30+ Summer Horror Movies To Keep You Screaming All Season Long

It’s the summer of 2021 and you need to watch something scary. Because you know 2020 was not scary enough.

Summer Horror Movies
Midsommar (2019) is a summer horror movie through and through designed to make you scared of sunlight.

Summer horror movies are critical for a good summer.

Because who says summer fun has to be all about hanging out on the beach and making s’mores? Just because Halloween season is still half a year away doesn’t mean horror fans have to wait to indulge in their favorite genre. In fact, the summer season can be just as creepy as autumn—just take a look at all the scary movies that turn the summertime nostalgia for camping, road trips, and luxury vacations and turn them into your very worst nightmare.

Don’t believe me? These summer horror movies will make even the sunniest of days feel like spooky season.

Summer Horror Movies

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Instead of using instrumentals for the soundtrack, the crew used sounds an animal would hear inside a slaughterhouse for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).

This violent horror film might leave you reconsidering your next cross-country road trip. When two siblings and a handful of their friends travel to visit their grandfather’s grave in Texas, their excursion takes a dark turn when they come across a house of a family of psychopathic cannibals. Now known as one of the OG slasher flicks and one of the best, most influential horror movies ever, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was once considered so violent that it was banned in several countries.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

The sack the killer wears over his head was inspiration for the mask Jason Voorhees wears in Friday the 13th: Part 2.

Based on one of America’s most baffling murder cases, The Town That Dreaded Sundown follows a hooded serial killer who terrorized a border city in Arkansas in the summertime of 1946, starting with the violent night attack of a young couple on lovers’ lane. While this horror movie took a few minor artistic liberties on that summer horror, the details were close enough to reality that the fabricated facts have become part of the folklore of Texarkana, the location the movie is set in.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

The film was originally given an X rating, so director Wes Craven had to cut it down to secure the R rating and ensure it wouldn’t hurt its box office chances.

In a similar vein with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes tells the story of a road trip gone very, very wrong. When a suburban family’s car breaks down and they’re stranded in the Nevada desert, they soon discover they’re the target of a family of violent cannibals. This Wes Craven cult classic has spawned a franchise, including one direct sequel, an unofficial third film, and two remakes.

Friday The 13th (1980)

Friday the 13th was filmed at a real summer camp—Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco in New Jersey—that is still in operation today.

Few horror films are considered as iconic as Friday the 13th, and it’s the perfect pick for the summer movie season. Years after Camp Crystal Lake is closed down to a gristly double-murder and another tragic death, a group of counselors attempt to reopen it, but they can’t escape its dark past as the teens are stalked and murdered one by one. Though the film was criticized for its gore and violence, it’s been credited for initiating the subgenre of slasher film and has spawned 10 sequels.

The Burning (1981)

Director Tony Director Tony Maylam purposefully cut a large portion of the film of the Cropsy killer because he thought it would be more frightening to keep him off-screen.

The Burning is another horror flick that’s perfect for a scary summer night. After the caretaker of a campground is horrifically burned in a prank gone wrong, he continues to lurk on the property, hell-bent on making the pranksters pay for what they did to him. The film is based on the New York urban legend of the Cropsey maniac, a madman-like creature, and while it didn’t receive much attention when it was released in theaters, it has since become a cult classic.

The Evil Dead (1981)

The Evil Dead was filmed in a real-life abandoned cabin, where 13 crew members lived during production.

Filmmaker Sam Raimi first started receiving attention when he released The Evil Dead, a horror movie that follows five students who visit an isolated cabin in the woods, where they find a mysterious audiotape that releases flesh-possessing demonic entities. The critical response was largely positive, with the Los Angeles Times calling it an “instant classic”; unsurprisingly, the film and its two sequels are considered one of the largest cult horror film trilogies in history.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

This cult favorite horror movie made 30 times more than what it cost to create it.

When a young, traumatized girl is sent away to a summer camp with her cousin, the camp becomes the site of a series of murders that seem to target anyone with less than honorable intentions. Sleepaway Camp is often compared to Friday the 13th, with the News-Press calling it, “a shockingly good slasher film, if you use the relatively fine first Friday the 13th as a measuring stick” and applauding its creativity and plot twists.

