The 20 Best African-American Horror Movies

The Top Black Horror Films

Horror movies with predominantly Black casts form a niche that has been under-exposed for decades. Still, quite a few have bucked the trend and provided quality entertainment for a wide audience. Here are twenty such films.

Lucky Ghost (1942)

Lucky Ghost African-American horror movie
© Toddy

Comedic icon Mantan Moreland, perhaps best known as sidekick Birmingham Brown in a series of Charlie Chan mysteries in the 1940s, also starred in several all-black horror-comedies with his straight man, F.E. Miller— including this one about a pair of men who win a house in a game of craps. The only problem is that the house is haunted by its former owners, who are none too pleased that their house has been turned into a casino full of "jitterbugging, jiving and hullaballooing."

Blacula (1972)

Blacula African-American horror movie
© American International

Blacula, the story of an African prince turned into a vampire by Count Dracula, isn't only a seminal film in the history of African-American horror; it's also an important part of the 1970s blaxploitation era as a whole, being one of the first (and best) entries in the movement. The 1973 sequel, Scream, Blacula, Scream, is inferior, but still technically good enough to be on this list. To give others a shot, though, we'll leave it off.

Ganja & Hess (1973)

Ganja & Hess African-American horror movie
© Kino

The antithesis of the mainstream Dracula riff that was Blacula, Ganja & Hess is a challenging, experimental, art house experience full of rambling, "deep" dialogue and dizzying visuals. It attempts to show how "real" vampires might live—fang-less, walking in daylight, stealing from blood banks—with an artsy flair that could only be pulled off with a straight face in the '70s. Spike Lee would prove this four decades later with his inferior ​remake.

Abby (1974)

Abby African-American horror movie
© American International

Although the producers decided against calling it Blackorcist, Abby was in fact a thinly veiled take on The Exorcist, featuring a kindly preacher's wife who's possessed by a Nigerian sex demon (how inconvenient). The similarities were enough to spur Warner Brothers to file suit against the film, causing it to be pulled from theaters after only one month and sending it hurtling into obscurity. Unoriginality aside, Abby stands on its own as a fairly campy tale that strikes some of the same chords as its more famous inspiration: outrageous profanity, scandalous sexuality, levitation, facial disfigurement and, of course, projectile vomit.

Sugar Hill (1974)

Sugar Hill African-American horror movie
© American International
When Diana "Sugar" Hill's boyfriend is killed by mobsters for refusing to sell his night club, she resorts to what any self-respecting soul sister in her position would do: using a voodoo spell to raise an army of machete-wielding zombie slaves to get revenge.

The Zebra Killer (1974)

The Zebra Killer
© General Film Corporation

William Girdler, director of Abby (as well as more mainstream Hollywood fare like Grizzly and Day of the Animals), also blessed us with this unintentionally hilarious "lost" thriller about a white serial killer who throws police off by disguising himself as a black man -- afro and all. Hot -- or should I say lukewarm -- on his trail is police detective Frank Savage, a sort of black Dirty Harry minus the common sense and ambition.

Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976)

Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde African-American horror movie
© Dimension

Despite the campy title, this adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from Blacula director William Crain is a serious-minded, though-provoking story reflective of its race-conscious era. Bernie Casey stars as a respected black doctor whose experimental cell regeneration serum turns him into a maniacal white man. [Insert Michael Jackson joke here.]

J.D.'s Revenge (1976)

J.D.'s Revenge African-American horror movie
© American International

Strong performances by Glynn Turman and future Academy Award winner Louis Gossett, Jr. propel this tale of a young law student (Turman) who, during hypnosis, becomes possessed by the spirit of 1940s gangster J.D. Walker. J.D. slowly takes control of the man's body in an effort to seek revenge on the people who framed him for the death of his sister.

Fight for Your Life (1977)

Fight for Your Life
© William Mishkin

Enjoyably sleazy exploitation in the vein of and , Fight for Your Life follows three racist convicts as they escape prison and take a black preacher's family hostage. Mental and physical abuse follow, as the preacher eventually reaches the limit of what "turn the other cheek" can achieve.

Def by Temptation (1990)

Def by Temptation African-American horror movie
© Troma

Unusually restrained for a Troma Studios production -- largely because the company contributed mostly money and little creative input -- Def by Temptation plays like Fright Night as directed by Spike Lee, as a mild-mannered minister is seduced by a succubus. Kadeem Hardison and Bill Nunn play entertainingly inept vampire hunters, and Samuel L. Jackson has an early bit part.

