Horror movie actors often get neglected by awarding bodies and other players in the industry because they are not seen as serious actors. This, of course, could not be farther from the truth because horror movies require the actors to project a wide range of emotions, which are just as mentally and physically demanding as other genres, if not more so.
It’s as though some actors were destined to play scary monsters or terrified victims in horror movies, and have built very successful careers doing just that. Here is a list of our favorite 10 actors who are horror movie specialists and masters of the genre.
10. Linnea Quigley
When it comes to horror movie actors, few are as in charge of the game as Linnea Quigley. She is one of the most notable scream queens in the genre. She initially wanted to become a police officer but was encouraged by friends to try acting and modeling. She got her start in commercials and a string of B-movies such as Wheeler (1975) and Stone Cold Dead (1979). Linnea’s breakout role came when she landed a part in the 1985 horror classic The Return of the Living Dead. It was the movie that firmly placed her amongst the best of the genre.
Throughout the 80s, Linnea appeared in dozens of horror movies including Night of the Demons (1988), Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988), and Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988). Till date, Linnea remains active in the industry in acting and producing capacities. She is also a frequent face at Horror Conventions all over the world, where she is always surrounded by fans. In her 35-year career, Linnea Quigley has appeared in over 125 films. She is also a published author with two books to her name: Bio & Chainsaw and I’m Screaming as Fast as I Can.
9. Kane Hodder
With his muscular physique and towering height, it was easy for Kane Hodder to embody a crazy killer on screen. His most notable appearance as a horror movie actor was as Jason Vorhees in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) and Jason X (2001). His portrayal of this character was so refreshing and unique that he was allowed to reprise the role in other movies, becoming the only actor to do so.
Kane also played the notorious serial killer Victor Crowley in Hatchet (2006) and the subsequent sequels that followed. His other prominent horror movie credits include Friday the 13th Part VII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989), and Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday.
8. Lin Shaye
Armed with a degree in Art History, a Master of Fine Arts, a degree in Acting, and years of experience gained from performing in several college plays such as After U of M, On the Town, and Bye Bye Birdie, Lin Shaye set out to conquer the acting profession. She has worked in various productions on and off-Broadway and has refined her craft under the guidance of renowned acting teachers like Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, and Uta Hagen.
Although Lin Shaye has starred in many serious films, she is also a popular face in the horror scene thanks to her roles in movies like Dead End, Snakes on a Plane, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and Insidious (2010). In 2015, the Wizard World Comic Con named her the Godmother of Horror.
7. Bruce Campbell
This horror movie actor remains an eternal fan favorite for his role as Ash in The Evil Dead film franchise. Bruce Campbell has been active in the industry for over 40 years and is one of the most beloved stars in Hollywood. His career has spanned several genres across film and television, but it took off with the 1981 movie The Evil Dead, in which he co-executive produced and starred in.
Bruce and his friends Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi raised $350,000 to make the film, so it was a low budget production. Still, it managed to win the interest of millions of viewers and is considered a classic today. Bruce’s other famous horror movie outings include Evil Dead II (1987), Lunatics: A Love Story (1991), Mindwarp (1992), Army of Darkness (1992), Bubba Ho-Tep (2002), and Ash vs Evil Dead (2015). He is also the New York Times bestselling author of If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor and Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way.
6. Linda Blair
Linda Blair began her journey to stardom when she was five years old by working as a child model and eventually as an actress. She beat 600 applicants to the role of Regan, the possessed child in the 1973 cult classic The Exorcist. Her performance in the movie earned her international acclaim, an Academy Award nomination, and a Golden Globe win. Linda was only 14 at the time.
She went on to bag the lead roles in several other successful television films such as Born Innocent and Sarah T.- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic. Linda returned to the horror movie set to reprise her role in Exorcist II: The Heretic. Although she seemed destined for an A-list career in Hollywood, she was arrested for buying cocaine at 18 and so many doors in Hollywood closed against her. Linda still made the best of the situation by starring in plays across Broadway, as well as in other classic horror movies such as Chained Heat (1983), Savage Streets (1984), and Repossessed (1990).
5. Jeffrey Combs
The star of The Frighteners began his career by performing in regional theatres such as the Arizona Theater Company in Tucson, the South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, The Old Globe Theater in San Diego, the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and the California Shakespearean Carnival. However, Jeffrey Combs has since broken into the Hollywood scene, specifically the horror movies where he thrives the most.
As a horror movie actor, Combs has been featured in Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1886), Re-Animator 2 (1989), The Frighteners (1996), I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998), The House on Haunted Hill (1999), and Return to House on Haunted Hill (2007).
4. Jamie Lee Curtis
Seeing as her parents are the iconic actors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, it’s easy to see where Jamie Lee Curtis got her acting talents from. Her mother was also a legend in the horror movie genre and is famous for her role in Psycho, where she gets brutally murdered in the shower. However, Jaime has surpassed her mother’s fame and theatrics when it comes to being a scream queen.
She got her breakout opportunity when she was cast to play Laurie Strode in the 1978 cult classic Halloween. Her performance in the movie established her as one of the great horror movie actors and helped her broaden her reach to more serious roles in film and television. You might also recognize Hollywood’s original survivor girl from her roles in films like Trading Places, A Fish Called Wanda, Perfect, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story, and True Lies.
3. Brad Dourif
One of the best character actors Hollywood has ever seen, Brad Dourif has put up excellent performances in a wide spectrum of movies. Growing up, he had a deep love for art and acting and was going to pursue a career as an artist, but he eventually decided to become an actor after watching his mother’s performances at the community theatre. He started acting in school plays, then community theatre, until he dropped out of college and moved to New York where he collaborated with the Circle Repertory Company.
After appearing in a couple of plays off-Broadway, he got his breakout role in the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He won a Golden Globe, a British Academy Film Award, and picked up an Oscar nomination for his performance in the movie. His intense nature sentenced him to play deranged or eccentric characters in several movies such as Wise Blood, The Eyes of Laura, Ragtime, Dune, Blue Velvet, Child’s Play and its sequels where he gave voice to the sinister doll Chucky.
2. Tony Todd
This freakishly tall horror movie actor is more popularly known for his bone-chilling performance as the titular character in Candyman. Till date, the movie remains one of the most compelling and terrifying horror films ever made. Tony Todd kicked off his career in 1986 with the film Sleepwalk, and since then he has consistently delivered memorable performances.
Tony has accumulated numerous credits over the course of his decades-long career. They include those for his roles in iconic films like The Crow, Night of the Living Dead, Lean on Me, The Rock, Bird, Final Destination, Silence, and many more. The accomplished actor has also built himself quite a reputation in theatre.
1. Robert Englund
Since his career began in 1973, Robert Englund has appeared in more than 75 films and four television series. He has starred alongside Academy Award winners such as Jeff Bridges, Susan Sarandon, and Henry Fonda. In fact, with the kind of amazing performances that he has put out, Robert would have picked up an Oscar of his own if they were not done in horror movies. He became one of the internationally renowned horror movie actors after he portrayed the boogeyman, Freddy Kruger, in the iconic 1984 classic A Nightmare on Elm Street. He also reprised his role in the seven sequels that followed.