Horror movies can take place almost anywhere. In a graveyard? Lost in the woods? Out in deep space? Yeah, those are all great. But how about in a school where young folks just want to make it to graduation?
School brings out feelings of anxiety and dread in most students, but with these horror movies, those feelings turn to outright fear and terror.
There's an entire subgenre of flicks where going back to school can turn deadly, whether it's due to supernatural entities or deranged serial killers.
Here are the best school horror movies that take place in high schools and universities, which can be scarier than any graveyard.
15. Disturbing Behavior (1998)
Directed by David Nutter
Starring James Marsden, Katie Holmes, Nick Stahl
Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi (1h 24m)
Disturbing Behavior stars James Marsden, Katie Holmes, and Nick Stahl. It centers around a group of outcasts who discover something strange is happening with the "Blue Ribbons" at their school.
The Blue Ribbons are an elite group of preppy students who are basically perfect. They all participate in a special after-school program, which turns out to be more malicious than it first appears.
Inspired by the iconic 1975 thriller The Stepford Wives, Disturbing Behavior is a teen horror that makes a few missteps along the way. Even so, despite negative critical reception for its clichés, it's an acceptable watch.
14. The Craft (1996)
Directed by Andrew Fleming
Starring Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell
Drama, Fantasy, Horror (1h 41m)
The Craft is amazing cult hit from the 90s that you probably haven't heard about but should definitely check out if you like teen horrors.
Set in a Los Angeles high school, it follows troubled teenager Sarah Bailey (played by Robin Tunney) who moves to LA to live with her father. Once there, she falls in with a group of outcast girls... only to discover that they're all witches.
Seeking freedom from their tormentors, the girls use their powers to get back at their bullies. But as their powers grow, they begin to take things too far—something that Sarah takes issue with.
13. Night of the Creeps (1986)
Directed by Fred Dekker
Starring Jason Lively, Tom Atkins, Jill Whitlow
Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi (1h 28m)
What happens when you cross Revenge of the Nerds with every B-movie trope ever? You get this cult classic from the director of The Monster Squad, another Halloween cult classic.
Much like that film, Night of the Creeps follows a misfit who saves the day against a horde of otherworldly creatures.
Fred Dekker's Night of the Creeps is a special treat for horror film fans, with nods and homages galore, including the fact that the main character is named Chris Romero (think George A. Romero) and his love interest is named Cynthia Cronenberg (think David Cronenberg).
Throw in a hardboiled detective, a slug-like alien, and a horde of zombies controlled by aliens, and you have a definitive frat horror B-movie.
12. Black Christmas (1974)
Directed by Bob Clark
Starring Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder
Horror, Mystery, Thriller (1h 38m)
No fan of horror movies can deny the impact of Black Christmas. Without it, we wouldn't have gotten the iconic classic Halloween four years later (which was originally titled The Night He Came Home).
Indeed, Black Christmas stands the test of time and continues to be remembered as one of the first movies in the slasher genre that pushed boundaries and emerged as a feminist horror.
Bob Clark gave extra dimension to the sorority sisters instead of simply making them easy bait. And while Olivia Hussey's Jess may be flawed, it's easy to empathize and lean on her side.
Every blood splatter and moment of tension is earned, and Black Christmas ensures that college Christmases will never be the same.
11. The Loved Ones (2009)
Directed by Sean Byrne
Starring Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, Jessica McNamee
Crime, Horror (1h 24m)
Back in 2009, Australia gave us The Loved Ones, the underrated gem starring Xavier Samuel as Brent, a teenager who rejects the offer of Lola Stone (played by Robin McLeavy) to take her to the school dance.
Unfortunately, the burnout teen ends up being abducted by the in-denial Lola, who forces him into her most demented wishes.
The Loved Ones strikes a tricky balance in blending two opposing genres, resulting in a twisted and bittersweet horror romance. The wrath of Lola is one party you'll never forget for shocking reasons.
10. Happy Death Day (2017)
Directed by Christopher Landon
Starring Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine
Comedy, Horror, Mystery (1h 36m)
Time loops can work extremely well in horror. After all, who would want to relive dread, terror, and death over and over again?
Happy Death Day roots its slasher premise in a time loop plot device, with college girl Tree Gelbman (played by Jessica Rothe) repeatedly stabbed to death on her birthday by a killer in a baby mask, only to wake up and relive the day again.
Fortunately, Tree is a clever girl who has the necessary wits to think through and overcome her absurd predicament. More importantly, Happy Death Day isn't just a bloodfest—it takes a black comedy approach that elevates the whole scenario to higher heights.
While comparisons to Groundhog Day and Scream are hard to deny, Happy Death Day goes for the perfect blend of laughter and splatter. It also teaches us to never use "In Da Club" as a morning alarm.
9. The Faculty (1998)
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Starring Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris
Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi (1h 44m)
Being the genre hopper that he is, Robert Rodriguez struck in 1998 while the iron was hot, creating an unusually engaging mix of Scream and Invasion of the Body Snatchers when he gave us The Faculty.
The Faculty gathered the best teen stars of the time—Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, and pre-superstar Usher Raymond—in this sci-fi horror filled with the high school drama, teenage angst, and emotional awakening that's typical in most coming-of-age movies.
