Horror in the 1970s: A Time for Performing Exorcists, Babysitter Killers, and Flesh-eating Texans

1970s horror turns more to killers and demons, expanding the trend of the previous decade

The 1970s were a time for hippies, drugs, and psychedelia. However, the decade was kind of a let down compared to the fast moving ’60s.  Despite this disappointment, the horror movies in the ’70s were getting better and better. Some say that this decade was actually the best for horror films and with good reasons. Now, they appealed to a younger audience and movies usually revolved around a group of teens. That wasn’t the only significant change. The 1970s focused even more on the human “evil” than the ’60s. Mirroring real-life serial killers of the 1970s like John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy, the killers were becoming more serial, killing more and more people. The deaths were more gruesome and more graphic while the killers were getting more remorseless. This made horror even less desirable and prompted people to associate the horror-loving teens and the horror movies themselves as the devil. What society was trying to repress, horror movies kept reminded them that life wasn’t always beautiful.

Lots of horror movies came out of the 1970s, but four really stand out – Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, Jaws and Halloween. To see which one people preferred, I asked you guys to vote or tweet me which horror movies you most enjoy coming out the 70s. Here are some tweets I got:

Some pointed out what everyone was thinking:

Others had no problem determining their favorite:

Some argued for The Exorcist calling it “shocking”:

Others argued for Halloween’s influence on the slasher genre:


Before revealing the winner, let’s look back at the horror movies that defined the 1970s.

The Exorcist (1973)


Called the scariest horror film of all times by multiple sources, The Exorcist remains a very popular title today. Audiences lost their minds when they first saw this in theaters. Some even said that the iconic scene where the girl turns her head backward still frightens them today. Apart from being very scary, The Exorcist is the first horror movie to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. There’s no denying that this satanic movie did a lot for the horror genre and movies as a whole.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)


Setting up the slasher genre, Texas Chainsaw was a real hit with the horror crowd. Being based on “real” events added the scary elements. People were already scared of Ted Bundy and other serial killers and Texas Chainsaw Massacre tapped into that fear. It set up the slasher genre for future horror movies like Friday the 13th. Even with the slasher genre being overused, the cannibals will remain as one of slasher’s best movie.

Jaws (1975)


Sharks have always been a scary creature. A lot of people fear sharks and the ocean. Jaws was the first of its kind, and it was Steven Speilberg’s first blockbuster. And a blockbuster it was. Jaws had one of the biggest openings for a movie until Star Wars and started the “summer blockbuster” trend we see now. It ended up making 470.7 million. Jaws still remains the best shark movie, if not the only good shark movie ever made. It was only this year that The Shallows came the closest to compete with it. But in the end, Jaws still is the best shark movie, and a lot of people would say that it will remain that way for a long time coming.

Halloween (1978)


If Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the first slasher to establish the premise, then Halloween was the first one to set the rules of a slasher movie. No sex or you get killed and do not say be right back all started here. Those rules were later used in other slashers, but Halloween will always have the label as being the creator. Psycho‘s Janet Leigh’s daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis became quite a name in the horror genre. She became the first “scream queen” and later stared in other John Carpenter movies. Everyone saw Halloween back in the day, and it proved that horror movies were a popular thing

So, which horror movie deserves the crown for the ’70s?

It’s pretty clear that Halloween wins this one.


It was a very tough one indeed, but Halloween paved the way for slashers through the 80s and 90s. Texas Chainsaw Massacre may have been the first slasher, but it was too shocking to be mainstream at the time. That’s where Halloween comes in. It was less shocking but still scary. It was just the right balance of gore, sex and scares to appeal to a broad audience. The inspiration for future slasher all derive from the babysitter killer, which is a big deal.

What is your favorite horror movie of the 1970s? And if you didn’t vote, don’t worry you can still vote in the upcoming polls.

Vote or tweet me with the #HorrorByDecade and you could be featured in the next article and stay tuned for a special announcement in the coming weeks.



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