22 Unmissable Horror Movies Directed By Women

In The Babadook (2014), a single mother and her son are terrorized by a haunting shadow monster who may or may not be the product of their imagination. In Raw (2017), a young woman (and former vegetarian) awakens to her thirst for human flesh. In XX (2017), four women writers and directors came together to create the horror genre's first anthology movie helmed entirely by women.
Sense a pattern? All three movies are part of a wave of intelligent, haunting, women-directed horror movies that bring a unique twist to the genre. As Raw director Julia Ducournau prophesied to Rolling Stone, "It's only the start."
Of course, women have been directing horror films long before this wave of ground-breaking horror indies. Maybe Doucournau has figured out why women make interesting, different horror films. "When you make horror, it's the expression of a form of violence that you feel inside of you – and it's important we recognize that women feel violence and anger as well," she added to Rolling Stone.
Here are the women-directed horror films, from 1953 to 2017, worth watching — especially on Halloween.
Read These Stories Next:
1 of 23
The Hitch-hiker (1953)
Directed by Ida Lupino

The Hitch-hiker is the first American film noir movie directed by a woman. The Hitch-hiker's plot sounds extremely familiar: Two friends pick up a hitchhiker who turns out to be a killer. But don't let the plot fool you. The Hitch-hiker is a masterfully tense, gripping work of noir that will keep you guessing until the end.
2 of 23
A Night to Dismember (1982)
Directed by Doris Wishman

A Night to Dismember follows the Kent family over the course of a day, as each succumbs to a bloody curse. Don't expect this movie to make much sense. Instead, just lean back and enjoy the ride — the ride is what has made A Night to Dismember a cult classic.
3 of 23
The Slumber Party Massacre (1987)
Directed by Amy Holden Jones

The Slumber Party Massacre has a strange genesis. Though the movie was written as a parody, it was filmed as a serious slasher. So you'll laugh both where it's intended, and where it's not. In addition to its weird tone, The Slumber Party massacre is set apart from other slashers because it actually spends time developing its female characters' personalities. The women in the movie spend time chatting between murders.
4 of 23
Near Dark (1987)
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

Near Dark is a vampire movie that should be as immortal as vampires themselves. A small-town boy, Caleb (Adrian Pasdar), is converted to vampire by his new girlfriend, Mae (Jenny Wright), and sets off for the open road with her vampire gang. But Caleb misses his family and his old life.
5 of 23
Blood Diner (1987)
Directed by Jackie Kong

If you're going to watch a B-horror movie, this is the correct one to watch. In Blood Diner, two brothers try to revive an ancient goddess by garnering body parts from patrons at their classic American diner.

The trailer runs like a fake commercial for the diner. "He's always pleased to serve you to your friends," the presenter says cheekily.
6 of 23
Pet Sematary (1989)
Directed by Mary Lambert

All dogs don't go to heaven. Some go to a haunted pet cemetery in this movie, a magical plot of land capable of bringing animals back from the dead. The dark implications of the cemetery's powers are revealed when a man decides to bury his recently deceased son in the graveyard.
7 of 23
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
Directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui

Before Buffy became the protagonist of a long-running teen show, she was the protagonist of a movie. Buffy Summers (Kristy Swanson) learns that she's destined to hunt down vampires, and spends the rest of the movie honing her abilities.
8 of 23
Office Killer (1997)
Directed by Cindy Sherman

Are you discontent at work? Feel continually passed up? Tired of the drudgery? Then you might get some strange thrill from watching Doreen, a mousy copywriter played by Carol Kane of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, go berserk on her co-workers.
9 of 23
American Psycho (2000)
Directed by Mary Harron

American Psycho, a movie about a man who commits terrible violence against women, was written and directed by two women – and that's just what made the movie a success.