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

Lois Clark Duncan, the author of the original book, famously hates the film and was upset that it was reworked into a slasher film, as her own daughter is a murder victim.

In I Know What You Did Last Summer, some of the ’90s hottest young actors—Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze Jr.—play four friends who, on the way to a beach town for summer vacation, accidentally hit a pedestrian with their car. The friends dispose of the body and make a pact to never speak of it again, but their past comes back to haunt them one year later when they’re stalked by a hook-wielding killer. Critic James Berardinelli credited the film for starting a new wave of slasher films, even with its mixed reviews.

Campfire Tales (1997)

Early promotional material compared Campfire Tales to Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, even though the film was conceived before either were released.

If you love a good scary story, this might just be the one for you. This anthology horror film revolves around a group of friends who, after crashing their car in the woods, decide to pass the time by building a campfire and taking turns telling stories, including the infamous urban legend “The Hook.” John Kenneth Muir wrote, “Campfire Tales is a modest but enjoyable effort. The stories don’t try to do too much, and don’t rely on special effects.”

Cabin Fever (2002)

Cabin Fever was the highest selling movie shown at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival and later became the most profitable horror film released in 2003.

When five college graduates take a camping trip at a cabin in the woods, they begin to fall victim to a flesh-eating virus and soon find themselves the target of the homicidal locals. According to Rotten Tomatoes, “More gory than scary, Cabin Fever is satisfied with paying homage to genre conventions rather than reinventing them.” The film has since had a sequel, prequel, and remake.

Hostel (2005)

Director Eli Roth originally wanted to make a documentary about “murder vacations,” but when he realized it was impossible (and even dangerous) to get into contact with people in the business, he decided to use the subject for a fictional movie instead.

The first installment of the Hostel trilogy made waves with its controversial depiction of Slovakia and its use of Holocaust iconography. It’s no surprise that its premise is also edgy: When three backpackers head to a Slovak city in hopes that it will fulfill their hedonistic fantasies, they instead find themselves the target of a mysterious organization’s torture fantasies. This film will make you think twice about spending your summer vacation in a tourist trap.

Wolf Creek (2005)

Wolf Creek is one of renowned director Quentin Tarantino’s favorite horror films of all time.

Like Hostel, Wolf Creek revolves around three backpackers, but the horror the endure is a little different: when they get stranded in Australia, they’re kidnapped and subsequently hunted by a sadistic, psychopathic killer. While the film claims it’s “based on true events,” it’s only loosely inspired by the murders of backpackers by Ivan Milat and Bradley Murdoch. Some critics praised the film for it’s straightforward depiction of violence, while others found it too much; Robert Ebert wrote, “I wanted to walk out of the theater and…keep on walking.”

Death Proof (2007)

Actress Zoë Bell, who was Uma Thurman’s stunt double in the Kill Bill series, insisted she do all her own stunts in Death Proof as well.

In this Quentin Tarantino-directed scary movie, two separate sets of women are stalked by a stuntman who stages murderous car accidents using his “death-proof” stunt car. Compared to Tarantino’s other films, Death Proof gets little recognition, with The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw claiming, “Tarantino’s twisted genius is there for all to see — but, it must now be admitted, all too briefly.” Even Tarantino admits it may be the worst film he’s ever made.

Funny Games (2007)

Actor Tim Roth was so traumatized by the making of Funny Games that he vowed he would never watch the completed version.

Funny Games follows a middle class family who go on vacation to a cabin in the woods, where they meet two young men who capture and force them to take part in their sadistic games in order to stay alive. This film is actually a shot-for-shot English remake of the 1997 Austrian film of the same name, using the same director, set, and even props from the original. It received mixed reviews, with the Rotten Tomatoes consensus reading, “Though made with great skill, Funny Games is nevertheless a sadistic exercise in chastising the audience.”

Eden Lake (2008)

Eden Lake was considered politically controversial when it was released, especially due to its depiction of the working class.

