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10 best PG-13 horror movies ever, ranked

A woman stands in an open grave in Drag Me to Hell.
Universal Pictures

True horror aficionados tend to prefer R-rated films for all of the gore, violence, and scares that are too extreme for PG-13 horror movies. However, R-rated horror movies don’t tend to become blockbusters very often when compared to their PG-13 counterparts. It’s also easy to forget that the PG-13 rating was created in the mid-80s when the standard PG rating was no longer sufficient for films like Gremlins or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

While many of the best horror movies ever made, like The Exorcist, have effectively used their R-rated content, PG-13 horror movies tend to be a bit more creative to have the same effect. Many of our picks for the greatest PG-13 horror movies have come out within the last 24 years, which suggests that modern filmmakers have become more adept at playing within those limits. Keep reading, and you’ll see why the following films are the best PG-13 horror movies.

10. The Grudge (2002)

Sarah Michelle Gellar in The Grudge.
Sony Pictures Releasing

Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar never quite achieved full scream queen status on the big screen, but she made a good start on inheriting the throne once occupied by Jamie Lee Curtis by starring in the American remake of The Grudge. Gellar plays an American exchange student named Karen Davis, who unwittingly becomes a target of a vengeful Japanese ghost named Kayako (Takako Fuji).

It doesn’t matter that Karen or any of the other victims never wronged Kayako. Because of the way Kayako and her son, Toshio (Yuva Ozeki), were murdered, their spirits linger and torment anyone who comes within the house where they lived. And no matter how far away her targets run, Kayako will always find them.

Rent or buy The Grudge on Prime Video or other digital outlets.

9. Drag Me To Hell (2009)

Lorna Raver and Alison Lohman in Drag Me To Hell.
Universal Pictures

No one can say that Drag Me To Hell doesn’t live up to its title. Sam Raimi‘s last great horror movie opens up with a scene of a demon dragging a poor child to Hell, and that’s just a taste of what’s in store for Christine Brown (Alison Lohman). While acting against her morals in pursuit of a promotion, Christine denies a loan extension to an old woman named Sylvia Ganush (Lorna Raver) that would have saved her home.

Ganush responds by placing a curse on Christine that will condemn her to an eternity of suffering in Hell if she can’t find a way to break it in three days. Unfortunately for Christine, there doesn’t appear to be any way to do so without passing the curse on to someone else.

Rent or buy Drag Me To Hell on Prime Video and other digital outlets.

8. 47 Meters Down (2017)

Claire Holt and Mandy Moore in 47 Meters Down.
Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

Technically, 47 Meters falls under the category of survival horror. After all, who needs ghosts and serial killers when you’ve got great white sharks? Nature’s slashers threaten to devour two sisters, Kate (Claire Holt) and Lisa (Mandy Moore), after they go cage diving off the coast of Mexico.

The sisters did lie to Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine) about their experience as divers. But even veteran divers would have been alarmed when their cage malfunctions, leaving Kate and Lisa trapped at the bottom of the ocean and surrounded by unrelenting sharks.

Rent or buy 47 Meters Down on Prime Video or other digital outlets.

7. The Others (2001)

The cast of The Others.
Dimension Films

The Others makes a strong case for PG-13 horror movies because it was a crossover hit that probably wouldn’t have made as much money with an R-rating. The film takes place just after World War II, as a widowed mother of two, Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman), is approached by three prospective servants: Bertha Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), Edmund Tuttle (Eric Sykes), and Lydia (Elaine Cassidy).

After Grace accepts the trio into her household, Grace’s daughter, Anne (Alakina Mann), tells her about the presence of another family. Grace initially dismisses this, but she soon becomes wholly convinced that the house is haunted. What Grace doesn’t realize is that the servants are keeping secrets from her, and she’s been hiding a few herself.

Rent or buy The Others on Prime Video and other digital outlets.

6. What Lies Beneath (2000)

Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer as Norman and Claire Spencer looking out a window in What Lies Beneath.
Dreamworks Pictures / Image via DreamWorks Pictures

What Lies Beneath notably features two A-list stars, Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford, who don’t typically appear in horror flicks. Pfeiffer plays Claire Spencer, the wife of Dr. Norman Spencer (Ford). Their union is already under some strain when Claire becomes convinced that their neighbor, Mary Feur (Miranda Otto), has been murdered by her husband, Warren (James Remar).

Claire doesn’t immediately realize it, but she’s not in a murder mystery. This is a ghost story, and it has less to do with the Feurs than with the secrets that are about to come out between Norman and Claire.

