10 Best Lovecraftian Horror Movies, Ranked


The horror genre has entertained film fanatics for decades with classic slasher films, chilling psychological thrillers, and terrifying paranormal tales that both shock and spook audiences. While a majority of movie buffs enjoy the basic horror subgenres, others choose to venture into more complex ones, notably Lovecraftian horror, which was coined after the infamous author, H.P. Lovecraft.

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Lovecraftian horror, also known as cosmic horror and eldritch horror, focuses on the terror of the unknown and incomprehensible rather than gore and violence for shock value. Countless films feature many qualities of Lovecraftian horror, but there is a selection that are full-blown homages to Lovecraft’s epic style. From the cult classic, Event Horizon, to John Carpenter‘s The Thing, these are the 10 best Lovecraftian horror movies, ranked.

10 ‘Event Horizon’ (1997)

Cast: Sam Neill, Laurence Fishburne, and Jason Isaacs

Image Via Paramount Pictures

After mysteriously disappearing years ago, the spacecraft, Event Horizon reappears and the team of the Lewis and Clark spaceship are sent to investigate the vessel, finding it abandoned with no sign of the crew on board. As the team searches the ship for any clues to what may have happened, they soon discover that whatever unexplainable force befell the previous crew is still aboard the Event Horizon.

While the sci-fi horror film, Event Horizon, isn’t based on any particular Lovecraft story, it is an underrated 90s horror film that still has the makings of a Lovecraftian film. Despite an all-star cast and an opening that assured audiences a thrilling sci-fi experience, Event Horizon initially received negative reviews, but in recent years, it has gained more support and become an essential cult classic of the science-fiction genre.

Event Horizon
Release Date
August 15, 1997

Director
Paul W.S. Anderson

Runtime
96

Main Genre
Horror

Writers
Philip Eisner

Event Horizon can be streamed on Paramount+ in the U.S.

Watch on Paramount+

9 ‘The Haunted Palace’ (1963)

Cast: Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Jr., and Debra Paget

Vincent Price The Haunted Palace 1963
Image via Amazon MGM Studios

In 1765, a warlock, Joseph Curwen (Vincent Price), curses a village in New England before being burned alive by the townspeople. Centuries later, Curwen’s great-great-grandson, Charles Ward (Price) arrives and moves into his ancestor’s former mansion with his wife, Anne (Debra Paget). There, they are greeted by the caretaker (Lon Chaney Jr.) who helps the couple adjust to their new home, but shortly after their arrival, the town’s curse awakens Curwen who seeks his revenge.

The Haunted Palace was marketed as a work by Edgar Allan Poe, but according to Comedy-Horror Films: A Chronological History by Bruce G. Hallenbeck, the film’s plot is actually based on Lovecraft’s novella, The Curious Case of Charles Dexter Ward. The film’s title was derived from one of Poe’s poems, which was later included in the author’s famous short story, The Fall of the House of Usher. The film is one of the first major motion pictures to incorporate Lovecraft’s work and is an essential choice for any die-hard Lovecraft fan.

The Hunted Palace
Release Date
August 28, 1963

Director
Roger Corman

Language
English

Studio
American Picture Studios

Run Time
87 Minutes

Actors
Vincent Price, Debra Paget, Lon Chaney Jr.

The Hunted Palace is available for purchase on Amazon in the U.S.

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8 ‘Color Out of Space’ (2019)

Cast: Madeleine Arthur, Nicolas Cage, and Joely Richardson

Nicolas Cage in The Color Out of Space
Image via RLJE Films

When Nathan Gardner (Nicolas Cage) decides to move him and his family out to his father’s old farm, they begin to experience strange occurrences after a meteorite lands on their front lawn. The family is soon faced with battling a mutant extraterrestrial organism, which invades their once peaceful existence and turns their lives into an inescapable nightmare.

Cage stars in the science-fiction horror film, Color Out of Space, which is based on Lovecraft’s 1927 short story, The Color Out of Space. Director, Richard Stanley brilliantly captures the essence of Lovecraft’s work in a marvelous modern adaption of Lovecraft’s personal favorite of his short stories. Color Out of Space earned overall positive reviews and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, it is one of few adaptations that hits all the major plot points of Lovecraft’s frightening tale.

Color Out of Space
Release Date
September 7, 2019

Director
Richard Stanley

Runtime
111

Main Genre
Sci-Fi

Writers
Scarlett Amaris , H.P. Lovecraft , Richard Stanley

Color Out of Space can be streamed on AMC+ in the U.S.

