The 12 best Christmas horror movies to watch instead of corny comedies

The legend of the Krampus serves as the inspiration for many Christmas horror movies, including 2015’s ‘Krampus.’ Universal Pictures
  • Corny Christmas movies are cute to watch over the holiday season, but too many of them can be a bit too sugar-sweet.
  • Instead, mix up your Christmas viewing with a grisly horror or blackly-comic slasher with these 12 Christmas-themed horror movies.
  • Or, if if you’d rather softer scary movies, watch horror-tinged family films like “Gremlins” or “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

‘Dead of Night’ (1945)

‘Dead of Night’ was directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Robert Hamer, and Basil Dearden. Eagle-Lion Films/Universal Pictures

Old movies can still be scary. In fact, this film popularised the now-cliche scary ventriloquist doll, which is such a popular trope that even Disney and Pixar played on it in “Toy Story 4.”

The movie is an anthology of spooky tales all tied together using the narrative framing of guests sharing stories at a country house.

‘Gremlins’ (1984)

‘Gremlins’ was directed by Joe Dante. Warner Bros.

Not quite an out-and-out horror like some others on the list, but there is a ton of horror influence on this movie. It’s actually more deadly than you might remember. The gremlins straight-up murder people, and the people murder them back in some pretty creative, gruesome ways.

The movie follows Billy (Zach Galligan) taking care of Gizmo, a mogwai, but things go wrong when he doesn’t follow the strict rules of how to care for the creature.

‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ (1984)

‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ was directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr. TriStar Pictures.

This slasher movie has influenced a lot of preceding Christmas horror movies, and was so popular that it spawned five sequels.

The movie follows a traumatized kid who witnesses his parents butchered by Santa, but the kid grows up to be just like Santa himself in this violent Christmas tale.

‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ (1993)

‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ was directed by Henry Selick. Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Again, this is not your classic horror but “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is crammed with so much horror imagery that it deserves to be on this list. It references multiple classic horror stories including “Nosferatu” and “Frankenstein,” and features a jazz-singing villain called Oogie Boogie trying to kill Santa.

The movie itself follows Jack Skellington, king of Halloween Town, suffering something of a mid-life crisis and trying to hijack Christmas for himself.

‘Rare Exports: A Christmas Story’ (2010)

‘Rare Exports: A Christmas Story’ was directed by Jalmari Helander. FS Film Oy/Scanbox Entertainment/Chrysalis Films

This eerie Christmas movie is set in Lapland, but here the magical home of Santa is actually an ancient tomb keeping safe an evil being. But the old secret is unearthed after a group begin excavating the site.

What follows is a morbid Christmas tale featuring evil elves, a cannibalistic Santa, and a ton of slaughtered reindeer.

‘Sint’ (2010)

‘Sint’ was directed by Dick Maas. A-Film

This comedy-horror plays very much like a Christmas Jeepers Creepers, with Santa reimagined as a mythical figure who returns every certain number of years to wreak havoc, violence, and death upon a local town.

Specifically, Santa here is a murderous bishop who was killed by villagers on December 5 (Sinterklaas) in 1492. He returns every time the date of his death coincides with a full moon, and a police detective whose family fell victim to the bishop’s last violent rampage must try and put the curse to bed once and for all.

‘Silent Night’ (2012)

‘Silent Night’ was directed by Steven C. Miller. Anchor Bay Films

The casting of “A Clockwork Orange” actor Malcolm McDowell tells you what sort of movie this is going to be. Tinged with comedy, it’s also a film with genuine horror imagery and a host of violent death scenes.

The movie follows a murderous Santa who is spending Christmas Eve killing off citizens of a midwestern town one by one, as he pleases.

‘A Christmas Horror Story’ (2015)

‘A Christmas Horror Story’ was directed by Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, and Brett Sullivan. Image Entertainment/RLJ Entertainment

Another Christmas horror anthology. These spooky festive tales are bound together by a radio host, who tells each of them in turn. Amongst the various segments are: Santa and Krampus facing off; a student documentary movie going wrong; and an evil spirit of Christmas inflicting terror anywhere it can.

‘Krampus’ (2015)

‘Krampus’ was directed by Michael Dougherty. Universal Pictures

One of the more high-profile movies on this list, Michael Dougherty’s playful Christmas romp features an excellent cast including Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, and Conchata Ferrell.

A dysfunctional family is terrorised by Krampus and his evil minions, including a giant Jack-in-the-box, after the son of the family accidentally summons the demon by giving up on Christmas.

‘Better Watch Out’ (2016)

‘Better Watch Out’ was directed by Chris Peckover. Well Go USA/Rialto Distribution

This mysterious home-invasion movie follows a babysitter looking after a 12-year-old boy during Christmas time.

She is forced to defend him, however, when intruders force their way into their home – but it’s not your normal home-invasion, nor your normal home-invasion movie.

‘Anna and the Apocalypse’ (2017)

‘Anna and the Apocalypse’ was directed by John McPhail. Vertigo Releasing

This movie splices together five different genres: comedy, horror, Christmas, musical, and zombie. Yep, Anna faces the end of the world when a zombie apocalypse happens during Christmas, but she doesn’t just face the undead with axes – she faces them with sharpened candy canes and show tunes, too.

‘Black Christmas’ (2019)

‘Black Christmas’ was directed by Sophia Takal. Universal Pictures

This 2019 update is actually a remake of a remake. The movie is loosely based on the 1974 film of the same name, which was also the basis of the 2006 movie of the same name.

This time, it’s given a feminist twist, with a group of sorority sisters at a college stalked by a killer and forced to defend themselves. They soon discover a larger conspiracy at work, however, with both their sorority and their college part of it.