Who are the greatest Horror Production Studios in the world? What company is the best at making horror movies? We have considered the contributions of every major movie production studio and independent film distributor to come up with a dead list that considers each studio’s impact on the horror genre.
When picking a horror movie to watch, knowing who produced the movie can be handy. There’s a difference between a major studio-released film and that from a mini-major or an independent producer. The major studios will bring the bigger budgets: the bigger movie stars and the better effects. The independent features will take the biggest risks and push the genre’s envelope. Mini-majors are home to the big horror franchises and offer a strong brand identity.
We have listed all of the production studios and independent film distributors and uncovered ALL of the horror films that they’ve made. As such, we have listed a significant portion of all the essential horror films ever produced and show you who made them. Have no doubt: picking between a feature from A24 differs significantly from picking a feature from The Asylum. That’s not to say there isn’t room for both. Troma is as essential to the horror legacy as Dimension is. But, that’s not stopping us from RANKING what we think are the best studios and distributors.
The Grading Criteria:
Is the studio known to be a home for horror? Or does it only occasionally get scary?
Are the greatest films in the catalog considered to be horror classics?
Have the movies produced or distributed by this company been financially successful?
Is there a consistent quality level in the films in the studio catalog?
Has the studio elevated the careers of the producers and directors of their movies?
Is there a unique brand identity to the studio? Is the company an iconic brand?
How long has the studio been active?
Does the studio produce or distribute a lot of horror films? Quantity does count.
It’s essential to define what the companies we are reviewing do.
Major Horror Movie Studios
They do it all. Major Horror Movie Studios produce, distribute, and market movies. This is what we would consider to be typically Big Hollywood. These are the financiers and the engines that are the business part of show business. These companies will have their own. The major studios are the commercial giants that control massive studio lots for filming and have access to the most famous and successful actors and directors. The major studios are parent companies to subsidiary production studios with a global reach.
Access to the best talent, directors, and effects is within reach of the major studios. However, horror rarely gets the blockbuster treatment. Occasionally, a ready-made hit like The Omen or A Quiet Place will get greenlit by one of the Big Five studios, but it’s rare. R-rated movies, by restriction, cannot generate as much money as a PG-13 Blockbuster. As such, major studios often have their subsidiary mini-major studio arms do the horror work.
Occasionally, a big studio finds a can’t-miss property like Stephen King’s It, which satisfies both a hard-core horror audience and appeals to the masses. That minor miracle is the exception to the rule. It has made $702,781,748 at the time of this posting. That is off of a $35,000,000 budget. Compared to the costs of a superhero movie, this was a much better investment. A movie like It, Jaws, The Exorcist, Alien, or The Sixth Sense comes around only rarely, though. Guaranteed, though, the movie will be a legend if it does hit.
The Major studios include:
The BIG FIVE
Walt Disney Studios
Warner Bros. Pictures
Sony Pictures / Columbia Pictures
Defunct Major Studios
RKO Radio Pictures
20th Century Fox (Demoted, now part of Disney)
Metro Goldwyn Mayer (Demoted, Merged with Amazon)
United Artists (Demoted, now part of MGM and part of Amazon)
Mini-Major Horror Movie Studios
These larger independent film production companies compete with the majors for theater space, streaming space, and awards. The Mini-Majors often produced horror as the larger studios would stick primarily with more prestige genres. When a genre film has serious financial potential, a Major Studio will often partner up with a mini-major to distribute and market the film.
Most of your major horror franchises reside in the mini-majors. A Nightmare on Elm Street. The Conjuring. Final Destination. Puppet Master. Paranormal Activity. These are all low-cost, high-profit models, even if they don’t make “It” level income. They don’t need to, because the upfront costs are so cheap. These movies don’t have A-list stars, but you have built-in expectations and, most of all, a reputation. True, the originality runs out after a while, but horror fans are very forgiving, and they have been back to the Golden Age Universal Monsters, where Frankenstein had so many spin-offs. Horror fans like a familiar face; the scarier the face, the better.
MGM Studios/United Artists
NewLine (now under WB)
20th Century Studios (Now under Disney)
Defunct Mini Majors
New World Pictures
Castle Rock Entertainment
Independent Horror Movie Studios
These are the operators who work outside of the funding and operations of the major Hollywood studios. This can range from the small art-house film to the B-Movie grindhouse exploitation straight-to-video production. Horror undoubtedly has made its impact felt in the independent scene. Smaller budgets allow for greater risks. Not just for the content of the films either, but young and upcoming filmmakers often get their first big breaks in the Indies.
The great tradition of filmcraft and showmanship from learning your craft as an independent filmmaker from a B-Movie mentor lives on. From the Godfather producers like Roger Corman, William Castle, and Lloyd Kaufman to the next generation of mentors like Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden, the greatest lift-up in the movie industry can come through the horror genre. There is a good reason why there are so many great horror short filmmakers out there. That is the first step on the independent filmmaking tutorial stepladder.
In this new golden age of horror, the independent film distributor plays a huge role. The independent filmmaker can produce their movies, but they can’t get their film to the theaters and streaming services by themselves. The importance of Film Festivals is that independent film producers often look to get a distribution partner to shepherd their film to the audiences, be it by theater or streaming. Companies like Magnet, XYZ, and IFC Midnight are huge in searching for the best and most promising horror films and getting a marketing plan built around promoting and releasing the movies.
Note that after World War II, most of Europe’s greatest film studios were destroyed. The European studio system had been relegated to starting over again. These studios never took hold in a major way, ceding the media environment to Hollywood. As a result, most European producers are independent and link up with a Distribution Company.
To capture all the great independent horror movies out there, we are also considering the best in film distributors, who, while they don’t make the movies, have established credibility and a brand standard for quality film releases that meet or exceed what the major studios do.
In a streaming world thirsty for content, streaming platforms are getting involved as distributors, as non-theater media has shifted from physical media to downloadable content. Netflix, Hulu, Shudder, and others are capitalizing on what the mini-majors have known for a long time. Horror can be profitable if you find the right story and storyteller. Plus blood, guts, and a jump scare or two.
A couple of notes: (D) = Distribution Franchises are designated with the original franchise and the latest franchise. For example, Critters (1986-2019) describes a franchise, so not all the sequels and reboots are listed unless a different studio picked up subsequent features within a franchise.
Underlined films are links back to The Scariest Things reviews. Not surprisingly, most of these films are from 2017 and later, since that’s when we started writing reviews.
No surprise with #1! Universal is the most prolific and iconic of all horror movie studios. Despite a lull in the 1950s and 1960s, Universal has been synonymous with horror movies since the genre’s inception, starting with the Classic Universal Monsters. Universal continues to lead the way in original big studio horror fare, investing far more into original content than the other majors.
A string of recent horror hits has bolstered Universal’s claims as the best in the horror business. They care about the genre, and they are willing to put money behind their horror titles.