Watch on AMC+

7 ‘Annihilation’ (2018)

Cast: Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, and Jennifer Jason Leigh

The expedition force gears up
Image via Paramount Pictures

Biologist and former soldier, Lena Double (Natalie Portman) joins a mission to investigate the Shimmer, a mysterious phenomenon that is rapidly expanding across the American coastline. Once Double and her team enter the Shimmer, they discover a mutant place that is just as beautiful as it is dangerous, which soon threatens their sanity as well as their chances of survival.

Portman stars in the science-fiction thriller, Annihilation, which is loosely based on the 2014 novel by the same name written by Jeff VanderMeer and a fitting introduction to Lovecraftian horror. The film consists of traditional Lovecraftian elements, specifically the emphasis on the horrors of the unknown and unexplainable that are difficult to comprehend in our reality. Annihilation was praised by critics for its stunning visuals and ambitious, challenging themes, which resonate with audiences long after the credits have finished rolling.

annihilation-poster

Annihilation
Release Date
February 22, 2018

Director
Alex Garland

Runtime
115 minutes

Main Genre
Sci-Fi

Writers
Alex Garland , Jeff VanderMeer

Studio
Paramount Pictures

Annihilation can be streamed on Prime Video in the U.S.

Watch on Prime

6 ‘The Mist’ (2007)

Cast: Thomas Jane, Laurie Holden, and Marcia Gay Harden

Thomas Jane and Laurie Holden as David and Amanda looking terrified from something ahead in The Mist
Image via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

After a severe storm hits a town in Maine, David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his son drive into town to get food, and shortly after, a thick fog rolls in and traps Drayton, his son, and others inside a grocery store. While everyone tries to think of a way out, bloodthirsty extraterrestrial creatures soon reveal themselves and begin picking off those who risk venturing into the mysterious haze.

The Mist is one of the best adaptations of the 1980 novella written by horror legend, Stephen King, who is known for incorporating Lovecraftian horror elements into his work. The film received mixed reviews but, all in all, The Mist is a classic horror film riddled with dark intensity and nail-biting suspense. According to Empire, The Mist is « criminally overlooked » and noted as one of the best horror movies of the last few years at the time.

The Mist 2007 Poster

The Mist
Release Date
November 21, 2007

Director
Frank Darabont

Runtime
126 minutes

The Mist can be streamed on Hulu in the U.S.

Watch on Hulu

5 ‘In the Mouth of Madness’ (1994)

Cast: Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, and Jürgen Prochnow

Sam Neill as John Trent smiling while watching a movie at a theater in In the Mouth of Madness
Image via New Line Cinema

When horror novelist, Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow) goes missing, an insurance investigator, John Trent (Sam Neill) is skeptical of the claim made by Cane’s publisher (Charlton Heston) and looks at an unpublished manuscript by Cane, hoping it will give him an idea about the author’s whereabouts. Trent becomes haunted by the manuscript and plagued by nightmares, which eventually lead him to a supernatural town in New Hampshire.

The final installment in John Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy, In the Mouth of Madness,is an insane love letter to Lovecraft’s work with a title derived from the author’s novella, At the Mountains of Madness. Even though In the Mouth of Madness earned mixed reviews and was a box office flop, several critics, including the Los Angeles Times, still praised Carpenter’s direction as well as the special effects and intriguing premise.

In the Mouth of Madness
Release Date
February 3, 1995

Runtime
95

Main Genre
Horror

In the Mouth of Madness can be streamed on Prime Video in the U.S.

Watch on Prime

4 ‘Re-Animator’ (1985)

Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, and Barbara Crampton

Re-animator
Image via Empire International Pictures 

After a medical student, Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), invents a substance that can reanimate the deceased, he travels to the United States to further his studies. There, he and his classmate, Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) try to convince the dean, Dr. Halsey (Robert Sampson) of the discovery but, instead, Halsey believes they have lost their minds and bans them from school. Unwilling to give up on their medical careers, they sneak into the school’s morgue, but when Halsey discovers them, he’s accidentally killed and miraculously brought back to life by West’s invention.

