Everyone loves a holiday, whether its celebratory activities involve opening gifts, popping off fireworks, or just getting together with family to fight about politics. However, they’re not always a good time. Holidays can be horrifying, but which one is the scariest? That’s what we’re here to find out.
We decided to count down the scariest holidays of the year, based on the number of horror movies dedicated to the special day. The movies were largely pulled from Wikipedia, All Horror, and other lists, and then narrowed down based on a few criteria. For starters, the bulk (or main climax) of the movie had to take place during the holiday in question. Second, it couldn’t be about people simply traveling from one place to another for a holiday celebration, unless the holiday played an active part in the story itself—you’d be surprised how many movies simply say “We’re driving home for Christmas!” and then have jack-all to do with Christmas. Finally, if it was an anthology film all the pieces of it had to be about the same holiday.
I also chose to selectively incorporate Hulu and Blumhouse’s Into the Dark films into the list. They cover a lot of obscure holidays, and if I dedicated a spot to each one it would have doubled the list and thrown the whole thing off. So, I’ve found a compromise: If there’s an Into the Dark film that fits into an entry already on the list, I will add it there. But if it’s for a more obscure holiday, like the Father-Daughter Day episode, it will be included in a Special Mention section at the bottom of the post.
If you feel any movies are missing, be sure to leave me a note in the comments—chances are I chose not to include it for the reasons stated above, but it’s possible that it was one I didn’t come across in my searches and can add it after publishing.
13. Memorial Day: 1 Movie
The first holiday on this list barely counts, but dammit I’m committed to making this as accurate as possible—even if the movie’s primary connection to Memorial Day is the fact that it mostly takes place on Memorial Day. Besides, 13 is kind of a perfect number.
Memorial Day (1999)
This is a low-budget slasher film about a Jason/Freddy hybrid who targets a bunch of teens at Memorial Lake during the Memorial Day weekend holiday. It counts, just technically.
12. Hanukkah: 1 Movie
There may be several holiday horror movies about Christmas (more on that later), but none were telling an equally frightening tale for the Festival of Lights. Until last year, when we finally got the first (and only) Hanukkah-themed horror film so far.
Hanukkah is about a group of rebellious Jewish teens who are being targeted by a serial killer who thinks God is giving him commandments to kill those who aren’t honoring the faith, namely neo-Nazis and “bad Jews.” It was written and directed by Eben McGarr, who was raised Catholic but told Forbes he grew up being “inundated with Jewish culture” from his friends, and wanted to make a holiday horror movie that respected the faith. Your mileage may vary!
11. May Day: 2 Movies
May Day is the ancient festival of spring, fertility, and rebirth, and so has gotten its (small) share of folkloric horror tales. The most notable would be The Wicker Man, the 1973 horror classic that spawned a sequel in 2006 where Nicolas Cage had bees stuck to his face (although that one didn’t take place on May Day). There have also been a couple of horror flicks that took place around the summer solstice (Midsommer), but May Day is a bit more precise in its daylight-filled terrors.
The Wicker Man (1973), Witchouse (1999)
Highlight: Witchouse (1999)
Witchouse is a cheesy 1999 horror film about a girl named Elizabeth who gathers a bunch of friends for a party on May Day, and asks them to participate in what she calls a “Mayday Séance.” It turns out she’s the descendent of a witch named Lilith who was burned at the stake. Elizabeth is looking to resurrect her ancestor with the help of her unwilling friends who have a deeper connection to Lilith’s death than they might realize.
10. Independence Day: 4 Movies
Sadly, none of these are about Will Smith punching an alien in the face. The Fourth of July is a celebration of American patriotism, which has apparently made it an unpopular subject for horror films (except on Into the Dark, which takes up half this list). Even The First Purge, which was released on July 4, didn’t take place on the holiday.
