15 Famous Actors Who Deserve More Credit for Their Horror Movies

Despite consistently providing high-quality efforts within the realm of horror, these actors have never gotten the credit they deserve as kings and queens of screams. Almost every name on this list will ring a bell thanks to the work they’ve put in outside the genre of scares, but don’t be surprised if a few names appear unfamiliar along the way.

Plenty of these performers are among the most famous and revered of their respective generations, with some even boasting accolades at the Academy Awards. They’re all talented thespians, and they’ve put in great horror work throughout the years, even if it’s largely gone unnoticed. These are sixteen famous actors who deserve more credit for their horror movies, ranked.

16 Emile Hirsch

As of late, horror has become a preferred genre for American actor Emile Hirsch. His latest foray into the realm of scares was with The Price We Pay (2022) — not the most acclaimed of horror movies, but he always puts forth valiant efforts in his respective performances. Just look at Son (2021), written and directed by his close collaborator Ivan Kavanagh. It also features a fantastic showing from Emile, and even before then, he appeared in a few other scary flicks that rendered him a horror actor on the rise.

Co-Starring with an Accomplished Horror Actor

Someone who gets decent praise for their horror movies is actor Brian Cox, who co-starred alongside Emile in The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016). It’s one of the more underrated movies the genre’s recently seen, and once again, it features a tremendous showing from the actor at hand. Whether you count the likes of Freaks (2019) as a horror movie, Hirsch has put in enough work to be known as an actor thereof.

15 Adriana Barraza

An Academy Award-nominated actress, Adriana Barraza is most famous for her dramatic roles, such as the one in Babel (2006). But considering some fans may not have even recognized Adriana in Drag Me to Hell (2009), it’s not too surprising that she’s underrated in the horror regard. She played Shaun San Dena, and until her final scene, she performed to absolute perfection.

An Underrated Blumhouse Movie

Aside from that famous supernatural horror film by the talented Sam Raimi, the other horror film under Barraza’s belt is rather underrated. It’s called Bingo Hell (2021), directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero from a script she co-wrote alongside two other creatives. When accounting for that horror-comedy in tandem with her Drag Me to Hell performance — plus a recurring role in The Strain (2014-2017) — Adriana Barazza should be regarded as much more than a dramatic actress.

14 Christina Ricci

As a child actress, Christina Ricci made her debut in an acclaimed comedy called Mermaids (1990). Soon thereafter, she portrayed the fan-favorite character Wednesday Addams in both The Addams Family (1991) and The Addams Family Values (1993). That’s a highly notable role, and later in the decade, Ricci co-starred in yet another popular movie in the supernatural subgenre: Sleepy Hollow (1999), directed by Tim Burton. That’s arguably Ricci’s greatest claim to fame in this regard, though she does have more under her belt.

A Pair of Starring Roles

It’s worth noting that, although Cursed (2005) by Wes Craven is perhaps the worst horror movie of Christina Ricci’s filmography, she nonetheless performs well the whole way through. Then, there’s After.Life (2009). It features one of her greatest efforts ever, and as a whole, the psychological horror stint by Agnieska Wójtowicz-Vosloo is rather underrated today. Along with her nineties movies, it also makes Ricci an undervalued horror actress.

13 Judy Greer

From a critical standpoint, the horror movies of Judy Greer run the gamut of success. She appeared among the supporting cast of Cursed by Wes Craven — which has already been touched on thanks to Ricci’s involvement — followed by Carrie (2013) by Kimberly Pierce. The latter is fairly famous, though not quite to the extent of the next Judy Greer horror movie that would materialize later in the decade.

Continuing the Strode Legacy

By playing Karen Nelson (née Strode) in the recent Halloween trilogy, Judy Greer continued to prove that the Strode women are among the fiercest protagonists in horror movie history. She played the second-generation Strode in Halloween (2018), Halloween Kills (2021), and Halloween Ends (2022), performing perfectly in spite of the trilogy’s mixed reception.

But to balance out any dearth of quality, Greer has the quantity to boot, with another title being Jamie Marks is Dead (2014). For all those combined, she’s undoubtedly earned her flowers.

12 Kurt Russell

Although Kurt Russell gets the credit he deserves for playing the lead in The Thing (1982), that cult classic by John Carpenter isn’t the only horror movie that the actor has to offer. There’s Death Proof (2007) by Quentin Tarantino, in which Russell plays the villain, along with Bone Tomahawk. While The Thing perfectly blended elements of science fiction, Bone Tomahawk from three decades later represents the pinnacle of the horror Western.

A Pair of Horror Hybrids

Written and directed by S. Craig Zahler, the aforementioned Wild West endeavor should be considered among the finest movies of its decade. Shock value, brilliant performances, beautiful scenery — across the board of filmmaking and storytelling, Bone Tomahawk is an absolute triumph. It’s also truly frightening, with one scene in particular showcasing not just the quality of the film, but also the ability of Kurt Russell to consistently scream his guts out.