The horror comedy, Re-Animator, is loosely based on Lovecraft’s 1921 short story, Herbert West – Reanimator, and earned three out of four stars from famous film critic, Roger Ebert. Re-Animator is essentially a modernized Frankenstein that has the perfect balance of terror and laughs and is topped off with a spectacular performance by West. The Washington Times praised West’s performance, stating he didn’t « spoof » the character, delivering a comical mold of Psycho‘s Anthony Perkins.

Re-Animator
Release Date
October 18, 1985

Director
Stuart Gordon
Cast
Jeffrey Combs , Bruce Abbott , Barbara Crampton , David Gale , Robert Sampson , Gerry Black

Runtime
86

Main Genre
Horror

Writers
H.P. Lovecraft , Dennis Paoli , William Norris , Stuart Gordon

Re-Animator can be streamed on AMC+ in the U.S.

Watch on AMC+

3 ‘The Lighthouse’ (2019)

Cast: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson, and Valeriia Karaman

Ephraim Winslow and Thomas Wake looking at the camera in 'The Lighthouse'
Image via A24

Set in the 1890s, Ephriam Winslow (Robert Pattinson) starts his new job as a lighthouse keeper on an isolated island off the coast of New England under the supervision of a former sailor, Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe). A few days before their scheduled departure, a severe storm rolls in, leaving them marooned at the lighthouse until it passes, but during their unplanned stay, they begin to hallucinate and struggle to maintain their sanity.

Director, Robert Eggers, has a knack for locking audiences into his visions of fever dreams, and his Oscar-nominated film, The Lighthouse, is no exception. The A24 horror film centers around the subject of madness, which is one of the main traditional elements of Lovecraftian horror, and consists of creepy, but captivating performances by both Pattinson and Dafoe. The Lighthouse received rave reviews from critics, including Crumpa, calling it a « darkly exciting » film made with « extraordinary skill. »

The Lighthouse Poster

The Lighthouse
Release Date
October 18, 2019

Director
Robert Eggers

Runtime
110

Main Genre
Documentary

Writers
Max Eggers , Robert Eggers

The Lighthouse can be streamed on Prime Video in the U.S.

Watch on Prime

2 ‘The Evil Dead’ (1981)

Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, and Betsy Baker

Opening scene of The Evil Dead
Image via New Line Cinema

Ashley « Ash » Williams (Bruce Campbell) is a college student who, along with several of his friends, takes a break from their studies and stay at a cabin in the woods. While there, they discover a book one night and make the mistake of reading aloud from it and unknowingly unleash an unspeakable evil and demonic spirit. As Ash watches his friends become possessed one by one, he’s faced with the difficult decision of saving his friends or fighting for his own life.

The first installment of director Sam Raimi’s horror trilogy, The Evil Dead, is considered to be a key supernatural thriller as well as a classic example of Lovecraftian horror. The low-budget film earned positive reviews from critics and, per the Los Angeles Times, is « probably the grisliest well-made movie ever. » After the impressive reception and a rave review from author, Stephen King, the film was eventually acquired and distributed by New Line Cinema.

The Evil Dead 1981 Film Poster

The Evil Dead (1981)
Release Date
April 15, 1983
Cast
Bruce Campbell , Ellen Sandweiss , Richard DeManincor , Betsy Baker

Runtime
85 minutes

The Evil Dead can be streamed on AMC+ in the U.S.

Watch on AMC+

1 ‘The Thing’ (1982)

Cast: Kurt Russell, Keith David, and Wilford Brimley

Kurst Russell as R.J. MacReady holding a lantern in 'The Thing'
Image via Universal Pictures

When a group of American scientists in Antarctica witness a helicopter aggressively shooting a husky, they save the dog and bring it into their camp. Shortly after, the dog brutally attacks two of the scientists, and the others eventually realize that they’ve taken in a supernatural creature that can shapeshift into anything and anyone. As the group tries to survive, they begin to question each other’s true identity and slowly descend into madness.

The second installment in John Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy, The Thing, is an ultimate cult classic and epic Lovecraftian horror film that marks off every element of the subgenre. Initially, the movie earned negative reviews and was criticized for its gruesome special effects, which many critics felt overshadowed the characters and their purpose. In recent years, The Thing has been re-examined and considered to be one of the most rewatchable 80s sci-fi horror films, making it a staple of the genre.

the thing poster

The Thing (1982)
Release Date
June 25, 1982

Runtime
109

Main Genre
Horror

Writers
John W. Campbell Jr. , Bill Lancaster

Studio
Universal

The Thing can be streamed on Prime Video in the U.S.

Watch on Prime

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