10 Best Christmas Horror Movies of All Time

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10 Best Christmas Horror Movies of All Time

Okay, someone has to say it: Christmas traditions can be creepy. If the legend of Santa Claus weren’t fed to us since we were kids, hearing that a bearded man is going to sneak down everyone’s chimneys at night would have most people awake all Christmas Eve. He sees you when you’re sleeping, knows when you’re awake, and is threatening to leave coal in your socks if he sees you being “naughty”? What kind of chain email threat is this? And, to top it all off, he expects his act of breaking and entering to be welcomed with complementary milk and cookies. Nice try, you sadistic sleigh-riding creep.

Thankfully, Western cultures haven’t incorporated much about Santa’s evil sidekick, Krampus, into its holiday fables. But that still hasn’t stopped many of us from finding horror in the holly jolly. In a season marked by power outage-worthy winter storms, fireside storytelling, extended night hours, and eerily compulsory “cheer,” Christmas season is an almost too perfect backdrop for a horror story. And filmmakers have taken note.

So, if you’re looking for an extra shiver down your spine this winter, grab some mulled wine and a warm blanket. These are the best Christmas horror movies to watch this holiday season.

A Christmas Horror Story

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William Shatner stars as a local radio host whose Christmas Eve coverage becomes the anchor to an anthology of holiday horrors that descend upon the unexpecting town of Bailey Downs.

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Sint

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This Dutch dark comedy reimagines the legend of Sinterklauss, known to us as Santa Claus, as a malevolent spirit who is summoned by a Christmas full moon to arrive back on earth along with a murderous gang of ghosts. Police detective Goert, whose family was killed during the last full moon arrival, is the only one weary of the ongoing trend… and the only one who can stop it.

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Christmas Evil

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When a toymaker experiences a mental break, he decides to avenge his frustration towards Christmas cynics by suiting up as Santa and going on a killing spree.

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Dead of Night

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This British anthology horror film features multiple supernatural tales, as told by protagonist Walter Craig, who recalls each of them as dreamt memories with strangers. One of the anecdotes is a haunting that takes place at a Christmas party.

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A Christmas Carol

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Sure, this one might read as a typical Christmas classic at first glance, but there’s an undeniable supernatural element to A Christmas Carol that will have you rethink your next watch. Albeit heartwarming in the end, Ebenezer Scrooge’s visits from the three ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, are chilling in their own right.

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Gremlins (1984)

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You know the rules: Keep them in the dark, don’t get them wet, and never feed them after midnight. But the mini-monster mayhem begins as a Christmas story, when inventor Randall Peltzer decides that the adorable, if high-maintance mogwai Gizmo is the perfect gift for his teenage son, Billy. What starts out as one cute little animatronic creature turns into a murderous hoard of tiny demons, and a battle to stop them from taking over the town.

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Krampus (2015)

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Hereditary may have put Toni Collette on the Scream Queen map, but back in 2015, she starred in this family holiday horror comedy alongside Parks and Recreation’s Adam Scott. And while a lot of the movies on this list might be bloodbaths that just happen to unfold during the yuletide season, this one is based on the actual legend of Krampus, a demonic satyr-like creature who’s basically a Bizarro Santa Claus. And in his quest to terrorize Collette and Scott’s family, he’s brought along a whole bunch of festive fiends, from evil gingerbread cookies, to a fanged teddybear, and a murderous jack-in the box.

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Better Watch Out (2017)

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From Halloween to The Babysitter, this horror history is full of sitter-centric movies. And the call is still coming from inside the house in this Christmastime fright fest, which finds 12-year-old Luke and his babysitter Ashley fending off nightmarish home invaders. But Better Watch Out features one big twist that separates it it from the rest of the babysitter pack.

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The Children (2008)

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The proud history of “evil kid” movies span films like The Bad Seed, The Omen, and Children of the Corn, and includes this holiday-themed demon child adventure. Okay, so it’s more of a New Years’ movie than a Christmas film, but December 24th to January 1st is all a big eggnog-soaked blur anyway. This UK indie finds teenage Casey taking a trip with her parents and younger siblings to spend the holiday with her aunt, uncle, and their kids. But suddenly, the kids come down with a strange virus, and then it’s not long before things get bloody.

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Dead End (2003)

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Even those who prefer their Christmas movies murder-free can agree that traveling is the absolute worst part of the holidays. This English-language French film starring scream queen Lin Shaye and Twin Peaks’ Ray Wise as bickering parents taking their family on a holiday road trip—only to be accosted by a mysterious woman in white and a menacing hearse.

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The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

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This is it—the movie that launched a million Hot Topic shirts, the film that’s a contender for the title of best spooky Christmas movie ever. Sure, it doesn’t pack the scares of some of the others on this list; it’s a kid’s movie after all. But anyone who watched it growing up is well aware that the tale of Jack Skellington’s quest to bring Christmas to Halloween Town is plenty terrifying to its target demographic.

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Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

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In case you thought The Nightmare Before Christmas was the only song-filled scary yuletide movie around, this British zombie musical finds a group of teens dealing with the end of high school, ambushing zombie hordes, and a tendency to burst into song. Because when the holiday blues meet the zombie apocalypse, there’s not much left to do but sing it out.

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Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

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With its musings about temptation and infidelity, this one tends to be thought of as more of a steamy movie than a scary one. Yes, it’s famous for its orgy scene—but that orgy took place in the middle of a murder cult’s ritual get-together. And those masks? They’re pretty darn terrifying. It may be set during the Christmas season, but this movie is pretty darn dark.

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Black Christmas (1974)

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This story of a sorority house terrorized by an unknown murderer has a place in history as one of the first-ever slasher movies. Because nothing says the holiday season like a mysterious killer in the attic picking off Kappas and their booze-soaked house mother one by one by one.

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Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

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Anyone who’s watched The Thing is well aware that excavations in icy Scandinavia can go awry. But this time, instead of digging up a shape-shifting alien, they dig up a nightmarish old man—the O.G. Santa Claus. But this old geezer isn’t grandfatherly figure of beneficence. Nope, unlike Chris Cringle he’s sporting some horns, and he’s out for blood.

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Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.

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