This British slasher film centers on a young couple who go on a romantic weekend getaway, where they cross paths with a terrifying gang of delinquents. The film, which is considered part of a subgenre called “hoodie-horror”, reflected Britain’s concerns of social decay due to what some politicians called “moral collapse.” The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw called it “exceptionally well made, ruthlessly extreme, [and] relentlessly upsetting.”

Spirit Camp (2009)

The camp’s name, “Lumis”, is a reference to Dr. Loomis from the film Halloween.

When the resident goth girl is forced to attend a cheerleading camp as part of her junior delinquent rehabilitation program, she immediately clashes with popular girls. But when members of the spirit squad start showing up dead, she must team up with her cheerleading rivals in an effort to make it out alive.

Straw Dogs (2011)

Straw Dogs (2011) was released in the UK almost 40 years to the day of the original 1971 version.

When a Los Angeles screenwriter and his wife relocate to the deep South, tensions between to grow between them and the locals. While some critics believed this remake was inferior to the original (and controversially violent) 1971 film, Robert Ebert still called it “visceral, disturbing, and well-made.”

The Cabin In The Woods (2011)

Josh Whedon and Drew Goddard wrote the script of The Cabin in the Woods in just three days.

This horror comedy takes aim at some of your favorite summer horror movies, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold up well on its own, too. The film follows a group of five college students who retreat to an isolated forest cabin, where they’re unaware that they’re not only being watched but subtly controlled. The film was met with positive reviews, with Robert Ebert writing, “The Cabin in the Woods has been constructed almost as a puzzle for horror fans to solve. Which conventions are being toyed with? Which authors and films are being referred to? Is the film itself an act of criticism?”

It Follows (2014)

“It”, the supernatural entity in the film, is said to be a metaphor for sexually transmitted infections.

After sleeping with her date for the first time, a young woman named Jay is followed by a supernatural entity that wants to kill her. There’s only one way to rid herself of the curse: have sex with someone else and pass it on to them. It Follows received universal acclaim, with Tim Robey of The Daily Telegraph writing, “With it’s marvelously suggestive title and thought-provoking exploration of sex, this indie chiller is a contemporary horror fan’s dream come true.”

Stage Fright (2014)

Stage fright references multiple slasher movies, including Friday the 13th, Hellraiser, Carrie, and Halloween.

With a twist on the usual horror genre, this musical comedy slasher film follows a hopeful young singer who is terrorized by a musical-theatre-hating killer while attending a snobby musical theatre camp. The movie, which stars Minnie Driver and Meat Loaf, was met with a 37% approval rate on Rotten Tomatoes.

Summer Camp (2015)

Despite being a Spanish movie, Summer Camp was released in Spain in only 18 movie theaters two years after it was filmed.

Beware: This summer horror movie might hit a little close to home. When four Americans travel to Europe to become camp counselors, they must deal with an outbreak of a mysterious, rage-inducing plague that starts in the animals. Despite its mixed reviews, Zena Dixon of Dread Central wrote that the film was “the definition of unpredictability, bringing great laughs, hot bodies, and maybe-viruses and death.”

The Final Girls (2015)

The Final Girls was conceived by co-writer Joshua John Miller, who was grieving the death of his father who had starred in the horror film The Exorcist.

In the midst of processing her grief, the daughter of a late famous scream queen from the ’80s finds herself pulled into the world of her mother’s most popular movie, a slasher film called Camp Bloodbath. Starring Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, and Adam Devine, this summer horror comedy was met with generally positive reviews; the Rotten Tomatoes general consensus states the film “offers an affectionate nod to slasher tropes while adding a surprising layer of genuine emotion to go with the meta amusement.”

It: Chapter One (2017)

Bill Skarsgård’s portrayal of Pennywise was inspired by several films, including The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, The Dark Knight, and The Silence of the Lambs.

It is perhaps one of the most famous horror films to date, but it’s also filled with summertime nostalgia many people can relate to. The film tells the story of seven children living in Derry, Maine, in 1989 who are terrorized by a shapeshifting monster who disguises itself as the infamous deadly clown Pennywise. The film became the fifth-highest-grossing R-rated film of all time and went on to be nominated for multiple awards, including the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for best Sci-Fi/Horror Movie.

