The 15 Best Religious Horror Movies

With Immaculate, Late Night With the Devil, and The First Omen all earning mostly favorable reviews from critics in recent weeks, 2024 is already turning into a banner year for religiously-themed horror movies.

By no means an underrepresented subgenre in the horror pantheon, faith-fueled fright flicks have been thrilling and terrifying audiences for decades. While American-made religious horror often focuses on Christian traditions and beliefs by default—as TIME film critic Stephanie Zacharek wrote in her Immaculate review, “the lore of Catholicism is gruesome enough to fill a thousand horror movies”—other faiths and practices have increasingly crept into play.

From stories that explore the terrors of everything from demonic possession to overzealous faith to the thin line between belief and uncertainty, here is TIME’s take on the 15 best religious horror movies.

The Witch (2016)

After they are banished from their 17th-century New England settlement over a religious dispute, a devout Puritan family finds themselves at the mercy of a sinister evil in the woods beyond their remote farm. Director Robert Eggers’ feature debut plays on the specter of witchcraft for a slow-burn psychological thriller that makes colonial fears relevant to modern viewers. Come for Anya Taylor-Joy’s breakout performance as eldest daughter Thomasin, stay for the antics of demonic goat Black Phillip.

Where to watch: Max

The Omen (1976)

Widely considered one of the all-time great religious horror classics, Richard Donner’s The Omen centers on American diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck), who—without telling his wife Kathy (Lee Remick)—agrees to adopt an infant whose mother died in childbirth as a replacement for the couple’s own stillborn baby. The only problem is the child, a boy named Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens), turns out to be the literal Antichrist, a.k.a. the son of Satan. The original Omen has spawned a number of remakes, sequels, and now, a prequel, with director Arkasha Stevenson’s The First Omen delving into the terrifying conspiracy that brought about Damien’s birth in Rome.

Where to watch: Hulu

The Wailing (2016)

When a rural Korean village is suddenly plagued by a mysterious illness that causes the infected to violently kill their loved ones, local police officer Jong-goo (Kwak Do-won) begins to suspect a foreign newcomer is to blame. Opening with a quote from the Bible, The Wailing explores themes of religion, spirituality, and folklore for a genre-bending horror-thriller. Director Na Hong-jin said the story was born from a question he kept asking himself following the tragic deaths of several people close to him. “The question was, ‘Why did THEY have to be victims OF ALL PEOPLE?'” he told The Playlistคำพูดจาก สล็อตเว็บตรง. “I already had the answers for the ‘How.’ What I had to find out was the ‘Why.’ So I began to meet and talk to the clergy of various religions, which was the starting point of this film.”

Where to watch: Netflix

Frailty (2002)

Directed by and starring the late Bill Paxton, Frailty opens with a mysterious man (Matthew McConaughey) showing up at the office of FBI agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) to confess that his brother Adam was the notorious Texas serial killer behind the “God’s Hand” murders. From there, the man recounts the chilling story of his childhood, during which his father (Paxton) claimed to have been called upon by God to destroy demons walking the Earth in human form. Frailty is a sleeper gem that puts a Southern Gothic spin on biblical horror and the terror of a cruel and fickle God.

Where to watch: Prime Video

It Lives Inside (2023)

Writer-director Bishal Dutta brings a flesh-eating demon from Hindu mythology to suburban America in his underrated debut feature. It Lives Inside stars Megan Suri as Samidha, an Indian-American high school student who must come to terms with the heritage she is initially so eager to reject after her childhood best friend becomes the target of a malevolent spirit known as the Pishach—a bogeyman that, according to Dutta, is “the embodiment of isolation, and loneliness, and anxiety.”

Where to watch: Hulu

The Conjuring (2013)

Loosely based on the real-life exploits of Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), The Conjuring follows the married demonologists as they investigate the 1970s haunting of the Perron family—and decide to perform their own exorcism on matriarch Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) after the Catholic Church refuses. Directed by James Wan, the original Conjuring kickstarted what is now the highest-grossing horror franchise in history, having earned over $2.3 billion at the global box office ahead of the release of the final film in the main series, The Conjuring 4, later this year.

Where to watch: Max

Midsommar (2019)

As a follow-up to his acclaimed 2018 debut Hereditary, filmmaker Ari Aster delivered what he has described as “a breakup movie dressed in the clothes of a folk horror film.” Featuring a breakout performance by Florence Pugh, Midsommar follows college student Dani (Pugh) as she accompanies her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends on a trip to a fabled mid-summer festival at a remote pagan commune in Sweden after experiencing a terrible family tragedy.

