Atmospheric Horror Movies

Loaded with lots of suspense and eerie atmosphere including: foggy moonlit nights, candles glowing in the window of a large house, creaking staircases, unexplainable sounds, dark woods and strange and creepy characters.  A few of my favorites on my Haunted House Movies page fit well here too but I won't list them twice.  Here are my favorite atmospheric horror movies:

A wealthy San Francisco socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town that slowly takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people there in increasing numbers and with increasing viciousness.  Starring:  Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren and Suzanne Pleshette.  Directed by Alfred Hitchcock  (1963)

A woman who is studying a dead musician travels to the south of France to stay with his widow and son at their country estate.  Starring: Stefanie Powers, James Olson and Margaretta Scott  (1970)

Victoria Winters comes to Collinwood, an isolated mansion in coastal Maine, to work as a governess, but soon finds herself drawn into a strange, Gothic world of vampires, ghosts and a family curse that dates back centuries.  TV miniseries.  Starring:  Ben Cross, Joanna Going and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (1991)

A mother and daughter, still wounded from a bitter custody dispute, hole up in a run-down apartment building. Adding further drama to their plight, they are targeted by the ghost of former resident.  Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Ariel Gade and John C. Reilly  (2005)

A Northern California fishing town, built 100 years ago over an old leper colony, is the target for revenge by a killer fog containing zombie-like ghosts seeking revenge for their deaths. Starring:  Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh  (1980)

At her new job in a rundown children's hospital, a nurse desperately tries to keep her patients safe from a plague of random, mysterious attacks. Starring:  Calista Flockhart, Richard Roxburgh and Elena Anaya  (2005)

Four successful elderly gentlemen, members of the Chowder Society, share a gruesome, 50-year old secret. When one of Edward Wanderley's twin sons dies in a bizarre accident, the group begins to see a pattern of frightening events developing. Starring:  Craig Wasson, Alice Krige and Fred Astaire  (1981)

House of the Damned:

      An architect and his wife are staying in an empty castle in California. They are joined by an unhappily married lawyer and his wife. Things start getting strange when they spot a half man/half beast prowling around the house and keep seeing a headless woman wandering the grounds.  Starring:  Ron Foster, Merry Anders and Richard Crane  (1963)

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The Haunting of Julia

After the death of her daughter, Julia Lofting, a wealthy housewife, moves to London to re-start her life. All seems well until she is haunted by the sadness of losing her own child and the ghosts of other children. Starring:  Mia Farrow, Keir Dullea and Tom Conti  (1977)

Locked in a school closet during Halloween 1962, young Frank witnesses the ghost of a young girl and the man who murdered her years ago. Shortly afterward he finds himself stalked by the killer and is soon drawn to an old house where a mysterious Lady In White lives. As he discovers the secret of the woman he soon finds that the killer may be someone close to him. Starring:  Lukas Haas, Len Cariou and Alex Rocco  (1988)

A millionaire and a million-dollar prostitute, a star-maker and a nation-killer, a woman whose lusts are as cold as graveyard snow...Five of the most powerful people in the world, gathered in an ancient mansion to inherit a Legacy of bloodsome horror. And Maggie makes six. Starring:  Katharine Ross, Sam Elliott and John Standing  (1978)

A psychic's girlfriend finds out that a lump on her back is a growing reincarnation of a 400 year-old demonic Native American spirit.  Starring: Tony Curtis, Susan Strasberg and Michael Ansara   (1978)

Alan Alda's character is a music journalist whose career as a piano player came to an end when his debut concert received undeservedly scathing reviews. Starring:  Alan Alda, Jacqueline Bisset and Barbara Parkins  (1971)

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The Ninth Gate:

A rare book dealer, while seeking out the last two copies of a demon text, gets drawn into a conspiracy with supernatural overtones. Starring:  Johnny Depp, Frank Langella and Lena Olin  (1999)

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The Red House:

