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"

20. “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (2007)

Set in 1846, the sixth collaboration between Burton and Depp was a project Burton contemplated for decades. London neighbors Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) and Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) make a wicked tag team in Burton’s movie adaptation of the horrific 1979 Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler Broadway musical in which baker Lovett disposes of her barber neighbor’s throat-slit victims by plopping them into “the worst pies in London.”

Depp’s vengeful demon barber of Fleet Street returns to the city after being sentenced to a long, wrongful exile by Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), who coveted Barker’s beloved wife. Transforming theater Grand Guignol into live-action horror proved a challenge as critics hailed but moviegoers rejected a movie which ends with three deaths in quick succession, including Bonham Carter’s pining Mrs. Lovett, flung into her own fireplace mid-waltz.

Burton’s cinematic take on Sondheim eventually took home Art Direction Oscars for Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavoart, plus nominations for costume designer Colleen Atwood and Depp, who settled for a Musical Golden Globe. — JM

19. “Sleepy Hollow” (1999)

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Paramount/Mandalay/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5883261u) Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci Sleepy Hollow - 1999 Director: Tim Burton Paramount/Mandalay USA Scene Still Horror Sleepy Hollow ( La Légende du cavalier sans tête)
Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci in “Sleepy Hollow”Mandalay/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Tim Burton has cranked out so many adaptations of popular stories that he often comes across more as a cultural marauder than bonafide storyteller (did anyone ask for another “Dumbo”?). There’s no question, however, that his aesthetic proclivities come to life when they have a natural entry point for his gothic sensibilities. So it goes with “Sleepy Hollow,” which transforms Washington Irving’s classic short story into a phantasmagorical murder mystery in which the foggy woods are more menacing than the Headless Horseman himself, and the spindly, shadowy trees are nightmarish even when they don’t come to life. Rick Heinrichs and Peter Young deservedly won Best Art Direction (while the movie also scored nominations for cinematography and costume design). Along with “Sweeney Todd,” it’s one of the most fully realized live action illustrations of Burton’s vision. — Eric Kohn

18. “The Phantom of the Opera” (1943)

The second of six movie versions of the French horror-serial-turned-novel, Arthur Lubin’s is by far the best. His sumptuous color movie stars a sympathetic Claude Rains as the masked phantom lurking under the wet catacombs of the French opera and ingenue Susanna Foster as his warbler protege. Yes, the Phantom swings over the opera on a giant chandelier and reveals a hideously disfigured face. Out of four Oscar nominations, the movie took home two: Best Color Cinematography and Best Color Art Direction-Interior Decoration. — Anne Thompson

17. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1931)

Forty-five years after its publication, Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic novella —  a literal homage to the good and evil lurking in each of us — got the Hollywood treatment from director Rouben Mamoulian. Best Actor Fredric March won the Oscar for vacillating between a do-gooder physician and, with a sip of potion, a sociopath who preys upon women and kills with a cane. The film earned additional nominations for its screenplay and cinematography, but only after a raised eyebrow from the censors, who mandated that eight minutes of sexually-charged content be cut for the original theatrical release (the footage was later restored). Jekyll and Hyde-like characters have resurfaced in more than two dozen subsequent films, among them “The Nutty Professor” (1963) and “Van Helsing.” — JM 

16. “Death Becomes Her” (1992)

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Universal/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5882059a) Meryl Streep Death Becomes Her - 1992 Director: Robert Zemeckis Universal USA Scene Still Comedy La Mort vous va si bien
Meryl Streep in “Death Becomes Her”Universal/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Terrifyingly weird and hilariously off-kilter, Robert Zemeckis’ 1992 horror comedy tackles the truly scary minefield of female friendships. More accurately, toxic female friendships, the kind of horror that endures for decades, eating away at people and emotions and bonds and never once, not ever, letting up. The star-packed outing — Streep! Hawn! Willis! Rossellini! — follows childhood pals who literally kill each other for a man, before giving way to a conclusion that sees them approaching actual eternity together. That smart story, aided by Oscar-winning visual effects that pile on the grotesque with relish, transcends into one of the best examples of an overlooked subgenre. — Kate Erbland

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