Summer Of ’84 (2018)

Summer of ’84 has references from several popular ’80s movies, including The Thing, The Karate Kid, and the original Star Wars trilogy.

A group of teen friends spend their summer spying on their neighbor who they suspect may be a serial killer, but as they begin to gather evidence and grow closer to revealing the truth, things start to get out of control. Summer of ’84 became Shudder’s second biggest movie premiere of 2018, with many critics calling it the best horror movie of the year.

Head Count (2018)

Head Count is Elle Callahan’s directorial debut.

When a group of college students decide to take a summer weekend getaway to Joshua Tree together, a supernatural entity hides among them, dead set on using them for its own fatal ritual. According to Variety‘s Dennis Harvey, “It’s an admirably disciplined film with committed performances by actors playing characters more complicated than the usual horror casualty list.”

The Nightingale (2018)

The Nightingale won the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 2018.

Set in 1825 in the penal colony of Van Dieman’s Land (now Tasmania), this historical horror film will fulfill all your creepy needs. The story centers on Clare, a woman whose family has become the victim of a violent crime, and her plan to seek revenge against the British officer who did her wrong with the help of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy. Some of the movie’s scenes were so brutal that psychologists were brought on set to support the actors while filming.

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

The Dead Don’t Die is filled with references to The Night Of The Living Dead (1968) and even includes an appearance from the infamous naked zombie played by the original actress.

This “zom-com” has just about everything you need: laughs, the undead, and yes, even Bill Murray, who stars as the Police Chief of a small town that has found itself as the target of a zombie invasion. But despite the film’s promise and its star-studded cast, the film received mixed reviews and seemed to focus more on the comedy aspect than the horror, with PopMatters writing, “It’s a curious film, one that acknowledges the end of the world blatantly without once forgetting to be steadfastly, almost dementedly, silly.”

Ma (2019)

Ma features two Academy Award winning actresses (Octavia Spencer and Allison Janney), as well as Oscar nominee Juliette Lewis.

A group of teenagers befriend a lonely, middle-aged woman when she offers to let them party in her basement. It seems like a sweet deal until unsettling things begin to happen and the teens begin to wonder if their host has less-than-pure intentions. Director Tate Taylor came up with the idea for the movie when he decided he wanted to make “something fucked up” and his longtime collaborator Octavia Spencer expressed her desire to break away from the usual roles she played, though the film ultimately received mixed reviews.

Them That Follow (2019)

The film takes some inspiration from Peter Adair’s documentary Holy Ghost People, which chronicles the lives of Pentecostal Christians in West Virginia.

Raised in a remote community in Appalachia, the daughter of a pastor who incorporates deadly snakes in his sermons holds a secret that tear the whole community apart. According to the Rotten Tomatoes consensus, “Them That Follow never quite captures the spiritual fervor of its setting, but the cast’s committed performances make for an intermittently satisfying character study.”

Us (2019)

Jordan Peele made the cast watch 11 horror movies before filming: Jaws (1975), Dead Again (1991), The Shining (1980), The Babadook (2014), It Follows (2014), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), The Birds (1963), Funny Games (1997), Martyrs (2008), Let the Right One In (2008), and The Sixth Sense (1999).

When a family travels to a beach house for a much-needed vacation, they’re soon terrorized by a group of doppelgangers who appear to want to commandeer their lives. Jordan Peele’s sophomore horror thriller film, Us was met with both box office and critical acclaim, with Monica Castillo of RobertEbert.com writing that the movie is “another thrilling exploration of the past and oppression this country is still too afraid to bring up.”

Midsommar (2019)

While Midsommar is well-known for its creepy, unsettling scenes, Swedish critics praised the film as a black comedy.

After a tragic murder-suicide that left both her parents and her sister dead, a traumatized young woman travels to Sweden with her negligent boyfriend and his friends to attend a special mid-summer festival. But what starts out as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into a series of bizarre traditions and bloody sacrifices. Midsommar was met with positive reviews that applauded Florence Pugh’s performance and Ari Aster’s directing, with Rotten Tomatoes calling it “ambitious, impressively crafted, and above all unsettling.”

Meet The Author

Kendra Syrdal