Jaws (1978), Uncle Sam (1996), Into the Dark: Culture Shock (2019), Into the Dark: The Current Occupant (2020)
Highlight: Uncle Sam (1996)
Uncle Sam is a horror-comedy about a soldier killed in the line of duty who becomes an undead monster who goes about killing people on Independence Day while dressed in an Uncle Sam costume. It’s definitely got some weird patriotic vibes, as the murderer punishes politicians and people who desecrate the American flag. But it turns out he’s also a masochist who enlisted in the military as an excuse to kill people. So, pobody’s nerfect.
9. St. Patrick’s Day: 4 Movies
We’ve got a whole series about a killer leprechaun, but this magical holiday is sorely lacking in the horror department. Even though the Leprechaun series has spawned several horror flicks about the murderer at the end of the rainbow, the holiday itself has been largely ignored. In fact, only one Leprechaun actually takes place around St. Paddy’s Day.
Maniac Cop (1988), Leprechaun 2 (1994), Red Clover (2012), Into the Dark: Crawlers (2020)
Highlight: Maniac Cop (1988)
Robert Z’Dar and Bruce Campbell star in this 1980s B-movie about an undead cop who’s come back from the dead to seek vengeance on everyone who did him wrong. The big climax of the film takes place during New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and parts of it were filmed during the actual celebration.
8. Dia de los Muertos: 4 Movies
Halloween is a popular holiday for scary movies in the United States, but in Mexico (and a few other places), it’s all about the Day of the Dead. Movies like Macario and All Souls Day take inspiration from religious or folkloric legends to tell their supernatural stories, instead of just relying on a killer wearing a weird mask.
Macario (1960), At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1964), All Souls Day (2005), El Muerto (2007)
Highlight: At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1964)
Brazil’s first horror film, À Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma (At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul), also marked the debut of Coffin Joe (Zé do Caixão, played by the film’s co-writer and director, José Mojica Marins), an undertaker who hates religion and emotion, and thinks the only thing that matters is continuing his line by having a son with the “perfect woman.” Coffin Joe has become a cultural icon over the decades, appearing in dozens of films, TV shows, songs, and comic books—as well as parade floats at Carnivale. He’s referred to as “Brazil’s National Boogeyman,” and is considered by some to be Brazil’s version of Freddy Kreuger.
7. April Fools’ Day: 6 Movies
The joke was on all of us in 1986! That’s when we got not one, but three horror movies about April Fools’ Day. The weird thing is is that none of them seemed aware of each other until it was too late: Both Killer Party and Slaughter High had to change their titles—from April Fool and April Fools’ Day, respectively—after Paramount’s April Fool’s Day was announced.
April Fool’s Day (1986), Killer Party (1986), Slaughter High (1986), April Fools (2007), April Fool’s Day (2008), Into the Dark: I’m Just F*cking with You (2019)
Highlight: April Fool’s Day (1986)
This is the April Fools’ Day horror flick that started it all, and boy did it start things off with a bang. The movie is famous for its twist ending, where it turned out that (spoilers!) the murders taking place at the remote island mansion were all one big staged prank. It might sound like the greatest April Fools’ Day trick ever, but it wasn’t the original plan: The film was meant to end on the actual grisly murder of Muffy, the woman who’d orchestrated the pranks, but Paramount executives felt it was dour and wanted the movie to end on a high note. So instead, it’s all champagne wishes and caviar dreams.
6. Thanksgiving: 7 Movies
It’s not easy going home for Thanksgiving: fighting over politics, arguing that your significant other doesn’t need to stay in a separate room, avoiding that one aunt who insists you try her ambrosia salad. But there are a few movies that take the Thanksgiving journey home and make it deadly, with films that tend to focus on killers attacking family reunions. Sometimes, they’re even part of the family.
Home Sweet Home (1981), Blood Rage (1987), Séance (2006), ThanksKilling (2008), ThanksKilling 3 (2012), Into the Dark: Flesh and Blood (2018), Into the Dark: Pilgrim (2019)
Highlight: Home Sweet Home (1981)
Home Sweet Home is about an escaped mental patient named Jay Jones who terrorizes a family getting together for the holiday. It’s pretty standard “killer on the loose during a holiday” fare, coming on the heels of Halloween—but what makes this one stand out is that it’s one of a few 1980s horror films that was directed by a woman, Nettie Peña. It’s only the last several years that we’ve seen a big uptick in horror films helmed by women, like Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook and Nia DaCosta’s upcoming Candyman remake. Home Sweet Home might be silly, but Peña was ahead of her time.
