining” (1980)

Stanley Kubrick was a director who never repeated himself, but "The Shining" makes us wish he made more horror films. Adapted from Stephen King’s best-selling novel, this film has become a classic. The film’s trailer stands out as it consists of one continuous shot of the Overlook Hotel’s elevators as text crawls up the screen. It effectively builds tension with an intense droning with string plucks that become increasingly chaotic. This all wonderfully captures the sense of dread foreboding that builds throughout the film yet here it’s done with a very simple presentation.

#3: “The Exorcist” (1973)

Demonic possession is among the scariest things we can imagine, and “The Exorcist” trailer reminds us exactly why. While it doesn’t show us anywhere near the extent of the transformation Regan MacNeil, played by Linda Blair, undergoes, it does make one thing very clear: something truly evil is going on. “The Exorcist” trailer plays on our fears of the unknown, especially when it comes to our home and family. It’s not until the very end that Max von Sydow’s titular priest shows up, and by then, we’re too tense to feel relieved by his presence.

#2: “Jaws” (1975)

Planning a beach trip soon? Then, maybe you should hold off on watching the “Jaws” trailer. Steven Spielberg revolutionized blockbuster filmmaking here, as audiences couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see this story of a great white monster. Capturing the almost-unbearable tension of the film’s scariest moments, and showcasing John Williams’ legendary score, the “Jaws” trailer can make you feel like you're in the water, waiting for this monster to strike. Although it runs quite a bit longer than most modern trailers, we can’t blame the “Jaws” team for wanting to share as much with us as possible.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Antichrist” (2009)
No One Knows Twisted Like Lars Von Trier

“Rosemary's Baby” (1968)
Domestic Bliss is Unraveled in a Horrifying Fashion

“Shutter Island” (2010)
Scorsese & DiCaprio Tackle Terror

“It Follows” (2014)
A New Horror Classic Got a Worthy Trailer

#1: “Alien” (1979)

Most horror movie trailers are lucky to have even one truly scary moment. The trailer for Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi horror film is one scary moment, the kind of trailer that will literally leave you white-knuckled. There’s no dialogue or voiceover narration, but the trailer doesn’t need either to convey the claustrophobic terror of being on this spaceship. The anguished expressions of Ripley and other crew members, along with the high-pitched sound design, give us all the context we need. If you’ve seen “Alien,” this trailer will make you want to watch it again. And if you haven’t seen “Alien,” well, what are you waiting for? Just remember what they say about screaming in space.