Many of the most popular horror movies were adapted from books. Most recently, The Black Phone, based on the horror anthology novel of the same name by Joe Hill, has seen massive success in theaters. As many fans are raving about The Black Phone Now, it’s hard to ignore many other popular horror films based on books. Movies like The Ring, The Amityville Horrorand I Know What You Did Last Summer are among the popular horror flicks that were adapted from books.
Some of the horror book adaptations failed to live up to their source material, but there are many movies that are equally as scary, or even more scary than the book. Authors such as Stephen King are known for having many successful adaptations of his horror novels, but Ranker fans brought some other movies to the table.
Note: Ranker lists are fan-voted, live, and continue to accrue votes, so some rankings may have changed after this publishing.
10 Frankenstein (1931)
Stream on Classix
Frankenstein follows a genius scientist as he creates a new sentient being out of others’ body parts. Things go terribly wrong for Dr. Frankenstein when he realizes that he created a vicious monster.
Frankenstein is the oldest movie in Ranker’s top 10, but it still holds up today. Frankenstein’s frightening appearance coupled with the old-school movie-making techniques is likely why this movie is deemed so horrifying and unnerving by viewers. The monster’s gruesome look is often replicated at Halloween and referenced in other films and shows, which is what helps keep it in the popular imagination and in the hearts of film lovers.
9 The Birds (1963)
Available to Rent on Amazon Prime Video
The Birds follows Melanie, a rich socialite as she travels to Bodega Bay. Suddenly, the birds in the town begin attacking residents. Melanie has to survive the attack and find a way out of the town.
The Birds was based on a short story collected in a book titled The Apple Tree. The story on which it’s based isn’t as widely known, and the movie has certainly surpassed the book in its success. There were also real-life incidents that influenced the movie, specifically the Sooty Shearwater incident, a bird attack that took place in Capitola, California in 1961. In real life, hordes of birds crashed into people’s homes and cars due to toxic algae (per Santa Cruz Museum). It’s likely this real-life event made the film even scarier, as it’s proven to be something that could really happen.
8 Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Available to Rent on Amazon Prime Video & AppleTV
After Dracula’s lover takes their own life, he becomes mad and vengeful in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Sometime after, he meets a woman that he believes is the reincarnation of his former love and seeks to take her away from her fiance and bring terror to their land.
Dracula is one of the most widely known horror villains, and often the character who comes to mind when people mention vampires. Dracula the book is a classic with plenty of unnerving moments and this film is popular for accurately following the story while adding its own flair to the character. Not only is this Dracula movie a horror, but it’s also romantic, which gives it a lot of depth. Even though Dracula isn’t the standard horror with jump-scares, the vampire Dracula is menacing enough to make the viewer uncomfortable.
7 Hellraiser (1987)
Stream on Amazon Prime Video, AMC+, Hoopla, & Shudder
After a man named Frank accidentally opens a portal to hell that destroys his body, his ex-girlfriend and brother move into his home and discover that he’s turned into a monster. He then forces his ex to bring human sacrifices to him, so that he can make himself whole again.
Hellraiser is based on a novel called The Hellbound Heart, but shockingly, Hellraiser’s main villain Pinhead hardly appears in the book. Pinhead has become a well-known killer with an iconic look. He’s terrifying enough to have even become one of the best killers in the game Dead by Daylight. While the book focuses on the cenobites as the villain, the movie is actually even scarier because of Pinhead. He has a menacing look, and the way he can easily be summoned and take others’ lives is memorably creepy.
6 It (2017)
Stream on Netflix & HBO Max
It follows a group of kids in a town called Derry, which has been haunted by a demon that returns every few years to kill people in order to increase its strength. This demon takes on the appearance of a clown called Pennywise and preys on people’s fear, making children its easiest target.
Pennywise is one of the scariest supernatural slasher villains in movies and its source material is equally, if not, even more, terrifying. It is surprisingly accurate to its source material, but the book has many scenes that weren’t included in the movie. Either way, this film brought the menacing Pennywise to life. Pennywise can manipulate people’s surroundings and make them see whatever he wants. He’s also nearly impossible to kill and overly powerful, which makes him one of the scariest horror killers.
5 Psycho (1960)
Available to Rent on Amazon Prime Video & AMC On Demand
Psycho follows Marion, a young woman who is running away from her life as she comes across Bates Motel. There she meets the motel owner Norman Bates, who runs the place with his mother. As Norman becomes attracted to Marion, things begin to go south.
There are many movies and shows that parody Psychoand that’s because the movie is incredibly recognizable and iconic in film history. Psycho’s The most iconic scene is the murder scene in the shower, which is known for popularizing scary shower scenes in horror. Its book isn’t as well known as the movie, but it goes deeper into the relationship between Norman and his mother than the movie does, making it a worthy read.
4 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Stream on FuboTV, AMC+, & DIRECTV
The Silence of the Lambs follows an FBI agent who seeks the help of apprehended serial killer Hannibal Lecter in order to catch another killer who has been taking female victims. The FBI decides to use Clarice Starling, a young student in training to help draw out the killer.
Silence of the Lambs Focuses on the smart, cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter. His appetite for humans and intelligence make him intimidating to watch, but the serial killer who Hannibal is helping catch is equally as scary. The fact that Silence of the Lambs has more than one threatening villain makes it even more creepy than the standard serial killer flick.
3 Jaws (1975)
Stream on FuboTV, Peacock, & DIRECTV
Jaws follows a police chief, marine biologist, and fisherman who unite to capture a shark that has been attacking residents of Amity on the beach. As the trio attempt to put a stop to the shark, they realize it’s much more clever and violent than they bargained for.
Jaws is one of the most rewatchable Steven Spielberg movies but many people don’t know that Jaws is based on a book of the same name, with some fans saying the book far surpasses the film in terms of depth. While shark attacks at the beach are uncommon, this is something that has happened in real life, and it’s certainly a fear of many beach-goers. Jaws may be exaggerated, but it’s something that could really happen, which makes it all the more terrifying.
2 Carrie (1976)
Stream on Amazon Prime Video & Paramount+
Carrie follows a teenage girl who’s bullied at school as she discovers new telekinetic powers. After kids pull a harsh prank on her, Carrie loses control of her powers and becomes a threat to her classmates.
Carrie is one of the best film adaptations of Stephen King’s books due to how faithful it is to the source. Carrie is a successful and terrifying adaptation because it takes a relatable girl and turns her into an unstoppable villain. Carrie’s superhuman powers and willingness to use those powers to hurt those who wronged her were scary, especially because of how unexpected it was.
1 The Exorcist (1973)
Stream on The Roku Channel
After playing with a Ouija board, a girl named Regan becomes possessed by an evil spirit. Her parents then call upon two priests to help save their daughter from the violent demon that is threatening to hurt them.
The Exorcist was already a successful novel before the movie came out, but the movie helped it reach new heights. Exorcisms have become a staple in many modern horror films such as The ConjuringAnnabelle, and many others. The Exorcist definitely served as the blueprint and the possession of Regan is one of the most horrifying in cinema history. The Exorcist has unforgettable scenes, such as Regan’s head spinning all the way around, which is no doubt why Ranker’s film fans voted it so highly.
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