Horror is a genre of moments—scares and unforgettable nightmare scenes that are burned forever into our collective unconscious. Oftentimes, with those moments come quintessential lines. They turn into the taglines and catchphrases of movie franchises; become a sort of shorthand exchanged by fans. Who can forget Poltergeist’s singsong “they’re here,” David Hedison crying “help me!” at the end of the original The Fly, or Colin Clive’s cry of “it’s alive!” in Frankenstein? Test your knowledge of horror pop culture with the following 33 horror movie quotes—only the most dedicated fan will recognize them all!
1. “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
The Fly (1986)
What quote could possibly sum up horror better than the one that became the tagline for David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly? Ronnie, played by Geena Davis, utters the immortal line to a woman that Jeff Goldblum’s Seth Brundle has brought home with him from a bar. Brundle has already made his fateful trip through the telepod with the fly, though he doesn’t yet know the extent of the damage it has done. He is trying to convince the woman to go through as well, telling her that there’s nothing to be afraid of. But Ronnie knows better, and so do we.
2. “We all go a little mad sometimes.”
When Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) says this line in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Psycho, he’s sharing a bonding moment with his soon-to-be victim Marion Crane (Janet Leigh). To her, the words echo her own recent impetuous decision to flee town after stealing money from her employer. To us members of the audience, however, the sentence is a chilling foreshadowing of things to come…
3. “To a new world of gods and monsters!”
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) offers up this toast in James Whale’s immensely quotable follow-up to Frankenstein (1931). The phrase became so popular that it was later used as the title of Bill Condon’s partly fictionalized movie about the last days in the life of director James Whale, starring Ian McKellan as Whale and Brendan Fraser as the gardener with whom he formed an unlikely bond.
4. “If you had learned just a little from me, you would not beg to live. I am rumor. It is a blessed condition, believe me. To be whispered about at street corners. To live in other people’s dreams, but not to have to be.”
The many exquisite lines that Tony Todd purrs out in Bernard Rose’s modern reinvention of the slasher film mostly come from Clive Barker’s original short story. But Todd’s delivery is what helps to make them just as immortal as Candyman himself.
5. “If you wish to see strange things, I have the power to show them to you.”
The Magician (1926)
Even silent horror films managed to have some unforgettable lines, including this alluring promise by Paul Wegener’s eponymous alchemist in Rex Ingram’s 1926 adaptation of the novel of the same name. And, after all, if we didn’t wish to see strange things, we probably wouldn’t be watching horror movies.
6. “Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”
The Witch (2015)
With these words, The Witch’s Black Phillip became one of the iconic figures of horror cinema, and helped to cement Robert Eggers’ place as one of today’s most exciting directors. Who could hear Daniel Malik’s silky voice from the darkness and not want to live deliciously?
7. “It was the start of the year in our old Celtic lands, and we’d be waiting in our houses of wattles and clay. The barriers would be down, you see, between the real and the unreal, and the dead might be looking in to sit by our fires of turf.”
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy) explains his fiendish plan to a bound Tom Atkins in one of the best examples of villainous monologuing ever captured on film, and a chilling reminder of the history of Halloween. Halloween III may have been panned upon release, but as it finds its proper place as a cult classic, this speech is as much a seasonal fixture as that endlessly-catchy Silver Shamrock song…
8. “Thrill me.”
Night of the Creeps (1986)
Tom Atkins’s laconic catchphrase from Fred Dekker’s horror comedy Night of the Creeps is proof positive that not every memorable horror quote has to be long-winded. In a more perfect world, Atkins’ succinct line would be as well-known as any of Bruce Campbell’s pithy sayings from the Evil Dead series, but it’s still an ideal way for horror fans to answer the phone.
Evil Dead II (1987)
Speaking of Bruce Campbell, just a year after the release of Night of the Creeps, Campbell managed to shrink the ultimate horror movie catchphrase down to a single word in Evil Dead II.
10. “There’ll be food and drink and ghosts…and perhaps even a few murders. You’re all invited.”
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Need a clever way to address your Halloween invitations? You could do worse than this highly quotable line from the beginning of William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill. Of course, it helps if you can say it in Vincent Price’s unmistakable voice…
11. “I’m scared to close my eyes; I’m scared to open them!”
