10 Great Horror Movies You Can Watch for Free

Reading Time: 5 minutes
haxan
“And there sat the devil’s grandmother with all her witchcraft.” image: ‘Häxan’ Swedish Film Institute print

Copyright is a fickle mistress, and filmmakers who don’t actively protect their intellectual property have, for generations, seen their art slip into what we typically refer to as the public domain. Sure, the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 will prevent any additional films from automatically becoming public domain works until January of 2019, but there are already some 2000 motion pictures freely available for your perusal.

Since I spend much of the month of October gathering and enjoying various frightful films, this seemed like the perfect jumping-off point for sharing my finds with you, the GeekDad audience. So read on to discover a cool 10 suggestions for movies to add to your own watchlist, each of them free for the taking.

I’ve included titles and MPAA rating information where available (which links to notes regarding any potentially disconcerting content), as well as the original release dates, movie trailers, Rotten Tomatoes’ aggregated critics scores, synopses, and links to the films themselves. So dim the lights, grab some popcorn, and watch the horror unfold!

Dementia 13 (Unrated — Parents Guide)

Original release date: September 25, 1963
Runtime: 75 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 67%
Synopsis: Noted for being the “mainstream” directorial debut of Francis Ford Coppola (with his previous work limited to erotic—aka exploitation—cinema), Dementia 13 has it all: multiple mysterious deaths, a scheming widow, a creepy old castle, and crazy rich people. Oh, and an axe murderer. A solid blend of horror-thriller tropes, with a little conspiracy tossed in for texture, it’s not the best movie on the list, but it might be the weirdest.
Available via: HorrorthequeInternet Archive, YouTube
Trailer: 


The Last Man on Earth (Unrated — Parents Guide)

Original release date: March 8, 1964
Runtime: 86 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 71%
Synopsis: Based on Richard Matheson’s iconic novel I Am Legend, The Last Man on Earth sees Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) as seemingly the last human survivor of a virulent plague that has turned his friends, coworkers, and loved ones into nocturnal, vampiric creatures that stalk (and taunt) him each night. But the discovery of a stray dog and, later, a frightened woman once again threatens to upend the world as Morgan knows it.
Available via: Horrortheque, Internet Archive, YouTube
Trailer:


Carnival of Souls (PG — Parents Guide)

Original release date: September 26, 1962
Runtime: 78 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 85%
Synopsis: Ok, I take back what I said about Dementia 13; this one is the weirdest. This cult classic of ’60s indie horror starts with an automobile accident and ends with some delicate revenant choreography. What happens in the interim? I couldn’t begin to tell you… despite having watched this movie probably a dozen times. That said, there’s a haunting, beautiful aesthetic to it that somehow manages to elevate Carnival of Souls from nonsensical shocker to unlikely art film.
Available via: Horrortheque, Internet Archive, YouTube
Trailer: 


Häxan (Unrated — Parents Guide)

Original release date: September 18, 1922
Runtime: 74 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88%
Synopsis: Though conceived as a documentary (based in part on director Benjamin Christensen’s study of the Malleus Maleficarum), this Swedish-Danish silent film contains creepy dramatized sequences exploring everything from the superstitions of the Middle Ages to witch-hunt hysteria. A gorgeous historical record of 1920s filmmaking, it was long banned because of its depictions of violence, nudity (so many old-timey behinds!), and, obviously, the occult.
Available via: Horrortheque, Internet Archive, YouTube
Trailer:


White Zombie (Passed — Parents Guide)

Original release date: July 28, 1932
Runtime: 67 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89%
Synopsis: The only White Zombie film not to feature Sheri Moon Zombie‘s naked butt—Thank you! I’m here all week. Try the veal.—this Béla Lugosi classic casts him as Murder Legendre, a distinctly Caucasian Haitian voodoo lord. A tale of love, jealousy, and zombies (in the classic sense), it was panned by the critics of its time only to be embraced by modern horror aficionados.
Available via: Horrortheque, Internet Archive, YouTube
Trailer:


The Little Shop of Horrors (Unrated — Parents Guide)

Original release date: September 14, 1960
Runtime: 72 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%
Synopsis: Though not to be confused with the beloved 1986 Rick Moranis vehicle, this 1960 Roger Corman black comedy does hit most of the same plot points. There’s the nerdy Seymour Krelboyne (Jonathan Haze), the lovely Audrey Fulquard (Jackie Joseph), and a sinister, carnivorous plant. What this one lacks in soulful songs, it more than makes up for in thrills, chills, and Jack Nicholson. Just, uh, don’t expect the same happily-ever-after ending.
Available via: Internet Archive, YouTube
Trailer: 


House on Haunted Hill (Unrated — Parents Guide)

Original release date: February 17, 1959
Runtime: 75 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96%
Synopsis: Vincent Price ‘s Frederick Loren invites guests to a party thrown in his wife Annabelle’s honor at a rental house, promising to reward each with $10,000 if they can survive the night locked inside the haunted property. Because OF COURSE he does. More importantly, though, this movie has perhaps the best-worst closing line of dialog in cinematic history.
Available via: Horrortheque, Internet Archive, YouTube
Trailer:


Night of the Living Dead (Unrated — Parents Guide)

Original release date: October 1, 1968
Runtime: 96 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96%
Synopsis: Also inspired by I Am Legend, this 1968 classic redefined independent horror, popularized the modern concept of the undead ghoul, and highlighted the kinds of unique, progressive socio-political messages that could explored within the framework of the traditional monster movie. It would also set the stage for the long, strange career of the great George A. Romero.
Available via: Horrortheque, Internet Archive, YouTube
Trailer:


Nosferatu (Unrated — Parents Guide)

Original release date: March 4, 1922
Runtime: 84 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 97%
Synopsis: Even if you’ve never watched this influential silent masterpiece, you are doubtlessly familiar with the image of Max Schreck’s bald, lumbering Count Orlok as he sails into the harbor in stark black and white. And who can forget his hunched back and spindly fingers as his shadow menacingly ascends that staircase? Inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula and, in turn, inspiring horror writers, filmmakers, and devotees for nigh on a century, it’s a classic for a reason.
Available via: Internet Archive, YouTube
Trailer:


Spider Baby (Unrated — Parents Guide)

Original release date: December 24, 1967
Runtime: 86 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%
Synopsis: Ralph, Virginia, and Elizabeth are the youngest heirs of the Merrye line, a warped, inbred clan whose questionable genetic makeup causes them to slip into violent madness shortly after adolescence. Insulated, such as they can be, from the world at large by caretaker Bruno (Lon Chaney, Jr.), things come to a grim but predictable end when two distant cousins arrive, a lawyer in tow, to take possession of the Merrye property and the family fortune.
Available via: Internet Archive, YouTube
Trailer:

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