It’s that time of year again where we’re rounding up our pals for a delightfully frightening horror movie session. Or if you’re brave enough, you’re watching some of these alone, with your duvet easily in reach to cover your eyes juuuust in case😱. Horror movies as a genre contain multiple common tropes; there is a spooky, haunted house, a guy in a fake ghost mask, and... the Black guy always dies first. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the latter is…misguided, lazy, and deflating, to say the least.
The representation of Black actors in cinema has gone from stereotypes to tokenism to independence to the present day, where there are finally movies that have complex, layered black characters with no limits. This list includes films from the 1960s to 2020 where Black leads do not fall prey to the typical horror movie tropes. The list ranges from sci-fi/horror, comedy/horror to full-on jumping when you hear that door creak chilling. Whichever you prefer, you can rest assured that the most frightening thing in this list will not be cinematic racism and lazy stereotypes, but great actors doing their job.
🎬👻Grab some friends, get comfortable, and watch some of these iconic
scary movies, while the Halloween season is still upon us 🍿🦇
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Director: George A. Romero
This cult classic follows a group of Pennsylvanians who barricade themselves in an old farmhouse to remain safe from a bloodthirsty, flesh-eating breed of cannibalistic monsters. It's gore-heavy so it might not be for you if nose bleeds make you queasy. You can’t go wrong with a movie that’s been added to the National Film Registry due to its critical acclaim. This movie has led to several remakes and 5 sequels.
Director: William Crain
This Horror meets Blaxploitation flick was one of the highest-grossing films in 1972 and paved the way for other movies in the genre. An ancient African prince, Mamuwalde, asks Dracula to help him suppress the slave trade but is instead turned into a vampire. Mamuwalde wakes up in present-day LA and bites people along the way.
Ganja and Hess (1973)
Director: Bill Gunn
After being stabbed with an ancient, cursed knife, an anthropologist finds himself transformed into a vampire. Follow him on his quest to quench his insatiable thirst for blood. Dig a little deeper and you’ll see clever metaphors for addiction, black assimilation, and white cultural imperialism. This film was remade by Spike Lee in 2014 as Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.
The People Under The Stairs (1991)
Director: Wes Craven
Two adults and a boy break into a house and get a lot more than they bargained for. They discover two children locked away by their parents, and must fight for their lives. The movie satirizes gentrification, class, warfare, and capitalism in a way that is very relevant today.
This supernatural slasher movie depicts the stuff of legends. The murderous, soulless Candyman, is unintentionally summoned to reality by a skeptic grad student doing research on the mythology surrounding the monster. What a way to immerse yourself in your college work!
Tales From The Hood (1995)
Director: Rusty Cundieff
Produced by Spike Lee, this anthology film tells four strange tales of horror with an African American focus. A funeral director traps three drug dealers at his place of work, in south-central LA, and the stories all touch upon police corruption, domestic abuse, gang violence, and institutional racism.
Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)
Director: Ernest R. Dickerson
An ex-soldier that is now on the run is haunted by a charming demon known as the Collector. He is after a key that can unlock great evil and initiate the apocalypse. Even rarer, we have a black female lead in a horror flick that has more than 5 lines!
Eve’s Bayou (1997)
Director: Kasi Lemmons
Another film preserved on the National Film Registry and set in 1960’s Louisiana. Throughout the summer, Eve sees things she shouldn’t and some which haunt her. Husband, father, and womanizer Louis Batiste may be the head of this affluent family, but it's the women who rule this gothic world full of secrets, strange forces, and southern mysticism that make the story.
Queen of the Damned (2002)
Director: Michael Rymer
In this loose sequel to Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994), the vampire Lestat becomes a rock star whose music wakes up the gorgeous yet horrific queen of the vampires. This was Aaliyah’s final film before she tragically died and she is reason enough to watch this fantasy flick.
Attack The Block (2011)
Director: Joe Cornish
You may know him as the ex-Stormtrooper, but long before he was restoring peace in the galaxy with Rey, he was protecting his council block down in London. Follow these tough inner-city kids in South London defend their block from a savage alien invasion, on Guy Fawkes Night.
Director: C.J. 'Fiery' Obasi
This zero-budget Nigerian zombie thriller won the ‘Best Nigerian Movie’ against all odds when it premiered. A Lagos slum neighborhood is suddenly in trouble, as its citizens begin manifesting symptoms of rabid river blindness. The water supply has been infected to transform the inhabitants into flesh-eating figures. Who will survive and escape the infested neighborhood?
The Girl With All The Gifts (2016)
Director: Colm McCarthy
This British sci-fi horror follows the breakdown of society after much of humanity is wiped out by a freaky fungal infection. A scientist, teacher, and two soldiers living in this dystopian future embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named Melanie.
Get Out (2017)
Director: Jordan Peele
This list would be sorely lacking if it didn’t have Jordan Peele’s thought-provoking, social critique of race in America that was portrayed in his directoral debut. A young African-American visits his white girlfriend's parents for the weekend, where he uncovers a disturbing secret hidden under the superficial façade of this seemingly liberal white family. If you’ve not watched this movie yet, then you’re missing out on the film of the decade.
The First Purge (2018)
Director: Gerard McMurray
We’re all familiar with the concept from The Purge (2013). There are no rules on Staten Island for 12 hours as part of a sociological test to see if this reduces the crime for the rest of the year. Anyone who stays on the island is given $5,000 and this movie serves as a prequel to the infamous series.
Director: Jordan Peele
Peele strikes again with a film that will keep you up at night and not want to look in the mirror – and definitely never leave your parents at a carnival! Lupita Nyong’o excels in not just one, but two lead roles. Her family's serene beach vacation descends into chaos as their more murderous doppelgängers appear one by one and begin to terrorize them.