5. New Year’s Eve: 8 Movies
Should auld acquaintance be forgot...permanently? New Year’s Eve is a surprisingly popular subject in horror films, with the idea of new beginnings coinciding with “final endings.” It’s actually the subject of one of the iconic early horror films of the early 20th century. But surprise-no-surprise, it’s also because New Year’s Eve parties are the perfect place for a masked killer to do some serious damage.
The Phantom Carriage (1921), The Phantom Carriage (1958), Terror Train (1980), New Year’s Evil (1980), Bloody New Year (1987), The Children (2008), Into the Dark: New Year, New You (2018), Into the Dark: Midnight Kiss (2019)
Highlight: The Phantom Carriage (1921)
The Phantom Carriage, or Körkarlen, is considered one of the defining works of Swedish cinema. Directed by and starring Victor Sjöström, it’s a Dickensian-esque ghost story about an alcoholic who learns the error of his ways on New Year’s, coming to terms with how horribly he’s treated his family. A legend says the last person in the world to die on New Year’s Eve is doomed to take the reigns of Death’s soul-collecting chariot for an entire year. The silent film was based on the story by Novel Prize-winning author Selma Lagerlöf and is said to have influenced the works of Ingmar Bergman. It also inspired a remake several decades later.
4. Valentine’s Day: 8 Movies
I honestly expected to see more Valentine’s Day-themed horror movies.
My Bloody Valentine (1981), Hospital Massacre (1982), Lovers Lane (1999), Valentine (2001), Pontypool (2008), My Bloody Valentine (2009), Into the Dark: Down (2019), Into the Dark: My Valentine (2020)
Highlight: Pontypool (2008)
Some folks have tried to call Pontypool the Valentine’s Day equivalent of Die Hard, meaning it’s the Valentine’s Day movie for all the people who are “too cool” for normal Valentine’s Day movies. I can understand why. Taking place on February 14, it’s about a virus that spreads through certain words in the English language, including “terms of endearment” and other romantic phrases. The town of Pontypool finds itself cut off from the rest of the world as more residents get infected and it’s a struggle to figure out how to connect with others while avoiding the words that will turn you into a mindless zombie too.
3. Easter: 9 Movies
There are a lot of movies about killer bunnies and murderers wearing bunny costumes but most of them have nothing to do with Easter. It wasn’t easy to narrow down this list to the ones that are actually about Easter Sunday. A few on this list are connected to the Christian holiday, but most of them are just about bunnies.
Critters 2: The Main Course (1982), Little Witches (1996), Resurrection (1999), Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! (2006), Easter Bunny Bloodbath (2010), Easter Casket (2013), Easter Sunday (2014), The Night Before Easter (2014), Into the Dark: Pooka Lives! (2020)
Highlight: Critters 2: The Main Course (1982)
Did you know the Critters sequel is an Easter movie? Neither did I! I guess they were trying to do for Easter what Gremlins did for Christmas. It all centers around the famed Easter Egg Hunt, which takes a dangerous turn when the Krites are involved. It turns out their remaining eggs from the first movie have been painted and repurposed for the hunt. Of course they hatch, which leads to an attack on the sheriff who’s decked out in an Easter bunny costume.
2. Halloween: 23 Movies
You might want to sit down for this: Halloween is not the scariest holiday of the year. I know, I was shocked too (well, not that shocked). Even though Halloween is the time of year we all don scary costumes and go around trying to terrify each other, that hasn’t cemented it as the most popular holiday to make horror movies about. It does carry the silver medal, but it’s mostly because of one franchise, Halloween, which is responsible for over half the movies on this list.
