There are so many horror movies that verge into camp territory, featuring (sometimes purposely) broad, over-acted performances that separate them from reality. But there are also truly
great horror movie performances, which have won or deserved to win awards. Only six horror flicks have ever been nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award: Jaws, The Exorcist, The Silence of the Lambs, The Sixth Sense, Black Swan, and of course, Get Out. Us, Jordan Peele's follow up to Get Out (which did win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay) is standing strong with a 97 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. And star Lupita Nyong'o is earning raves for her double performance as a haunted mother Adelaide and her freaky doppelgänger in the new film. The actor already has one Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years A Slave. Maybe there's another nomination in her future, despite the fact that horror movies haven't traditionally been awards bait.
In honor of Nyong'o's celebrated tour-de-force performance, here's some other awards-worthy horror work that'll show you how much the genre has to offer. From possessions to freaky investigations to survivalist journeys, these actors pulled it all off in the name of scaring the crap out of you.
1 Toni Collette In 'Hereditary'
Everyone in the cast of
Hereditary is incredible, but Toni Collette gives one of the most amazing performances of her prolific career. This Academy Award snub for Best Actress stung for fans of the film. 2 Natalie Portman In 'Black Swan'
Natalie Portman's intense performance as aspiring prima ballerina Nina got her an Academy Award for Best Actress, and it's definitely well-deserved. Nina's transformation into her darker, erratic persona is terrifying, and it's no easy role.
3 Daniel Kaluuya In 'Get Out' Get Out is Kaluuya's biggest starring role to date and played a significant part in the film being heralded as a horror masterpiece. He was nominated too. 4 4 & 5. Jodie Foster & Anthony Hopkins In 'The Silence Of The Lambs'
Besides being a compelling thriller, there's another big reason why this is the only horror movie to have won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1992. Both Foster and Hopkins give incredible, unforgettable performances as serial murderer Hannibal Lecter and profiler Clarice Starling, both of them also winning their Oscar categories.
5 6 & 7. Mia Farrow & Ruth Gordon In 'Rosemary's Baby'
This Mia Farrow role is iconic and one of the most referenced horror movie performances by a woman. Though Farrow's great in the adaptation, she was snubbed for the Best Actress Academy Award nomination, with co-star Ruth Gordon winning Best Supporting Actress.
6 Jamie Lee Curtis In 'Halloween'
Jamie Lee Curtis's Laurie is a standout slasher fic heroine. She wasn't nominated for any awards for the film, but
Halloween did end up being nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Horror Film, according to IMDb. And Laurie did launch an entire franchise. 7 9 & 10. Sissy Spacek & Piper Laurie In 'Carrie'
Stephen King adaptation
Carrie is one of the best horror films of all time, and Sissy Spacek gives an incredible performance as the telekinetic outcast whose powers end up getting out of control. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, but ultimately lost. Her co-star Piper Laurie, who plays her zealot mother, was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress; she won the Golden Globe. 8 Sigourney Weaver In 'Alien' Alien isn't your typical horror movie, given how it's part of the science fiction sub-genre. But Sigourney Weaver joined the ranks of the best horror movie heroines with her role as Ripley, who has to fend off the alien on her own. 9 12 & 13. Anthony Perkins & Janet Leigh In 'Psycho'
Anthony Perkins's role as Norman Bates is eerie and convincing, and his co-star Janet Leigh, who also happens to be Jamie Lee Curtis's mom, gives an incredible performance too as his morally compromised victim.
Though Perkins was shockingly not nominated for an Academy Award, Leigh received a nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. She didn't win it, but she ended up winning the Globe.
10 Jack Nicholson In 'The Shining'
Jack Nicholson has played plenty of complex, antagonistic roles. But Jack in
The Shining stands out to fans because of how committed he is as the husband and father descends to madness, trying to kill his family during their long-term stay in a remote hotel. His facial expressions alone are enough to keep you spooked. Surprisingly, Nicholson wasn't nominated for any awards for the film, but definitely should've been. 11 Jessica Harper In 'Suspiria'
Jessica Harper became a horror icon thanks to her role in the original
Suspiria, about a young dancer who unknowingly joins a troupe that's really a coven, but she wasn't recognized by any major nomination. 12 16 & 17. John Krasinski & Emily Blunt In 'A Quiet Place'
Married couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt worked together for the first time in this tense thriller, translating their real-life chemistry to play parents trying to keep their children alive in a post-apocalyptic world.
13 Heather O'Rourke In 'Poltergeist'
O'Rourke died only six years after starring in Poltergeist, but her infamous line, "They're here!" made her a legend at a young age. She received a Young Artist Award for Best Younger Supporting Actress in 1983. 14 Ivana Baquero In 'Pan's Labyrinth'
Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro is known for infusing his love of horror into his work across genres. But
Pan's Labyrinth is one of his few true horror flicks, and young star Ivana Baquero carries the film as a young, imaginative girl growing up in Fascist Spain. 15 Linda Blair In 'The Exorcist'
Is there anything more terrifying than people being possessed by dark, demonic forces? Linda Blair's performance in
The Exorcist earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. 16 Tippi Hedren In 'The Birds'
Most Alfred Hitchcock films involve blonde women in peril, and in this case, Tippi Hedren faced the threat.
17 Haley Joel Osment In 'The Sixth Sense'
The Sixth Sense, Osment had small roles in Forrest Gump as Forrest's son, and the direct-to video sequel, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, voicing Chip . But it wasn't until The Sixth Sense that he became a bonafide child star, giving a spine-chilling performance as Cole, a kid who can (spoiler) see dead people. He became one of the youngest actors to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
It's not easy to sell a horror movie, but these actors turned in amazing performances that carry their respective films and should be remembered for years to come.