Horror movies appeal to a core, universal emotion: fear. It’s a simple and easy-to-understand feeling, and ultimately what people want from a horror movie. It’s nice to get a safe, direct blast of nervousness or outright terror by way of a movie. Sometimes, that sense of directness towards making the audience feel such a simple emotion carries over into the film’s title.
Enter the one-word horror film title. There’s something eerie about horror films with such short titles, and how they often summarize the specific horror element of such a film so succinctly. The latest of these is Alex Garland’s newest movie, Menwhich is receiving acclaim from horror fans the same way his last film was – itself another horror film with a one-word title – 2018’s Annihilation. In celebration of Garland’s most recent simply titled horror movie, here are nine more great horror movies that only have one word in their title.
Jordan Peele’s The second film is an odd, mysterious, and extremely compelling horror film, where the less said about the plot the better (it’s also very hard to describe exactly what happens, but it makes more sense when it plays out on screen). The important thing is it’s very good, and has an incredible lead performance from the always great Lupita Nyong’o.
It’s about as good as Jordan Peele’s first film, Get Out, and cemented Peele as one of the most exciting directors working within the horror genre today. His third film, Nopeis one of the most anticipated horror films of 2022, and similarly, also has a beautifully direct, single-word title.
Hereditary is a deeply unsettling and upsetting film, and as great as it is, it’s probably a movie that many will struggle to watch a second time, no matter how much they like it. It’s equally compelling as a downbeat family drama as it is a psychological horror film, and deals with a family being torn apart by grief and unexpected developments regarding their ancestry.
It was the debut feature of Ari Asterwho made Midsommar, another very good horror movie with a solitary word in its title. For his upcoming film, he’s really branching out by having a whopping two words in the title: Disappointment Blvd. It’s also rumored to be approximately 3.5 hours long, and there’s still no word on what the plot is exactly. Exciting stuff.
Titane is a French horror film that won the Cannes Palme d’Or in 2021, and received a great deal of acclaim for both its extreme horror elements and its deep, often surprisingly moving insight into identity, family, and masculinity vs femineity. With it, director Julia Ducournau crafted a film like no other.
Its one-word title translates into “Titanium” in English, and the metal (or just metal in general) does play a big role in the film, in ways that are hard to coherently explain. It’s the kind of movie that carries more of an impact if you go into it knowing next to nothing, as the ride Titane provides is tense, unsettling, unpredictable, and wholly engaging (for those with strong stomachs of course).
One of the first huge blockbusters remains one of the best, and also one of the most satisfyingly straightforward. It’s called Jawsafter all, and there’s a big shark on the poster, and the movie itself is about three dudes who go on a boat and try to kill a big shark before it terrorizes their small coastal town any further.
In the hands of Steven Spielberg, such a simple premise works wonders. The technical skill behind the film, and the way it’s put together so incredibly well means it’s an almost timeless movie. It’s just as entertaining in 2022 as it was back in 1975, when it shook the world and made almost everyone afraid of going swimming in the ocean.
Darren Aronofsky is no stranger to tense, uncomfortable, psychologically confronting films. Mother! might be his most horrific, though, which is saying something, considering how crazy something like Black Swan gets as it goes on, and how terrifying drug addiction is shown to be in Requiem For a Dream.
Mother! reflects its simple, one-word title with a simple location for the film’s events (all in one house), and an initially simple premise that gets more surreal and allegorical as it goes on. Whether it’s about social anxiety, a retelling of several Bible stories, or just about a woman who wants to be left alone while crowds of people refuse to let her is up to the viewer, ultimately. What can surely be agreed on, though, is that it’s a dark, nightmarish ride that’s hard to forget, even while some viewers might wish they were able to wipe certain images within it from their minds …
The original Godzilla is still seen as the best Godzilla film by many of the series’ fans. While later sequels always had longer titles – usually because they added more monsters for Godzilla to fight – the first Godzilla is all about Godzilla, and as such, his name’s the only thing really needed for the title.
It’s also much more of a horror film than most later Godzilla films, which tended to have a bit more by way of action, humor, or more out-there science-fiction concepts (like aliens, giant robots, and even time travel!). But the original film for the iconic movie monster is just him as a force of nature against Japan as a nation, and it makes for an unsettling and tense science-fiction horror film that’s even a little emotional, in its own way.
Gremlins is an iconic Christmas film, seeing as it can be enjoyed as both a sincere Christmas film and a somewhat ironic one, given its irreverent comedy and surprisingly bloody violence. It’s a pretty straightforward monster movie about a unique creature that, if not looked after properly, can mutate and multiply, causing catastrophic death and destruction in the process.
It succeeds and holds up as a classic because of how crazy the comedy gets, as well as how expertly done the special effects are. It gets unusually dark in places, and tonally, it feels as chaotic as the creatures that give the film its one-word title. That does admittedly feel appropriate, in its own way.
Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic horror film Psycho arguably helped push the horror genre as a whole forward. Its story of a young woman on the run and seeking shelter in an unusually deserted and creepy motel unfolded in a way that shocked audiences at the time, and is sure to surprise any modern viewer who’s unaware of what the film is “really” about.
But you get enough of an idea of what to expect from that simple, intoxicating title. There is going to be madness, and the film is going to be extreme in some way or another. It might not feel as extreme nowadays, when it comes to its violence, but it was pretty brutal for its time, and the content of what was shown on screen and the way the story played out was truly revolutionary, to the point where most horror Films released after 1960 probably owe something to Hitchcock’s classic.
A lot of people saw Saw, as it was popular enough to get multiple sequels, and it began one of the biggest and most well-known horror franchises of all time. But the first one is the best for sure, and the most direct and non-convoluted. And it’s also one with the simplest title: just “Saw“, with no Roman numerals tacked onto the end.
It was the first of many films to feature a serial killer who put people in horrifying traps that they’d need to endanger themselves to get out of. Here, it was less about: “How disgusting and bloody can we make these scenes?”, And more about: “How suspenseful and psychologically intense can we make these scenes?”. Its blunt simplicity and the fact it does not over-rely on gory violence means it holds up remarkably well as a horror movie with a one-word title.
NEXT: Great Horror Films for People Who Don’t Like Scary Movies