.Notable Directors: John Carpenter, Tod Browning, Steven Spielberg, Sam Raimi, Alfred Hitchcock, Wes Craven, Nia DaCosta, M. Night Shyamalan
Iconic Films: Frankenstein (1931), Dracula (1932), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), The Birds (1963), Jaws (1975), Halloween (1978), The Thing (1982), Shaun of the Dead (D) (2004) Sleeper Films: Island of Lost Souls (1932), Ghost Story (1981), Slither (2006), Raw (D) (2016)
The Classic Universal Monster Films:
Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), The Black Cat (1934), The Mummy (1932, 1999, 2017 ), Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Invisible Man (1933, 2020), The Black Cat (1934), The Werewolf of London (1935), The Raven (1935), Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Mad-Made Monser (1941), The Wolfman (1941, 2010), Captive Wild Women (1943), Phantom of the Opera (1943), The Mad Ghoul (1943), House of Horrors (1946), She Wolf of London (1946), The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954-1956), It Came From Outer Space (1953), Tarantula! (1955), THEM! (1954), The Mole People (1956), The Leech Woman (1960),
Modern Universal Horror Films :
SSSSSSS (1973), Jaws (1975-1987), The Car (1977), The Sentinel (1977), Halloween (1978-2022), Ghost Story (1981), The Funhouse (1981), Cat People (1982), Videodrome (1983), Psycho II (1983), Nightmares (1983), Firestarter (1984, 2022), Prince of Darkness (1987), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), They Live (1988), Tremors (1990), Cape Fear (1991), Jurassic Park (1993-2022), Matinee (1993), Virus (1999), The Ninth Gate (1999), Dawn of the Dead (2004), The Grudge (2004), King Kong (2005), Skeleton Key (2005), Drag Me to Hell (2009), Devil (2010), The Thing (2011), The Purge (2013), Ouija (2014), Unfriended (2014), Krampus (2015), Crimson Peak (2015), The Forest (2016), Split (2016), The Mummy (2017), Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019), Freaky (2020), Candyman (2021), The Black Phone (2021), M3Gan (2023), Cocaine Bear (2023), Renfield (2023), Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023), Knock at the Cabin (2023)
New Line Cinema is the house that Freddy Krueger built. The huge success of A Nightmare on Elm Street propelled New Line into the pre-eminent horror movie studio for franchise horror.
New Line is now the horror arm subsidiary of Warner Bros, with a new focus based around the Conjuringverse. Nobody knows how to identify and extend a successful horror franchise like New Line.
Notable Directors: Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, David Fincher, James Wan Iconic Films: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1977), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Se7en (1995), The Conjuring (2013), It (2017) Sleeper Films: Alone in the Dark (1982), In the Mouth of Madness (1995)
Films: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1977 (D), 1990-2006), The Evil Dead (D) (1981), Alone in the Dark (1982), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984-Present), Xtro (D) (1983), Critters (1986-2019), The Hidden (1987), 976-EVIL (1988), Out of the Dark (1989), Communion (1989), Friday the 13th (1993-2009), In the Mouth of Madness (1995), Embrace of the Vampire (1995), Dark City (1998), Final Destination (2000-present), The Mangler (1995), Se7en (1995), Blade (1998-2004), The Cell (2000), Lost Souls (2000), Snakes on a Plane (2006), The Rite (2011), The Conjuring (2013-Present), Lights Out (2016), The Nun (2018), Annabelle (2017-2019), It (2017) (With WB), It Chapter 2 (2019) (with WB), Rampage (2018), The Curse of La Llorona (2019), Malignant (2021), Evil Dead Rise (2023) (With WB)
The nod for A24 is an appreciation of quality of quantity. This studio has proven that with a modest budget and good directors, horror can be true art. They don’t only do horror, but when they do produce scary movies, they are usually great.
The stunning success of the kung-fu fantasy film Everything Everywhere All At Once proved that A24 has elite talent recognition, production skills, and marketing to elevate genre films. If we ever get another horror movie to win an Oscar for Best Picture, it will likely come from A24.
Notable Directors: Ari Aster, Robert Eggers, Gaspare Noe, Alex Garland Iconic Films: Green Room (2015), The Witch (2015), Hereditary (2018) Sleeper Films: Under the Skin (2013), Climax (2018)
This is the modern horror movie studio operating at its most efficient. Jason Blum will give directors a million dollars to take any risks they want, and the gambles have paid off. If the movie needs more money, the studio gets more involved with the production.
The house that Paranormal Activity Built is a steady model of horror consistency. They take calculated risks, but they also have a sense of what horror fans want. They create low-floor, high-ceiling films. When one of their pictures hits a big box office target, it pays for a lot of the missed chances. Totally worth it!
Directors: M. Night Shyamalan, James Wan, Justin Peele, Scott Derrickson, Rob Zombie, Mike Flanagan Iconic Films: Paranormal Activity (2007-2021), Insidious (2010-2023), Get Out (2017) Sleeper Films: Creep (2014), Upgrade (2018), Sweetheart (2019)
There may be no single person in horror than Roger Corman. He is the Godfather of independent genre films. AIP was his first studio, and for decades, he proved that he could profitably entertain fully outside of the major Hollywood horror movie studio market. This is the original home of the horror B-Movie.
AIP was a great incubator for some of the best directors in all of cinema. Roger Corman is a mentor in all things filmmaking, and he’s still doing it today.
Directors: Roger Corman, Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Bava, Brian DePalma Iconic Films: It Conquered the World (1956), Black Sunday (1961), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Last House on the Left (1971), The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), Blacula (1972), The Amityville Horror (1979) Sleeper Films: A Bucket of Blood (1959), Dementia 13 (1963), The Vampire Lovers (1970), The Crimson Cult (1970), A Bay of Blood (1971), Sisters (1973)
The She-Creature (1956), Not of the Earth (1957), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), The Undead (1957), The Screaming Skull (1957), I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957), Voodoo Woman (1957), The Wasp Women (1959), Circus of Horrors (1960), House of Usher (1960), Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Konga (1961), Night Tide (1962), X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963), Black Sabbath (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Tomb of Ligea (1964), Die Monster Die! (1965), Blood Bath (1966), The Witchfinder General (D) (1968), The Dunwich Horror (1970), Baron Blood (1972), Madhouse (1974), Deranged (1974), House of Whipcord (1975), Squirm (1976), The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976), Tentacles (1977), Empire of the Ants (1977), The Incredible Melting Man (1977), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977), Last Cannibal World (1978), Holocaust 2000 (1978), Jennifer (1978), Love at First Bite (1979), Dressed to Kill (1980)
The famed British horror movie studio is an icon of Gothic horror. In its heyday from the ’50s to the ’70s, you knew you would get fantastic sets, great costumes, splashes of blood, solid acting, and heaving bosoms. Ironically, Hammer could not go as gory as Hollywood in the 70’s, ending its reign as a horror powerhouse.
What people probably know Hammer for though, was its stars. Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Joan Collins, Michael Gough, Ingrid Pitt, Oliver Reed, Valerie Leon, Barbara Shelley, and David Prowse are all fan-favorite Hammer stable players. British Horror Royalty.
Notable Directors: Terrence Fisher, Roy Ward Baker Iconic Films: The Horror of Dracula (1958), The Curse of Frankenstein (1958) Sleeper Films: The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974), Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971), The Lodge (2019)
Films: The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1958), The Mummy (1959), The Shadow of the Cat (1961), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), Maniac (1963), The Gorgon (1964), She (1965), Hysteria (1965), Die! Die! My Darling! (1965), The Nanny (1965), The Plague of the Zombies (1966), Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1966), The Mummy’s Shroud (1966), The Reptile (1966), The Witches (1966), One Million Years BC (1966), The Devil Rides Out (1968), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), The Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust for a Vampire(1970), When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970), Countess Dracula (1971), Hands of the Ripper (1971), Dr. Jekyll &and Sister Hyde (1971), Twins of Evil (1971), Demons of the Mind (1972)
Beyond the Rave (2008), Let Me In (2010), The Resident (2011), Wake Wood (2011), The Woman in Black (2012), The Quiet Ones (2014), Doctor Jekyll (2023)
7. IFC Midnight (A Subsidiary of AMC Networks) (2010-Present)
Modern contemporary horror is in a golden age, and IFC Midnight has set the gold standard among indie horror film distributors. It’s a fairly young company, established in 2010, but it has already built up a reputation for finding the very best in horror storytelling in independent films.
