A masked killer with a signature weapon. A group of victims anchored by a Final Girl. And a structure that evenly disperses the death and mayhem. Even people who don’t watch slasher movies know the game. The look and feel of these movies have become baked into pop culture. This has happened to such a degree that even non-slasher movies can’t escape their influence. What follows is a list, in no particular order, of the best slasher movies that don’t technically qualify as such.

1

No Country for Old Men

2007


Anton Chigurh, as portrayed by Javier Bardem, is ripped straight out of the slasher film handbook. He’s expressionless and seemingly devoid of a soul — he’s not wearing a mask but he might as well be. 

Chigurh’s signature weapon is a cattle gun, making it an original and dehumanizing choice. It is an efficient weapon with very little mess and it matches the simplistic and passionless demeanor of he who wields it.

???

His name, his accent, his hair cut — everything about this guy is a mystery and that’s what makes him more terrifying. He pursues his prey with unstoppable and focused energy. He is the stuff of nightmares.

NON-SLASHER SLASHER MOVIES

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Killer: Anton Chigurh

Weapon: Cattle gun, shotgun w/ silencer, handcuffs

Kill-ability Score: 4 / 10

Final Girl: Sheriff Bell (?)

2

It Follows

2014

David Robert Mitchell’s loving homage to the slasher has everything you’d expect — minus a recognizable killer. This modern and meta take on the slasher is smart but not too smart for its own sake. 

We still get a group of young, suburbanites led by a central female protagonist being stalked by a nameless, faceless villain. The soundtrack is synth-driven and menacing but the actual time period is left ambiguous. 

The killer is an amalgamation of characters and we never know who to expect. It takes the “sex = death” mythology and turns it on its head. Even if the theme of the film is loftier than what most people want or expect from a slasher movie, it doesn’t get in the way of the terror.

NON-SLASHER SLASHER MOVIES

It Follows (2014)

Killer: ?

Weapon: Bare hands

Kill-ability Score: 10 / 10

Final Girl: Jay and Paul

Opening scene from It Follows

3

Alien

1979

“In space, no one can hear you scream.” From the get-go, Ridley Scott’s Alien knew what it was: a horror movie set in space. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is our Final Girl, and one of the best of all time. 

Our killer is unknowable and unbeatable — qualities all slasher movies share. The xenomorph, as it was later dubbed, is heartless and predatory, knowing only that its job isn’t done until the last survivor falls. 

There’s also the single, claustrophobic location but, instead of a suburban home, it’s a commercial mining ship. The crew is dispatched one-by-one until our heroine assumes her title as Final Girl.

NON-SLASHER SLASHER MOVIES

Alien (1979)

Killer: Xenomorph

Weapon: Acid blood, tongue, sharp tail

Kill-ability Score: 8 / 10

Final Girl: Ellen Ripley and Jones (cat)

4

The Silence of the Lambs

1991

One thing this film does quite differently is to give the killer a name, a personality, and screen time. Jame Gumb (Ted Levine) isn’t a lifeless killing machine like his antecedents, and he is not unstoppable. But Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins) is and this is what makes The Silence of the Lambs such a fascinating progeny of the slasher film. 

Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling is perhaps the most complex and sympathetic Final Girl ever. She is completely in over her head but strong enough to press on. Her final showdown with Buffalo Bill, the epitome of vulnerability, takes all the tension and suspense of a regular slasher movie and condenses it into one, heart-pounding sequence.

NON-SLASHER SLASHER MOVIES

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Killer: Jame Gumb (a.k.a. Buffalo Bill), Dr. Hannibal Lector 

Weapon: Bare hands, teeth, police baton

Kill-ability Score: 5 / 10

Final Girl: Clarice Starling

5

The Birds

1963

The body count might be low, the gore left to a minimum compared to today’s standards, and there’s no creepy music (no music at all, actually). But Hitchcock’s film FEELS like a slasher movie.

Instead of an unstoppable human killer, we get an unstoppable force of nature. We assume that birds would be pretty low on the list of things in nature that can kill you. And that’s exactly why they work for Hitchcock.

One of the greatest things about The Birds is that we never get an explanation. People living their everyday lives are suddenly thrust into chaos — a situation with many questions and zero answers.