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Blair Witch Project is one of those rare movies that can make the claim of having changed the horror genre forever, for better or for worse. One of the scenes that helped it resonate so strongly with audiences is the monologue delivered directly to the camera by Heather Donahue, which ends with these terrifying words.
12. “Wouldn’t it be dramatic, supposing the people inside were dead, all stretched out with the lights quietly burning about them?”
The Old Dark House (1932)
Even those who haven’t ever seen James Whale’s classic The Old Dark House might recognize this line, uttered as the characters are about to enter the eponymous abode for the first time. It's the scene shown in Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses, itself a spin on the “old dark house” formula that was popular in the ’20s and '30s.
13. “It’s Halloween; I guess everyone’s entitled to one good scare.”
After Sheriff Brackett (Charle Cyphers) startles Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), he says the line that could have become the tagline for the entire franchise, and in fact has been borrowed, reworked, and rehashed by other films, writers, and Instagram influencers for Halloween posts in the years since.
14. “I’m into survival.”
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Laurie Strode in Halloween may be one of the earliest examples of a “final girl” in a slasher film, but Heather Langenkamp as Nancy gets the ultimate final girl line in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. When Glen (Johnny Depp) asks her why she’s reading a book on “Booby Traps and Improvised Anti-Personnel Devices,” she replies, “I’m into survival.”
15. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
Chief Brody’s (Roy Scheider) famously understated reaction to coming face-to-face with the bloodthirsty shark in Steven Spielberg’s summer horror classic is a handy catchphrase for any situation where you find yourself woefully underprepared.
16. “I believe death should be repulsive, so we don’t grow too fond of it.”
Not every classic horror line is uttered in a classic film. Case in point: this line from 2002’s Feardotcom, a largely forgotten flick that capitalized on our fears of the early internet the same year that the American remake of The Ring hit theaters.
17. “Oh, no tears, please. It’s a waste of good suffering.”
Leave it to the sonorous delivery of Doug Bradley to turn just about every word out of Pinhead’s mouth (here credited simply as “Lead Cenobite”) into Shakespeare. There are plenty of famous lines from Hellraiser that could have made this list, but few of them capture the specific flavor of the Cenobites’ sadism in quite the same way as this one.
18. “To die—to be really dead—that must be glorious!”
While there are perhaps more famous lines from Tod Browning’s original Dracula, none capture the simultaneous horror and tragedy of the titular vampire more than when Lugosi’s Count utters these lines. That he follows them up with a paraphrasing of poet Algernon Charles Swinburne, “There are far worse things awaiting man than death,” only makes them more elegantly sinister.
19. “Nobody trusts anybody now…and we’re all very tired.”
The Thing (1982)
In a time of extremely polarized politics and in the midst of a global pandemic, there has never been a better time for horror fans to study John Carpenter’s classic of body horror paranoia and isolation. Perhaps the perfect line to summarize our present moment comes as Kurt Russell’s MacReady is recording his thoughts on tape and captures the above line.
20. “Solving the following riddle will reveal the awful secret behind the universe, assuming you do not go utterly mad in the attempt."
John Dies at the End (2012)
It’s not every day that a horror movie opens with an extended riff on the famous “ship of Theseus” thought experiment, but John Dies at the End, a mash-up of gory horror, philosophy, and stoner comedy directed by the always unusual Don Coscarelli, isn’t exactly your average horror flick.
21. “We’re born, we age, we die. The reverse never happens. None of this is true! Say goodbye to classical reality, because our logic collapses on the subatomic level…into ghosts and shadows.”
Prince of Darkness (1987)
Speaking of ambitious philosophical monologues, Victor Wong gives a doozy of one near the beginning of John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, in which he discusses how rational thought begins to break down once you enter the realm of quantum physics. It’s also as good a primer on the principles of cosmic horror as you’re ever likely to get on film.
22. “Where we’re going, we won’t need eyes to see.”
Event Horizon (1997)
Before Paul W.S. Anderson brought us a seemingly endless stream of Resident Evil sequels, he created the haunted house in space picture, Event Horizon. Sam Neill plays the architect of the eponymous ship, which created its own black hole in order to explore the stars, only to go “much, much farther than that.” In one of the film’s most chilling scenes, Neill’s character reappears, his eyes now bloody sockets, and when Laurence Fishburne’s character asks him what happened, he replies with this haunting line.
