Oscar Winning Horror Movies

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde The Shape of Water An American Werewolf in London

The Oscar nominations were announced earlier this week, and while members of the Academy start sending in their votes to decide who will win when the ceremony is held on April 25th, we here at Arrow in the Head have decided to take a look back at some of horror movies that have taken home the gold over the decades. Will Love and Monsters win for its Visual Effects this year? We'll have to wait and see, so in the meantime check out this list of Oscar Winning Horror Movies!


Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Rouben Mamoulian Frederic March

While the Academy completely ignored Universal's 1931 classics Dracula and Frankenstein (which were adaptations of novels by Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley, respectively), they did show some love to Rouben Mamoulian's adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that same year. Paramount's biggest hit of 1931, the film was nominated for its Cinematography and Adapted Screenplay, and Frederic March won Best Actor for playing the dual role of Jekyll and Hyde. Jekyll is a good man who breaks down over the course of the film, overwhelmed with guilt from the awful things his scumbag, animalistic alter ago Mr. Hyde does. It's a terrific performance, and we're lucky we can still see it in the full, uncut film. The censors hacked several minutes out of the movie a few years after its initial release, then in the early '40s a rival studio tried to purchase and destroy all existing prints because they were releasing their own Jekyll and Hyde movie.


Rosemary's Baby Mia Farrow Roman Polanski

Writer/director Roman Polanski's adaptation of the Ira Levin novel Rosemary's Baby is such a prestigious, highly respected film, you might guess that it received several Academy Awards, but the fact is it was only nominated in two categories. Polanski was nominated for the screenplay, but Rosemary's Baby lost to The Lion in Winter in that category. The film's sole win honored the performance of supporting actress Ruth Gordon as Rosemary's nosy, shady, herb-drink-mixing neighbor Minnie Castevet. The wonderfully oddball way in which she played Minnie is one of the most entertaining things about Rosemary's Baby, so it's great that Gordon took home the gold for it. This was her second nomination for acting, and her last because somehow she wasn't nominated for Harold and Maude a few years later. It was her fifth Oscar nomination overall; her first three were for screenplays she co-wrote. 



Many consider The Exorcist to be the scariest movie ever made, and in 1974 – when it was still scaring the hell out of people who saw it on the big screen – it had a chance to sweep the Oscars. It was nominated for Film Editing, Production Design, Cinematography, Best Director (William Friedkin), and Best Picture, with actress Ellen Burstyn, supporting actress Linda Blair, and supporting actor Jason Miller also earning nominations. Sadly, it was beat out by several different movies in those categories. The Sting took Best Picture, that film's George Roy Hill won Best Director, 15-year-old Blair lost to 10-year-old Tatum Neal of Paper Moon, etc. The Exorcist's creepy sounds earned it a Sound Mixing win, and author William Peter Blatty won Best Adapted Screenplay for turning his own novel into a script. The Exorcist beat The Last Detail, The Paper Chase, Paper Moon, and Serpico in the Screenplay category. Impressive!


JAWS (1975)

A lot of people reading this probably count Jaws among their favorite movies of all time. It's a masterpiece, and it deserved more Academy Award nominations than it received. Director Steven Spielberg was so confident that it was going to rack up the nominations, he had someone film him as he watched the announcements. When Jaws was nominated for Best Picture but Spielberg didn't get nominated for Best Director, his pal Joe Spinell (the Maniac himself) ranted to the camera, "You cannot have Best Picture unless the director is also nominated. Who made the picture? Somebody's mother? Who made it? The shark?" Spielberg thought the lack of nominations was a clear case of "commercial backlash". Jaws did not win Best Picture, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest took the win that year, but Jaws did win in the three other categories it was nominated in: Best Sound, Film Editing, and yes, John Williams was awarded for his iconic Original Score.


ALIEN (1979)

Art Directors Michael Seymour, Leslie Dilley, and Roger Christian, along with Set Decorator Ian Whittaker, played a major role in making Ridley Scott's Alien the visual feast that it is, so it's quite fitting that they received an Oscar nomination for their work on the film. Alien lost to All That Jazz in the Art Direction category, but did take home a different award it greatly deserved: Best Visual Effects. This award was shared by creature designer H.R. Giger, the genius who gave cinema one of its most fascinating monsters, and the special effects crew that brought Giger's monster to life: Carlo Rambaldi, Brian Johnson, Nick Allder, and Dennis Ayling. Seven years later, a different effects crew brought the xenomorph and its various stages back to the screen in the Alien sequel Aliens, and their work clearly lived up to what was done on the original, because Aliens also won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.