Watch What Lies Beneath on Paramount+.

5. The Skeleton Key (2005)

Kate Hudson in Skeleton Key.
Universal Pictures

Kate Hudson’s Caroline Ellis comes to believe that Hoodoo is real in The Skeleton Key, and that’s just the beginning of her problems. After Caroline is hired by Violet Devereaux (Gena Rowlands) to care for her ailing husband, Ben Devereaux (John Hurt), she becomes convinced that Violet used Hoodoo rituals to put Ben in a near catatonic state.

Caroline also discovers that the house was once home to two infamous Hoodoo practitioners, Papa Justify (Ronald McCall) and Mama Cecile (Jeryl Prescott). The film’s scares escalate over time, especially as Caroline begins to accept that Hoodoo is real. She just doesn’t realize the true nature of the threat that it represents to her body and soul.

Rent or buy The Skeleton Key on Prime Video and other digital outlets.

4. A Quiet Place (2018)

Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place.

The Office‘s John Krasinski established himself as a filmmaker with A Quiet Place, which he directed, co-wrote, and starred in alongside his wife, Emily Blunt. Krasinski and Blunt portray Lee and Evelyn Abbott, the parents of Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe). The Abbotts have successfully survived an invasion by blind aliens thanks to their efforts to remain quiet at all times. But that wasn’t enough to save their youngest child, Beau (Cade Woodward).

This film gets a lot of tension out of the family’s extreme efforts to remain undetected. However, it’s especially difficult to keep quiet when Evelyn is pregnant with their fourth child and about to give birth. Krasinski pulled off this blend of sci-fi and horror so effectively that it led to A Quiet Place Part II, and an upcoming prequel film, A Quiet Place: Day One.

Watch A Quiet Place on Paramount+.

3. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane.

The first Cloverfield film was a found-footed monster movie, but 10 Cloverfield Lane went in a different direction by fully embracing horror without completely leaving the sci-fi aspects of the original film behind. Ahsoka‘s Mary Elizabeth Winstead portrays Michelle, a young woman whose car is struck by another vehicle shortly after she hears news reports about an apocalyptic event.

Michelle awakens in the bunker of Howard Stambler (John Goodman), a possibly unstable man who claims that aliens have attacked the Earth and poisoned the air. Howard’s friend, Emmett DeWitt (John Gallagher Jr.), verifies some of Howard’s claims. But Michelle needs to see the truth herself, which may not be enough to convince her to stay.

Watch 10 Cloverfield Lane on Pluto TV.

2. The Ring (2002)

Daveigh Chase in The Ring.

The Ring wasn’t the first Japanese horror movie to get an American remake, but it was one of the most effective. More importantly, it delivered some chilling scares with just a PG-13 rating, thanks in large part to a terrific movie monster in the form of a ghostly young girl, Samara Morgan (Daveigh Chase).

Of course, the film’s premise is a bit dated now, as reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) investigates a cursed video tape with unexplained imagery before being warned that she has seven days to live. By the time Rachel realizes that the curse is real, both her ex-partner, Noah Clay (Martin Henderson), and their son, Aidan Keller (David Dorfman), have seen the tape… and the clock is ticking to save all of their lives. Unfortunately for the family, Samara isn’t known for her mercy.

Watch The Ring on Hoopla.

1. The Sixth Sense (1999)

A man kneeling down to face a scared-looking kid in the movie The Sixth Sense
Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

You’ll have to forgive turn-of-the-century moviegoers for thinking that M. Night Shyamalan would be the next Steven Spielberg. Shyamalan’s breakout film, The Sixth Sense, was a terrific horror movie and a huge hit. Haley Joel Osment established himself as perhaps the best child actor of his generation, and Bruce Willis had a restrained and emotionally evocative performance as well.

Willis plays Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist who is haunted after being shot by a former patient. Now, Malcolm’s wife, Anna (Olivia Williams), barely speaks to him, and his career is at a standstill. Malcolm’s hope for redemption comes in the form of Cole Sear (Osment), a possibly disturbed kid who believes that he can see ghosts. When Malcolm finally realizes that Cole’s powers are real, it takes the story in some unexpected directions. The ending of this movie also established Shyamalan’s tendency to have a big twist in nearly every one of his films.

Rent or buy The Sixth Sense on Prime Video or other digital outlets.

Editors' Recommendations

Blair Marnell
Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek…
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