5 horror movie classics to stream in August

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We might still be a few weeks away from the spookiest month of the year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start clamoring for frights and chilling cinematic adventures right now. There’s absolutely no shame in starting your celebration of all things horror for the upcoming Halloween season in August. The most devout horror fans never even need a seasonal reason to flip on a movie to let the ghouls, ghosts, monsters, serial killers, and the undead entertain them. So, let’s get busy!

Which horror films should you watch? Well, there’s no better place to start than with a myriad of classics — horror films that have earned their stripes and stand as icons within the horror genre. A “classic” isn’t necessarily indicated by its age; in fact, there are plenty of modern classics that have made a hefty impact on audiences and leave little doubt that they’ll endure in popularity for years to come.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

The villain of Texas Chainsaw Massacre wielding a chainsaw
Bryanston Distributing Company

Director Tobe Hooper made his mark with the release of 1974’s blood-spurting display of a deranged family of murderers in rural Texas who torment and murder a group of young adults on a road trip. If there ever was a horror film that would cue it’s most terrifying moments with screams from its leading lady, it’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. In fact, by the time the credits roll, you may not be able to shake Sally’s (Marilyn Burns) screams from your noggin for quite some time.

While the film focuses on a family of murderous ruffians, the story ultimately solidified Leatherface as a household name and an icon of terror. This hulking killer dons a mask made from the flesh of his victims and wields a chainsaw to brutally maim and kill those he’s pursuing.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is currently streaming on Peacock and Tubi.

Scream (1996)

Ghostface with a bloody knife
Dimension Films

Director Wes Craven’s metacommentary on the horror genre at large took shape in the form of the Scream franchise, which is still going strong to this day. A seventh film is currently in the works. However, while all of the films are good, bloody, keep-you-guessing fun, none are quite as impactful as the original 1996 film. When serial killer Ghostface terrorizes the small town of Woodbury and murders many innocent victims, it’s up to the one girl at the center of the slaughter, Sydney Prescott, to survive the day and put an end to it.

While the film is rife with jump scares, it is more adrenaline-inducing that actually horrifying. But the overall narrative is layered in the discussion of horror themes and tropes as the characters try to piece together the killer’s plot using horror movie clichés to predict Ghostface’s next move.

The original film Scream, as well as Scream 2, Scream 3, Scream (5), and Scream VI can be streamed on Paramount+. Scream 4 is, unfortunately, missing from the bunch due to Lionsgate owning the rights to that film’s distribution.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby.
Paramount Pictures

Rosemary’s Baby needs no introduction; it’s a bona fide horror classic, and if you’ve seen it only once, you really haven’t seen it at all. The film tells the story of Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her pregnancy all the way through birth. Along the way, she learns that there are many people in her life with sinister intentions.

Her unborn child is the target of a satanic cult. Unbeknownst to Rosemary she’s about to give birth to Satan’s offspring. While it was released in 1968, it is still an eerie and unsettling film that builds suspense over it’s two-hour-plus runtime.

Rosemary’s Baby is currently streaming on Showtime.

The Conjuring (2013)

Lili Taylor holds a match up while staring down into a dark basement.
Warner Bros. / Warner Bros. Pictures

This is one of those films that may not be very old by most standards, but it’s most certainly a modern classic given the impact it has had on the horror genre. Director James Wan has long been famous for his dark and twisted tales of horror, including the original Saw, Insidious, and Dead Silence. When The Conjuring was released in 2013, it recounted an alleged real-life story of the Perron family and world-famous demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, who helped the family purge an evil supernatural presence from their Rhode Island home. The movie was a surprise hit, with audiences chilled to the bone by what they saw on the screen.

While the film wasn’t overly saturated in violence or vulgar language, it still landed an R rating simply because of its terrifying imagery. Wan revolutionized horror by keeping things simple. A pair of ghostly hands clapping in the dark is all we need to jump out of our seats. As a director, he understands that sometimes less is more.

The Conjuring and its sequels can be found streaming on Max.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Freddy Krueger taunting in A Nightmare on Elm Street
New Line Cinema

Director Wes Craven’s seminal 1984 film A Nightmare on Elm Street introduced the world to Freddy Krueger — a long-dead madman who has found a bridge between the living and the dead and wields it to torment and murder. Physically scarred from a being burned, Krueger haunts the youth of a small town in their dreams, and if he manages to physically harm or murder them in the dream state, it also happens in real life. As such, he can bend their dream worlds to his designs, producing terrors like these teens have never seen before.

Realizing Krueger was a child murderer in life, the teens band together to keep each other awake as they figure out a way to stop him from murdering them all one by one. Of course, many of the film’s characters don’t succeed, with their lives ending in spectacularly bloody displays created through the wonder of 1980s practical effects magic. It really goes without saying that A Nightmare on Elm Street has been a major inspiration on the horror genre and is a movie that still holds up today.

You can find A Nightmare on Elm Street and many of its sequels streaming on Max.

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