11 Nicole Kidman

Despite being thrown a bit to the wayside of contemporary popularity, The Others (2001) by Alejandro Amenábar was among the most acclaimed horror movies of its year, and it features Nicole Kidman in the lead role. On the other end of the critical spectrum, The Invasion (2007) was generally panned, even if some fans viewed it in a somewhat positive light.

Consistently Impressive Performances

No matter the quality of the respective movie, Kidman is consistently on point with her horror roles. She received widespread praise for her performance in The Others, and the film as a whole holds up wonderfully today. In The Invasion, she still performed admirably — a few other films in which Kidman appeared also tread the lines of genre. She arguably has more than two. But, again: For her effort in The Others by itself, Kidman deserves far more credit.

10 Donald Sutherland

Sure, Donald Sutherland gets respect for Don’t Look Now (1973) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), two of the most acclaimed horror movies of their decade. But in the previous decade, he appeared in two horror movies in the same year: Fanatic (1965) and Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965). The latter is an anthology film, in which he appeared in the segment “Vampires”. It’s a great showing from Sutherland, and overall, the movie holds up wonderfully today.

A Staggering Volume of Horror Films

To kick off the 1990s, he appeared in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992). Great name value there. The Puppet Masters (1994), Virus (1999), An American Haunting (2005), Alone (2020) — these were all panned by critics, and it’s easy to see why. But Sutherland rebounded in valiant fashion with Mr. Harrigan’s Phone (2022), and besides: he’d already provided enough work in the horror genre. Both Don’t Look Now, and Body Snatchers make Sutherland an all-time great.

9 John Goodman

Although the first horror film with John Goodman — called C.H.U.D. (1984), directed by Douglas Cheek — isn’t necessarily worth a watch today, he rebounded in tremendous fashion with Arachnophobia (1990) by Frank Marshall. Sure, it’s focused on comedy as prominently as horror, but John Goodman is a highlight until its final frame. And in terms of scares: He provided them in spades within the twenty-first century.

Some of His Greatest Performances

Although Red State (2011) by Kevin Smith isn’t your typical scary movie, its plot elicits some freaky moments, and John Goodman’s character watches them unfold from the front row. It’s one of his most underrated performances, while on the other hand, 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) features one of his most acclaimed. His character is essentially what renders it a horror movie, with the uncertain motives of his antagonist producing heartfelt screams from his co-stars. For Cloverfield by itself, Goodman is worthy of the list.

Related: Cloverfield: Every Movie in the Franchise, Ranked

8 Michael Parks

Off the bat, it’s worth noting that the first two horror films to feature Michael Parks are of no real quality. A slasher, Nightmare Beach (1989) was generally panned by critics upon release, as was the direct-to-video Sorceress (1995). But one year after that, he appeared as Texas Ranger Earl McGraw in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) — a famous action hybrid — and in the twenty-first century, Michael Parks doubled his output of horror movies.

The Underrated Horror Movies of Michael Parks

Fans of American filmmaker Kevin Smith have long given Michael Parks the credit he deserves for his horror chops. Both Red State and Tusk (2014) feature world-class performances from Park. But what’s more, he appeared in another horror movie called We Are What We Are (2013), a remake by Jim Mickle. It’s highly undervalued from a perspective of popularity — perhaps that’s why Parks doesn’t get enough credit.

7 Naomi Watts

With regard to hardcore horror, the most obvious examples to feature Naomi Watts would be The Ring (2002), and its sequel, The Ring 2 (2005). Though the former pales in comparison to its original counterpart by Hideo Nakata, it’s still a critically acclaimed horror movie that features a great showing from Watts. The same thing goes for Funny Games (2007) — not as good as Haneke’s original, though still a well-made remake.

Playing a Famous Horror Character

Originally portrayed by Fay Wray, cinema’s very first scream queen, Ann Darrow is a fan-favorite character among the King Kong franchise. Peter Jackson’s remake King Kong (2005) features a talented cast, and that includes Naomi as Ann — she received widespread praise, as did the film as a whole. Although a few of her horror movies — most notably The Ring 2 — are of no real value, Naomi Watts is consistently on point therein. She has the volume, too.

Related: The Best Naomi Watts Movies, Ranked

6 John Carradine

Perhaps the greatest character actor to ever do it, John Carradine appeared in several Universal monster movies throughout the 1930s, albeit to an uncredited extent. In the following decade, he continued working with Universal, even playing the famous vampire in both House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945). Those don’t hold up too well today, but the rest of Carradine’s horror filmography does without a doubt.

