Black horror movies have been enjoying a rise in popularity with so many young and ambitious directors focusing on Black casts and stories that speak to the Black experience in America.
Some movies have Black actors in lead roles powerful enough to stand out, while others have larger casts and tell stories that resonate.
You’re sure to find something fun and creepy to watch in this list of the best Black scary movies.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
This film was the first time a Black man was the main character and hero in a horror film. Black characters were often absent or villains in movies in the 60s, so a Black hero was revolutionary.
Romero has stated that Duane Jones, the Black actor who played the hero, got the job because his was the best audition and not because he wanted to make a statement about racial tensions.
Whether Romero cast Jones because of his skin color or not, the shock ending of this movie made a powerful statement about racism in 1960s America. This low-budget zombie film where Romero cast friends to play zombies cemented Romero as a brave and resourceful filmmaker.
This movie was the first zombie film in George A. Romero’s career and arguably one of his best. The film spawned several loose sequels and launched the genre of zombie movies.
Night of the Living Dead is one of the best Black horror movies no horror fan should miss.
Blacula is notable for being a horror movie that was one of the first Blaxploitation films in the 1970s.
Blaxploitation was a term coined by Junius Griffin of a California chapter of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He used the word to describe movies aimed at a Black audience that leaned hard into stereotypes.
Griffin meant the term to be negative, but many films from the Blaxploitation era were the first to show Black main characters that were intelligent, active, and interesting. Blacula was one of the first Black scary movies to get widespread attention.
Blacula featured William Marshall as a Nigerian prince who goes to Transylvania to ask Dracula to help end slavery. Instead of helping him, Dracula turns him into a vampire and keeps him prisoner.
Later, Blacula wakes up in Los Angeles in the 1970s. The idea of an ancient vampire in then modern-day LA gave the movie a tongue-in-cheek quality, though it didn’t shrink away from horror tropes.
The film not only had a Black lead actor and primarily a Black cast, but it also had a Black director, William Crain. Crain was only 23 years old when he made this groundbreaking movie.
Blade starred Wesley Snipes as Blade, the badass, heroic half-vampire who fights the evil full-vampires who want to wreak havoc on humanity. This character joins Blacula as one of the best Black vampires in cinema history.
The character comes from early 1970s Marvel Comics, making this film one of the first big comic-book movies before the Spiderman films or Iron Man.
In the story, a vampire bites Blade’s mother during his birth, turning him into a half-vampire. Since Blade’s primary weapon is a sword, it features several exciting sword-fighting sequences that helped it succeed as both a horror and action movie.
A Black main character with an interesting lore and lots of action helped make the movie a success. The film spawned two sequels, Blade II and Blade: Trinity, with Snipes as the lead role. The Blade Trilogy also led to the 13-episode Blade television series in 2006.
A fourth movie in the Blade franchise is reportedly planned but with Mahershala Ali in the lead role instead of Snipes.
Tales From the Hood (1995)
Tales From the Hood is one of the best Black horror movies and one of the best horror anthology films ever made. A primarily Black cast and stories that speak to the Black experience make this movie a don’t-miss horror film.
In this movie, Clarence Williams III plays a mortuary director who sells drugs on the side and tells several scary stories to three drug dealers who’ve come to buy from him. The stories touch on themes of police brutality, racism, abuse, and the terror that can come from being a Black person in America.
Two sequels, Tales from the Hood 2 and 3, were released in 2018 and 2020. Those films weren’t as popular or as well-received as the original movie.
Famed Black filmmaker Spike Lee executive-produced this movie and its sequels. In the original, Clarence Williams III gave a creepy, over-the-top performance as the mortuary director, helping to make it one of the best Black scary movies you can watch.
Ganja & Hess
Duane Jones, the actor who played the lead in Night of the Living Dead, starred in this film. The story is about an anthropologist who becomes a vampire after being stabbed with a cursed African dagger.
This movie is a sexy, stylized exploration of Black American identity, religion, politics, and sex through a horror story that lacks the stereotypes and action commonly found in the Blaxploitation movies from that era.
The main character struggles with his need for blood and how his life must change as he falls in love with his assistant’s wife.
Director William Gunn used the immortal vampire’s need for blood as a metaphor for addiction and the havoc it can wreak in people’s lives. This movie is less well-known than many other Black horror movies, with critics who panned its art-house approach at the time, but it deserves a bigger audience.
Snoop Dogg plays Jimmy Bones, a respected member of his community who serves as a protector and a kingpin. Bones is betrayed and murdered by those closest to him at the behest of a corrupt cop.
Twenty years later, he returns as a supernatural force to his old neighborhood that’s now crumbling under the drug epidemic. People revere his memory and see him as representative of a better time.
Bones wants revenge against the people who betrayed him, and he wants to restore his old neighborhood to the kind of place it used to be.
Fans of Snoop Dogg and horror fans alike will enjoy this cult classic that pays tribute to the Blaxploitation era.
The Boy Behind the Door (2021)
This movie features a young Lonnie Chavis as main character Bobby Green, making it one of the few horror movies with a Black child in a leading role.
Bobby and his best friend Kevin are violently abducted on their way home from school and taken to a house in a remote location. Bobby escapes while still trapped in the trunk of a car but can’t bear to leave his friend behind. He goes into the house to play a tense game of cat and mouse with his abductor.
