What are some of the most terrifying screenplays ever written? Reading how-to books and articles about screenwriting can only take you so far.
The best education you can receive to ready yourself for screenwriting greatness is to watch movies and — more importantly — read movie scripts. Our partners at The Script Lab understand the importance of this and you’ll find that many of the scripts available in this list are through them.
As you read more scripts, you’ll quickly see that there’s no single way to write a screenplay. Yes, there’s a general format and structure to follow for most, but the best thing that you can do is read as many screenplays as you can to see what works best.
And when you’re writing within a genre like horror, it’s helpful to explore the many subgenres that horror has to offer.
Here we present sixty-six horror screenplays that you can use as roadmaps to creating your own terrifying cinematic tales.
Note: Many of the screenplays will differ from the final cut of the movies due to film editing, shooting draft changes, and the fact that some are earlier drafts. Also, some of the scripts don’t adhere to the general contemporary guidelines and expectations that novice screenwriters should abide by. When in doubt, always err on those guidelines and expectations. Some scripts follow a dated format while others are written by established professionals that have format leeway and are allowed to go beyond the general 90-120 page count guideline.
Read ScreenCraft’s The Differences Between Screenwriting Rules, Guidelines, and Expectations and Does Correct Screenplay Format REALLY Matter? to learn more about format guidelines and expectations!
*Click on each image to read the script!*
28 Days Later
Four weeks after a mysterious, incurable virus spreads throughout the UK, a handful of survivors try to find sanctuary.
After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call, its landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious lifeform, and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.
A widowed mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.
Five years after an ominous unseen presence drives most of society to suicide, a mother and her two children make a desperate bid to reach safety.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
The centuries-old vampire Count Dracula comes to England to seduce his barrister Jonathan Harker’s fiancée Mina Murray and inflict havoc in the foreign land.
The Cabin in the Woods
Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin, where they get more than they bargained for, discovering the truth behind the cabin in the woods.
Carrie White, a shy, friendless teenage girl who is sheltered by her domineering, religious mother, unleashes her telekinetic powers after being humiliated by her classmates at her senior prom.
Children of the Corn
A young couple is trapped in a remote town where a dangerous religious cult of children believe everyone over the age of 18 must be killed.
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.
In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds – and remembers.
A man struggles with memories of his past, which includes a wife he cannot remember, and a nightmarish world without a sun.
Dawn of the Dead
Following an ever-growing epidemic of zombies that have risen from the dead, two Philadelphia S.W.A.T. team members, a traffic reporter, and his television executive girlfriend seek refuge in a secluded shopping mall.
Day of the Dead
A small group of military officers and scientists dwell in an underground bunker as the world above is overrun by zombies.
Intent on seeing the Cahulawassee River before it’s dammed and turned into a lake, outdoor fanatic Lewis Medlock takes his friends on a canoeing trip they’ll never forget into the dangerous American back-country.
The Devil’s Advocate
An exceptionally adept Florida lawyer is offered a job at a high-end New York City law firm with a high-end boss – the biggest opportunity of his career to date.
A business commuter is pursued and terrorized by the malevolent driver of a massive tractor-trailer.
A rescue crew investigates a spaceship that disappeared into a black hole and has now returned…with someone or something new on-board.
The Evil Dead
Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.
Evil Dead 2
The lone survivor of an onslaught of flesh-possessing spirits holes up in a cabin with a group of strangers while the demons continue their attack.
When a teenage girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter.
After a teenager has a terrifying vision of him and his friends dying in a plane crash, he prevents the accident only to have Death hunt them down, one by one.
Friday the 13th
A group of camp counselors is stalked and murdered by an unknown assailant while trying to reopen a summer camp which, years before, was the site of a child’s drowning.
Friday the 13th Part 2
Mrs. Voorhees is dead, and Camp Crystal Lake is shut down, but a camp next to the infamous place is stalked by an unknown assailant.
A teenager discovers that the newcomer in his neighborhood is a vampire, so he turns to an actor in a television horror show for help dealing with the undead.
A young African-American visits his white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches a boiling point.
A punk rock band is forced to fight for survival after witnessing a murder at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar.
An American nurse living and working in Tokyo is exposed to a mysterious supernatural curse, one that locks a person in a powerful rage before claiming their life and spreading to another victim.
Fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night 1963, Michael Myers escapes from a mental hospital and returns to the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois to kill again.
An unfaithful wife encounters the zombie of her dead lover; the demonic cenobites are pursuing him after he escaped their sadomasochistic underworld.
Hellraiser II: Hellbound
Kirsty is brought to an institution after the death of her family, where the occult-obsessive head resurrects Julia and unleashes the Cenobites once again.
House of 1000 Corpses
Two young couples traveling across the backwoods of Texas searching for urban legends of murder end up as prisoners of a bizarre and sadistic backwater family of serial killers.
Stranded at a desolate Nevada motel during a nasty rain-storm, ten strangers become acquainted with each other when they realize that they’re being killed off one by one.
A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.
Insidious Chapter 2
The Lamberts believe that they have defeated the spirits that have haunted their family, but they soon discover that evil is not beaten so easily.
In the Mouth of Madness
An insurance investigator begins discovering that the impact a horror writer’s books have on his fans is more than inspirational.
In the summer of 1989, a group of bullied kids band together to destroy a shape-shifting monster, which disguises itself as a clown and preys on the children of Derry, their small Maine town.
A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after a sexual encounter.
Mourning his dead child, a haunted Vietnam War veteran attempts to uncover his past while suffering from a severe case of dissociation. To do so, he must decipher reality and life from his own dreams, delusions, and perceptions of death.
When a killer shark unleashes chaos on a beach community, it’s up to a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer to hunt the beast down.
A brother and sister driving home through isolated countryside for spring break encounter a flesh-eating creature which is in the midst of its ritualistic eating spree.
Let Me In
A bullied young boy befriends a young female vampire who lives in secrecy with her guardian.
A freak storm unleashes a species of bloodthirsty creatures on a small town, where a small band of citizens hole up in a supermarket and fight for their lives.
A small-town farmer’s son reluctantly joins a traveling group of vampires after he is bitten by a beautiful drifter.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
The monstrous spirit of a slain child murderer seeks revenge by invading the dreams of teenagers whose parents were responsible for his untimely death.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
A psychiatrist familiar with knife-wielding dream demon Freddy Krueger helps teens at a mental hospital battle the killer who is invading their dreams.
Night of the Living Dead
A ragtag group of Pennsylvanians barricades themselves in an old farmhouse to remain safe from a bloodthirsty, flesh-eating breed of monsters who are ravaging the East Coast of the United States.
Mysterious deaths surround an American ambassador. Could the child that he is raising actually be the Antichrist? The Devil’s own son?
In the Falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.
A family’s home is haunted by a host of demonic ghosts.
A Phoenix secretary embezzles forty thousand dollars from her employer’s client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.
A Quiet Place
In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing.
A journalist must investigate a mysterious videotape which seems to cause the death of anyone one week to the day after they view it.
A young couple moves into an apartment only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins to control her life.
Two strangers, who awaken in a room with no recollection of how they got there, soon discover they’re pawns in a deadly game perpetrated by a notorious serial killer.
A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game.
Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his motives.
A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future.
The Silence of the Lambs
A young F.B.I. cadet must receive the help of an incarcerated and manipulative cannibal killer to help catch another serial killer, a madman who skins his victims.
The Sixth Sense
A boy who communicates with spirits seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist.
A young couple staying in an isolated vacation home are terrorized by three unknown assailants.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Two siblings and three of their friends en route to visit their grandfather’s grave in Texas end up falling victim to a family of cannibalistic psychopaths And must survive the terrors of Leatherface and his family.
A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims.
Trick ‘R Treat
Five interwoven stories that occur on Halloween: An everyday high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer; a college virgin might have just met the guy for her; a group of teenagers pulls a mean prank; a woman who loathes the night has to contend with her holiday-obsessed husband; and a mean old man meets his match with a demonic, supernatural trick-or-treater.
The Walking Dead (Pilot)
Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma to learn the world is in ruins and must lead a group of survivors to stay alive.
When the Davison family comes under attack during their wedding anniversary getaway, the gang of mysterious killers soon learns that one of the victims harbors a secret talent for fighting back.
In the late 1960s/early 1970s, a San Francisco cartoonist becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified individual who terrorizes Northern California with a killing spree.
Read ScreenCraft’s 65 TV Pilot Scripts That Screenwriters Should Study!
Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.
He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries Blackout, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies