15 of the Best Horror Movies with Religious Themes

With recent films like Late Night With the Devil and The First Omen earning mostly favorable reviews from critics, 2024 is already shaping up to be a strong year for religious horror movies.

By no means an underrepresented genre in the horror world, faith-focused scary movies have been thrilling and terrifying audiences for decades. While American films often focus on Christianity by default, as TIME film critic Stephanie Zacharek wrote in her review, “the Bible is gruesome enough to fill a thousand horror movies”—other faiths and practices have increasingly come into play as well.

Spanning stories that explore the terrors of everything from demonic possession to excessive devotion to the thin line between belief and uncertainty, here are TIME’s picks for the 15 best religious horror movies.

The Witch (2016)

After being banished from their 17th-century New England settlement over a religious dispute, a devout Puritan family finds themselves at the mercy of a sinister evil in the woods beyond their remote farm. Director Robert Eggers’ feature debut plays on the specter of witchcraft for a slow-burn psychological thriller that makes colonial fears relevant to modern viewers. Come for Anya Taylor-Joy’s breakout performance as eldest daughter Thomasin, stay for the antics of demonic goat Black Phillip.

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The Omen (1976)

Widely considered one of the all-time great religious horror classics, Richard Donner’s The Omen centers on American diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck), who—without telling his wife Kathy (Lee Remick)—agrees to adopt an infant whose mother died in childbirth as a replacement for the couple’s own stillborn baby. The only problem is the child, a boy named Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens), turns out to be the literal Antichrist, a.k.a. the son of Satan. The original Omen has spawned a number of remakes, sequels, and now, a prequel, with director Arkasha Stevenson’s The First Omen delving into the terrifying conspiracy that brought about Damien’s birth in Rome.

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The Wailing (2016)

When a rural Korean village is suddenly plagued by a mysterious illness that causes the infected to violently kill their loved ones, local police officer Jong-goo (Kwak Do-won) begins to suspect a foreign newcomer is to blame. Opening with a quote from the Bible, The Wailing explores themes of religion, spirituality, and folklore for a genre-bending horror-thriller. Director Na Hong-jin said the story was born from a question he kept asking himself following the tragic deaths of several people close to him. “The question was, ‘Why did THEY have to be victims OF ALL PEOPLE?'” he told . “I already had the answers for the ‘How.’ What I had to find out was the ‘Why.’ So I began to meet and talk to the clergy of various religions, which was the starting point of this film.”

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Frailty (2002)

Directed by and starring the late , Frailty opens with a mysterious man (Matthew McConaughey) showing up at the office of FBI agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) to confess that his brother Adam was the notorious Texas serial killer behind the “God’s Hand” murders. From there, the man recounts the chilling story of his childhood, during which his father (Paxton) claimed to have been called upon by God to destroy demons walking the Earth in human form. Frailty is a sleeper gem that puts a Southern Gothic spin on biblical horror and the terror of a cruel and fickle God.

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It Lives Inside (2023)

Writer-director Bishal Dutta brings a flesh-eating demon from Hindu mythology to suburban America in his underrated debut feature. It Lives Inside stars Megan Suri as Samidha, an Indian-American high school student who must come to terms with the heritage she is initially so eager to reject after her childhood best friend becomes the target of a malevolent spirit known as the Pishach—a bogeyman that, , is “the embodiment of isolation, and loneliness, and anxiety.”

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The Conjuring (2013)