10 Great Horror Films Directed by Women

Need some viewing suggestions for the eighth annual Women in Horror Month? Here are some of my (Nicole)’s faves. Most are available streaming online.

The Invitation

One of the best films I saw last year was Karen Kusama‘s super slow burn of a psychological thriller The Invitation. A man and his new girlfriend accept an invitation to dinner at the man’s former home, with his ex-wife and new husband. When they get there, stuff is weird. I don’t want to give too much away, but this is one of my favorite kinds of movies–brutal suspense building to a satisfying pay off. The end is creepy AF.

Now streaming on Netflix




Ten is a unique, stylish horror mystery meditation on identity, with twists you will not see coming. It’s co-written/directed/produced by Sophia Cacciola, who also appears in the film in the memorable role of The Folk Singer, with her regular collaborator, Michael Epstein. (Also check out their latest feature, the fabulous lesbian vampire tale of religious persecution, Blood of the Tribades, available to rent on Amazon.)

Now Streaming on Amazon Prime

American Psycho

Mary Harron‘s take on the controversial Bret Easton Ellis novel has rightly become a kind of modern classic of feminist horror, as well as one of my all-time favorite films. Equal parts hilarious and deeply disturbing, and featuring perhaps Christian Bale’s finest performance ever. (Also check out Harron’s teen vamp tale The Moth Diaries, now streaming on Shudder.)

Often available on Netflix, but looks like you need to rent it on Amazon right now. 🙁 Had to include it, though.

Carrie (2013)

I’m a big fan of Kimberly Pierce‘s take on Stephen King’s classic novel about a teenage late bloomer bullied by her mother and schoolmates alike who holds a secret, deadly, blossoming power (the book and Brian De Palma’s 70s film were big, obvious influences on my own Small Talk). This version rights some of the more problematic elements of De Palma’s film, it’s aimed more at actual teenage girls than those who want to lear at teenage girls, for example. The characters are much more coherent and believable. Much as I appreciate the first film adaptation, there is more than room for this passionate corrective alongside it.

Looks like you need to rent this one right now on Amazon or another service. 


Trouble Every Day

Nothing can mess up your honeymoon like a mysterious virus that turns you into a ravenous cannibal. Claire Denis’s slow and atmospheric decent into unbridled blood lust contains some of the most beautiful scenes of gory carnage I’ve ever seen committed to film. Truly gorgeous, all puns intended.

Now streaming on Shudder and YouTube, apparently.


The Babadook

You’ve probably already read reviews of Jennifer Kent‘s much buzzed-about arthouse horror hit and as far as I’m concerned, it more than delivers on the hype. A truly unsettling exploration of motherhood and mental illness, I’m already seeing people try to rip off its disturbing visuals and atmosphere. If you haven’t seen it yet, correct that.

Now streaming on Netflix, etc

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Ana Lily Amirpour‘s gorgeous vampire tale single handedly broke me out of the writer’s block I’d been experiencing on one of my current feature scripts. The cinematography is not to be missed and the whole film is just lovely.

Rent it on Amazon Video

Goodnight Mommy

This movie is creepy AF. If you have any parental issues, it may hit a nerve. Affecting whether of not you see the twists coming, they’ll wrench your gut. Fantastic writing and direction by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, beautiful acting, cinematography, editing. One of my favorite films of 2014 all ’round.

Rent it on Amazon Video


Pet Sematary

Fun fact: Mary Lambert‘s adaptation of Stephan King’s famously terrifying novel was the first R rated horror film I ever saw! It will always have a special place in my heart not only because of that, but because of the fucking excellent title song by SK faves, The Ramones.

Available to rent on Amazon Video

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Yes, the movie, not the series (though I love the series very, very much!) This flick is unfairly maligned, imo. While it may not have nailed the tone screenwriter Joss Whedon was going for, Fran Kuzui‘s film a campy good time that manifests a similar feminist outlook and balance of laughs and scares. Plus, the cast is to die for–My man Paul Reubans? A young (pre-90210, even!) Hillary Swank? Donald Sutherland as Merrick (read: “Giles”)? Luke Perry?

Ok, I can’t find this streaming, but you can borrow my DVD as soon as Sean is done with it.

7 thoughts on “10 Great Horror Films Directed by Women

  1. Love that you showed love for Ten and The Babadook!! Good calls all around and now I have a few more to add to my list.

  2. Kusama, Lambert, Harron, Pierce all fine female directors. This list is terrific. The films are terrifying as well. I am really excited about The Invitation. I saw the trailer and that cemented it. Good review.

    1. Thanks, glad you liked the list! The Invitation was one of the best films I saw last year, hope you enjoy it.

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