Pete and Ellen have reared Meg as their own, ever since she was a baby and her parents took off. Now a teen, Meg convinces her friend Nath to come help with chores on the farm: Pete isn't getting around on his wooden leg like he used to. When Nath insists on using a short cut home through the woods, Pete gets quite agitated and warns him of screams in the night, of terrors associated with the red house. Curious, Meg and Nath ignore his warnings and begin exploring. Meg begins falling in love with Nath, but his girlfriend Tibby has other plans for him. Meanwhile they all get closer to real danger and the dark secret of the red house.  Starring:  Edward G. Robinson, Lon McCallister and Judith Anderson  (1947)

Down in the farmcountry of the US two twins are born. One of them turns out to be good, while the other becomes rather evil. Starring:  Uta Hagen, Diana Muldaur and Chris Udvarnoky  (1972)

A young couple move into a new apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins controlling her life. (1968)

A hospice nurse working at a spooky New Orleans plantation home finds herself entangled in a mystery involving the house's dark past. Starring:  Kate Hudson, Peter Sarsgaard and Joy Bryant  (2005)

Ten Little Indians:

Agatha Christie tale of 10 people invited to an isolated place only to find that an unseen person is killing them one by one. One of them?  Starring:  Hugh O'Brian, Shirley Eaton and Fabian  (1965)

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Wilbur Whateley pops over to the Arkham Miskatonic University to borrow the legendary Necronomicon and Sandra Dee. But little does anyone know, Whateley isn't quite human.  Starring:  Sandra Dee, Dean Stockwell and Ed Begley  (1970)

The population of a small, isolated countryside village believe that their alliance with the mysterious creatures that inhabit the forest around them is coming to an end. Starring:  Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt and Joaquin Phoenix  (2004)

A police sergeant is called to an island village in search of a missing girl whom the locals claim never existed. Stranger still, however, are the rituals that take place there.  Starring:  Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee and Diane Cilento  (1973).  See full review here.

The wife of a university research scientist believes that her lakeside Vermont home is haunted by a ghost - or that she's losing her mind. Starring:  Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer and Katharine Towne (2000)

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Night Watch:

Ellen Wheeler, a rich widow, is recovering from a nervous breakdown. One day, while staring out the window, she witnesses a murder. But does anybody believe her? Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Laurence Harvey and Billie Whitelaw (1973)


  1. Good list. Maybe you concentrated a bit too much on honouring the older movies though. I feel that a few more modern movies deserved a spot. Still, some great atmospheric films here.

  2. What about Carpenter's HALLOWEEN?, or ALIEN, REC, or the first PUMPKINHEAD?. I cannot understand why the original japanese and masterful Hideo Nakata's DARK WATER is not in this list and on its place there is its awful american remake.

  3. What about Carpenter's HALLOWEEN?, or ALIEN, REC, or the first PUMPKINHEAD?. I cannot understand why the original japanese and masterful Hideo Nakata's DARK WATER is not in this list and on its place there is its awful american remake.

  4. We could include SESSION 9 here as well. The setting alone is fantastically scary.

  5. Good suggestions. Would love to see a list of atmospheric film noirs.

  6. I LOVE this! You know, you can also add as a sub category, those wonderful Mexican horror films with the masked wrestlers - SANTO and BLUE DEMON! Together they gave us some of the coolest, funniest and atmospheric horror films of the 60's and 70's. many are sub-titled with some even dubbed. Chock full of sexy chicks of course!!

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  11. Maybe you all can help me. I'm trying to find a really obscure horror/thriller that I don't remember a lot about. It's overdubbed (posssibly Italian) and it has a LOT of atmosphere -- very dark, dated-looking but creepy house with blood-red wallpaper in some scenes. The female lead lives there and she seems to be trapped. IIRC, it's like a slasher film but kind of supernatural too. Definitely out of the 70s. I watched it on Tubi but I can't view my watch history, sadly, and I can't seem to find it via related titles. Does that ring a bell to anyone?

  12. The Fog 2005 movie is categorized as a horror movie but personally I call it atmospheric film because it's loaded with lots of suspense 123movies

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