Guinevere Turner, the screenwriter of American Psycho, told Dazed, "I very much think [American Psycho is] a feminist film. It’s a satire about how men compete with each other and how in this hyper-real universe we created, women are even less important than your tan or your suit or where you summer. And to me, even though the women are all sort of tragic and killed, it’s about how men perceive and treat them.”
10 of 23
Trouble Every Day (2001)
Directed by Claire Denis

Trouble Every Day is the only horror movie you'll see in which the murder's M.O. is death by biting. Coré (Beatrice Dalle) is known to seduce men, and then start chomping.
11 of 23
In My Skin (2002)
Directed by Marina de Van

In this French movie, the antagonist isn't a monster — the antagonist is a person's obsession with herself. Esther's (Marina de Van) leg is severely injured, and she barely notices. This incident leads Esther to believe she can't feel pain. She begins to experiment with mutilation, and takes it too far.
12 of 23
The Countess (2009)
Directed by Julie Delpy

In this gothic thriller based on a real life Hungarian countess, Erzsébet Báthory (Julie Delpy) becomes convinced the blood of virgins is the secret to eternal youth. So, she does what any bloodthirsty countess with boundless resources would do: Kills some virgins.
13 of 23
Jennifer's Body (2009)
Directed by Karyn Kusama

No wonder Anita "Needy" (Amanda Seyfried) is having trouble with her best friend, Jennifer (Megan Fox). Jennifer's recently been possessed by a succubus, and is now killing all the boys who used to hit on her to fuel her demon-engine. Needy is determined to stop her.
14 of 23
American Mary (2012)
Directed by Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska

In order to pay for medical school, Mary (Katharine Isabelle) starts taking on clients who want extreme body modifications in her under-the-table business. Her surgeries become more and more outlandish, eventually putting herself in danger.
15 of 23
Carrie (2013)
Directed by Kimberly Peirce

The horror genre has given us some of our most ass-kicking women heroines, and our most terrifying women villains. Which does Carrie count as? Watch the Carrie revival, made especially creepy because of its contemporary setting, and and decide for yourself.
16 of 23
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2013)
Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour

A female vampire (Sheila Vand) stalks the streets of an unnamed community by night, keeping her eyes peeled for men who commit violence against women. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is certainly the first black-and-white, darkly humorous, American-Iranian vampire movie ever made — and it's also a total treat.
17 of 23
Soulmate (2013)
Directed by Axelle Carolyn

What if your soulmate is trapped in another realm? This mash-up of a period piece and a ghost story, set in a cozy cottage in the British countryside, answers that very question.
18 of 23
The Babadook (2014)
Directed by Jennifer Kent

After a scary children's book turns up on the doorstep of their old Victorian house, Amelia (Essie Davis) and her son Sam (Noah Wiseman) are terrorized by a shadowy monster called the Babadook, who may or may not be a product of their imaginations. Three years after the movie's release, the central villain in The Babadook has made a fascinating transformation into becoming an icon for the gay community.
19 of 23
Honeymoon (2014)
Directed by Leigh Janiak

A couple's idyllic honeymoon goes awry when the wife, Bea (Rose Leslie), goes missing in the woods. She comes back drastically altered, but Paul (Harry Treadaway) can't put together what's changed.
20 of 23
The Invitation (2015)
Directed by Karyn Kusama

Will (Logan Marshall-Green) accepts an invitation to a dinner party at his ex-wife, Eden's (Tammy Blanchard), house. It's supposed to be a joyful gathering of many old friends, but Will can't shake the feeling that Eden and her new husband are planning something sinister. Moral of the story? Trust your gut.
21 of 23
XX (2017)
Directed by St. Vincent, Karyn Kusama, Jovanka Vuckovic, and Roxanne Benjami

Treat yourself to four absolutely terrifying short horror films, each directed by female filmmakers. We're talking a son who refuses to eat after looking inside a mysterious box. A boy who tears off fingernails of his classmates. There's chilling delights to be had in this movie, the first anthology created entirely by female writers and directors.
22 of 23
Raw (2017)
Directed by Julia Ducournau

Justine (Garance Marillier) is proud of her stringent vegetarianism — until she has her first taste of raw meat during her first week of veterinary school. You'll struggle to keep your eyes open during the entirety of this brilliant, graphic movie, which intertwines sexual and personal awakenings with cannibalism.
23 of 23
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of celebrity news, fun takes on pop culture, and trending stories on the Refinery29 Entertainment Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!

More from Movies


R29 Original Series