If you're new to the genre, this horror movies list of five essential films will make for the perfect introduction. While this horror movies list is by no means comprehensive, it covers a wide base of the types of films that make up the horror genre, from psychological terror to out and out bloody slasher gore. Try not to hide your eyes from our introductory horror movies list.

  1. "Psycho." Modern horror began with Alfred Hitchcock's psychological masterpiece. With violence shocking for its time and a twist even more shocking than its violence—the film's biggest star, Janet Leigh, meeting an early and iconic end in a scene that will make you think twice before showering in a hotel bathroom alone—this is essential for any horror movies list. More than fifty years old, "Psycho" still can make audiences scream even today.

  2. "The Exorcist." For many film buffs, the 1970s are truly the golden age of film, when directors were able to break free of the studio system and turn film from entertainment into art. "The Exorcist" is both art and entertainment, and, as one of the scariest movies ever made, truly belongs on any horror movies list. The story of a little girl possessed by the devil and the two priests who seek to free her from the possession, it's a story of right and wrong, religious faith, Catholic guilt, and the power of the devil. Based on a true story, it is also a film that makes it very hard to sleep at night.

  3. "Halloween." The low-budget classic of the slasher film set, John Carpenter's horror film introduces one of the iconic villains in film history, the unstoppable, masked psychopath Michael Myers, along with many of the tropes of horror films to follow, including the virginal heroine (played here by Jamie Lee Curtis), her slutty friend who meets an early end (the lovely PJ Soles) and ambiguous endings leaving the film open for sequels. No horror movies list would be complete without this chilling, thrill-a-minute slash-a-thon.

  4. "A Nightmare on Elm Street." This franchise-beginning film takes the slasher genre into supernatural territory, with the villain an executed child molester who haunts the dreams of the teenagers of Elm Street and kills them in their sleep. Freddy Krueger became an iconic horror villain, and this film had the right mix of humor and horror to carry the genre into the exploitative entertainment era of the 1980s.

  5. "Scream." If "Elm Street" ushered in the 1980s, "Scream" stood in for the postmodern awareness of the 1990s. A slasher film full of plenty of scares, it also toys with horror movie tropes set up in "Halloween," "Friday the 13th," and other movies of the ilk, with its killer calling victims up and asking them questions about scary movies, and Jamie Kennedy playing the role of a teenager who's seen too many horror films and "knows all the rules." "Scream" also plays homage to "Psycho" by killing off its biggest star, Drew Barrymore, in the film's tense first scene. This self-aware horror-comedy rounds out the essential horror movies list for beginners.

- Travis Petersen