23. “Never look back. The past is a wilderness of horrors.”
The Wolfman (2010)
Almost any line gains weight when you let Sir Anthony Hopkins say it. But in a genre as preoccupied with the sins of the past as horror—especially Gothic horror—a line like this seems tailor-made to describe the genre as a whole, rather than just one scene.
24. “Movies don’t create psychos; movies make psychos more creative.”
It would have been all too easy for Scream, with its cinema-obsessed killers who pattern their murder spree on slasher flicks, to have been read as a cautionary tale about the dangers of on-screen violence. Fortunately, the film gives us a handy rebuttal to that line of reasoning right in the middle of its climax.
25. “Psychos do not explode when sunlight hits them; I don’t give a f*ck how crazy they are!”
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Quentin Tarantino wrote the screenplay for From Dusk Till Dawn, so you can bet it has a lot of memorable lines in it. After the main characters have fought their way out of a bar full of vampires, George Clooney’s Seth Gecko confronts the man who sent them there (played by Cheech Marin). “Were they psychos?” Marin’s character asks, to which Seth has this unbeatable reply.
26. “Then bring a knife to school. If they take it off you and beat you up, you go around their houses at night and burn them down with their families inside. What’s the worst they can do?”
The Guest (2014)
One can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for Dan Stevens’ David in The Guest. He really, genuinely does seem to want to help. Unfortunately, his “help” takes the form of the above advice, which he dispenses to young Luke when he gets beaten up by bigger kids at school. Naturally, it all goes downhill from there.
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Dan O’Bannon’s zombie comedy not only beat pretty much every other “fast zombie” movie to the punch, but his zombies could use tools and even talk, at least a bit. Most famously, they added a desire for “brains” to our shared lexicon of how zombies work. They also took advantage of the CB radio of an abandoned ambulance to utter this famous line, which lent itself to the name of a thrash band from Leeds.
28. “When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.”
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
George Romero’s seminal zombie films famously never told us exactly what the cause of the outbreak was, though each film provided its own theorizing. In Dawn of the Dead, Ken Foree got to deliver the most famous line of thought on why the dead were returning to life; a phrase so iconic that he actually returned as a televangelist in the 2004 remake to deliver it again.
29. “I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”
When confronted with the scope of the alien threat that they’re facing in James Cameron’s follow-up to Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) says that they should take off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s an iconic line on its own, but the real coup de grace moment comes a few beats later, when Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn) echoes her sentiment word-for-word after a heated argument. Plus, it gives us all a handy phrase to use when it’s time to cut our losses and just give up on a lost cause.
30. “Well, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?”
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Jonathan Demme's horror psycho thriller is packed with skin-crawling scenes and unshakeable lines: from Lecter's "I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti" to Buffalo Bill's "It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again." Part of Silence of the Lamb's staying power is due to its cast of players: Jodie Foster, Ted Levine, and, of course, Sir Anthony Hopkins, all turn in stellar performances that are equal parts horrifying and all-too-familiar. For the sake of this list, I'm focusing on an ominously quiet moment in the movie when Lecter emerges to ask Agent Starling if the nightmares of her childhood have quieted. I believe we all know the answer to that question...
31. “What an excellent day for an exorcism.”
The Exorcist (1973)
There are a number of incredible lines from William Friedkin's 70s possession horror classic—some more appropriate to quote than others. So let's settle into our exorcism beds with this haunting gem, muttered by a fully possessed Regan to Jason Miller's Father Damien Karras. At first, Karras detects a hint of defeat to the line, as if the demon inside Regan had resigned itself to being cast out. "You would like that?" Karras ponders. "Intensely," the possessed Regan responds. "But wouldn't that drive you out of Regan?" asks Karras. "It would bring us together," responds Regan, with a wheezing demonic smile.
32. “My kind of horror is not horror anymore. No one’s afraid of a painted monster.”
Playing a thinly-fictionalized version of himself, Boris Karloff gets to utter this line in Peter Bogdanovich’s parable about the way that the times—and horror films—were changing during the ‘60s. It not only sums up the theme of the whole picture beautifully in just a few words, but I like it so much that I borrowed it for the title of my second collection of short stories.
33. “Come and play with us, Danny. Forever... and ever... and ever.”
The Shining (1980)
Come play with us, horror fans. Forever... and ever... and ever.