NON-SLASHER SLASHER MOVIES

The Birds (1963)

Killer: Birds, all kinds

Weapon: Beak, talons

Kill-ability Score: 2 / 10

Final Girl: Melanie Daniels

6

Under the Skin

2013

Trailer: under the skin

This artsy sci-fi film flips the script on slasher movie conventions. The surface-level connections are easy to make (the killer is a girl hunting men!) but the movie is about way more than that. The striking imagery and hypnotic pacing provide for a much more deliberate and almost existential viewing experience.

Scarlett Johansson’s character is the perfect slasher villain, a cold-blooded and methodical killer. But she changes and adopts a species of sympathy for us lowly humans. Jonathan Glazer’s film shows us how to elevate one’s influences and turn them into something beyond a carbon copy.

NON-SLASHER SLASHER MOVIES

Under the Skin (2013)

Killer: The Female

Weapon: Sex appeal, liquid abyss

Kill-ability Score: 7 / 10

Final Girl: None

7

The Thing

1982

There aren’t many movies, especially horror movies with extensive special effects, but John Carpenter’s The Thing almost seems to get BETTER over time. This time, it’s a group of grown men being methodically iced (wink!) by an unknowable and unbeatable force. 

The great twist on slasher movies in this classic is the anonymity of the killer. It could be any of them, a perfect mimetic killing machine. The single, isolated location levels up the tension and effectively eliminates all of the complaints people have about slasher movies. They can’t just leave, they can’t call the cops — they simply have to survive.

NON-SLASHER SLASHER MOVIES

The Thing (1982)

Killer: Alien, shapeshifter

Weapon: Body and ability to mimic prey

Kill-ability Score: 9 / 10

Final Girl: MacReady and Childs

8

The Terminator

1984

James Cameron’s breakout film takes a smart and fresh approach to the slasher film, which had already begun to stale in 1984. In a sense, Cameron actually gave us a slasher movie that makes sense. 

Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees can’t be killed but we never really understand why that is. Cameron uses cyborgs from the future who are programmed for one purpose and suddenly we don’t question it.

The Terminator’s signature weapon may be a bit unoriginal but he is deadly just the same. The thumping electronic heartbeat on the soundtrack is always there, reminding you that this killing machine will not stop.

NON-SLASHER SLASHER MOVIES

The Terminator (1984)

Killer: Cyborg from the future

Weapon: Robot strength and lots of guns

Kill-ability Score: 9 / 10

Final Girl: Sarah Connor

9

Death Proof

2007

Tarantino approached his first semi-horror film with a simple twist: what if a slasher movie killer used his car to kill people? Now, that’s about as close as Death Proof gets from actually becoming a slasher movie. The majority of the film is Tarantino’s trademark verbose nonsequiturs, barefooted women, and retro-cool soundtracks. 

For a slasher film, even one as tangential as this one, the violence is minimal with only two actual murder scenes. But this is an excellent example of how to put a personal spin on something so well-worn like slasher movies.

Quentin Tarantino Directing Style and Filmmaking Techniques - Auteur Theory in Film and Movies - Quentin Tarantino Movies - StudioBinder

NON-SLASHER SLASHER MOVIES

Death Proof (2007)

Killer: Stuntman Mike

Weapon: 1970 Chevy Nova, 1969 Dodge Charger

Kill-ability Score: 2 / 10

Final Girl: Zoe, Abernathy, Kim, and Lee

10

Predator

1987

"Yo Adrian!!"

Another genre-bending exercise that takes slasher movie conventions and repurposes them in exciting ways. A clear nod to Aliens, John McTiernan’s action-horror hybrid actuals almost like a companion piece. 

The killer is silent, deadly and has a gruesome habit of collecting skulls. The protagonists are badass troopers any other day of the week, but here they’ve met theirs match. Schwarzenegger as Dutch does a pretty convincing job as the Final Girl and the musical score is simply fantastic.

Like any good slasher movie, the kills are spread out to maximize their emotional impact and Dutch’s final showdown is a much more testosterone-soaked version of what expect.

NON-SLASHER SLASHER MOVIES

Predator (1987)

Killer: Alien, hunter

Weapon: Arm blades, laser-guided lasers

Kill-ability Score: 8 / 10

Final Girl: Dutch

UP NEXT

What does a screenwriter do?

We’ve talked about slasher movies and they all start with the script. In this next post, we’re going to talk about all things screenwriting — how to write a script, how to sell a script, and what the heck does a screenwriter do?

Up Next: Screenwriter duties → 

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