IFC Midnight also streams its films, providing a direct distribution powerhouse in this streaming culture. IFC Midnight is a sister company with Shudder under AMC Networks and is often paired with RLJ Entertainment as a production partner.
Notable Directors: Jennifer Kent, Ben Wheatley, Can Evernol, Andre Ovredal, Emma Tami, Alexandre Aja, Chloe Okuno Iconic Films: The Babadook (2014), The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) Sleeper Films: A Dark Song (2017), The Vigil (2019), The Night (2020), The Feast (2021)
Films: The Human Centipede (2009), High Lane (2009), Kill List (2011), The Pact (2012), Maniac (2012), Grabbers (2012), Blood Glacier (2013), Contracted (2013), Backcountry (2014), The Hallow (2015), Baskin (2015), Cabin Fever (2016), 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene (2017), Ghost Stories (2017), Pyewacket (2017) The Devil’s Candy (2017), What Keeps You Alive (2018), The Wind (2018), Depraved (2019), Knives and Skin (2019), Relic (2020), The Innocents (2021), Watcher (2022), Resurrection (2022), Hatching (2022), Skinamarink (2022), Flux Gourmet (2022), Consecration (2023)
When AMC struck gold with The Walking Dead, the premium cable network went all in on horror, creating the Shudder Network. Shudder has gone on to become a dominant platform for streaming horror programming.
They have a fair number of original exclusive films they distribute, often in conjunction with RLJE, another AMC Network subsidiary. They are also a sister company to IFC and share some distribution rights with them.
Sudder Acquisition of Older Indie and Foreign Films (All distributions):
Deep Red (1975), Cannibal Holocaust (1980), Maniac (1980), The Beyond (1981), The McPherson Tape (1989), Ju-On The Curse (2000), Ichi The Killer (2001), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), The House at the End of Time (2013), Witching and Bitching (2016), Lake Bodom (2016), 31 (2016), Sadako vs. Kayako (2016), Prevenge (2016), Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl (2017), Noroi: The Curse (2017), Kuso (2017), Found Footage 3D (2017)
The formal launch of Shudder in 2017, After AMC Acquisition of RLJE: (All distributions of independent films)
New World Pictures is Roger Corman’s other independent studio, formed with his brother Gene after the pair left AIP in 1970. The same B-Movie spirit carried through with New World, capitalizing on the ability to produce R-rated movies.
B-movies became exploitation movies, and horror now had the potential to be more shocking than ever, with the R-rating now available. To offset the reputational hit that New World would take for exploitation films, Corman picked up foreign film rights from esteemed directors like Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, and Federico Fellini.
Over time, New World acquired several TV stations to add to its communication portfolio. This eventually led to Fox Television acquiring New World in 1994, for of all things… the TV stations for NFL broadcasting.
Producer: Roger Corman Directors: Clive Barker, Larry Cohen, Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante, Tobe Hooper. Iconic Films: Piranha (1978), The Brood (1979) Hellraiser (1987) Sleeper Films: The Stuff (1985)
Films: Beast of the Yellow Night (1971), Creature with the Blue Hand (1971), The Velvet Vampire (1971), Lady Frankenstein (1971), Night of the Cobra Woman (1971), Death Race 2000 (1975), God Told Me To (1976), Eaten Alive (1976), Rabid (D) (1977), The Evil (1978), The Bees (1978), Something Waits in the Dark (1979), Up From the Depths (1979), Humanoids from the Deep (1980), Galaxy of Terror (1981), The Pit (1981), Forbidden World (1982), The Slumber Party Massacre (1982), Murder by Phone (1982), The Prey (1983), The Being (1983) Children of the Corn (1984), C.H.U.D (1984), Transylvania 6-5000 (1985), House (1986), Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1986), Torment (1986), Vamp (1986), Return to Horror High (1987), Creepshow 2 (1987), Slugs (1988), Elvira Mistress of the Dark (1988), Hellgate (1989), Curfew (1989), Warlock (1991)
10. XYZ Films (Largely an international Sales Agent/Distributor) (2008-Present)
XYZ delivers smart indie horror. This film distributor is a major presence in horror film festivals worldwide, establishing a reputation for finding daring international producers and directors who make thought-provoking and beautiful horror features.
Directors: Benson & Moorhead, Panos Cosmatos, Kevin Smith
Originally a subsidiary of Miramax, this was a studio expressly created to produce and distribute horror films. When a film arrived on Miramax’s production desk and was deemed too disreputable for them, it would go to Dimension. That turned out to be a good thing.
It struck gold with the production of the Scream franchise, and the studio was instrumental in bringing horror movies out of the 1990s doldrums. Dimension was a standard bearer for solid, if not spectacular, Hollywood studio horror fare.
Dimension’s fate was tied to the Weinstein group. After the sordid mess that was Harvey Weinstein’s Me Too scandal, the entire Miramax line was dissolved in 2020, along with Dimension.
Notable Directors: Wes Craven, Guillermo Del Toro, David Cronenberg, Frank Darabont, Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth Iconic Films: Scream (1996-2011), The Mist (2007) Sleeper Films: Wolf Creek (D) (2005), A’Linteriuer (D) (2008), Rogue (2008)
Films: The Prophecy (1995-2005), From Dusk til Dawn (1996-1999), Mimic (1997-2001), Nightwatch (1997), The Faculty (1998), eXistenZ (1999), Phantoms (1998), Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (Franchise from 1998-2011), Dracula 2000 (2000), Scary Movie (2000-2006), The Others (2001), Below (2002), Darkness (2002), Cursed (2005), Pulse (2006-2008), Feast (2006-2008), 1408 (2007), Grindhouse (2007), Teeth (D) (2008), Apollo 18 (2011), Piranha 3D (2010-2012), Aftershock (2013), Dark Skies (2013), Clown (2014), Horns (2014), Viral (2016), Demonic (2017), 47 Meters Down (2017), Amityville: The Awakening (2017), Polaroid (2019)
12. 20th Century Fox (1935-Present)
Drumroll, please! 20th Century Fox was a consistent producer of horror from the 50s through the early 70s with only modest success. With the trifecta of Alien, Predator, and the Fly, the Studio found big-effects-driven success within the genre and managed to spin successful franchises out of them.
Now, relegated to being a subsidiary of Disney, 20th Century Studios will be Disney’s R-rated content provider. It remains to be seen if it will support horror. Early results are discouraging, as the studio did not back Underwater, a good sci-fi horror thriller. The jury is out as to the future of horror from this former major studio.