The film explores themes of friendship and loyalty as Bobby and Kevin endure terror and injuries while trying to save each other. This movie also offers plenty of twists and turns to keep audiences on their toes.
Filmed in only 22 days, The Boy Behind the Door is one of the best low-budget Black horror movies of the last several years.
His House (2020)
This powerful Netflix film packs a double punch as it explores supernatural creepiness and the horror of the refugee experience.
The terror and violence of living in a war-torn country with authoritarian leaders are scary enough. The refugee couple in the film soon finds that living in the UK under the supervision of the government can be terrifying, too.
Black director Remi Weekes adapted the screenplay from an existing story and created a chilling and often shocking movie about going from one form of brutal control to another.
Sudanese immigrants Rial and Bol come to the UK for a better life, but their daughter dies on the journey. Rial strives to cling to her Sudanese culture and memories, while Bol works hard to be accepted and tries to blend in.
Racism and assumptions about refugees play a central part in the film, and the family’s grief and trauma keep the audience guessing how much of the horror in their walls is real or imagined. This movie was Remi Week’s feature film debut and has earned well-deserved critical acclaim.
Get Out (2017)
Black director Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, is one of the best Black horror movies to reach a mainstream audience. Get Out achieved box-office success and glowing reviews from critics.
The film is about racism and is unique in showing the building horror through a Black lens instead of a white one. No external monster is necessary when racism itself is the horror.
This groundbreaking film won Peele an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The film also received nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director.
Get Out is one of the Black scary movies that became so popular, it regularly makes lists of the best movies of all genres from the 2010s and established Peele as a horror director to watch.
Jordan Peele’s second horror film as a director, Us, features a black family who visits the mother’s childhood beach house and suffers at the hands of a family who looks like them.
Horror movies rarely have a Black woman as the main character, but Lupita Nyong’o plays two lead roles in Us. She plays the main character, Adelaide, and her creepy double. A twist near the end of the film changes everything the audience thought they knew about these characters and makes it unforgettable.
Unlike the film Get Out, racism isn’t the main horror element and doesn’t play a big part in the story. A happy Black family sits at the film’s heart, a married couple with a son and daughter, which is something rare in horror movies.
Us didn’t get the same level of acclaim as Peele’s first scary movie, but it’s still well-regarded by critics and one of the best horror movies in recent years. Us regularly tops lists of the best Black horror movies and horror movies in general.
Candyman was one of the best Black horror movies from the 90s with a sympathetic Black villain and the boldness to touch on racial issues and bias.
In this story, Candyman was a Black man in the 19th century who had an affair with a white woman. When the white men in the town discovered he’d gotten the woman pregnant, they beat and mutilated him, then took honeycomb from an apiary and smeared him with it.
The bees drawn to their honey stung him to death, and the men burned his body on a pyre. They dumped his ashes on a plot of land that later became home to Cabrini Green, an infamous housing project in Chicago known for shoddy construction, drugs, and crime.
Saying Candyman’s name five times in a mirror summons him, and he’ll seek revenge on the summoner and those around them.
Graduate student Helen Lyle is researching urban legend and believes the project’s residents blame every hardship on Candyman to make life easier. Helen summons Candyman and learns that he’s more than just a legend.
The film became a cult classic that spawned two sequels in the 90s and a soft sequel with changed folklore in 2021.
Jordan Peele tackled a new sequel of Candyman that isn’t exactly a remake but does rewrite Candyman’s history for a more modern audience. While many critics rate this movie much higher than the original, it wouldn’t exist without the 1992 film.
In this movie, Candyman didn’t die at the hands of a 19th-century mob. Instead, he was beaten to death by police officers who accused him of putting razor blades in the candy he regularly gave out to neighborhood children. After his death, the appearance of more candy with razor blades proves he was innocent.
The main character is a Black visual artist portrayed by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II who summons Candyman, putting himself and his family in danger.
This version updates the racism from the mob mentality of the 19th century to modern-day police brutality that leaves a lasting impression on its audience.
The People Under the Stairs (1991)
Ving Rhames starred in this 90s horror-comedy that tells the story of three burglars who break into an ordinary-looking suburban home to find a nightmare lurking inside. The homeowners have been kidnapping children and keeping them in the basement.
Young Black actor Brandon Quintin Adams played Pointdexter “Fool” Adams, a boy forced to hide in the walls who befriends the homeowners’ daughter. The couple who own the home present themselves as married but are a creepy and incestuous brother and sister duo.
Wes Craven, fresh from his Nightmare on Elm Street success, directed. In addition to featuring Black actors in several leading roles, including the role of Fool, this film satirized capitalism and gentrification in clever ways, making it a cult classic.
Jordan Peele will bring his unique vision to a remake of this film in the early 2020s.
Best Black Horror Movies Ever, Final Thoughts
Black horror movies have enjoyed a resurgence since Get Out received critical acclaim and commercial success. Many other filmmakers have followed in Jordan Peele’s footsteps, guaranteeing that we’ll have plenty of Black scary movies to enjoy in the coming years.
All of today’s popular Black horror films owe a debt to the earliest filmmakers who broke out of the Hollywood mold to cast Black actors and tell Black stories in the horror genre.