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Best 25 Horror Oscar Winners, Ranked

There are more Oscar-winning horror movies than you may think. Check out our rankings.

Sigourney WeaverAliens - 1986

Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens”

REX/Shutterstock

15. “Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life” (1993)

This Oscar-winning 1993 short film produced by BBC Scotland and directed by Peter Capaldi (yes, Doctor Who won an Oscar) is a brilliant mix of gothic horror and holiday cheer. Richard E. Grant stars as the anxious suicidal writer, holed up in an angular apartment building seemingly lifted out of German Expressionism as he toils over writing the first line of “The Metamorphosis” (Gregor Samson woke up as a…what?!) while a series of peculiar guests keep interrupting his creative process. As a series of insects, overly cheery neighbors and one possible murderer burst into his shadowy abode, it’s never entirely clear just how much Kafka is imagining the events around him, but Grant’s furtive gaze makes that very ambiguity the star of the show. While Kafka finds his way to happiness by completing his most famous story, the short is a haunting descent into an artistic mind that may or may not emerge from it in one piece. The concluding shot, of a humanoid cockroach singing  “Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life” from the operetta “Naughty Marietta,” is a masterstroke of nightmarish absurdity. — EK

14. “An American Werewolf in London” (1981)


A sly left-turn from “Animal House” director John Landis, “An American Werewolf in London” ditches belly laughs for a darker sense of humor and one of cinema’s best depictions of a lycanthrope. Winning the first-ever Academy Award for Best Makeup, Rick Baker’s titular creature is horrifying, as exemplified in a nauseating scene which shows the physical trauma that the transformation would take on the human body: crunching bones, distending joints, and stretched skin — without the aid of any CGI. — WE

13. “Beetlejuice” (1998)

In Tim Burton’s second feature, Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin play charming, relatable ghosts who aren’t terrifying enough to scare off their haunted house’s annoying new family (parents Catherine O’Hara and Jeffrey Jones and depressed Goth daughter Winona Ryder). Therefore they summon flamboyant “bio-exorcist” Beetlejuice (delightfully over-the-top Michael Keaton), who proves to be a far worse antagonist than their home’s human inhabitants. Colorful and campy, the Best Makeup winner is packed with unpredictable, colorful and musical sight gags, from sand worms and a shrunken head to flesh-hungry shrimp cocktails, which appear when possessed dinner party guests bop to Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song (Day O).” The biggest fright comes when Ryder threatens to become Beetlejuice’s teen bride. Warner Bros. is reportedly drafting a sequel.  — JM

12. “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992)


Francis Ford Coppola unleashes the sexuality that was lays underneath Bram Stoker’s original “Dracula” in incredible sumptuous color and delicious visuals. Few films in Hollywood’s modern era have used costume so expressively, as designer Eiko Ishioka’s work takes center stage in revealing the burning internal emotions of the characters. Much like “Barry Lyndon” two decades before, the highly stylized film wasn’t universally loved when it came out in 1992, but the Academy couldn’t ignore the film’s craft. As 25 years have past, it’s impossible to not feel the film’s heartbeat come pouring through Coppola’s precision of cinema, as the film has aged like a fine a wine. — Chris O’Falt

11. “Misery” (1990)


The full force of Annie Wilkes’ fury is something to behold, the monstrous driving energy of Rob Reiner’s chilling Stephen King adaptation of the novel of the same name. It’s no surprise that Kathy Bates won an Oscar for the part — “Misery” is, quite literally, about Annie’s misery — beating out big names like Meryl Streep and Joanne Woodward. The film lives and dies (and maybe dies again?) on Bates’ chilling embodiment of one of King’s most enduring creations, a fearsome antagonist who makes other horror film baddies look tame. Reiner’s film, bolstered by a canny script by William Goldman, never flinches at the more gruesome elements of King’s story, filtered through James Caan’s shellshocked captive author Paul Sheldon. The twists are real, hard-won, and thrillingly human. That’s the terror: it’s real people, not monsters, that populate “Misery.” — KE

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