High school is full of scary moments. For example: impossible tasks, teachers you’re sure are after you, and mean girls and thugs lurking around every corner. Is it really a surprise that so many horror movies are set in these horrifying halls? Whichever direction they go, they really seem to be capturing the worst parts of secondary education and blowing them up on the big screen for audiences to relate to in some way. They also provide many new plot points for the protagonists to face, creating tangible obstacles alongside precalculation. This also applies to horror TV shows like Netflix’s new series we are all dead.
Whether starting a popular franchise or standing alone as pillars of the genre, horror films set in high schools often share a few reliable similarities. They usually involve an ensemble cast of kill-off-able characters, with of course a final girl or two making it through in the end. They almost always involve twists and turns that induce whiplash and pit familiar faces against one another, as humble characters are often involved in the horror. And despite their younger cast, they spare no expense in terms of violent scenes, iconic villains, and other elements that help add to the scare factor. Let’s round up the best high school horror movies, ranked.
9 Screaming Wolf (2005)
This slasher is set in a high-class boarding school, a little apart from the rest of society, an extraordinary setting for a high school horror film. cry wolf tells the story of some teenagers playing a game of the same name in which they try to guess who the “wolf” is. The group eventually goes too far and spreads chain emails across campus about a free-ranging masked killer that are beginning to come true. This film captures the growing power of the internet on younger generations in the 2000s and the cast includes big names like Jon Bon Jovi and Jared Padelecki. Despite receiving low critical ratings, it develops a uniquely dark academic atmosphere to overcome its terror.
8th Last Target (2000)
The first in the franchise, the original final destination proves that horror will find ways to follow you even as you leave the school halls. Ready for the senior trip of his life, Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) boards a plane bound for Paris with the rest of his class. His lightning premonition about the plane crash comes true, setting off a frightening series of events. He learns that death itself is claiming the survivors of the accident, picking them off one by one. On the cusp of the new millennium, this film ushered in the new era of 2000s horror, often amplifying cheap horror with startlingly realistic shock value.
7 Battle Royale (2000)
The premise of Battle Royale was called the predecessor to dystopian death struggles as The hunger Games, but this film staked its claim first. Directed by Kinji Fukasaku, this Japanese thriller pits a large group of 9th grade students against each other in a struggle of life and death. On a remote island, the teens – who wear collars designed to explode if rules are broken – are assigned to battle each other with weapons provided until there is a victor. The film is remembered for being ruthless in its execution in more ways than one.
6 The Craft (1996)
While The craft Initially bombing at the box office, it has garnered a cult following and some serious acclaim over the years. Sarah (Robin Tunney), a telekinetic freshman at a Catholic prep school, gets caught up in the crowd when she befriends three young witches looking to improve their craft. Their powers become more pronounced after a spell is cast – and that’s easy to say. An insider review said, “This perfect blend of horror and empowerment has solidified [the film’s] Presence on tons of ’90s movie and horror movie must-see lists, and with good reason. The film feels a lot more progressive today than many other high school films released around the same time.”
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5 Carrie (1976)
The original carrie takes the most magical night of a high schooler’s life – the long-awaited prom – and turns it into a bloody nightmare. Living a sheltered life in the shadow of her overly religious mother, Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) struggles with her telekinetic powers, as unknown to her as her own adolescence. Of course, Carrie is getting tired of being the butt of every joke and venting her righteous anger on that fateful evening. This movie adequately captures some of the darkest corners of high school, whether or not you can relate to being drenched in pig’s blood in front of your classmates.
4 A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The original A nightmare on Elm Street conveys to the audience that nowhere is safe from otherworldly threats – not even your own imagination. Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) chases Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) through her dreamscape, and these occurrences begin to seep into her waking reality when some of her classmates and friends turn up dead. This classic teen scream establishes a franchise that introduces audiences to an ’80s horror icon. As the story unfolds, it also encourages viewers to trust the judgment of the film’s younger peers rather than the omissions of its mysterious adults.
3 It follows (2014)
It follows is a cautionary tale and a frighteningly realistic portrayal of the impact of STDs. After a muggy night out with her boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary), high school student Jay (Maika Monroe) discovers that the next thing she’s going to be stalked is a creature that will follow her everywhere until it gets a chance to kill her. Your only way out would be to have sex with someone else and pass it on. A review by Roger Ebert states: “The horror at the heart of ‘It follows’ is not a single threat, but the vague knowledge that nothing lasts forever… That kind of primal fear is embedded in the film’s visual style.” Monroe expressed interest in a sequel, only for the chance to work with director David Robert Mitchell for more Time.
2 Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Jennifer’s body Equal parts campy and carnivorous, it draws its power from the height of Y2K aesthetics, quotable one-liners, and an incredible cast. At Devil’s Kettle High School, nerdy Needy (Amanda Seyfried) is best friends with seductive Jennifer (Megan Fox) until Jennifer develops an insatiable hunger for more than the latest fashion trends. On the hunt for guys who think they’re about to get lucky, Jennifer nurtures and enhances her beauty until Needy discovers the true source of her newfound fierceness. A prime example of feminist horror, this film, which eventually became a cult classic, explores the depths of friendship and emerging sexuality.
1 Scream (1996)
The original, of course Scream is arguably the best high school horror film within the genre. Its daring, confident departures from typical horror tropes culminate in a genuinely surprising ending for first-time viewers. This slasher follows Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and her tight-knit squad when the Woodsboro high schoolers get caught by a masked killer. Scream proved that sometimes the killer really is the devil we already know but never saw coming. Ghostface quickly became another instantly recognizable horror icon as the franchise lasted into the 2000s. No wonder the first film was an instant success, with four sequels and one more currently in the works.