From bed bugs to hauntings to the fact that people regularly die in the rooms, it’s no wonder every horror movie fan just knows there’s something about a hotel that will always be a little bit off. There’s an inherent uneasiness in being away from home in a strange place, which is why scary hotel movies have an automatic unsettledness to them—anything can happen when you’re somewhere you don’t know.
From classic films to newer scares like what happens at an Airbnb gone wrong, the scary stay-away genre has a multitude of locations that are sure to freak any horror fan out.
Here are more than 20 hotel horror movies. Make sure if you’re watching this from the comfort of a king-sized hotel bed you double-check those locks…
Arguably the most famous of Alfred Hitchcock’s work, the 1960 classic film follows Marion Crane who is on the run after embezzling $40,000 from her employer. She stops for a night at the Bates Motel, hiding the money inside of a newspaper, and meets the peculiar and reclusive Norman Bates. After meeting her fate at the hands of an unseen killer in the infamous shower stabbing scene, Marion’s sister, boyfriend, and a private investigator set off to the Bates Motel to try and find out what’s happened to her only to face not only Norman but his mother Norma Bates. The Bates family home and motel are famously still on the Universal Lot and can be viewed during their studio tours.
Titled “Horror Hotel” in the United States, the film centers around a young student who is researching witchcraft in a small Massachusetts town only to be encountered several strange occurrences and a seemingly supernatural force. It is eventually revealed she’s been marked by a homicidal coven intent on sacrificing lives in engage for immortality. Despite being crucial to the plot, several lines in the beginning stake burning scene were omitted in the American release as they “offended” US censors.
Regina McKee is a college student who one day finds she’s won a trip and stay at the Red Wolf Inn. When the other guests begin to mysteriously disappear in the middle of the night, Regina discovers there’s something much darker happening at the sleepy, quiet Inn and something even more shocking about the family hosting what should’ve been a relaxing time away. Despite being largely panned by critics, the tongue-in-cheek humor is often credited as being one of the earliest films to fall under the category of horror parody or comedy horror. The “fake vacation” narrative would also play as an influence to the slasher favorite I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Adapted from the short story by Daphne du Maurier, Don’t Look Now follows the Baxter couple who are coping with the accidental and tragic drowning of their young daughter, Christine. After taking a commission to restore an old church, the couple encounter a pair of sisters who claim they can “see” their deceased daughter and begin to warn them of dangers ahead. For years there have been rumors around that the film’s (for the time) controversial sex scene was unsimulated, but actors Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, and Peter Katz, the film’s producer have all denied this as merely a myth.
Set in 1896 in Victoria, Australia, a Sheriff sets off to a mysterious inn to investigate why the guests check in only to never check out. The inn, run by an insane woman and her husband, are taking revenge for the deaths of their children years before. At the time of filming Inn of the Damned was the most expensive movie to be made in Australia with a budget of AU$417,000. AllMovie describes the film as “more odd than good.”
Arguably the most famous scary hotel movie of all time, The Shining watches as a family descends into madness in an isolated hotel with only ghosts and their thoughts to keep them company during the middle of winter. Based on The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, Stephen King and his wife found themselves the only guests of the massive hotel in late October of 1974. Room 217, the hotel room King stayed in at The Stanley, is still a tourist attraction for horror fans of the author and The Shining to this day.
Starring Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst, this made-for-TV watches as a journalist (Guttenberg) and his niece (Dunst) investigate the disappearance of five people from a luxury elevator sixty years prior. When it’s discovered that the five people are roaming the hotel as ghosts the pair are told an urban legend that if you a belonging of each of the spirits’, they’ll be set free. With shots filmed at the actual Disney ride, this movie was the studio’s test to see if there was a market to turn their attractions into films. Following its release were films such as Mission to Mars, The Country Bears, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and The Haunted Mansion.
Written and directed by Jessica Hausner, Hotel centers around a young woman named Irene who takes a job as a hotel desk attendant after the previous attendant disappears. When the other employees seem unwilling to answer her questions or provide any explanation, Irene takes it upon herself to find out what happened, even though no one wants the secrets uncovered. Described as “polarizing” Hausner has said of the film: “Hotel is my most problematic film, in a way, because the reaction of the audience was quite controversial. Some people like the film, but a lot of people said the ending was missing; they couldn’t enjoy the fact that you cannot get any plausible explanations for what was happening.”
Graphic, gory, and nearly unwatchable to some, the first movie in Eli Roth’s Hostel trilogy sets the scene where we meet a terrifying organization that kidnaps tourists to allow the wealthy to torture, mutilate, and ultimately murder them. The films have been labeled “torture porn” by many given that they focus so heavily on shock and gratuitous violence to scare the viewer. Despite criticism and disgust, Hostel has been ranked as one of the scariest movies of all time on several different lists.
John Cusack stars as Mike Enslin, a skeptical writer who seeks out haunted houses, graveyards, and other places of lore in order to debunk the stories that have been told about them. While traveling between LA and New York he checks into the otherwise “unavailable” haunted room 1408 at The Dolphin for one night. Despite the manager’s pleas to not stay in the evil spirit room, Enslin goes ahead with it only to soon realize his grave mistake. Based on the Stephen King story of the same name, 1408 received mixed reviews from critics but was a box office success.
When a married couple (played by Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale) becomes stranded at an isolated motel and finds hidden cameras in their room, they realize that they need to either escape or become the latest victims in a snuff film. Similar to films like Paranormal Activity, Vacancy relied on the internet and viral marketing in order to drum up hype for the film. One tactic was TV spots with a toll-free phone number which when called would lead callers to a sound that mimicked the motel in the film informing them about “slashing” prices and the “killer” deals that the motel would offer—if there were a vacancy.
Expanding on his short film of the same name, director Alex Merkin tells the story of a man convinced his fiancee is cheating on him, his best friend who comes to his aid, and the people across the hall in the hotel where he waits. Less than two weeks after its release, star Brittany Murphy was tragically found dead in her home. The film would be the last to be released while the young starlet was still alive.
Set in the real-life (and notoriously haunted) Yankee Pedlar Inn, The Innkeepers follows two hotel employees who begin experiencing paranormal activity upon closing up for the evening and attempt to document everything that unfolds. One part haunted house movie, one part supernatural horror, The Innkeepers is often credited with putting director Ti West on the map for the genre.
While not a “movie” in the traditional sense, AHS: Hotel is a 12-episode epic story set in the fictional Hotel Cortez. Lady Gaga stars as the mysterious Countess, a woman with a truly dark secret who oversees the hotel and its cast of guests. The Hotel Cortez, while not an actual establishment, was modeled both in look and in story after the Hotel Cecil in DTLA. Episode four of the series, “Devil’s Night”, even calls back to the Cecil’s well-documented history with housing serial killers. Despite receiving more mixed reviews than previous seasons of Murphy’s horror franchise, AHS: Hotel would go on to receive many awards including the Golden Globe for Best Actress for Gaga.
Told through found documentary footage, Hell House LLC watches as events unfold at Hell House LLC, a haunted house/hell house experience set in the abandoned Abaddon Hotel. When an unknown malfunction occurs opening night of the haunt, fifteen people are left dead. The film takes place five years after the accident when a documentary crew intends on investigating what occurred further. While this is the first film in the Hell House trilogy the second and third installments were critically panned, the third only holding at 14% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The El Royale is a super creepy hotel on the California-Nevada border. What happens here throughout the movie is full of twists and turns that are both scary, gross, and completely gonzo. With an all-star cast of Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, the crazy story and the crazy hotel unfold for an action-packed scary, neo-noir cinematic ride.
The Hotel Artemis only has three rules: “No weapons”, “No non-members”, and “No killing of other guests.” Jodie Foster stars as Jean Thomas, a nurse running a secret, member’s only hospital for criminals in dystopian Los Angeles. Despite receiving critical praise for its script, concept, visuals, and Foster’s performance, the film was a box office bomb.
Piercing opens with a haunting visual: a man is standing over his baby with an ice pick, practicing for his envisioned murder. When Reed (played by Christopher Abbott) arrives at his hotel room his intent is to murder a sex worker, but he’s greeted by Jackie (portrayed by Mia Wasikowska) instead of his intended mark. Jackie is nothing like Reed could’ve expected, and what ensues is a thrilling ride with an unexpected twist that left critics praising the film.