Notable Directors: Ridley Scott, David Cronenberg Iconic Films: The Omen (1976), Alien (1979), The Fly (1986), Aliens (1987), Predator (1987) Sleeper Films: The Innocents (1961), Ravenous (1999), Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Films: The Abominable Snowman (1957), She-Devil (1957), The Unknown Terror (1957), Back from the Dead (1957), The Fly (1958), The Alligator People (1959), The Curse of the Living Corpse (1964), Witchcraft (1964), The Devil Rides Out (1968), Countess Dracula (1971), The Mephisto Waltz (1971), The Other (1972), Vampire Circus (1972), The Legend of Hell House (1973), Phantom of the Paradise (1974), The Fury (1978), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Alien (1979-2017), Terror Train (1980), The Entity (1982), Visiting Hours (1982), Warning Sign (1985), Predator (1987-2022), Leviathan (1989), The Exorcist III (1990), Frankenstein Unbound (1991), Naked Lunch (1991), Lake Placid (1999), From Hell (2001), Turistas (2006), Mirrors (2008), Poltergeist (2015), The Wailing (2016), Unsane (2018), Underwater (2019)
Judging Warner Bros is tricky. Their subsidiary, Newline Cinemas, does most of the heavy horror lifting and Village Roadshow, Legendary, and Dark Castle, leaving the parent studio to concentrate on other genres. However, WB has two of the most influential horror movies ever made strictly under their shield, The Exorcist and The Shining, along with the most lucrative: It (2017). Otherwise, it’s modest pickings from this major studio.
Directors: Stanley Kubrick Iconic Films: The Exorcist (1973), The Shining (1980), The Lost Boys (1987), It (2017) Sleeper Films: The Bad Seed (1956), Bad Moon (1996)
Doctor X (1932), Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953), THEM! (1954), The Black Scorpion (1957), Two On a Guillotine (1965), Chamber of Horrors (1966), Wait Until Dark (1967), The Valley of Gwangi (1969), The Wicker Man (D) (1973), It’s Alive (1974), Black Christmas (1974), The Swarm (1976), Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), Altered States (1980), Creepshow (1982), Deadly Eyes (1983), Cujo (1983), Gremlins (1984), Deadly Friend (1986), Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Body Snatchers (1994), Deep Blue Sea (1999), Thir13en Ghosts (2001), Queen of the Damned (2002), Eight Legged Freaks (2002), Ghost Ship (2002), Dreamcatcher (2003), Gothicka (2003), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Splice (2010), Contagion (2011), Pacific Rim (2013), Trick R’ Treat (2015), The Meg (2018-2023) It Chapter 2 (2019), Unwelcome (2022)
Of all the major and mini-major studios in Hollywood, Lionsgate is willing to push the envelope of the censors. This is the home of torture porn. The Saw, Hostel, and Rob Zombieverse franchises all live here.
Lionsgate produced a prolific number of horror movies in the 2000s. They are set up to be one of the stronger mini-majors specializing in the genre. It will be fascinating to find out if they get absorbed in Hollywood’s nonstop acquisition game.
Notable Directors: Rob Zombie, Eli Roth, Mary Harron, Alexandre Aja Iconic Films: Saw (2004-2023), Hostel (2006), The Descent (2006) Sleeper Films: Open Water (2004), High Tension (2005), Fall (2022)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1997), American Psycho (2000, 2002), Shadow of the Vampire (2000), Frailty (2001), Cube 2: Hypercube (2002), House of 1000 Corpses (2003), Cabin Fever (2003), Monster Man (2003), The Devil’s Rejects (2005), Alone in the Dark (2005), 2001 Maniacs (2005), Hostel (2006), See No Evil (2006), Hard Candy (2006), Bug (2007), Fido (2007), Captivity (2007), The Eye (2008), Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008), My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009), A Haunting in Connecticut (2009), Daybreakers (2010), The Last Exorcism (2010), The Bay (2012), Texas Chainsaw 3d (2013), Warm Bodies (2013), I, Frankenstein (2014), Exists (2014), Nurse 3D (2014), Leprechaun Origins (2014), Nightlight (2015), Blair Witch (2016), Winchester (2018), 3 From Hell (2019), Antebellum (2020), Prey for the Devil (2022), Sisu (2023), The Blackening (2023), Cobweb (2023)
Screen Gems has become Sony’s primary horror studio arm, supplanting Tri-Star and Columbia. This studio produces many highly stylized action-horror films, finding a niche with the highly lucrative Resident Evil series. Screen Gems also does a lot of franchise reboots… for better or worse.
Directors: Scott Derrickson Iconic Films: Attack the Block (2011), Don’t Breathe (2016) Sleeper Films: The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), Brightburn (2019)
The Forsaken (2001), Ghosts of Mars (2001), The Mothman Prophecies (2002), Resident Evil (2002-2021), Underworld (2003-2017), Boogeyman (2005), When a Stranger Calls (2006), The Covenant (2006), Untraceable (2008), Prom Night (2008), Quarantine (2008), Legion (2010), Priest (2011), Straw Dogs (2011), Carrie (2013), Deliver Us from Evil (2014), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016), Slenderman (2018), The Possession of Hannah Grace (2018), The Grudge (2020), Monster Hunter (2021), The Unholy (2021), Don’t Breathe 2 (2021), The Invitation (2021), The Pope’s Exorcist (2023)
15. RKO Radio Pictures (1929-1959)
RKO was one of the founding Hollywood studios. It gave us twenty good years of horror films before the studio ran out of money and folded in 1958. It remains the biggest studio to have disappeared from the Hollywood Landscape.
RKO did the horror community one huge favor. They were virtually the only studio making horror films in the 1940s. The fantastic combination of Val Lewton and Jaques Tourneur brought their string of moody noir horror to audiences during a time when the Hayes code frightened most producers from even touching horror.
Producers: Val Lewton, Howard Hawks, Merian C. Cooper Directors: Ernest B. Schoedsack, Mark Robson, Christian Nyby, Ida Lupino, Jaques Tourneur Iconic Films: King Kong (1933), Cat People (1942), I Walked with a Zombie (1943) Sleeper Film: The Seventh Victim (1943)
Films: The Monkey’s Paw (1932, 1948), The Most Dangerous Game (1933), Son of Kong (1933), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1938), The Leopard Man (1943), The Ghost Ship (1943), Isle of the Dead (1945), The Body Snatcher (1945), Bedlam (1946), The Spiral Staircase (1946), Mighty Joe Young (1949), The Thing from Another World (1951), The Hitch-hiker (1953), Killers from Space (1954)
16. Toho Studios (1948-Present)
Go go Godzilla! What started in 1954 with the monument that is Gojira (1954) became synonymous with kaiju and big stompy monsters. The big green guy has been through numerous iterations, with perhaps the best variant saved for 2023 with Godzilla Minus One.
In addition to all of the Kaiju classics, Toho produced two epic horror dramas, Kwaidan and Onibaba. These operatic masterpieces are must-sees for any horror enthusiast.
In recent years, Toho has helped to produce some iconic J-Horror films that invigorated the horror market in the late ’90s and early ’00s. The J-Horror movement of that time was essential in injecting new ideas into the horror mainstream. Where would we be without Ringu and Pulse?
