[Top 15] Horror Movies That Were Books

If you're a horror buff of any type, you'll love these petrifying pairings.


Looking for your next great scare?

As something of a horror aficionado, I am not immune to the age-old gloating of the bookworm: the book was better. It's mostly because books aren't constrained by time limits, CGI budgets, or censors and can often include more details that make shivers run up your spine.

Nonetheless, horror movies remain one of my favourite pastimes - even if I'm hiding underneath every blanket I have in the house, I love the sensation of being scared. So I won't be choosing between horror movies and horror novels - we can have both! In fact, books often inspire films, giving us the best of both worlds. Here are the top 15 best horror movies that were inspired by books.

15. Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her husband Guy (John Cassavetes) have moved into the Bramford apartment building, determined to make it their new home despite their friend's warning that it has a history of being tied with witchcraft and murder. After her husband grows close with their odd elderly neighbours, Rosemary finds herself in the middle of a plot that requires her to give birth to a supernatural child.

This deeply disturbing film was written and directed by Roman Polanski, but it was based on the novel by Ira Levin, which was published in 1967. Polanski would later state that he crafted the screenplay to resemble the novel as closely as possible, so the differences between the book and the film are minute.

14. Pet Sematary (1989)

For the Creed family, the little town of Ludlow, Maine is supposed to be a fresh start. But when they arrive, they discover that the town is beyond a little strange - in fact, there's a spot called a "pet sematary" behind their house where local kids bury pets that have been hit by cars. After discovering that the land that the "sematary" is on the power to bring things back from the dead, Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) is tempted to do the unthinkable. But sometimes, dead is better...

This petrifying film is not for the faint of heart, and neither is the novel it's based on. Pet Sematary is one of Stephen King's most famous novels, published in 1983 - despite the fact that it's so terrifying, even King himself didn't want it published for a time.

13. The Haunting of Hill House (2018)

OK, technically this one is a TV series, but it's still based on a book. The five Crain siblings are reuniting after over two decades of being apart. After they fled a rundown mansion known as Hill House in 1992, they've been dealing with their trauma in different ways. But it's time - time to confront the haunting at Hill House.

This blockbuster Netflix series aired in 2018, and it's safe to say that it's one of the scariest things I've ever watched. The plot is loosely based on the novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson, which was published in 1959. Season 2, The Haunting of Bly Manor, is also based on a book - The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, which was published in 1898. 

12. The Woman in Black (2012)

This gothic creepshow will have you sleeping with the lights on for weeks. Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) has been sent to the isolated English village of Crythin Gifford to retrieve any documents left by a deceased widow before her remote estate can be sold. When he arrives, Arthur discovers that the town has been plagued by an epidemic of children mysteriously committing suicide and sightings of a sinister spectre that looks like a woman in a black veil.

This creepy movie is an absolute must-see, and so is the novel that inspired it. It's an adaptation of The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, which was published in 1983. 

11. Interview with the Vampire (1994)

If you're into vampires, then you have to see this film. The film chronicles the story of Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt) and his transformation into a vampire at the hands of Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise) and his life as a vampire after that point. Louis has lived a harrowing life of battles against other vampires and has decided to tell his tale to reporter Daniel Molloy (Christian Slater). 

This star-studded vampire blockbuster is based on Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, published in 1976. The book series includes a lot more details on Louis and Lestat than the film does, so I would recommend giving the books a try.

10. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

This iconic black-and-white movie starts in the middle of an alien invasion. Santa Mira, California has been visited by alien seeds that are capable of duplicating any sleeping human that is near them. These emotionless copies are bent on helping the aliens take over Earth.

This cornerstone of American film is based on The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney. The resulting film was so imprinted on the subsequent culture that it was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry in 1994 for its significance.

9. The Amityville Horror (1979)

If you're even a little bit of a horror movie buff, you've probably heard of The Amityville Horror. The film follows George and Kathy Lutz (James Brolin and Margot Kidder), who move into a house in Amityville, New York with their three children. Shortly after they arrive, they start being terrorized by paranormal activity and must fight for their lives and souls.

The Amityville Horror is one of the most iconic films produced by the 70s, and it was based on a book of the same name published by Jay Anson in 1977. It claims to have been based on a true story - George and Kathy Lutz were real people, and the murders committed by Ronald DeFeo Jr. actually happened. I'll let you be the judge on the Satanic floating pig, though.

8. Jaws (1975)

The film that puts Steven Spielberg on the map starts with a day at the beach. A young woman named Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie) goes skinny dipping at a party on Amity Island, only to be violently pulled underwater. Later, she's found dead due to a brutal shark attack. As the bodies pile up and the ocean runs red, police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) and his team must catch the shark before it kills again.