The People Under the Stairs (1991)

The People Under the Stairs African-American horror movie
© Universal

Horror master Wes Craven made his first foray into African-American culture (followed by the regrettable Vampire in Brooklyn) with this twisted fairy tale about an inner-city kid who sneaks into his slumlord's home, only to discover that it's a house of horrors with flesh-eating humans living in the basement. Ving Rhames discovers this the hard way.

Candyman (1992)

Candyman
© TriStar

Tony Todd embodies the most iconic black horror villain this side of Blacula in this terrifying modern classic that puts the "urban" in an urban legend about a 19th century black man who was lynched for having sex with a white woman, only to become an undead "Bloody Mary"-type figure who appears if you say his name five times in front of a mirror.

Tales from the Hood (1995)

Tales from the Hood African-American horror movie
© Savoy

This horror anthology, which takes a cue from Tales from the Crypt, is surprisingly straight-faced and socially relevant, touching upon issues affecting the African-American community, like gang violence, police brutality and racism. The highlight, though, is the zany performance of Clarence Williams III (Mod Squad's Linc Hayes to you and me) as the whacked-out mortician who serves as the anthology's storyteller.

Bones (2001)

Bones African-American horror movie
© New Line

Sure, Snoop Dogg isn't a great actor -- or even a good one -- but luckily he doesn't have to carry this tale of an undead '70s gangster seeking revenge for his death. A strong supporting cast, including Pam Grier, stylish direction from Ernest Dickerson (Demon Knight) and solid production value make this worthwhile.

Crazy As Hell (2002)

Crazy as Hell African-American horror movie
© First Look

Directed by Eriq La Salle of ER fame, this thought-provoking cat-and-mouse game pits a cocky psychiatrist against a mysterious mental patient who claims to be Satan. The two spar back and forth until the doctor begins to believe that maybe, just maybe, the guy is who he claims to be. Or not.

Holla (2006)

Holla African-American horror movie
© Lionsgate

While the title cleverly implies that this is an urban version of Scream, Holla isn't a rip-off. It's a standard slasher handled with surprising skill for a modern "urban" horror movie, combining scares, laughs and a sense of mystery. Holla!

Shadow: Dead Riot (2006)

Shadow: Dead Riot African-American horror movie
© Shriek Show

Silly, outrageous, potentially brain damaging and completely mesmerizing, this slice of campy shame combines women-in-prison films with zombie fare and yes, even kung fu.

Dead Heist (2007)

Dead Heist
© First Look

Rappers E-40, Bone Crusher and Big Daddy Kane star in this engaging tale of criminals who decide to rob a bank just as a horde of vampire-like zombies (or zombie-like vampires?) come rolling through town. They have to barricade themselves in the bank against not only the cops, but also the undead nasties. With solid production value, direction and acting, Dead Heist stands out from the rash of do-it-yourself zombie fare littering the horror genre.

Nailed (2007)

Nailed
© Ben Katz

In this subtle, Twilight Zone-ish haunted house tale, a pair of hoods running from the cops hide in a seemingly abandoned building that turns out to be occupied by an invalid wrapped from head to toe in bandages, cared for by an unnervingly cheery young man, who has to be hiding something...

Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror (2007)

Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror African-American horror movie
© Lionsgate

Snoop Dogg is back! Once again, we must overlook his dazed and confused acting in this horror anthology, as he presents three tales of terror set amidst an urban backdrop. An impressive cast -- including Jason Alexander, Billy Dee Williams, Method Man, Ernie Hudson, Danny Trejo and Sydney Tamiia Poitier -- makes up for Snoop's shortcomings, as do impressively gruesome makeup effects, including a death courtesy of a 40-ounce malt liquor bottle.

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Harris, Mark H. "The 20 Best African-American Horror Movies." ThoughtCo, Jul. 14, 2017, thoughtco.com/best-african-american-horror-movies-1873297. Harris, Mark H. (2017, July 14). The 20 Best African-American Horror Movies. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/best-african-american-horror-movies-1873297 Harris, Mark H. "The 20 Best African-American Horror Movies." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-african-american-horror-movies-1873297 (accessed November 24, 2017).