Directors: Ishiro Honda, Masaki Kobayashi, Hideo Nakata, Kaneto Shindo, Gaspar Noe Iconic Films: Godzilla (1954), Mothra (1961), Kwaidan (1965), Ringu (1998) Sleeper Films: Onibaba (1964), War of the Gargantuas (1966), Enter the Void (2009)
Films: Godzilla (1954-present 38 movies total), Rodan (1956), Varan (1958), Matango (1963), Dogora (1964), , Gidohra the Three-Headed Monster (1964), Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), Monster Zero (1965), Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966), King Kong Escapes (1967) Destroy All Monsters (1968), Son of Godzilla (1969), the Vampire Doll (1970), Yog Monster from Space (1970), Lake of Dracula (1963), All Monsters Attack (1969), Vampire Hunter D (1985), Pulse (2001), One Missed Call (2003), Attack on Titan (2015), Godzilla Minus One (2023)
17. William Castle Productions (1958-1977)
The closest thing that the cinema had to P.T. Barnum was William Castle. He was the ultimate showman, always ready with a fun gimmick to get a scream or two out of his audience.
Examples: Providing seat belts for I Saw What You Did Illusion-O viewing glasses for 13 Ghosts. Plastic Axes given out for the Joan Crawford Classic: Straight Jacket The Macabre $1000 fright insurance policy. Rigging the seats for The Tingler with electric buzzers!
Along with Roger Corman, he created the template for the B-Movie. He also proved he could produce a first-rate horror film: Rosemary’s Baby. Not bad for a showman!
Producer: William Castle Directors: William Castle, Roman Polanski Iconic Films: The House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Tingler (1959), 13 Ghosts (1960) Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Films: Macabre (1958), Homicidal (1961), Mr. Sardonicus (1961), The Old Dark House (1963), 13 Frightened Girls (1963), Straight Jacket (1964), The Night Walker (1964), I Saw What You Did (1965), Let’s Kill Uncle (1966), The Spirit is Willing (1967), Project X (1968), Bug (1975)
Magnet is a prominent European film distributor of independent horror features. As noted in the descriptions, most European studios don’t have the financial muscle to distribute films in the US. The studios just aren’t big enough.
That’s where Magnet comes in, where French, Spanish, Korean, and Scandinavian horror films are picked up by and distributed by Magnet. It isn’t all foreign films, though. Magnet also has some great American Independent producers in their library as well. For Example, they are the home of one of The Scariest Thing’s favorite directors Ti West.
CEO: Mark Cuban Directors: Ti West, Quentin Dupieux, Alex De La Inglesia, Jee-woon Kim, Andre Ovredal, Brea Grant Iconic Films: Let The Right One In (2008), [REC] (2009-2014), The House of the Devil (2009), Troll Hunter (2010), V/H/S (2012) Sleeper Films: I Saw the Devil (2010), John Dies at the End (2013)
Wendigo (2002), The Host (2006), Murder Party (2007), The Signal (2007), Splinter (2008), Shrooms (2008), Monsters (2010), Black Death (2010), Rubber (2010), Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010), The Innkeepers (2011), The Last Circus (2011), Hobo With a Shotgun (2011), V/H/S (2012-Present), Kiss of the Damned (2012), Here Comes the Devil (2012), The ABC’s of Death (2012), The Sacrament (2013), Bad Milo (2013), Europa Report (2013), Honeymoon (2014), Stage Fright (2014), Last Shift (2014), Satanic (2016), The Eyes of My Mother (2016), XX (2017), Marrowbone (2018), Body at Brighton Rock (2019), Wrinkles the Clown (2019), Funhouse (2019), Amulet (2020), Agnes (2021), 12 Hour Shift (2020), You Are Not My Mother (2022), Censor (2022), Piggy (2023), Smoking Causes Coughing (2023), Baby Ruby (2023), Deliver Us (2023)
This one is a 21st Century game changer. Netflix operates like a major studio, a big company with big pockets. It distributes over 100 new original films every year, and a fair number of them are horror films, including some excellent ones like Cargo, the Perfection, and Gerald’s Game.
They also support foreign language films and, given their unique position in the streaming world, are a significant new platform for film creation.
I am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016), Mercy (2016), Clinical (2017), Death Note (2017),1922 (2017), The Cloverfield Paradox (2018), The Open House (2018), , Cam (2018), Malevolent (2018), Velvet Buzzsaw (2019), In the Tall Grass (2019), Rattlesnake (2019), Ghost Stories (2020), Bulbbul (2020), The Binding (2020), Cadaver (2020), His House (2020), Kaali Khuhi (2020), The Day of the Lord (2020), Things Heard and Seen (2021), Army of the Dead (2021), Ghost Lab (2021), The 8th Night (2021), A Classic Horror Story (2021), Fear Street Parts 1-3 (2021), No One Gets Out Alive (2021), There’s Someone in your House (2021), The Wasteland (2022), The Privilege (2022), Choose or Die (2022), Mr. Harrigan’s Phone (2022), Old People (2022), Hellhole (2022), Troll (2022), Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead (2023), Sister Death (2023)
Formerly the art-house wing of 20th Century Fox, Searchlight Pictures is now a specialty mini-major under the umbrella of Disney.
They don’t make horror films often, but when they do, they are smart and stylish like the rest of the Searchlight portfolio. If Disney lets them make horror films, Searchlight could be a significant competitor for A24 for the foreseeable future.
United Artists was formed by a quartet of silent film legends: Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and D.W. Griffith to form an actor-friendly studio, that gave them more control of productions. Over time UA has vassilated in size, sometimes a major player, and sometimes relegated to mini-major. In 1982 after a string of box office duds, UA merged with MGM, another struggling studio.
As for horror films, UA’s high watermarks would be Carrie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Child’s Play. Sometimes, it is hard to tell who gets the credit between UA and its sister company MGM.
Notable Directors: Brian DePalma, Tom Holland Iconic Films: Carrie (1976), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Child’s Play (1988) Sleeper Films : Eyes Without a Face (US Dist) (1960), Motel Hell (1980)
Films: The Man from Planet X (1951), The Twonky (1953), The Night of the Hunter (1955), The Monster that Challenged the World (1957), It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958), Tower of London (1964), Daughters of Satan (1972), Burnt Offerings (1976), Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), Audrey Rose (1977), The Visitor (D) (1979), Jaws of Satan (1981), Swamp Thing (D) (1982), The Beast Within (1982), Pumpkinhead (1988), Lord of Illusions (1995), Jeepers Creepers (2001), The Amityville Horror (2005)
Of all the major studios, probably only Disney has done less with horror than Paramount. Given that it is the second oldest movie studio in the US, it has had plenty of time to make horror movies, but it has never been a priority.
Their ratio of movie production to genre fare is pretty small. Having Psycho and most Friday the 13th films gives them some credit. Recent high-quality horror fare is encouraging, so perhaps we’ll be getting more horror from the mountain in the future.
Trivia bit: This is the last production studio still shooting films within the city limits of Los Angeles.
Notable Directors: Alfred Hitchcock, Alex Garland, Mary Lambert, John Krasinski Iconic Films: Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1920, 1931), Psycho (1960), A Quiet Place (2018-2020) Sleeper Films: The Uninvited (1944), Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971), Overlord (2018)
Dr. Cyclops (1940), The War of the Worlds (1953, 2005), The Blob (1958), I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958), Prophecy (1979), Friday the 13th (1980-1989), My Bloody Valentine (1981), Student Bodies (1981), April Fool’s Day (1986), Pet Sematary (1989, 2019), Body Parts (1991), The Addams Family (1991-1993), Thinner (1996), Sleepy Hollow (1999), The Lovely Bones (2009), Annihilation (2018), Crawl (2019), Scream (2022-Present)
Columbia Pictures had one of the better runs of B-movie horror studios in the 1950s. The lack of a no-doubt-about-it iconic horror movie keeps them a notch below Paramount. The Curse of the Demon is probably coming closest to that standard.