Jaws is absolutely iconic - if you don't know anything about Jaws, then I'm going to assume you've been living underneath a rock. But a lot of people don't know that the film was actually based on a novel of the same name, published by Peter Benchley in 1974.

7. The Exorcist (1973)

I don't think I can write anything about horror movies with "best" in the headline without mentioning The Exorcist. The film that has terrified viewers for almost 50 years follows a 12-year-old girl named Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) who has been showing signs of demonic possession. Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) is asked to diagnose what might be wrong with Regan and finds himself facing off against the forces of evil.

The Exorcist has imprinted itself on the face of American horror films, and its origin lies with William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel of the same name, which was said to be so terrifying that many readers threw the book away after or even during reading it.

6. The Birds (1963)

Alfred Hitchcock's terrifying man-vs-nature thriller chronicles a series of sudden, violent bird attacks on the citizens of Bodega Bay, California. Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) has come to Bodega Bay to meet up with Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), only to be attacked by a gull upon her arrival. The attacks increase in severity, even killing several neighbours. No one is safe...

While the premise of this movie sounds strange and ridiculous, let me tell you that it is terrifying. The birds maim and kill multiple people throughout the film, and the scenes where they attack can only be described as nightmarish. The film is based on a novella called The Birds by Daphne du Maurier, which was published in a short story collection called The Apple Tree in 1952. The ending of the story is described as "more pessimistic" than the ending of Hitchcock's film - I'll let you be the judge of that.

5. Let the Right One In (2008)

Oskar is a meek 12-year-old boy living in a suburb of Stockholm. He's regularly bullied and spends his spare time fantasizing about murder and revenge, collecting newspaper clippings about gruesome crimes. A strange, pale girl named Eli moves into the apartment next door to Oskar's, alongside her older guardian, Håkan. As Oskar and Eli's relationship develops, strange murders start piling up around them. Is Eli the cause of the murders?

This strangely emotional vampire flick is based on Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, and it's well known for breaking many conventions of the vampire genre.

4. The Shining (1980)

The Shining follows Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), who has accepted a position at the isolated Overlook Hotel over the winter. Soon after he arrives with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd), strange things start happening. Danny discovers that he has psychic abilities called "the shining" that allow him to interact with the hotel's many ghosts. The hotel also has a sinister hold on Jack, whose sanity is starting to slip. 

The world's best-loved locked-door thriller is based on the 1977 novel by the master of horror, Stephen King. However, King didn't like the film adaptation, describing Duvall's portrayal of Wendy Torrance as "a screaming dishrag", amongst other criticisms.

3. Audition (1999)

After Shigeharu Aoyama's (Ryu Ishibashi) wife dies, his film producer friend stages a fake audition to help him find a new wife. The girl that he chooses is Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina), a beautiful young actress that Aoyama immediately falls for, despite the numerous men that have gone missing or been found dismembered after interacting with her. After she disappears following their first night together, Aoyama attempts to track her down, only to fall deeper into her twisted web...

Audition is one of the most disturbing films ever made, and it influenced horror directors like Eli Roth and the Soska sisters. It's based on a novel of the same name by Ryu Murakami.

2. Psycho (1960)

How was I ever going to write an article like this without talking about Psycho? The iconic Hitchcock film follows Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who's on the run after stealing $40 000 from her job in order to run away with her boyfriend Sam (John Gavin). She stops for the night at the isolated Bates Motel and ends up having dinner with the strange owner, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). As Marion stays in the hotel, it becomes apparent that there's something off about Norman Bates...

Psycho is often named as one of the single most influential films ever made - it's often thought of as the first-ever slasher film, and it would later pave the way for big-screen baddies like Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger. It was based on a novel of the same name by Robert Bloch that was published in 1959.

1. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is hunting a madman. The young FBI trainee has been tasked with catching the notorious Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), who skins his female victims. To gain some insight into who could commit such gruesome crimes, Clarice decides to consult Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a psychiatrist imprisoned after going on a cannibalistic murder spree. To stop the murders, Clarice must engage in a deadly cat-and-mouse game with not one, but two twisted psychopaths.

Silence of the Lambs is one of the most well-known psychological horror films in the world, and Anthony Hopkins' excellent performance as Hannibal Lecter would influence generations of horror movie baddies. The film was based on The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, published in 1988. It's the second in a series of four books about Hannibal Lecter, all of which have influenced iconic films and TV shows.



I divide my time between playing games at unholy hours of the night and writing about them; occasionally I allot moments for sleep and refueling.
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