Halloween (1978), Halloween 2 (1981), Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982), Trick or Treats (1982), The Midnight Hour (1985), Trick or Treat (1986), Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Night of the Demons (1988), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), Night of the Demons 2 (1994), Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), Jack-O (1995), Night of the Demons 3 (1997), Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), Halloween: Resurrection (2002), Hellbent (2004), Satan’s Little Helper (2004), Halloween (2007), Trick ‘R Treat (2007), Halloween II (2009), Halloween (2018), Into the Dark: The Body (2018), Into the Dark: Uncanny Annie (2019)
Highlight: Hellbent (2004)
Paul Etheredge’s Hellbent is a relatively standard tale of Halloween partiers being attacked by a masked killer, but what makes it unique is that the entire core cast is comprised of queer characters. Taking place in West Hollywood, it explored themes of sexuality and gay identity (while also facing criticism for its largely white cast). Even though it’s not the first LGBTQ horror film, despite claims to the contrary, it made waves during the gay and lesbian festival circuit in 2004 and helped inspire a wave of gay slasher films in the 2000s.
1. Christmas: 46 Movies
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is also the most horrific! With a whopping 46 movies, this season reigns supreme as the one that inspires fear in our hearts instead of joy. That might seem strange considering it’s the holiday about gifts, love, and festive cheer, but it makes sense. Not only does Christmas have its roots in some terrifying tales, like the story of Krampus, but the fact that it takes place during the coldest, darkest time of the year makes the emphasis on warmth and happiness feel a little contradictory. Besides, something cute is easily turned into something terrifying. What’s scarier than a killer Santa...or elves...or a snowman...or snow?
Scrooge (1901), Blast of Silence (1961), Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971), Home for the Holidays (1972), Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972), Black Christmas (1974), To All a Goodnight (1980), Christmas Evil (1980), Don’t Open til Christmas (1984), Gremlins (1984), Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987), 3615 code Père Noël (1989), Elves (1989), Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989), Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990), Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991), Santa Claws (1996), Jack Frost (1997), Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman (2000), The Christmas Season Massacre (2001), The Gingerdead Man (2005), Santa’s Slay (2006), Black X-Mas (2006), Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust (2008), Deadly Little Christmas (2009), Silent Night, Zombie Night (2009), Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010), Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver (2011), Silent Night (2012), Christmas Cruelty! (2013), Gingerdead Man vs. Evil Bong (2013), Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming (2013), All Through the House (2015), A Christmas Horror Story (2015), Krampus (2015), Krampus: The Reckoning (2015), Red Christmas (2015), Krampus Unleashed (2016), Better Watch Out (2017), Mercy Christmas (2017), Anna and the Apocalypse (2017), Into the Dark: Pooka! (2018), Black Christmas (2019), Deathcember (2019), Into the Dark: A Nasty Piece of Work (2019)
Highlight: 3615 code Père Noël (1989)
Imagine if Home Alone actually bore the consequences of its actions. You’d have 3615 code Père Noël, otherwise known as Game Over. The French horror film is about a young boy named Thomas who tries to contact Santa over the computer, only to find he’s gotten in touch with a shady character who gets the idea to dress up as Santa and rob Thomas and his family on Christmas Eve. What this guy doesn’t realize is that Thomas’ home is rigged with booby traps, and what ensues is a deadly game of cat and mouse that makes us feel the pain of what the characters are experiencing physically and emotionally. Of note: the creator of 3615 code Père Noël threatened to sue over Home Alone and tried to get a settlement, but Fox denied any similarity.
Honorable Mentions: 0 Movies
Groundhog Day, Presidents’ Day, Passover, Arbor Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Flag Day, Juneteenth, Father’s Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Election Day, Black Friday, Kwanzaa
Into the Dark’s Special Holiday Flicks
International Women’s Day: Into the Dark: Treehouse (2019)
Mother’s Day: Into the Dark: All That We Destroy (2019), Into the Dark: Delivered (2020)
Father’s Day: Into the Dark: They Come Knocking (2019)
Father-Daughter Day: Pure (2019)
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