Notable Directors: Iconic Films: Curse of the Demon (1958), The Amityville Horror (1979) Sleeper Films: Berserk (1967), Night of the Creeps (1986)
Night of Terror (1933), Black Moon (1934), Creature with the Atom Brain (1955), It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), Zombies of Mora Tau (1957), The Giant Claw (1957), 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), 13 Ghosts (1960), The Damned (1962), The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964), The Brotherhood of Satan (1971), See No Evil (1971), The Creeping Flesh (1973), The Stepford Wives (1975), Grizzly (1977), Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), Prophecy (1979), Fright Night (1985), The Bride (1985), The Monster Squad (1987), The Blob (1988), Night of the Living Dead (1990), Anaconda (1997)
The Proud Lion, MGM, is a studio rich in Hollywood credentials but poor in horror credentials. Metro Goldwyn Mayer was once the most prestigious studio in Hollywood. Its library includes The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Ben-Hur, and Singin’ in the Rain. However, it never invested heavily in horror, as it never felt the pressure to do B-movies.
The Lion’s star faded, though. By the 1960s, MGM eventually turned to some horror, with the changing taste in American audiences. MGM eventually produced a few great films, like The Hunger, The Haunting, Carrie, and Poltergeist, for its horror bona fides.
Now MGM is a subsidiary of Sony, relegated to a minim-major production role, and the bulk of their value is now in the form of their Casino entertainment empire.
Notable Directors: Tod Browning, Tobe Hooper, Nia DaCosta Iconic Films: Freaks (1932), Carrie (1975), The Hunger (1983), Poltergeist (1982-1988) Sleeper Film: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), Gorgo (1961), Lycanthropus (1963), The Haunting (1963), The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), The Green Slime (1969), Night of the Lepus (1972), Private Parts (1972), Soylent Green (1973), Demon Seed (1977), Coma (1978), Cat’s Eye (1985), Leviathan (1989), Species (1995), Carrie (2013), The Belko Experiment (2017), Wish Upon (2017), Child’s Play (2019), Candyman (2021)
25. Empire International Pictures (1983-1988) and Full Moon Features (1988-Present)
The B-Movie of the eighties and nineties was destined for the straight-to-video market. No studio embraced that as successfully or as willingly as Charles Band’s Empire International films and its successor, Full Moon Features. If you walked into a video store in this era, the shelves were crowded with the inexpensively made exploitation movies they produced. The Lovecraftian films of Stuart Gordon rose above the standard fare and rode the talent and charisma of Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton to a few iconic titles. When Empire Folded, Charles Band created Full Moon Features, which continued his tradition of cheeky and cheap exploitation films to this day.
Notable Directors: Stuart Gordon, David Schmoeller Iconic Films: Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1985), PuppetMaster (1989) Sleeper Film: Raw Head Rex (1986)
Empire International Pictures:
The Alchemist (1983), Ghoulies (1984), Trancers (1984), Re-Animator (1985), Underworld (1985), Dolls (1986), Troll (1986), Breeders (1986), Crawlspace (1986), Necropolis (1986), Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity (1987), Creepozoids (1987), Cellar Dweller (1987), Ghoulies II (1987), Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl O’ Rama (1988), Ghost Town (1988), Spellcaster (1991)
Full Moon Features
Puppetmaster (1989-Present: 16 films), Meridian: Kiss of the Beast (1990), Shadowzone (1990), The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), Subspecies (1991), Demonic Toys (1992), Doctor Mordrid (1992), Seedpeople (1992), Arcade (1993), Lurking Fear (1994), Castle Freak (1995), Demon in the Bottle (1996), The Creeps (1997), Hideous! (1997), Witchouse (1999-2001)The Dead Hate the Living! (2000), Killjoy (2000), Sideshow (2000), Demonicus (2001), Horrorvision (2001), Killjoy (2000-2016), Gingerdead Man (2005-Present), Evil Bong (2006-Present), Skullheads (2009), Corona Zombies (2020), The Resonator: Miskatonik U (2021)
Epic Pictures are the producers and distributors of the best horror movies you have never heard of. It’s a relatively new independent studio that has already made waves, particularly with the ultra-gory Terrifier.
Epic Pictures is the parent company of the popular website Dread Central, and its AVOD channel Dread TV. Unlike many of similarly aligned companies, Epic is more of a movie producer than a distributor. Everything in the listed films below is worth watching.
Deadline (2009), Bear (2010), Thale (D) (2012), V/H/S (2012-Present), Big Ass Spider! (2013), Zombeavers (D) (2014), Killer Mermaid (2014), Tales of Halloween (2015), , The Lodgers (2017), The Monster Project (2017), The Golem (2018), The Wave (2019), Benny Loves You (2019), Book of Monsters (2019), Uncle Peckerhead (2020), Lucky (2020), Sea Fever (2020), Bad Candy (2021), Slapface (2021), Ditched (2021), Queen of Spades (2021), Howling Village (2021), Satanic Hispanics (2022), The Lake (2022), Tin Can (2022), Dark Nature (2022), The Jester (2023)
Dark Sky is a competitive player in the increasingly crowded field of horror film distributors. They have a solid catalog of festival darling films, but they seem to get the second picks of the litter. They have also been acquiring older titles to bolster their reputation.
Dark Sky Films is a subsidiary of the MPI Media Group. It is one of the MPI Media Group’s horror-specific arms. Another arm is Gorgon Video, which produced The Faces of Death mondo horror series.
Blood of the Vampire (1958), Curse of the Blood Ghouls (1962), The Flesh Eaters (1964), The Devil’s Rain (1975), Who Can Kill a Child (1976), Magic (1978), Madhouse (1981), Please Don’t Eat the babies (1983), Death Spa (1988), Them (2006), Deadgirl (2008), The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu (2009), Bitter Feast (2010), Hatchet II (2010), Hypothermia (2010), Sleep Tight (2012), Frankenstein’s Army (2013), Willow Creek (2013), Hatchet III (2013), The House at the End of Time (2013), From the Dark (2014), Night of the Living Deb (2015), Mexico Barbaro (2015), Mohawk (2017), Dead Night (2018), White Chamber (2018), Await Further Instructions (2018), Girl on the Third Floor (2019), Bliss (2019), Hosts (2020), Sky Sharks (2020), Blood Conscious (2021), Broadcast Signal Intrusion (2021), Gateway (2021), Distress Signals (2022), Night of the Bastard(2022), The Third Saturday in October (2022), 8 Found Dead (2023), Herd (2023)
Unlike its mini-major brethren, Legendary Pictures is a blockbuster specialist. Superhero movies and science fiction epics are its bread and butter. While most horror films are fortunate to receive $10,000,000, Legendary Pictures routinely spends $100,000,000 to $200,000,000 on a feature. Pictures like The Dark Knight, Interstellar, or Dune are the types of films Legendary specializes in.