Told almost entirely through a single screencast of various videos and vlogs, Followed is a scary movie that watches as a controversial internet personality goes to a supposedly cursed hotel and brings the viewer(s) along with him. Mimicking instances like the Elisa Lam case at the Hotel Cecil, the notorious “Elevator Game”, and infamous Creepypastas, Followed is a horror movie truly for the digital age. The film has widely received acclaim for its commentary on millennial culture and social media.
An Iranian couple finds themselves in a terror that won’t end—a never-ending night, trapped in a hotel with their one-year-old baby, being hunted by their demons both real and imaginary. Variety called the psychological thriller, “cerebral” and made note that the final scene is one viewers won’t soon be able to forget.
Produced, directed, and co-written by Dave France, The Rental is the Airbnb nightmare: what happens when you find hidden cameras on the property and realize your idyllic vacation is about to become worse than any ghost story you could’ve come up with? Franco has said that the film’s ambiguous ending was intentional, partially because it has left the possibility for a sequel wide open.
Other Scary Hotel Movies
- Slaughter Hotel (1971) this 1970s giallo horror film is set in a sanatorium for wealthy women to rest and recuperate after psychological episodes.
- A Candle For The Devil (1973) murderous sisters suffering from religious repression and paranoia attempt to hide a murder from the victim’s sister in this Spanish horror classic.
- New Year’s Evil (1980) a mysterious killer threatens to off someone in each time zone on NYE as a punishment for the “Naughty Girls.”
- Ghostkeeper (1981) inspired by the legend of the Windigo, several snowmobilers find themselves stranded in an abandoned hotel in this now cult classic film that almost-was-not due to budget restraints.
- The Beyond (1981) filmed on location in New Orleans, the movie follows a woman who inherits an (allegedly) haunted hotel in Lousiana that may or may not be a gateway directly to hell.
- Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1983) described as an “early 1980s drive-in gem” this indie-film centers around a psychotic woman who returns to her former place of employment after a stay in an asylum and begins murdering the guests one by one.
- Bloody New Year (1987) partygoers attempt to survive a haunted hotel secluded on a remote island in this ’80s British horror movie.
- The Witches (1990) based on the Roald Dahl story, the cult classic starring Anjelica Huston follows a group of evil witches at their hotel convention who masquerade as normal women in order to kill children.
- Bride Of Chucky (1998) taking the turn from slasher to borderline metafiction, the fourth installment in the Child’s Play franchise is the first to discontinue the concept of a child’s possession of the doll and instead turns towards Chucky himself.
- I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) one year after the events of the first film, the murderous villain has returned to stalk the teens, this time on a luxury resort.
- One Hour Photo (2002) starring Robin Williams, this psychological thriller watches as a photo technician becomes obsessed with a family and devolves into madness.
- Identity (2003) taking place in an isolated hotel, this slasher (loosely based on a novel by Agatha Christie) watches as ten strangers are picked off one by one.
- Dark Water (2005) while this remake of a Japanese horror movie does not take place in a hotel, people watch it because it bears an eerie resemblance to the real-life, accidental death of Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel near Skid Row in California.
- The Devil’s Rejects (2005) written and directed by Rob Zombie, this sequel (set seven months after the Halloween sacrifice), film follows the murderous and vengeful Firefly family attempting to escape Sheriff Wydell who is pursuing a search and destroy mission against them.
- The Hitchhiker (2007) Film Threat heeded viewers that this direct-to-DVD film was”definite proof that all Leigh Scott had to do to ensure he’d inflict a cruel revenge on me was to make another movie.”
- House (2008) set in a homely inn in Alabama, this movie watches seven individuals locked in by a homicidal maniac who demands a body by sunrise—or else.
- Reaper (2014) Horror Cult Films wrote that “The Last Chance hotel is also one of the stars of the film in its own little way.”
- Puppet Master (2018) the reboot of the series that started in 1989 was dubbed “certifiably bonkers and cheerfully offensive” by The New York Times.
- Doctor Sleep (2019) the anticipated follow-up to Kubrick’s The Shining, the film (written and directed by Mike Flanagan of Haunting of Hill House fame) revisits little Danny Torrance, now a grown-up, who must protect a young girl with abilities much like his own.