Horror films of the 1980s were packed with incredible special effects that often went unrecognized by the Academy, but there's no way they could have ignored the werewolf transformation Rick Baker contributed to the John Landis classic An American Werewolf in London. There have been a lot of werewolf transformations in films over the decades, but none before or since have even come close to the two and half minute sequence in this film where we watch David Naughton turn into a werewolf right in front of our eyes. It's grotesque, it's clearly extremely painful, and we see every step of it presented in a well-lit room. Thirty years later, Baker won a "Best Makeup and Hairstyling" Oscar for another werewolf movie, the 2010 version of The Wolfman, but the transformation scenes in that movie just proved that we'll never get another werewolf transformation as amazing as the one in An American Werewolf in London.



There are horror films on this list that received more Oscar nominations than The Silence of the Lambs did, but even with less nominations this is the one that pulled off the most wins. Nominated in seven categories, it only lost when it came to Best Sound (Terminator 2 took that category, which makes sense) and Film Editing (JFK got that one). Beyond that, Jonathan Demme was awarded Best Director, Jodie Foster got Best Actress, Anthony Hopkins got Best Actor (it could be argued that he should have been in the Supporting category, given his limited screen time), Ted Tally won for turning Thomas Harris's novel into such a great screenplay, and The Silence of the Lambs was named Best Picture, beating JFK, Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, and The Prince of Tides. A couple of the other contenders have their iconic moments and lines, but The Silence of the Lambs still seems like the obvious choice to me.



The Silence of the Lambs winning Best Picture did not open the gate for more horror movies to get nominated for the biggest award of the year on a regular basis. Through the rest of the '90s and the '00s, only one other horror movie was in the running for Best Picture: The Sixth Sense, which didn't win a single one of the six Oscars it was up for. Then came Darren Aronofsky's artsy psychological thriller Black Swan, which was nominated for and lost Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Picture (the race was really between The Social Network and winner The King's Speech that year), but still took home a major award when Natalie Portman won Best Actress. Portman certainly earned the win, taking on the intensely physically and emotionally demanding role of a ballerina who gradually loses her sanity while preparing for a production of Swan Lake. Some actors can dance, some can play up the emotional torment of going insane, but how many can do both on screen simultaneously?


GET OUT (2017)

When it was announced that comedic actor Jordan Peele was going to make his feature directorial debut with a horror movie, I never would have guessed that endeavor would result in a film that would earn Oscar nominations in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor (for star Daniel Kaluuya). Get Out lost Best Picture and Best Director to a different genre film (read about that one below) and Kaluuya lost to Gary Oldman playing Winston Churchill, the sort of thing you'd expect the Academy to eat up. But Peele did win the screenplay Oscar, which is awesome when you take into account that his film is about people implanting their consciousness into the bodies of others with hypnosis and brain surgery. It sounds like silly nonsense when you put it that way, but Peele took a seriously thrilling approach to the subject matter and used the concept to tell a well-crafted story dealing with race relations in modern America.



There are those who will argue that Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water isn't a horror movie, that it's a fantasy drama, but since the movie is basically an arthouse take on "The Bride of the Creature from the Black Lagoon" and features some very dark and unnerving moments, I can't help but count it as a horror movie. And it's both shocking and awe-inspiring to me that a movie about a mute woman falling in love with a version of the Gill Man was nominated for thirteen Oscars: Costume Design, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Original Score, Production Design, Cinematography, Original Screenplay, Best Actress Sally Hawkins, Best Supporting Actor Richard Jenkins, Best Supporting Actress Octavia Spencer, Best Director, and Best Picture. The Shape of Water lost in ten categories, but won for its score, del Toro won Best Director, and the film was named Best Picture. This was the second del Toro fantasy/horror movie to win Oscars, as Pan's Labyrinth also won a few eleven years earlier.

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.