Therefore, the horror pictures they produce are rare but often spectacular. The studio has raised the visual stakes on what a Kaiju movie can look and sound like, with the might of a big FX budget behind it. Legendary always pairs with a major studio for financial backing and distribution. (WB, Universal, and Netflix)
Directors: Gullermo Del Toro, Michael Dougherty, Zhang Yimou Iconic Films: Trick ‘R Treat (2009), Godzilla (2014) Sleeper Films: None
Lady in the Water (2006), Clash of the Titans (2010), Pacific Rim (2013), As Above So Below (2014), Dracula Untold (2014), The Hive (2015), Crimson Peak (2015), Krampus (2015) Jurassic World (2015), The Great Wall (2016), Dead Rising Endgame (2016), Kong Skull lsland (2017), Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom (2018), Godzilla King of the Monsters (2021), Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022),The Toxic Avenger (2023)
AMP must be at the leading edge when considering up-and-coming independent studios. This reasonably new company produces some movies and is also a film distributor for small independent productions, differentiating it from its peers like Magnet and IFC Midnight. Their movies are quirky and story-forward, which is a good sign.
Producer Barbara Crampton has parlayed a long and successful career as a final girl actress into becoming a powerhouse film producer. She may now be the most powerful woman in the horror genre today. At a time when
Directors: Rebekah McKendry, Joe Lynch, Can Evernol, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
Legendary producer Dino De Laurentis liked doing things big. King Kong big. Dino produced Italian films, working with directors Federico Fellini, Mario Maonicelli, and Giuseppe De Santis. His efforts brought these films to American shores. After his Italian studio went bankrupt, Di Laurentis relocated himself and his operations to Hollywood.
He was an independent mogul who could act as an indie producer but had the resources of a major studio. Curiously, though he only dabbled in Giallo, the horror stylings of his homeland, his studio created several significant horror titles once he moved to the USA. The company remained a player in the horror genre until his passing in 2010.
Directors: Sam Raimi, David Lynch, Kathryn Bigelow, Mario Bava Iconic Films: King Kong (1976), Blue Velvet (1984), Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987) Sleeper Films: Manhunter (1986), Near Dark (1987)
Danger Diabolik (1978), Orca (1977), The White Buffalo (1977), Halloween II and III (1981-1982), Amityville II: The Possession (1982), The Dead Zone (1983), Amityville 3D (1983), Firestarter (1984), Silver Bullet (1985), Cat’s Eye (1985), Maximum Overdrive (1986), Trick or Treat (1986), The Rift (1990), Army of Darkness (1992), Hannibal (2001), Red Dragon (2002)
Once considered a potential candidate for the major studios, Orion produced some big-budget features. Equally capable of sweeping Oscar Bait Epics (Amadeus, Dancing with Wolves) and testosterone revenge films (First Blood, Robocop). It would seem that Orion was ready to graduate to the majors.
However, a string of poor box office performances (in films other than horror) doomed the studio. Nevertheless, it managed to produce two of the most successful horror movies of the era: The Terminator and Silence of the Lambs. Orion is now part of MGM. It is still alive, but barely.
Directors: Jonathan Demme, George Romero, James Cameron Iconic Films: The Terminator (1984), The Return of the Living Dead (1985), Silence of the Lambs (1991) Sleeper Film: Anna and the Apocalypse (2018)
Films: The Awakening (1980), The Hand (1981), Wolfen (1981), Strange Invaders (1983), Haunted Honeymoon (1986), Opera (1987), Monkeyshines (1988), The Dark Half (1993), Wish Upon (2017), The Prodigy (2019), Gretel & Hansel (2020)
Tri Star Pictures has a solid pedigree of good to occasionally great movies and consistently produces films that could compete with the major studios. Their horror fare is decent. However, nothing in their filmography is truly legendary unless you count the infamously bad Godzilla production that most people would like to forget.
This studio has been traded among parent companies like a rare Funko pop. It shuffled from CBS to Columbia, to Coca-Cola, and finally to Sony Pictures, which bought both Tri-Star and Columbia in 1998.
Iconic Films: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), The Blob (1988) Sleeper Films: Wind Chill (2007)
Films: Lifeforce (1985), Night of the Creeps (1986), The Seventh Sign (1988), Deep Star Six (1989), So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993), Mary Rielly (1996), Starship Troopers (1997), Godzilla (1998), Silent Hill (2006), Premonition (2007), The Call (2013), Evil Dead (2013)
The other big streaming giant is the new kid on the block relative to original movie content. Hulu only has a few original titles released, but a couple of them are landmark titles: Prey and Hellraiser.
Keep an eye on Hulu going forward. The rapidly changing streaming media landscape points towards Hulu as a major production player for years to come. Hulu’s fortunes will be tied to whether Disney acquires them, and if so, what would that parent company allow Hulu to present?
Films: Wounds (2019), Books of Blood (2020), Run (2020), False Positive (2020), No Exit (2020), Prey (2022), Hellraiser (2022), Grimcutty (2022), Matriarch (2022), Jagged Mind (2023), No One Will Save You (2023), Appendage (2023), The Mill (2023)
Not every horror movie studio is in it for the prestige. Troma is perhaps the greatest purveyor of cheap and sleazy films in the world and is unabashedly proud of it. Nothing is out of bounds for Troma, and the studio revels in the exploitation and depravity.
Troma now acts as a distributor of other ambitious independent filmmakers more than they produce their own work. They have kept the same low-brow exploitation pedigree. When you rent a Troma film, you know what you will get, for better or worse. Producer Lloyd Kaufman is an Ivy League producer making trashy exploitation films and revels in it.
Mother’s Day (1980, 2010), Redneck Zombies (1987), Chopper Chicks in Zombietown (1989), Body Parts (1992), Bugged (1996), Back Road Diner (1997), Decampitated (1998), Terror Firmer (1999), Scrotal Vengeance (2001), Heather and Puggly Drop a Deuce (2004), Coons! Night of the Bandits of the Night (2005), Pot Zombies (2005), The Demon Among Us (2006), Bigfoot (2006), Killer Yacht Party (2006), Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006), A Nocturne (2007), Teenape Vs. The Monster Nazi Apocalypse (2009), Attack of the Tromaggot (2010), Zombie Werewolves Attack! (2009), Hanger (2009), Mr. Bricks: A Heavy Metal Murder Musical (2011), Father’s Day (2011), The Taint (2011), Gut (2012), The Thingy: Confessions of a Teenage Placenta (2013), Breeding Farm (2013), My Bloody Banjo (2015), The Slashening (2015), Spidarlings (2016), Hectic Knife (2016), Toilet Gator (2017), The Scrotum (2019), Horror Nights (2020), Eating Miss Campbell (2022), The Night Butcher (2023)
Probably better known as a music recording studio, Polygram Pictures was a modest European-based mini-major studio from 1975-2000. It only did a few movies a year, but they have a few of the biggest titles in the genre, even if their portfolio is fairly thin.
Despite a relative lack of content, Polygram earns a place on this list for the power of An American Werewolf in London, Candyman, and The Relic. Polygram dissolved when the Seagram Company bought it in 1998 and then liquidated it two years later, selling its titles to MGM.
Directors: John Landis, Wes Craven Iconic Films: An American Werewolf in London (1981), Candyman (1992) Sleeper Film: The Relic (1997)
Films: The Deep (1977), Deadly Blessing (1981), Candyman Farewell to the Flesh (1995), The Arrival (1996), Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997)
Many know Amicus as Hammer’s little sister production company. Like Hammer, Amicus attracted horror audiences by using veteran British acting legends like Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, and Joan Collins. The studio was prolific for a short period but disappeared after a decade of operations.