Where to watch: Max

The Possession (2012)

When their young daughter Em (Natasha Calis) begins exhibiting increasingly erratic behavior after purchasing a mysterious antique box at a yard sale, recently divorced couple Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) eventually come to realize she’s been possessed by a parasitic evil. Playing on the Jewish folklore legend of the dybbuk—a disembodied human spirit that restlessly wanders the Earth searching for a living host—The Possession was inspired by a 2004 Los Angeles Times article titled “A jinx in a box?” that detailed the strange history of a wine cabinet that was supposedly brought to America by a Holocaust survivor. Whether or not the real dybbuk box is cursed is up for debate. As for director Ole Bornedal’s spin on the story, think The Exorcist with a Jewish spin.

Where to watch: Peacock

[REC] (2007)

Late-night TV reporter Ángela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) finds herself unexpectedly investigating the outbreak of a mysterious viral infection in an apartment building in the heart of Barcelona in Spanish filmmakers Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s harrowing found-footage flick. To say too much about the religious component of [REC] would give the ending away, but its final twist is one for the books.

Where to watch: Prime Video

The Medium (2021)

Framed as a documentary about the spiritual practices of the Isan people of northeast Thailand, The Medium centers on a middle-aged woman named Nim (Sawanee Utoomma), a shaman who claims to be the conduit for a benevolent goddess called Ban Ya. But when Nim’s niece Mink (Narilya Gulmongkolpech) begins showing signs of her own possession, things start to go horribly wrong—first for Nim’s family, then the community at large. Thai director Banjong Pisanthanakun serves up a slow-burn folk horror with a bone-chilling final act that’s decidedly not for the faint of heart.

Where to watch: Shudder

Carrie (1976)

Brian De Palma’s classic adaptation of Stephen King’s tale of a bullied girl exacting psychic vengeance taps into the horror of religious trauma by placing its titular character, Sissy Spacek’s Carrie, under the care of Margaret, her abusively fanatical mother played by Piper Laurie. While the pig-blood prom is one of the most iconic scenes in movie history, the twisted mother-daughter relationship between Carrie and unhinged, God-fearing Margaret is the heart of the story.

Where to watch: Max

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

Loosely based on the true story of Anneliese Michel, a young German woman who underwent 67 Catholic exorcism rites before dying of malnutrition and dehydration at the age of 23, The Exorcism of Emily Rose dramatizes the sensational 1978 trial—in which Anneliese Michel’s parents and the two priests who conducted the exorcisms were convicted of negligent homicide—that followed her death. In real life, Annaliese Michel was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy and manic depression (now known as bipolar disorder). However, writer-director Scott Derrickson’s take on the story—replete with flashbacks to Emily Rose’s violent episodes—suggests Emily (Jennifer Carpenter) was truly a victim of demonic possession, turning the movie into a much more over-the-top religious horror thrill ride.

Where to watch: Prime Video

Noroi: The Curse (2005)

Presented as the final documentary film of journalist-turned-paranormal investigator Masafumi Kobayashi (Jin Muraki), Noroi: The Curse follows Kobayashi as he looks into a series of strange occurrences that ultimately lead him to an abandoned Shinto shrine and an ancient demon seeking resurrection. Japanese director Koji Shirashi’s horror mockumentary offers an unnervingly fresh take on the found-footage format.

The Wicker Man (1973)

Before Midsommar, there was The Wicker Man. From the moment rigidly Protestant police officer Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) arrives on the isolated Scottish island of Summerisle in search of a missing girl, it’s clear something is off about the insular seaside communityคำพูดจาก สล็อตเว็บตรง. Director Robin Hardy’s seminal cult classic follows Howie as he slowly discovers he’s in way over his head among the pagan locals—culminating in the terrifying realization he’s been doomed from the start. Just make sure you don’t watch the dreadful 2006 Nicolas Cage remake by mistake.

Where to watch: Prime Video

The Exorcist (1973)

What more can be said about the masterpiece that is The Exorcist? The granddaddy of all possession films, William Friedkin’s demonic chiller terrorized moviegoers and forever changed the horror landscape when it arrived in theaters in 1973. Featuring a brilliant—and Oscar-nominated—performance by Ellen Burstyn as desperate mother Chris MacNeil, the oft-imitated tale of possessed 12-year-old Reagan MacNeil (Linda Blair) remains one of the most disturbing cinematic experiences ever put to film.

Where to watch: Prime Video

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