The Later Years of John Carradine

With Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972), he appeared in one of the medium’s earliest examples of a slasher. A decade down the line, The Howling (1981) made waves with critics and fans alike, and it solidified Carradine as a surefire horror actor. When accounting for the work he put in with Universal earlier in his career, there’s no denying John Carradine as one of the genre’s best.

5 Lili Taylor

The first film of this ilk to feature Lili Taylor was The Addiction (1995) by Abel Ferrara. It’s one of the most underrated horror movies of its decade, and Lily plays the protagonist. Next was The Haunting (1999): generally panned by critics, though a few of the reviews were positive — take Roger Ebert’s, for example. He awarded it three stars out of four, in fact, and plenty of fans agree.

However, The Haunting doesn’t really bolster Taylor’s case as an underrated scream queen. Not like her work in the 21st century, that is.

A World-Famous Horror Movie

Among the most popular and acclaimed horror movies of the last twenty-five years is The Conjuring (2013), directed by James Wan. That may be Taylor’s greatest claim to a throne. Later in the 2010s, she appeared in back-to-back horror movies. And although neither Leatherface (2017) nor Eli (2019) are worth any real value, Taylor had already cemented herself as an all-time great horror actress.

4 Drew Barrymore

In one of the most famous openings in horror movie history, Drew Barrymore defined for many fans the entire Scream (1996) experience. The shock of Casey Becker’s death still resonates with fans today, and of course, Drew performed perfectly in what we were led to believe was a leading role. It turned out that Neve Campbell was the star, but no matter. Barrymore had, long before the release of Scream, established herself as a queen.

The Forgotten Horror Streak of Drew Barrymore

In her first-ever film role, Barrymore appeared in Altered States (1980), a highly acclaimed horror film by Ken Russell and Paddy Chayefsky. For that performance alone, Drew deserves more credit. But a few years later, she starred in a pair of Stephen King adaptations: Firestarter (1984) and Cat’s Eye (1985). That’s three horror movies in half a decade — when accounting for television appearances in Santa Clarita Diet (2017-2019), it’s essentially undeniable. Drew Barrymore is a horror actress, even if she’s rarely regarded as such.

3 Kevin Bacon

One of the greatest performances by Kevin Bacon can be found in Stir of Echoes (1999), written and directed by David Koepp. It’s based on Richard Matheson’s novel of the same name, and it features Kevin as the protagonist: Tom Witzky, a line worker who’s hypnotized by his sister-in-law and begins experiencing visions of the supernatural. A compelling plot, and oftentimes, Stir of Echoes is truly frightening. However, that’s only scratching the surface of Bacon’s horror filmography.

A Bona Fide Scream King

In his fourth film appearance, Kevin Bacon played Jack in Friday the 13th (1980). That’s one of the best slashers ever made, and a decade down the line, the actor at hand appeared in another well-known horror flick: Tremors (1990). There are some more modern examples, too, such as You Should Have Left (2020), another horror movie by David Koepp. When accounting for his other Koepp collaboration and his two famous titles, Kevin Bacon should be viewed as a bona fide scream king.

Related: Every Kevin Bacon Horror Movie, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes

2 Christopher Walken

Before he was a household name, Christopher Walken appeared in The Sentinel (1977) by Michael Winner. Not the most acclaimed movie you’ll read about today. But in the following decade, Walken landed a starring role in a Stephen King adaptation: The Dead Zone (1983), directed by David Cronenberg. That’s one of the finest horror movies of the decade, and a few years later, Walken also appeared in Communion (1989). That one was okay. What bolsters his case as an underrated horror actor is his streak in the 1990s.

An Underrated Horror Actor

In one year alone, Christopher Walken appeared in a pair of high-quality horror movies: The Prophecy (1995) and The Addiction. Fairly underrated, too. At the end of the decade, he played the Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow. Sure, Walken’s horror output has waned into the twenty-first century. But for quantity alone, not to mention the quality of The Dead Zone, The Prophecy, The Addiction, and Sleepy Hollow, he deserves far more credit for his work in the genre.

1 Richard Jenkins

Perhaps the funniest performance in The Cabin in the Woods (2012) goes to Richard Jenkins, who’s well-established in the realm of comedy movies. But The Cabin in the Woods isn’t just funny — it’s a sci-fi horror hybrid, and you can bet that Jenkins showcases his chops as a scream king. That’s a fairly famous role, though. If there’s one performance truly worth homing in on with regard to Richard’s horror movies, it’s undoubtedly his effort in Bone Tomahawk (2015).

An Essential Western Horror Film

There’s a solid argument that Richard Jenkins stole the entire show of Bone Tomahawk, even out from under scream kings like Patrick Wilson and David Arquette. Fans may not have even recognized Jenkins in that Western-horror hybrid. For that performance alone, he deserves more credit in this regard, let alone The Cabin in the Woods. And none of that even touches on Let Me In (2010), for which he received widespread praise. Not much else should be said about the most underrated horror actor ever.


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