The 1990s brought some of the most iconic horror films of all time. by Wes Craven Scream reinvigorated the slasher genre with a meta deconstruction, David Fincher Se7fr brought a “buddy cop” angle to a gruesome serial killer thriller, and that of Rob Reiner Misery skillfully translated one of Stephen King’s most compelling character dynamics to the screen.
Every great horror movie needs a protagonist that audiences can root for. The 90s brought such likeable and unforgettable protagonists as Screamis Sidney Prescott, The sixth senseby Cole Sear, and Thesilenceofthelambs“Clarice Starling.
ten Lt. Mike Harrigan (Predator 2)
For the majority, Predator 2 – in which the Predator lands in the big city – is not a great movie. But Danny Glover gives an excellent performance as Lt. Mike Harrigan, an LAPD officer whose investigation into drug cartels becomes an investigation into the alien murders.
Like his predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Glover is a likable action hero that audiences can seek out when facing the inhuman, supernatural antagonist.
9 Helen Lyle (Candyman)
Clive Barker’s short story ‘The Forbidden’ is a horror allegory for UK classism, but Bernard Rose’s franchise-launching film adaptation candy man moved the setting to the United States and changed the social commentary to deal with contemporary racial issues.
More broadly, the film is a study of modern myth-making told through the eyes of Virginia Madsen’s Helen Lyle, a graduate student in semiotics researching urban legends in Chicago.
8 Cole Sear (The Sixth Sense)
M. Night Shyamalan had previously directed movies The sixth sensecorn The sixth sense was the worldwide phenomenon that put him on the map and established his style: supernatural thrillers with a shocking ending.
It’s easy to see why The sixth sense became a blockbuster because it has a lucrative high-concept premise with a hook: Haley Joel Osment stars as a young boy who claims he can “see dead people.”
seven Seth Gecko (Dusk Till Dawn)
Starred by George Clooney, directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by Quentin Tarantino, From dusk till dawnSeth Gecko is more of an anti-hero than a protagonist. In the opening act, Seth and his much more sadistic brother Richie (played by Tarantino) take a family hostage to cross the border. Seth eventually teams up with this family to deal with a paranormal threat when the film switches genres midway through.
From the third act, From dusk till dawn is a horror movie in its own right, but it starts out as a slick crime thriller. Seth is introduced as a classic Elmore Leonard career criminal; an armed gangster with flowery and eloquent dialogue.
6 Peyton Westlake (Darkman)
Sam Raimi’s underrated gem dark man is a delicious cross between the “body horror” and superhero genres. Liam Neeson stars as a scientist named Peyton Westlake, who is brutally attacked and left for dead by gangsters.
Westlake’s experimental attempt to heal his wounds gives him superpowers (and also, unfortunately, turns him into a violent sadist).
5 Somerset and Mills (Se7en)
David Fincher’s horrific serial killer thriller Se7fr is a kind of horror take on the “buddy cop” genre. Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt play Detectives William Somerset and David Mills, respectively.
Somerset and Mills are like Riggs and Murtaugh if they were investigating the gruesome crimes of a biblical serial killer: the grizzled veteran on the verge of retirement and the risk-loving young detective.
4 Paul Sheldon (Misery)
by Stephen King Misery plays like the author’s personal worst nightmare. Paul Sheldon is a famous writer who was saved from a car accident by an obsessive fan named Annie Wilkes. At first, Annie pledges to heal Paul – but she takes a dark turn when she reads his latest book and it doesn’t fit her headcanon.
As a violent metaphor for toxic fandom, Misery was well ahead of its time. In Rob Reiner’s masterfully crafted film adaptation, James Caan plays Paul as an ordinary man opposite Kathy Bates’ sinister Oscar-winning turn as Annie.
3 Blade (Blade)
Previous to x-men and Spider Man franchises that often take credit for starting the trend, Stephen Norrington’s Blade was the very first Marvel blockbuster. Indeed, Blade paved the way for the MCU. Wesley Snipes made an icon of the titular vampire slayer from the start.
Snipes defined all of the characteristics of Blade that fans love today – namely his funny one-liners, many of which were improvised, like “Some motherfucker is still trying to ice skate uphill.”
2 Sidney Prescott (Cree)
A decade after revolutionizing a stagnant slasher genre with supernatural elements in freddieWes Craven revolutionized an even more stagnant slasher genre with the self-aware edge and whodunnit storyline of Scream.
Neve Campbell anchors the film as Sidney Prescott, a badass deconstruction of the “final girl” archetype who breaks all the rules and still survives until the end credits.
1 Clarice Starling (The Silence of the Lambs)
Jonathan Demme’s wonderfully twisted psychological thriller Thesilenceofthelambs is one of the few films in Oscar history to sweep all five major Oscar categories. One of those wins was a well-deserved Best Actress win for Jodie Foster’s portrayal of Clarice Starling.
Clarice is the FBI recruit tasked with profiling cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter to aid in the investigation of fellow serial killer, Buffalo Bill. Foster is both a gripping lead for audiences to root for and a compelling stage partner for Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Lecter.
NEXT: The 10 Best Horror Movie Villains Of The 1990s
10 apocalyptic comedies to watch after not looking up
About the Author