It’s October, and everyone is on a quest to find some highly scary viewing for the Halloween holiday. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working my way through the decades, highlighting the absolute scariest horror films from each.
The 1960s were full of social, political, and moral turbulence in America. From the Vietnam War to racial tensions to the sexual revolution, these deeper issues became part of the film language, often manifesting themselves as underlying themes in our cinema. It was also one of the first decades when international horror films begin to creep across nations and make their way into the US movie industry. Britain established itself as a strong horror voice, but we also saw brilliantly spooky films come from France, Japan, Italy, and more.
Please enjoy our list of the 10 scariest horror movies from the 1960s. I also included some runner-ups that may not be quite as landmark or influential as the ones on the list, but they still pack a hell of a horror punch!
PEEPING TOM (1960)(Pictured Above)
Cameraman by day/ serial killer by night, a withdrawn young man murders women using his camera with a knife and mirror attached, so that not only can he record their deaths, but the victims are forced to watch themselves die. Sadly, this film was destroyed by critics when it was first released and put a quick end to the director’s career. It wasn’t until years later that fans realized how remarkable the film is.
EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1960)
After a horrible accident, everyone believes young Christiane is dead. In actuality, she is alive but horrible disfigured. Her father, riddled with guilt over the accident, kidnaps young women and removes their faces attempting to replace the one his daughter lost.
The Alfred Hitchcock staple is definitely one of the scariest films of the decade! It is also one of the most enduring. Norman Bates/ Mother are still well-known and loved in the horror genre almost 60 years later.
THE INNOCENTS (1961)
A woman takes a nanny job in a Victorian home looking after two very peculiar children. She soon begins to see ghosts and believes the children may actually be possessed by the spirits.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962)
Bette Davis is downright disturbing as a mentally unhinged elderly woman who still lives her life as a child starlet, all while torturing her paraplegic sister, Blanche. For more on the Hollywood “hag” sub-genre of the 1960s, read this.
THE HAUNTING (1963)
In the name of science, a doctor invites participants to a supposedly haunted mansion to explore the concept of fear. But it soon becomes clear the participants may not be completely sane.
BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965)
I’m surprised this Otto Preminger gem is not more established in the horror world. A woman goes to pick her daughter up from school one day, but her daughter isn’t there. In fact, there is no record of her daughter ever having been there…or even existing.
WAIT UNTIL DARK (1967)
Audrey Hepburn plays a blind woman who accidentally comes into possession of a doll stuffed full of heroin. After the criminals realize she has it, they begin stalking her in an attempt to get the drugs back. Audrey Hepburn was nominated for an Academy Award for this incredibly tense flick!
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
This George Romero classic not only defined what we would come to understand as a “zombie” for decades to come, but it reshaped the entire horror genre.
ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968)
Roman Polanski’s tale of Satan reborn shocked and terrified audiences. It also raised powerful social statements over birth control and a woman’s right to her own body.
BLACK SUNDAY (1960)
NIGHT TIDE (1961)
CAPE FEAR (1962)
THE SADIST (1963)
LADY IN A CAGE (1964)
BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964)
WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968)