In 2023, news broke that Amicus would be relaunched with the support of the Subotsky family, who started the company back in the ’60s. “Our aim is to re-establish Amicus Productions as a beacon of independent British Horror.” was a public statement from the producers.
Iconic Film: Tales from the Crypt (1972) Sleeper Films: The City of the Dead (1960), The Skull (1965)
Films: Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), The Psychopath (1966), The Deadly Bees (1967), The Terrornauts (1967), They Came from Beyond Space (1967), Torture Garden (1967), Scream and Scream Again (1970), The House that Dripped Blood (1971), I, Monster (1971), Asylum (1972), The Vault of Horror (1973), And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973), From Beyond the Grave (1974), The Land that Time Forgot (1974), The Beast Must Die (1974), At the Earth’s Core (1976)
Allied Artists produced many horror movies when other studios didn’t bother back in the 1950s and ’60s. The difficulty in ranking them is that apart from Invasion of the Body Snatchers and maybe Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, few of their films are still remembered today. Monogram was undone in 1979 due to rampant inflation.
Notable Directors: Mario Bava, Roger Corman Iconic Films: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Day of the Triffids (1963) Sleeper Films: Not of this Earth (1957), Blood and Black Lace (1965)
Films: The Maze (1953), Indestructible Man (1956), The Daughter of Dr. Jeckyll (1957), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), The Cyclops (1957), From Hell It Came (1957), The Disembodied (1957), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1957), Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958), Frankenstein 1970 (1958), The Bride and the Beast (1958), Queen from Outer Space (1958), The Bat (1959), Caltiki the Immortal Monster (1959), The Giant Behemoth (1959), Beast From Haunted Cave (1960), The Hypnotic Eye (1960), Black Zoo (1963), The Strangler (1964), Curse of the Voodoo (1965), Nightmare Castle (1966), Island of the Doomed (1967), The Blood Rose (1970), Alice Sweet Alice (1976)
Spyglass started their studio with a big horror hit in 1999 with The Sixth Sense but only followed up with a few other notable horror films. Only putting out 5-10 pictures a year, perhaps 15% of their content is horror. Having the newest Scream and Hellraiser iterations will help bolster their horror bonafides.
Iconic Film: The Sixth Sense (1999) Sleeper Films: Reign of Fire (2002), The Ruins (2008)
Are you surprised at this ranking? Or, are you surprised that this studio is even on the list? Disney doesn’t even try to provide scary films, let alone R-rated content.
They do have a few films that count, but given this studio’s wealth, power, and prolific output, it has to finish near the bottom when comparing resources to output. When listing films, we had to push the definition of horror. A mildly scary gateway film featuring spooky themes counts in this evaluation.
Notable Directors: Tim Burton, Gore Verbinski
Iconic Films: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Monsters Inc (Pixar) (2001) Sleeper Film: Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
Films: The Skeleton Dance (1929), Hell’s Bells (1929), The Mad Doctor (1933), Escape to Witch Mountain (1975), The Watcher in the Woods (1980), The Haunted Mansion (2003, 2023), Pirates of the Caribbean (2003-2017), Frankenweenie (2012), Monsters University (Pixar) (2013), Into the Woods (2014), Werewolf by Night (Marvel) (2022)
There is indie, and then there is DEEP indie. Circus Road Films specializes in the latter. Odds are you haven’t heard of any of these movies. Frankly, some of these films weren’t up to par for the major and mini-major distributors, but if you dig deep, there are some hidden gems in the Circus Road catalog.
These films will make the rounds of the horror film festival circuit. Look for these films at the super-indie micro-budget film festivals. If you have attended one of these festivals, you will know what we refer to.
Films: Haunted Boat (2005), American Zombie (2007), Haunted Forest (2007), Pop Skull (2007), The Uninvited (2008), Dawning (2009), Sutures (2009), Maneater (2009), Hurt (2009), The Dead Matter (2010), Shiver (2012), Scary or Die (2012), Backwater (2013), Cruel Will (2014), Interior (2014), Blood Punch (2014), Black Mountain Side (2014), Malady (2015), Excess Flesh (2015), The Horde (2016), American Killing (2016), Frazier Park Recut (2017), The Monster Project (2017), The Farm (2018), ReVisitant (2019), , The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord (2020), Becoming (2020), The Believer (2021), The Overnight (2022)
Here is an example of how NOT to run a mini-major film studio. Cannon produced cheap exploitation films but couldn’t even make them profitable. Revenge films. Erotica. Kung-fu. Macho action flicks. Eventually, Cannon would fold in 1994 after only making a minor splash in the horror genre.
For Cannon, sometimes you have to wonder, “What if?”Consider this: Cannon had the first option for both Spider-Man and Barbie. Whoops. The movie world is better off waiting for those titles to be released by other studios and done right.
Iconic Film: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) Sleeper Film: The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971)
Films: The Beast in the Cellar (1970), Crucible of Horror (1971), Cauldron of Blood (1971), Silent Night Bloody Night (1972), Don’t Go Near the Park (1979), Schizoid (1980), New Year’s Evil (1980), Deathhouse (1981), Hospital Massacre (1981), Graduation Day (1982), Lifeforce (1985), Hard Rock Zombies (1985), The Hitcher (1986), Brain Damage (1988)
I almost didn’t include Asylum. This is the address for Sharknado and the cheap Mockbuster films that rip off better-known and successful original titles. You cannot deny this company’s prolific production.
This is where the B-movies bottom out. However, a ranking list of studios should include The Asylum for its chutzpah alone. To be clear, Sharknado gets Asylum on the list. Other companies produce straight-to-streaming releases that wish they had anything close to being as recognizable as Sharknado.
Those companies did not make this cut.
Notable Directors: Mary Harron, Anthony Ferrante Iconic Film: Sharknado (2013-Present) Sleeper Films: None
King of the Ants (2003), Scarecrow (2002-2003), Death Valley: The Revenge of Bloody Bill (2004), Vampires vs. Zombies (2004), The Beast of Bray Road (2005), Alien Abduction (2005), Legion of the Dead (2005), Snakes on a Train (2006), Hillside Cannibals (2006), Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers (2006), The Hitchhiker (2007), AVH: Alien vs. Hunter (2007), Invasion of the Pod People (2007), Freakshow (2007), Monster (2008), Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (2009), Haunting of Winchester House (2009), Paranormal Entity (2009)
Mega Piranha (2010), Mega Shark vs. Crocasaurus (2010), The Amityville Haunting (2011), Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (2011), 2 Headed Shark Attack (2012), Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012), Rise of the Zombies (2012), The Haunting of Whaley House (2012), Atlantic Rim (2013), , Bermuda Tentacles (2014), Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark (2014), Blood Lake (2014), 3-Headed Shark Attack (2015-2018), Zoombies (2016), Ghosthunters (2016), Forgotten Evil (2017), Sinister Minister (2017), Evil Nanny (2017), Flight 666 (2017), Triassic World (2018), Megalodon (2018), Alien Predator (2018), Monster Island (2019), Clown (2019), Mommy Would Never Hurt You (2019), My Nightmare Landlord (2020), Ape vs. Monster (2021), MegaBoa (2021), Insect (2021), Shark Side of the Moon (2022), Headless Horseman (2022), MethGator (2023), The Exorcists (2023), Ape vs. Mecha Ape (2023)