20 of the Best Outdoor Horror Movies
Goosebumps, shortness of breath, sweaty palms… Whether you seek them from summits or screams, thrills are the feelings that keep us alive.
Outdoor sports and horror movies have more in common than you may first think. Some of us enjoy being terrified on the crux of a climb or dropping in on a steep line, while others prefer scaring ourselves from the comfort of our couches. And then there are those of us who believe the two are best combined.
So the next time you’re planning a scary movie night or queuing up films for your Halloween party, start with this list.
From mountains to ocean, through forests and caves, in scorching heat and frigid cold, no Earthen element goes unaddressed on our collection of the 10 Best Outdoor Horror Movies. And since we had such a hard time narrowing down our final picks, we’ve also included our top 5 Runners Up and 5 Humor Horror picks for those who need to ease in to the genre.
Perfect if you enjoy: Backpacking.
Especially if you detest: Bears.
You’ll never forget to pack each of your 10 Essentials after watching Backcountry, a film that acts as a terrific reminder as to how much can go wrong on a simple backpacking trip. Whether you’re most intimidated by navigational mishaps, stranger danger, injuries, or bears, there’s a scene for every source of your anxiety packed in right here.
Perfect if you enjoy: Skiing or snowboarding.
Especially if you detest: Chairlifts.
Ever wondered what would happen if your “last run” was really your last run? This horror plot has played out in every snowboarder’s mind: Forgotten on the chairlift before a 5-day closure and a massive winter storm. Frozen doesn’t disappoint in fulfilling all of your worst expectations and wildest fears about being left to die by a lifty.
The Descent (2005) and The Descent: Part Two (2009)
Perfect if you enjoy: Spelunking.
Especially if you detest: Tight spaces.
Claustrophobia takes on a whole new meaning for an all-female caving expedition who find some disturbing history underground - and between each other. That’s right: A sequel and its prequel both make this list! We’ve included The Descent and The Descent: Part Two together because we believe these movies are best enjoyed back-to-back as the storyline flows seamlessly (despite the half-decade lapse in film time). One of the best horror duos ever produced, in the author’s humble opinion.
Perfect if you enjoy: Photography.
Especially if you detest: Snakes.
Most people can agree that National Geographic photographers have pretty sweet gigs. That is, until they’re kidnapped and forced into a wild snake chase into the depths of the Amazonian jungle. Jennifer Lopez and Ice Cube co-star as two abductee-turned-hunters in this classic ploy by Hollywood to cajole one of humankind’s greatest primal fears: the Anaconda.
The Ruins (2008)
Perfect if you enjoy: Tropical vacations.
Especially if you detest: Man-eating plants.
If a friend suggests visiting an Ancient Mayan temple “off the beaten path,” you know better than to follow his lead. Unfortunately these three didn’t, hence the storyline about four young Americans who find themselves surrounded by murderous villagers and carnivorous vines in The Ruins. We promise you’ll never look at poison ivy the same.
Open Water (2003)
Perfect if you enjoy: Swimming, scuba diving.
Especially if you detest: Sharks.
Dive on in to one of the best salt water adventure horror flicks to hit the big screen. When a Caribbean cruise miscalculates their head count, they leave a couple stranded in Open Water to fend for their lives against - you guessed it - hungry sharks. I wouldn’t say “better than Jaws,” but you only see one of those movies on this list.
Blair Witch Project (1999)
Perfect if you enjoy: Hiking.
Especially if you detest: Getting lost.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include one of the pioneers of the found footage film technique, a trailblazer of the outdoor horror genre, and required watching for anyone who ever suggests leaving the map at home. Blair Witch Project is full of subtle surprises that lead the viewer to their own conclusions about what happened to the three film students who went missing from this documentary. A true gamechanger of its time.
Perfect if you enjoy: Big mountain landscapes.
Especially if you detest: Scandinavian folklore.
Norway is widely known amongst adventurers for its sprawling mountain ranges, valleys, and fjords - and Trollhunter don’t disappoint on those expectations. Whether you’re here for the landscape shots, intrigued by the plot of student activists documenting an illegal poaching ring, or drawn to the extremely detailed and accurate depictions of Nordic mythology, this film packs in a one-two-three punch.
Cabin Fever (2002), not the remake of Cabin Fever (2016)
Perfect if you enjoy: Weekend getaways with friends.
Especially if you detest: Infectious diseases.
Director Eli Roth knows better than to do what he did in 2016, by reproducing his classic genre-defining horror film Cabin Fever. The recent remake is a scene-for-scene, line-for-line copycat that leaves watchers wondering “why?” if not, “what the hell?” Seek out the 2002 cut for a truly entertaining hour and 33 minutes of backwoods terror.
The Ritual (2017)
Perfect if you enjoy: Backpacking.
Especially if you detest: Demonic cults.
The newest movie on our list shouldn’t be the last on yours. Netflix has outdone themselves with their original film The Ritual, which plays up a story of an annual boys’ trip, haunting memories, and witchcraft. Excellent videography and a terrifying score make this flick one of our most favorite outdoor horror picks of all time.
Runners up! We couldn’t leave these 5 off the list, even if a few skirt the line between action adventure and horror.
The Grey (2011)
We came for the icy, isolated scenery of a frozen tundra that threads this movie, we stayed for Liam Neeson’s daredevil acting, and we watched it again for the all-too-real feeling of wondering how wild Alaskan wildlife can really be.
This movie would be at the top of our list if it didn’t fall into the action adventure genre. Climbers, divers, and cavers will all appreciate the force of nature that drives this group of explorers further into the depths of the earth.
Of all the things that can go wrong after a wedding, we bet that this was last on your list. No spoiler alerts here, just supremely high recommendations for Game of Thrones’ Ygritte performance in a thrilling role.
Evil Dead (1981) or Evil Dead (2013)
Whether you prefer the original or remake, this classic cabin-weekend-getaway never gets old to us. Long live zombie films!
Friday the 13th (1980) and its 11 sequels
Instilling a fear of summer camp in us since we were kids, this blockbuster franchise has moved through the decades with the same creepy counselor characters and chilling backwoods themes as the original. Watch, enjoy, repeat.
Need to ease in? These 5 Humor Horror flicks provide a great introduction into the genre with slapstick scripts and casts that will leave you crying with laughter, not fear.
Avalanche Sharks (2014)
Everything you’ve ever loved about spring skiing bikini contests, sex-injected scripts on college kids, and unbelievably bad acting (and even less believable CGI effects), Avalanche Sharks delivers it all. Best enjoyed with cherry slurpees to best imitate the realism of bloody snow.
Piranha 3D (2010)
I couldn’t tell you what prompted me to attend the midnight premiere of this movie eight years ago, but I did, and I didn’t hate it. Full of the raucous gore, humor, and lewdness expected of a movie whose sequel is named “Piranha 3-Double-D,” this seawater thriller is just as enjoyable as it is salty.
If you hated this movie when it first came out over two decades ago, and was since replayed on late-night cable TV to your wit’s end, then you might hate knowing that the 5th franchise was just released in 2015, perpetuating Tremors’ legacy in the American horror genre.
Black Sheep (2006)
Whoever got this concept from the drawing board to the big screen deserves a round of applause for their sheer grit. Whoever let them get that far should get a talking to. Worthy if only for its shepherding puns and dark filming, Black Sheep deserves a spot on your watch list, even if it’s the very last one.
Cabin in the Woods (2012)
This film didn’t earn a cult following for the overdone plotline it hints at in its title. The name “Cabin in the Woods” is a red herring itself, but that’s all I’ll say. Watch yourself and let us know whether this would make your all-time movie list, horror or not.