But fear and paranoia are what really drive this film forward. Sure, it might be a little predictable, but The Faculty is a genuine tension-filled horror that more than deserves its cult status.
8. Veronica (2017)
Directed by Paco Plaza
Starring Sandra Escacena, Bruna González, Claudia Placer
Horror (1h 45m)
Veronica is a 2017 Spanish horror film set in a high school. Fifteen years old and living in a working-class neighborhood, Verónica (played by Sandra Escacena) takes care of her family while her mom works at a bar.
Verónica, who attends a Catholic high school, is generally overworked and super stressed—so, on the day of a solar eclipse, she sneaks into the school's basement and performs a séance with her friends.
They use a Ouija board as the medium, and it really works. They end up summoning a demon and she gets possessed...
7. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Directed by Jim Gillespie
Starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anne Heche
Horror, Mystery (1h 41m)
I Know What You Did Last Summer isn't just a well-known slasher flick, but one of the most iconic horror films of the 90s. It centers on a group of students on summer break who hit someone with their car.
Panicked and afraid of the consequences, they dump the body. Later, when they return to school in the fall, they realize they're being hunted by someone who "knows what they did last summer."
6. Scary Movie (2000)
Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans
Starring Jon Abrahams, Carmen Electra, Shannon Elizabeth
Comedy, Horror (1h 28m)
Scary Movie is a comedic spoof on horror movies, which kicks off with 18-year-old student Drew Decker (played by Carmen Electra) receiving a threatening phone call before she's stabbed to death.
In the wake of her murder, a group of students—who are all based on characters from 90s horror movies Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer—team up to survive the serial killer that's stalking them.
The plot is basically a mash-up of the two films, with lots of absurd sequences thrown in that poke fun at the horror tropes and clichés that were so prominent pre-Y2K.
5. It Follows (2014)
Directed by David Robert Mitchell
Starring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi
Horror, Mystery, Thriller (1h 40m)
It Follows is genuinely one of the most terrifying horror films I've ever seen, all while being an excellent horror movie for people who hate horror movies. In it, teen girl Jay (played by Maika Monroe) goes on a date with her new boyfriend, only to have a terrifying sexual encounter.
When Jay wakes up from what seemed like a perfect date, she's tied to a chair in an abandoned warehouse. There, she sees a naked woman walking towards her from across the train tracks.
Her boyfriend tells her that the woman is some sort of demon who only moves at a walking pace but always knows where she is and will always pursue her until she catches up and kills her. The only way out? To pass the curse on to someone else—by having sex with them.
4. Suspiria (1977)
Directed by Dario Argento
Starring Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci
Horror (1h 32m)
For devoted horror fans, famed Italian director Dario Argento may as well be considered the Michelangelo of the genre. If you need evidence of that, just watch the bloody masterpiece that is Suspiria.
Set in a world-renowned ballet school, the film follows American ballet student Suzy Bannion (played by Jessica Harper) who enrolls only to uncover a dark conspiracy linked to the murder of its students.
Darkly beautiful in his direction, Argento builds up the suspense and pulls out the rug at our most vulnerable. Just as much praise goes to Jessica Harper and her expressions as she goes from genuine terror to upsetting submission in an unforgettable performance.
3. Jennifer's Body (2009)
Directed by Karyn Kusama
Starring Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Brody
Comedy, Horror (1h 42m)
Starring Megan Fox as the eponymous Jennifer and Amanda Seyfried as her average girl best friend Needy, Jennifer's Body is a bit of a cult classic now but that wasn't always the case.
One day, after a rock concert goes awry, Needy notices that Jennifer is acting strange. Like, throwing up weird black fluid and exhibiting overly aggressive behavior. Of course, Jennifer brushes it off.
When Needy learns that a flesh-eating demon is now possessing her best friend and needs to eat the flesh of her male classmates to survive, Needy does what she can to stop her.
2. Carrie (1976)
Directed by Brian De Palma
Starring Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving
Horror, Mystery (1h 38m)
Carrie is one of the most famous horror movies out there. Even if you haven't seen it before, you've probably heard its name.
Based on a Stephen King novel of the same name, Carrie is about the titular Carrie White (played by Sissy Spacek): a telekinetic teenager who's bullied at school and terrorized by her abusive, religious mother.
When Carrie is invited to prom only to end up as the butt of a cruel joke, things take a turn as horrible supernatural events occur.
1. Scream (1996)
Directed by Wes Craven
Starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette
Horror, Mystery (1h 51m)
What more can be said about Scream that hasn't been said already? It was the huge success that put Wes Craven back in the game, the self-aware satire that opened the floodgates of meta humor, and the trendsetter that unleashed a wave of teen-centered slashers.
But the greatest truth about Scream is this: despite diminishing returns with its sequels, the formula never fully wears off. The gimmick of anyone adopting the identity of Ghostface still works nearly 30 years later.
Thus, Ghostface's identity can be passed on and will live on for many generations. Scream's legacy can never be spooked, and that's why it stands out—not just as one of the best horror movies involving school, but one of the most legendary horror films, period.